This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.
When I went on the paleo diet, I lost 20 pounds effortlessly. And while the diet didn’t cure all of my physical ills, it made me feel so much better that I can’t even consider going off of it.
I’ve got plenty of health issues. Stress makes my blood pressure climb. My arthritis acts up now and then. Psoriasis comes and goes. And while my paleo diet is no panacea, it’s the only diet that seems to help keep these problems under control.
Many paleo advocates seem to push the diet as an instant cure for just about anything. My experience, while satisfying, is not so sanguine.
Part of my difficulty, I believe, is that I suffer from celiac (an autoimmune reaction to proteins in wheat, rye and barley); but didn’t know about it until I was 50 years old. As my brain and nerves deteriorated in middle age, I finally realized the root of my problem: Things like bread, cookies, crackers and even oatmeal that was cross contaminated with wheat were setting off a self-destructive storm in my immune system.
And although going off gluten and eating paleo improved my memory, brought down my blood pressure, eased my arthritic pain and took off the pounds, it hasn’t made me completely healthy.
As far as diets go, my feeling about paleo compared to other ways of eating is similar to what Winston Churchill is supposed to have said about democracy as a form of government: It may not be the best, but it’s better than anything else.
Research has confirmed some of the benefits of eating paleo.
For instance, the diet lets you eat meat — preferably meat from organic, free-range animals. Eating meat, researchers believe, can help support your mental and physical health as you age.
Japanese scientists who looked at older people who ate diets high in animal protein found that they were better off socially, psychologically and physically than their counterparts who did not partake of meat.
These researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Tohoku University and Teikyo University argue that because an aging digestive tract has more trouble absorbing and processing protein, your protein requirements climb as you grow older.
And when they analyzed the health of more than 1,000 people with an average age of about 67, they found that the meat eaters had about a 40 percent improved chance of continuing to live independently. (The effect, though, was found primarily in men.)
“Identifying nutritional factors that contribute to maintaining higher-level functional capacity is important for prevention of future deterioration of activities of daily living,” says researcher Dr. Tsubota-Utsugi. “Along with other modifiable health behaviors, keeping higher protein intake could contribute to maintain elderly functional capacity.”
Along with eating meat, keeping active is also important for longevity and strength as the years go by.
A study at Tokyo University shows that people in middle age who keep exercising keep more of their muscle strength and physical capabilities.
This research examined the incidence of sarcopenia (muscle loss) in 1,000 people over the age of 65. The scientists discovered that you lose less muscle if you engage in plenty of activity.
The exercisers in the study had stronger hand grips, walked faster and had more stability when they were standing than sedentary folks.
I consider consistent exercise to be part of the paleo diet. Doing some kind of strenuous activity is on my menu every day.
I have three big, impetuous dogs who need a daily walk; and unless it’s pouring rain or intense lightning (or both!), the canines make sure I get a workout every afternoon.
I won’t argue that my paleo regimen reflects what anyone was actually doing back in the Paleolithic era. But it’s the diet that helps me, and I believe it could help a good many others if they gave it a chance.