Tomorrow, Monday 5th of October I will be starting my diet experiment. If you have followed me for the past week you know the first diet I’m going to give a go is the Rebuild diet. I have asked my very good friend – Ross aka Kritikos Health, to write-up some deeper information about it. He will do so for all the diets I’m going to put to its test.
Note that Kritikos Health(Ross) do not have any sort of Nutritional background, he is simply self-taught in this area. But it is surprisingly amazing what information he sits on.
I HIGHLY recommend for you to read this to get a better perspective about the rebuild diet. The guidelines for the diet will be posted later tonight.
If you are someone who takes an interest in nutrition and diet, you have no doubt heard of the Paleo Diet. In fact, even if nutrition and diet is of no great interest to you at all, you may still have heard of the Paleo Diet, such has been its increasing coverage in mainstream press outlets over the last few years. The actual genesis of the Paleo Diet can be traced back to a physician called Boyd Eaton, who in 1985 released a journal article entitled Paleolithic Nutrition. This article inspired a young exercise physiology student called Loren Cordain, who is now the tenured professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University, and is considered to have popularised interest in Paleolithic diets through the release of his book The Paleo Diet in 2002. The basic premise of the Paleo Diet is simple: it is argued that during the Paleolithic period, humans evolved nutritional requirements that were specifically met by the foods available at that moment in time, and therefore the nutritional requirements of modern-day humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) are genetically adapted to, and best served by, the consumption of a Paleolithic diet. In essence, it is a “species-appropriate” diet. Whereas cows have evolved to eat grass, koala bears have evolved to eat eucalyptus leaves, and pandas have evolved to eat bamboo, supporters of the Paleo Diet claim that humans have evolved to thrive on meat, fish and seafood, fruit and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthful oils from olives and coconuts. However, the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry approximately 10,000 years ago is said to have led to a significant change in the food environment, whereby humans consequently started to consume large amounts of cereal grains, legumes, dairy, and refined flour and sugar – foods, it is suggested, that where not consumed in the Paleolithic era. If consideration is given to the fact that human evolution has occurred over a period of time spanning roughly 2 million years, then 10,000 years represents less than a 1% fraction of this total. As such, the claim is made that humans have been eating a species-appropriate diet for around 99% of our existence, and it is only in the last 10,000 years that we have deviated from this dietary evolutionary template, leading to negative consequences for our health.
Now it is not my intention to argue for or against the accuracy of such assertions, or whether or not the premise of the Paleo Diet in general is sound or not – that is another article entirely. What I have been asked to contribute, on this occasion, is information on what some may term a “rebuild” or “reset” diet, in which certain foods or food groups are removed from the diet for a set period of time (usually 30 days). The aim of this removal is to arrive at a basic dietary template that can later be added to or “customised” in order to discover which foods are best tolerated by an individual’s body and promote the most amount of health and energy. The reason why I provided an initial background and summary of the Paleo Diet is because when it comes to an elimination diet which aims to create a basic dietary template through the elimination of cereal grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, refined vegetable oils, and processed food of all kinds, what invariably ends up being created is essentially the Paleo Diet! Now although the primary aim of most elimination diets is to identify food sensitivities through the removal and then reintroduction of certain kinds of food, the most crucial objective of the Paleo-based elimination diet is the repair of the epithelial cells in the gut. Through minimising consumption of processed food, certain plant toxins and anti-nutrients, it is claimed that the gut is afforded an opportunity to heal and restore gut-barrier integrity. In doing so, inflammation in the body will be lowered, mood will stabilise, food cravings are likely to dissipate, and significant improvements in metabolic markers of health such as blood pressure and insulin sensitivity will be achieved. Additionally, foods the body reacted to negatively previously may now also be tolerated. In certain cases, however, a standard level of Paleo-based elimination is said not to be enough, and there is another level of elimination which has been proposed as a way in which individuals can control (or, controversially, reverse), auto-immune disease.
The Auto-Immune Paleo Protocol (AIP) was first touched upon by Robb Wolf in his 2010 book The Paleo Solution, and was then built upon by Sarah Ballantyne in her 2014 book, The Paleo Approach, which set out in tremendous detail the theory behind using diet to reverse auto-immunity. Both authors contend that one of the reasons individuals react to certain foods is because the proteins they contain can leak across a gut barrier that is abnormally permeable, or “leaky”, enter the bloodstream, and provoke an immune response which leads to chronic, low-grade inflammation. Through eliminating non-paleo compliant foods as a pre-requisite and then additionally minimising exposure to foods most likely to provoke an immune response, the theory follows that the gut, which is home to the largest proportion of immune cells in the body, will heal due to the absence of assault upon the single-celled epithelial barrier, and consequently assist in modulating inflammatory responses within the body. As such, in addition to the removal of the standard “non-paleo” foods AIP also calls for the removal of nuts, soy, nightshades, eggs, cocoa, alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. There are nuances around the reasons why each of these should be removed, but for the sake of brevity, they are removed because they each contain compounds that are said to be irritating or harmful to the gut lining, and/or unfavourable to an immune system that is already not performing as it should. For some individuals, it may be necessary to further restrict foods with high fermentation potential, such as certain types (and amounts) of fruit and starchy vegetables, which may be contributing to gut dysbiosis. There is also the potential issue of high-histamine foods, or foods which are high in salicylate, a derivative of salicylic acid that plants use to protect themselves against disease. Indeed, the AIP protocol and its various considerations can quite understandably leave individuals wondering what there is left to eat, yet it is the only dietary schema that has attempted to offer an approach to managing auto-immune disease.
In closing, the questions that anyone choosing to embark upon any sort of “rebuild, “reset” or elimination diet should be: Why am I doing this? How far do I need to go? And finally, what is the evidence supporting it?
In order to discover what foods work well for an individual, and in the absence of good science surrounding food intolerance testing, elimination diets remain the gold standard for achieving this. How far someone wants to go in terms of elimination is really up to them; how far they need to go is a question for debate based on a range of factors. The adoption of the Paleo Diet presents one level of difficulty, with the Auto-Immune Paleo protocol presenting another. Both have the aim of improving gut health, lowering inflammation, and improving general health markers, although the AIP Protocol is a stricter, longer-term approach designed for managing auto-immune disease, in comparison to the Paleo Diet which can be used as a starting place to then reintroduce “grey area” foods such as non-gluten grains, dairy, legumes, coffee, chocolate, and even alcohol and the sugary treats after a certain period of avoidance.
As far as evidence goes, a recent meta-analysis provided evidence that a paleo-type diet can improve metabolic health, and it is my belief that further studies will show similar positive results. It therefore seems reasonable to suggest that a “rebuild” diet based along Paleo principles has value. With regards to the AIP protocol, the scientific evidence for positive health outcomes in humans is non-existent due to an absence of large-scale randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and therefore the theory that diet can be used to reverse auto-immune disease remains controversial. However, there is strong anecdotal evidence that AIP confers benefit upon those with auto-immune disease, and also upon individuals who have metabolic derangement. Although challenging to implement and to persevere with, I believe that AIP is potentially helpful and is something I would be personally willing to commit to if I had a confirmed diagnosis of an auto-immune condition. If, however, I was someone simply looking to improve general health and create a dietary template that works for my individual constitution, the standard Paleo Diet seems the logical place to start and then build out from.
If you want to read more about what Ross has to share you can follow Kritikos Health here: