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Dr Sarah Ballantyne – Everything You Need To Know About The Paleo Diet

Content by: Sarah Ballantyne

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu: This week I’m excited to welcome Dr Sarah Ballantyne (a.k.a. The Paleo Mom). Dr. Ballantyne is the creator of the award winning online resource, thepaleomom.com, co-host of the top-rated the Paleo View Podcast and is a New York Times bestselling author of multiple titles. She’s a medical biophysicist with a deep interest in understanding how the foods we eat interact with our gut barriers, immune systems and hormones to ultimately influence our health. In this episode, we talk about the common foods that most negatively impact our health, the difference between the paleo diet and the autoimmune protocol and so much more, over to Dr. Ballantyne.

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions we ask in this episode:

  • Have the paleo principles changed at all since it’s mainstream introduction? (11:25)
  • Which conventional foods do you think most negatively impact our health? (20:34)
  • How does the The Autoimmune Protocol differ from the paleo diet? (28:19)

Get More of Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

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Full Transcript

Stu

00:03 Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness and human performance, in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do.

00:23 Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is 180nutrition.com.au and take a look.

00:41 Okay. Back to the show. This week, I’m excited to welcome Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. Dr. Ballantyne is the creator of the award winning online resource, thepaleomom.Com. She’s co-hosted the top-rated the Paleo View podcast and is a New York Times bestselling author of multiple titles. She’s a medical biophysicist with a deep interest in understanding how the foods we eat interact with our gut barriers, immune systems and hormones to ultimately influence our health. In this episode, we talk about the common foods that most negatively impact our health, the difference between the paleo diet and the autoimmune protocol and so much more, over to Dr. Ballantyne.

01:26 Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition and I am delighted to welcome Dr. Sarah Ballantyne to the podcast. Dr Ballantyne, how are you?

Sarah

01:35 I am wonderful. It’s my evening and your morning.

Stu

01:38 It is.

Sarah

01:38 So I don’t know … it’s already disorienting, but I’m lovely. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast.

Stu

01:43 Well, thank you so much for sharing some of your time. So I’m guessing it’s around 8:00 PM on a Friday night, and I said before like, you know, this is your time. So we’re going to … we’re not going to take up too much of it. You are super busy, no doubt. So really, really interested to just to tap into some of your knowledge today. But before I do, and for all of our listeners that may not be familiar with you or your work, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself please?

Sarah

02:13 Yeah, so I’ve come to this space where I sort of consider myself a health educator maybe or a science translator, but where I’ve come is from this sort of combination of my training. So I have a PhD in medical biophysics, I was a medical researcher and I had to leave that career behind because of my health struggles. So I had over a dozen different diagnosed health conditions, four of them were autoimmune diseases. I was over 300 pounds, morbidly obese and really struggling. In pain all the time, migraines and gastrointestinal symptoms and it really took taking a break from my career. At the time, I told myself I was doing it to focus on my child, but really I was doing it because I couldn’t have so many things going on in my life. I couldn’t be sick and be a mother and be a university professor, it was too many different things.

03:14 Like it was, it just was not compatible, given that my health was this, you know, extra seasoning in life that coloured everything. And giving myself that space, allowed me to start applying my scientific background to the problem of my own health. And that brought me to the paleo diet. I had the stereotypical reaction when I first heard about it. I thought it sounded completely crazy and said something like, “There’s no way I’m doing that.” Which is, again, a pretty normal reaction. But I found some scientific articles that evaluated aspects of the paleo diet and because I have this medical research background, that was my hook. And it really, like it really lured me in and I became obsessed, I think is a fair term, with reading the science behind the ancestral templates and the palaeolithic diet and that the studies that had already been done at the time. And over about three months of sort of dabble level of research, I decided I really needed to try this thing and I decided I would dedicate three months to it.

04:21 Within two weeks, I was able to go off all six prescription medications that I was on at the time. And which is not necessarily the most typical experience, it makes me one of the jerks. But it was so miraculous, like it just, it was eye opening to me to have these health conditions that I had struggled with for some of them 15 years at that point of my life, disappear within two weeks. Like just go away. I mean, and other things, obviously, it’s more like a remission, you know, some things were controlled rather than completely reversed, but that’s the nature of chronic illness. But that turned me into a zealot and I became even more obsessed with reading everything I could get my hands on and really digging into that science. And I love cooking, so I got really creative in the kitchen and it just became … it went from a healthy obsession to unhealthy obsession because I needed an outlet and I started finding myself having conversations with complete strangers.

05:29 I would be getting my hair cut and be telling the hairdresser that the bagel that she was eating was going to kill her, which is not appropriate in any circumstance. And so, after about two months, I just, I needed a place to share that enthusiasm that was productive. And so on a Thursday evening, you know, 1st of November, 2011, I turned to my husband and I said, “What do you think of the idea of me starting a blog?” And since he had been receiving the brunt of my enthusiasm for a couple of months, he was like, “Great idea. Go for it. Do it.” And so by that Sunday I had researched domain names and figured out that this was what I wanted to write about. And at the time, because I had sort of left my scientific research career on the back burner anyways, I didn’t really anticipate that I would be writing so much about the science behind diet and lifestyle. But it turns out that I am such a science nerd through and through, that I can’t actually turn that off. And so after I had been blogging for a while, anticipating that I would … it would be more of a mommy blog and I’d talk about the experience, that’s why my website’s called The Paleo Mom. I realized that that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to take this amazing science background that I have and this ability that I think is fairly unique among scientists to actually communicate effectively with people without science backgrounds. And take that skill and apply it and start making the science behind this diet accessible. Because I feel like when you see this list of foods to avoid, which is how the paleo diet was typically described way back in 2011. If you don’t have a reason behind, why would you cut out all grains or why would you cut out all legumes if you don’t really …

07:27 It seems arbitrary. And I think that even the, the sound bite definitions of paleo, where people say, “Eat the way we were, you know, we evolved to eat.” Right? We eat like our palaeolithic ancestors, I eat like a cave man, all these like memes of what paleo is. I feel like that actually undermines the message even more, because it simplifies it to the point where it seems arbitrary. And I think, my approach is very much understanding the contemporary biology, biochemistry, physiology. What are the compounds in foods that are vital to health and what are the compounds in foods that undermine it? And what foods have what proportions of those? So how can we rate foods, right? Based on how they nourish our bodies versus potentially undermine our health in some way. And that’s what’s really interesting to me to take this really contemporary approach to it.

08:23 And I think that when you talk about whether it’s paleo or any of the related dietary templates, because I’m not particularly dogmatic on diet, I think that you need to expand it into more of a education around food, rather than the simplification and this list of yeses and nos. Because, first of all, it makes it more accessible, if you can really understand why you would eat this food, and not that food. But I think it also empowers people with knowledge to make more informed choices for them, so it powers people to really understand their own individual tolerance to food, their own bodies. And it also I think, leads into a conversation on troubleshooting that is much more productive.

09:13 I think one of the problems we’re seeing right now in sort of health conscious communities as a whole is four 50-ish years, we have defined healthy diets based on what you don’t eat. You cut out this, it’s low this, right? And there’s a whole pile of different versions of diets that are all about what you don’t eat. And what makes you healthy is not what you don’t eat, it’s what you actually put into your body-

Stu

09:39 Yes.

Sarah

09:39 Is what actually makes a diet healthy or not healthy. And I think that repercussions we’re seeing right now with these diets that are defined by eliminations is the first place you go to troubleshoot, when you’ve only achieved some of your goals on a diet where you cut a bunch of foods out, the first thing you do is cut out more foods. And that’s not always the solution, in fact, I would argue it’s rarely the solution. So I’ve come to this place through my scientific background and you know, my health journey was losing 130 pounds and reversing or mitigating a dozen different diagnosed health conditions. And this passion for at helping people and providing the information that if I’d had 20 years earlier, it would have completely changed the trajectory of my life. And also, you know, it’s my opportunity to take a longstanding passion for scientific literacy and apply it to public health. And also, be that voice in our community of staying grounded in data and context and nuance, as opposed to a very dogmatic approach where we want to define everything based on rules. And so over time, my enthusiasm has really solidified into not just a career, right? Because I did decide not to go back to medical research at all and to dedicate my life to this. But it also solidified into really knowing myself and knowing my voice and knowing the thing that I want to communicate in the world.

Stu

11:25 Fantastic. Boy oh boy. I am really, really excited to be able to connect with you because you have a passion, but it’s backed by science. And that excites me more than anything because we can drill into the nuts and bolts and determine, right? Well this is going to work because of all of the research and all the literature that supports that as well. And for me, I think I was first exposed to the paleo diet, boy in over a decade ago. In reading, I think it was Dr. Loren Cordain’s book, The Paleo Diet. And then moved onto [inaudible 00:12:06] and look to, you know, ancestral health and that path as well. My question to you, given the fact that over the last decade some of the tools and techniques that have become more widely available in terms of gut health, microbiome and all of the testing that seems to be getting better and better. Has the paleo diet, the principles behind the paleo diet changed over perhaps the last decade as to what we used to say and prescribers to where we are now given the tools that we have?

Sarah

12:47 So I do think that, I mean, so the original version of the paleo diet by professor Loren Cordain, which was published, I mean going on 19/18 years now, I think the first version came out in 2001.

Stu

13:01 Yeah.

Sarah

13:02 That was infused with a lot of the editor and the publishers. I want to say it’s not necessarily their point of view, but there was an idea that the diet had to be made accessible. So I mean the original original version of the paleo diet embraced Diet Coke and there’s nobody in our community now that would say the diet Coke was an acceptable health promoting beverage.

Stu

13:32 Yeah.

Sarah

13:33 And so, the good thing was by the paleo diet and really the advent of the internet and the ability to popularise something on the internet. The fact that it developed this community of a following, really empowered professor Cordain according to be able to centralise the message. But I think his approach has always been very much influenced by an assumption that people would not go out and seek the highest quality food.

Stu

14:10 Yes.

Sarah

14:10 So his recommendations have always assumed the lowest quality, right? The Walmart Superstore level grocery store. And I think, in some ways that hasn’t just kept up with where the community has been, because we’ve really absorbed the priorities of the local food movement and environmental sustainability and those priorities have really permeated the entire paleo community. And so I think, you know, nowadays we would say, here’s the optimum diet and here’s the trade, if you can’t afford this optimum, you can’t … you live in a food desert or you’re not close to a farmer’s market. So what are the trades that you can make to still get the most out of your food? So I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s changed, but also because this diet has always been rooted in science, I think there’s people who come at it from two directions.

15:07 So professor Cordain and Boyd Eaton, right? All of the people who really founded this diet initially, were really looking at hunter gatherers. They were looking at, you know, paleo anthropological evidence of diet. And that was their approach, right? It was a very evolutionary biology approach. What’s really interesting about the community, as people with science backgrounds like mine, right? It’s a slightly different science, it’s like a medical biophysics, really sort of physiology is my background.

Stu

15:37 Yes.

Sarah

15:38 My reading of the … I would basically say, I’m looking at the scientific literature to understand the the nutrients in foods versus you know, compounds that are going to stimulate the immune system or interfere with hormones or negatively impacted the gut. And my reading of that science comes to basically the same conclusions. So we’ve got that additional voice that … and I’m not the only one from, from this sort of more contemporary science side of it. Which is great because it helps to really route this diet in scientific evidence.

16:10 But the challenge and the power of that, is that there are limits to human knowledge. That’s why there’s scientific researchers as a career out there in all different fields. And so, we need to be open to new discoveries, new new information. And we have certainly seen some aspects of the paleo diet evolve, pardon the pun, over the last decade to reflect sometimes that’s new information and sometimes it’s a broader discussion incorporating more experts of the information that we have. Right. So where in science there’s something called scientific consensus, which means that the burden of proof, that the collection of evidence to prove that this

17:00 … The answer to this question or that this hypothesis correct is so vast that nearly all scientists agree that this must be the answer to that question.

Stu

17:09 Yeah.

Sarah

17:09 And so there’s plenty of areas in nutrition where there is scientific consensus, right? You need essential nutrients, otherwise you have diseases of deficiency. That’s scientific consensus. But there’s also lots of places where the volume of evidence is not quite there yet so it allows for a little bit more interpretation. And one person might look at all of that evidence and say, “Oh, we should eat 30% of our calories from carbohydrates.” Someone else might look at the same evidence and say, “Oh, you know, I think this means we should eat 50% of our calories from carbohydrates.” And because there’s these areas where there is some room for interpretation, having different very informed voices, discuss the weight that we can put on different studies based on the methodology and how rigorous that study was is really important.

18:04 So we’ve also seen that in the paleo community. There’s the great potato debate of 2011 where the entire community got together as a whole and decided that white potatoes would be paleo and up until that point they were completely verboten. it was… It was a a complete… Like you would stir massive controversy if you ate a baked potato once in a while, and now we’ve seen other foods start to become, maybe not considered strict paleo but become acceptable if you know your tolerance. So like white rice has sort of hit the same, well if you tolerate white rice I guess that’s okay. Grass fed dairy has hit that same… Yes, if you tolerate it, then okay. It’s got some health promoting properties. We can accept that.

18:52 And I think we’re actually… I have a little bit of a bias because I’m going to advocate for the same conversation on some other foods because I’m writing a gut microbiome book right now, which does show me that there are few foods that are traditionally not considered paleo that we need to have the same conversation about, and they could hypothetically reach the same status as an acceptable… It’d be like a paleo plus type of diet. Like lentils probably should be in that category, split peas should probably be in that category, gluten free oats should probably be in that category. So this little extra category of foods that, all right, they’re not traditionally considered paleo, but we’ll accept them because the landscape of the scientific evidence is shifting as it grows.

Stu

19:44 Got it. Yeah, it’s very interesting as well because in the foods that are hit or miss, yay or nay, there’s conjecture in terms of the way that the foods are processed. For instance, thinking conventional foods like bread. Over in Australia, bread, clearly like the rest of the world is everywhere. But then I have European roots and we have friends and family who say, “Boy, when I come to Australia, I really bloat when I have bread, but when I go back to Europe, I don’t bloat.” And I’m likening that perhaps to the processes that they use and the way that yeasts are used in things like sourdough just seems to be a little bit better tolerated.

20:34 In terms of conventional foods, so standard, mainstream foods, which groups do you think most negatively impact our health based upon your experience and your science behind that as well?

Sarah

20:49 I mean, I would say the worst foods are by far those sort of junk foods that are engineered to be hyper-palatable. So that collection of foods, that is the salt, sugar, fat, they typically have… you know, it’s the Doritos and the doughnuts and the Oreo cookies. That group of foods, they have the inherent problematic compounds. We could get into like wheat versus other grains and that type of conversation, but the problem with them is they have no nutritional value. None. They’re not giving us anything other than pure calories. And they also through that hyper-palatable, they’re designed to be so delicious that we buy them over and over again because those big companies want our dollars. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe they’re coordinating with the health insurance companies and the drug companies to make us sick so that… I don’t believe that. But I do believe they want us to spend money on their products.

Stu

21:52 Yeah.

Sarah

21:52 And there’s no incentive to make those products healthy. They just have to pass some criteria of food versus not food. And then the market decides because do we buy it or do we not buy it? But the problem with them is empty calories that do things like override our satiety signals, so that tricks us into overeating or that cause cravings. So we end up having a blunted reward stimulus from healthy foods. So we don’t appreciate how delicious an apple is because it’s not as delicious as an Oreo cookie. And so I think that the damage that causes is not just in the empty calories themselves, but in driving over eating and driving less and less healthy food choices. And then the sugars are also doing things like eroding sleep and magnifying the stress response.

22:52 So it really permeates into the rest of our dietary choices and even some lifestyle factors in a way that I really believe that we can have a conversation about a time and a place for pretty much any other class of foods. I don’t believe that everyone needs to be gluten free all the time. I believe there are people out there who can do… Gluten is not going to… It’s not a nutrient. It’s not going to help you. But I’m not going to be dogmatic about whether gluten… I’m not going to say gluten is the devil and an evil toxin that we all need to avoid, but I would say that about this collection of manufactured foods that really, they stop us from being able to listen to our own bodies, and that is really key to a lot of the public health challenges that we’re facing today is we’ve lost the ability to eat intuitively because our food interferes with our intuition.

Stu

23:52 Yeah, that’s great. And it’s interesting as well because those types of foods are so habitual in social settings and circles. Last week I went away with-

Sarah

24:05 Almost ritualised.

Stu

24:05 Absolutely right. So when I went away camping last weekend and because of the way that we have eaten or I specifically have eaten over the last decade and found more and more information to back up the importance of nutrients versus food, I don’t look at any of those things anymore even as options. They’re zero temptation. I just want to feel good. I want to nourish my body. I’m not a spring chicken and I want to live a long and happy healthy life. But the backwash against like, “Oh here you go, have some crisps, dips, chips.” And it’s like, “No, I’m fine. I’m good.” I had double servings of dinner, it’s all good. It’s funny because there’s like this, well why don’t you want this? I kind of look at that stuff now as cat food. Like it just doesn’t turn anything on in my brain. I just don’t want it.

25:08 And it’s funny how that does shift the longer you get into this way of eating and you start to really appreciate good food and the nutrients that they deliver as well. So just wanted to throw that out there, that people with cravings who are beholden to some of these food groups, I mean that stuff just slips away when you really start to nourish your body, which was interesting.

25:32 So yeah, I am certainly a bit of a black sheep in our community when we’re out at parties and things like that. But don’t eat it anymore. Just don’t.

Sarah

25:41 Yeah, I would say… I’ve discovered over food sensitivities as part of my health journey, so I didn’t recognize how much gluten and dairy were driving my chronic illnesses prior to going paleo. But I certainly am aware now and have also discovered that in my kids. And I find that’s just an easier way to explain it at a party. Oh, I have allergies. It’s not technically an allergy, it’s technically an intolerance and yeah, yeah, yeah. But that is at least a language that because of the rise of allergies in our community now, it’s a language that a lot of people speak. So instead of being the black sheep, I get sympathy. Oh, you can’t eat this pizza, so sad for you. Yeah, it’s really sad for me. Meanwhile, just like your experience, that food… I came from binge eating disorders, so I came from an actual food addiction, but those foods have completely lost their hold on me. I remember the first time I walked through a grocery store and the bakery section instead of smelling tempting smelled kind of like a public washroom.

Stu

26:52 Yeah.

Sarah

26:52 And it was a really disconcerting experience. Like I thought maybe someone had had an accident in the aisle at first and then I realized that that was what that really synthetic very highly processed baked goods smelled like to me now, that I could smell the chemicals in it instead of all of the things that I was supposed to be triggering dopamine. And that was quite an eye opening experience of, oh, I don’t even think I would enjoy it now. I think I would just taste the chemicals. I think I would have to train my taste buds to appreciate, which I’m not about to do. But I think you get… real food has such amazing flavor that when you really detoxify your body from those manufactured, I like to think of them as food like substances.

Stu

27:41 Yes.

Sarah

27:41 You know, it really is amazing how they really can just lose their hold completely.

Stu

27:46 Yeah. Exactly right. And you mentioned allergies and sensitivities as well, which was so rare when I was at school and I’m late 40s, and I can’t remember anybody having an allergy or a sensitivity to anything in my school. And now I have young children and every second child has an allergy, a sensitivity, moving up to the severe spectrum with Epi-Pens galore, which is just nuts.

28:19 So a bit of a double barrelled question here in terms of why do you think this is on the rise? And then secondly, moving past paleo then to more of a strict regime, which is the autoimmune protocol, tell us how that came about and why the need to follow that way of eating.

Sarah

28:44 Sure. So the first half of the question, so what’s really… I mean, there have been studies that have really tried to tease are we just more aware of food allergies now, is it just something that we’re actually talking about. And there is a little bit of that. So we do see this in a lot of chronic illnesses, our ability to diagnose is better. So that does account for some of the increased incidents, but the majority of it is legitimately that it’s more common now. And I think unequivocally it’s this perfect storm of diet and lifestyle factors that are stimulatory for the immune system.

29:25 So an allergy or an intolerance really comes from an immune system that’s overreacting. It’s basically decided that that food, that peanut or dairy protein is a terrible thing that requires this exaggerated response to. And the things that are regulating that system are nutrients and some of the nutrients we’re most commonly deficient in like vitamin D, vitamin A, and zinc are the most important for regulating that system. So you increase risk of asthma and allergies just by being nutrient deficient, vitamin D being the best understood.

30:04 Not getting enough sleep is inflammatory, and it still shocks me because sleep is revered in my household. My kids have an early bedtime. Even my 12-year-old is in middle school, she’s in grade seven, and she still turns out her light at 8:30 in the evening. We’ve tried even pushing it to 8:45. It doesn’t work for her. She really does much better at 8:30, but most of her peers are going to bed two hours later than her.

30:42 I think that makes us a strange family more than how we eat, honestly. The fact that my kids go to bed at an actual reasonable time so they don’t need to wake up to an alarm and they actually get enough sleep every single night. They’re still up at 6:00 in the morning on the weekends because they never need to sleep in.

30:59 And we know that not getting enough sleep drives inflammation. It activates the immune system and in such a way that not getting enough sleep during the week, Monday through Friday, you can’t actually recover by sleeping in on the weekend.

Stu

31:13 Yes.

Sarah

31:13 Two days is not enough to recover from that immune stimulation. Then you add stress, I mean we are just with how economies in westernized countries are now, it’s almost impossible to live in a single income household. We’re working more than we ever have before. We’re spending more time indoors than we ever have before. We’re sleeping less than we ever have before, which is a physical stress as well and stress impacts immune function.

31:42 And then we know that spending time in nature and outside also regulates the immune system. Well, we’re indoors more than we’ve ever been before. So I think we’ve really set ourselves up for… I mean, this is not just the allergies, but this is all chronic illnesses have an overactive immune system or inflammation as part of the driving factor in that chronic illness from diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease. And so we’ve made our diets incredibly nutrient deficient, really high in inflammatory compounds. Just inflammatory compounds like sugar. Sugar is inflammatory, right? All of these oxidized fats that are in manufactured foods and then created the normal lifestyle now. What is considered a social norm is completely contrary to our biological needs. I think the bigger surprise is like, why are there any healthy people walking around at all anymore?

Stu

32:48 Yeah, that’s a good point.

Sarah

32:48 It’s cheery too. So, I mean really, and that’s why something like the autoimmune protocol needs to exist. So the autoimmune protocol is a… I would call it a more rigorous version of the paleo diet. It’s taken on really a life of its own, but it has its roots in the paleo diet. I didn’t invent it. I developed it, I think. I think I took something that was fairly bare bones and made it the very comprehensive protocol that it is now and really flushed out a lot of the details and popularised it.

33:27 But it was something that actually originated between Robb Wolf and Professor Cordain. Robb’s mom has autoimmune disease. And they were just talking between them on, well, let’s look at some of these foods that… things like rice and potatoes didn’t make the cut initially. But there were some foods that made the cut that are still in that kind of amorphous zone of should it be paleo, should it not? And so they looked at those foods and tried to evaluate whether or not they

34:00 They might have some inflammatory compounds that might drive autoimmune disease activity where you’re talking about the context of an immune system that’s so crazy overstimulated that it’s lost the ability to differentiate between a protein in our bodies, and a foreign right virus or bacteria and it attacks something in our bodies with the same vigor as it would attack a flu virus. So they came up with a list of additional foods and I don’t know if they particularly agreed, because Robb Wolf had about two-thirds of a page it was called the autoimmune caveat in his first book, The Paleo Solution, that listed some additional foods to eliminate. And Professor Cordain had a chapter in The Paleo Answer, which was his second science diet book after The Paleo Diet, and the lists of food didn’t match that.

34:53 So and then there’s a couple of blogs when I first started paleo and discovered that I needed to dig a little bit deeper. There were a couple of websites that had combined those lists and called it The Autoimmune Protocol, but it really was a fairly rudimentary idea when I first started tackling it in late 2011. And I was very influenced by Dr. Terry Walls TEDx Iowa City talk went viral that October. So that concept of nutrient density and her protocol is very much about the nutrients that the mitochondria need to be able to be efficient energy producers, and if you have efficient energy producers within your cells then your cells can actually be healthy. So it’s very much focused on the … It’s a tremendous amount of overlap with immune health nutrients, and so her protocol is very focused on eating a ton of vegetables, and eating seafood, and eating organ meat.

35:50 So as I was trying to wrap my head around these somewhat conflicting food lists between Robb Wolf and Professor Cordain, and really digging into that idea of nutrient density. I started the automating protocol as a new year’s resolution January 1st, 2012 but right from the get-go integrated that nutrient density piece and started writing about it. It was my writing about the science behind all of these things and integrating a lifestyle focus that really made it the robust protocol it is now, but it’s really about recognising that people with autoimmune disease and chronic illness in general are a more sensitive population. So we have genetic variance generally. That means we have an immune system that’s more likely to be triggered by a suboptimal environment, and an environment includes our diet and our lifestyle and infectious agents, and toxin exposure, pesticide exposure, right? It includes all of those things and we can’t control all of them, right? We can’t control whether or not we’ve ever had Epstein-Barr infections, but we can control what we put in our bodies and we can at least somewhat control the quality of our sleep, and whether or not we’re actively managing stress.

37:08 So it really looks at all of the inputs into immune function, including hormone regulation and gut health and all of those different pieces that feed into, right? Because all of our biological systems have crosstalk. So it really respects the needs of the full body and creates a protocol that both is designed to really flood the body with nutrients so you really are addressing all potential nutrient insufficiencies at once while minimising anything that can be inflammatory in foods. So not all of those foods that are eliminated will actually be problematic for everyone following the autoimmune protocols, but you cut them all out at first just to really, again, cleanse and detoxify and flood the body with nutrients while addressing the lifestyle factors, which are very much about giving the immune system the opportunity to start regulating itself. You give it the resources with nutrients and the opportunity with the lifestyle factors.

38:03 And then there’s a whole phase of the [inaudible 00:38:06] protocol that’s, some people call it reintroductions, some people call it the challenge phase where you start to add in some of the eliminated foods and test your individual tolerance. So it really is a protocol. It’s designed to maximise the therapeutic value of diet and lifestyle, but it’s really about understanding our own bodies at an incredibly detailed level because we understand our disease triggers, how our disease triggers shift based on lifestyle. So really common, if you’re stressed you don’t tolerate the same foods as when everything’s la-di-da, and it’s really about respecting bio-individuality within that framework of understanding universal truths when it comes to nutrition and lifestyle.

Stu

38:50 Got it.

Sarah

38:50 We all need to get nutrients.

Stu

38:52 Fantastic. And I’m guessing that this particular section of this podcast I think is going to generate a lot of interest from a lot of people and they’ll want to find out so much more. And I could talk all morning and all night for you, which we won’t do right now, but if people wanted to find out more about specifically the AIP protocol, I’m guessing that you’ve got to kick start place on your website to send them.

Sarah

39:16 I have a great place to send everyone. So my website is thepaleomom.com and from there you can link to everything I do, my podcast, my books, my online courses, my social media sites. But also if you go to the paleo mom.com/ free-gift, that’s free-gift, you can get a paleo quick start guide that gives you the basics of the paleo diet and an autoimmune protocol quick start guide. And they’re very much infused with my contemporary scientific approach and my non-dogmatic approach, and really I like to take my time explaining the why’s behind things, but they’re also very much designed to get you off the ground running and give you that basic information to get going.

Stu

40:01 That’s excellent. Perfect. We’ll ensure that all of that information is popped into the show notes. Now, I had a whole heap of questions today that I wanted to ask you, but as always you just get to select a few but there’s one last question I’d like to ask before we wrap up, and I think that our listeners will get the most out of this as well from connecting with you personally and that’s about your daily routine. I just wondered if you could just walk us through that and I’m sure there are some little gems of information there that people will resonate with.

Sarah

40:32 Yeah, so I guess my most typical day is a school day because that’s five of my days of the week. So I get up early, I wake up to a light alarm clock. So it is an alarm clock that slowly over 20 minutes it starts from a dim red light and it gradually gets sunlight bright straight in your eyes and then birds start chirping. It’s actually a really lovely way to wake up because it entrenches circadian rhythms, but it’s also actually very gentle compared to any noise that an alarm clock could make is very, very jarring. Then I groggily meander downstairs like a normal person until I get my coffee and then the day feels like it will be fine. Like a normal person. I help the kids get ready for school and I drive my youngest daughter to school, and then I keep going straight to the gym.

Stu

41:27 Right.

Sarah

41:29 So I like to get that done in the morning just because it maximises my work time. I work from home, isolated in my basement like a typical work at home mom, but I like to try to create these as big a chunk of time. But I’ve noticed when I work out in the morning I have a more consistent mental energy throughout the day. I might hit a point where I’m physically tired, especially if I … I do a CrossFit sort of style workouts. So they can be quite rigorous. So I might hit physical fatigue, but still mental energy, which is kind of an interesting place to be. I come home and I typically grab … This is terrible. I grab food that’s easy to eat with my hands. I tell my kids, “Plates aren’t paleo. Cavemen didn’t have plates.” But I’m really just being facetious and I tend to try to work as much as I can throughout the day.

42:31 So I’ll often realise about 10 minutes before my kids are going to come home from school that I stink and I’m still in my sweaty workout costs at which point I will quickly shower so that I can take them to their after school activities without being that embarrassing mom who smells so bad. But I work at a treadmill desk, so I tend to be able to have … Depending on what I’m doing I either stand or I walk. There’s certain things I just feel I don’t have the fine motor skills to be able to walk and accomplish those tasks at the same time.

Stu

43:04 Yes.

Sarah

43:05 But I do one or the other. I work basically the entire time until my kids get home, and then typically when they’re getting home that’s when I spend very focused time with them. They don’t even help with homework anymore, but I like to be around just in case hoping they don’t need my help.

Stu

43:24 You never know.

Sarah

43:26 In that period of time that’s also when I start trying to figure out what I’m going to cook for dinner. I generally have a sense, right? I know what foods I have in the house and I have a freezer that’s pretty well stocked with frozen meat and seafood. So I usually have a sense of what my meals are going to look like for the week, but I’m not a really strict meal planner. Like, “I’m going to have this and I’m going to have this.” So I do a lot of improvisation in the kitchen of, “I have this piece of meat. That’ll taste good roasted and I have these for vegetables. I’ll make them all.” So usually around that time, I’m starting to think about dinner and I tend to gravitate towards meals that work from home. So if it needs to go in the oven at three o’clock in the afternoon, that’s fine. That doesn’t change my day at all, but I gravitate towards things that have very low hands-on time.

Stu

44:14 Right.

Sarah

44:15 So I’m not spending tons of time chopping vegetables or sautéing, browning the meat before the whatever and the other thing. I just tend to throw some seasonings on something and throw it in the oven. So I don’t spend very much time cooking. My kids, my oldest does CrossFit, my youngest dances, they do piano lessons. So we also tried to embrace free time with them. So they’re not super busy, but we do do … I’m a chauffeur. I do my chauffeur duties. I pack meal duties, all the mom things and I’ll often find if I’m sitting in the dance school I find a, we’ll call it a quiet corner, but really it’s just so loud that it becomes white noise where I can sneak in a bit more work. Because that that for me is always the challenge is is how can I write or whatever it is while also doing the other things that of responsible for.

45:14 We come home from those activities and have a family dinner at the table. Sometimes we’ll play a board game. It depends on how much space the board game needs versus how much space dinner needs, and then I basically hang out with my kids until they go to bed. Then depending on the evening, sometimes like now I have to sneak in a little bit more work time, but I try as much as I can to wind down in the evenings and have focused time with my husband too. Sometimes we just feel like we’re co-parents and ships in the night, and then I try to start winding down usually by quarter to nine/nine o’clock because if I can take that hour before I turn out my light to really wind down my sleep quality’s a lot better.

Stu

46:04 Yes.

Sarah

46:04 We don’t watch very much television. So that might be time that we might play a board game, or read a book, or just talk about our days. So that time is a mix of that. I might do the dishes or something mundane, and then I’d go to bed nice and early. So I really protect … Sleep is non-negotiable for me. So I try to have my light out for eight and a half hours every single night, and if I can’t get that eight to eight and half hours of good quality of sleep every single night I really feel it. It really builds up and then my workout time and my movement time is non-negotiable. I have had to start thinking of it as part of my job in order for it to hit high enough on the priority list that it gets done.

46:50 And then I still try, even though my kids see how much I work now I’ve always tried to hide it from them so they could see me as a stay at home mom even though I haven’t been for a very long time. But I really do try to have very focused time with them where we just get to talk, or laugh, or talk about their day, or help them through a challenging time, which is something that happened today. But I try as much as I can to put everything aside when they have that focus time for me so I have that focus time for them.

Stu

47:21 Fantastic. Boy, so many little areas in there that I think people can resonate with and will want to find out so much more. So thank you for sharing that, and so just one more time, our audience, so thepaleomom.com and I can see that there are a number of places that you can kick start and get familiar with AIP and the paleo diet and also dive into your-

Sarah

47:46 That website is like seven or eight books now. I’ve been consistently writing scientific articles for it every single week for almost eight years. So there’s a ton of good stuff on there.

Stu

48:03 Yeah, thank you. Thank you. Well, thank you again. Really appreciate your time. Mindful that I don’t want to cut into your wind downtime. Get that sleep routine going. Cannot wait to share this. Thank you again.

Sarah

48:16 Oh, thank you so much, Stu. This was really fun.

Stu

48:18 Fantastic. You take care. Thank you. Bye-bye.

 

 

 

Sarah Ballantyne

This podcast features Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. (a.k.a. The Paleo Mom) is the creator of the award-winning blog www.ThePaleoMom.com, cohost of the top-rated and syndicated The Paleo View podcast, and New York Times Bestselling author of four books: the most comprehensive Paleo guidebook to date, Paleo... Read More
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