The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body
by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD
Victory Belt Publishing Inc.
What goes on in the human body is incredibly complex, to put it mildly. Early in the book is a detailed account of how the immune system works, which may leave the average reader slightly dizzy. I was, anyway. What makes me a little dizzier is the fact that our understanding of the subject is certainly still incomplete and simplistic at best. There is a reason for all the detail. The main purpose of the book is to expound on a lifestyle approach to healing from autoimmune disease. Of course diet and nutrition are strongly featured, but all aspects are addressed, including exercise, sleep and the importance of circadian rhythms in general.
The dietary approach could be described as consistent with the WAPF approach with some restrictions. As is the case with many variations of paleo, grains and dairy are not encouraged here. In the beginning stages of recovery they are strictly prohibited. Once you have recovered you may carefully introduce dairy. Grains? Forget about it. Sarah Ballantyne is not very enthusiastic about dairy but does recognize the difference between industrial strength dairy and raw and cultured dairy. She makes a point of specifying raw when speaking of allowable dairy.
Genetics also come up as a factor in autoimmune disease. The author says genes account for a third of susceptibility. I’m always a little suspicious when genes are blamed. I like to see some historical perspective as a sanity check to our modern lab rat mentality, and I didn’t notice much in this book. I’ve read elsewhere that many autoimmune diseases were rare if not nonexistent a few hundred years ago. Did our genetics really change that fast? A claim that a disease is due to a combination of environment, lifestyle and genetics is somewhat debatable. What that sounds like to me is that if lifestyle and environment aren’t trashed then genetics isn’t really the issue. I think in a bad environment and lifestyle any genetic makeup will suffer in some way sooner or later.
Can someone really get healthy and stay healthy on the diet described in this book? I would say yes. One of the shortcomings of some versions of paleo is lack of good fat. Dr. Ballantyne makes it clear that you need plenty of good fat and correctly identifies what good fat is. Insufficient fat can make one emotionally fragile, tired and cranky.
The Paleo Approach is definitely more restrictive than the WAPF approach. There is a long list of foods to avoid, which includes grain, nuts, dairy, eggs and alcohol on the short list (page 140). I don’t know about you, but that might make me a little cranky.
I have to be careful about referring to certain versions of the paleo diet because the definition has drifted over the last decade or so and there is still debate over what paleo really is. I know paleo is a cool word and those associated with it don’t want to change it, but if you are going to change the definition of a word, confusion is your destiny. You are asking for it. All of this is not necessarily Ballantyne’s fault and the thumb is UP for this book. She is very clear and specific about what her approach is, and while it may be difficult for some I would take this over a vegan approach or genetically modified, chemical, pharmaceutical approach any day.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2016