Chronic Illness: Combining Raw & Paleo to Help Begin the Healing Process

For a moment, it seems like the whole world stops when you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness. Once the dust settles and you’ve processed what it all means, you realize you’ve got some work ahead. You can’t just continue down the same path in terms of lifestyle and diet that led you to illness in the first place if you expect to heal. It’s a big adjustment to start cooking at home more, making fewer trips through the drive-thru lane – but, with the right strategies and tools, it can be so much easier than you imagine!

There is a plethora of information available on the hottest and trendiest diets of today… one hot topic including the Paleo diet. Many top experts in the Paleo community discuss how gut inflammation can be the result of a complex interplay of genetics, environment, antibiotic use, stress and diet. I think what makes eating the Paleo diet such a slam dunk is the anti-inflammatory potential that it can have on the body.

Food Truly Does Matter

An example of pro-inflammatory foods includes foods such as grains, as well as, foods that contain trans fats, and refined sugars. More recently, many people have sensitivities to gluten and wheat that can also contribute to cause chronic inflammation. The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Hyman has written extensively about the importance of reducing inflammation – not just to lose weight, but to live healthily in general. He says that millions of Americans suffer from delayed hypersensitivity reaction (a type of food allergy) that causes “a wide range of problems like weight gain, fluid retention, fatigue, brain fog, irritable bowel syndrome, mood problems, headaches, sinus and nasal congestion, joint pains, acne, eczema, and more.” He adds that eating foods you’re allergic to causes inflammation, which leads to fluid retention, swelling of the tissues and weight gain.

The Paleo Diet eliminates refined sugars, dairy, processed legumes and grains. Instead, you’ll fuel up on fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and poultry and healthy fats.

Balancing Paleo Eating

I am a big fan of the Paleo diet. I have witnessed amazing transformations of those that follow this style of eating. That being said, I am also a lover of raw living foods. I think that some people may view the Paleo diet as a heavy meat and fat diet and that idea may deter some people from trying it. I think many of us are still stuck on the notion that fat makes us fat when, in fact, for many it is the over consumption of grains and sugars that makes us fat.

I think it is important to emphasize that fresh vegetables and fruits need to be a big part of our dietary balance.

I, for one, like to consider myself as a sort of Raw-eo (Raw/Paleo) follower.

Can raw, living foods be important for chronic illness recovery?

When I think of raw, I think of life-giving foods.  As an auto-immune student myself, through the years I have found raw foods (particularly vegetables and fruits) to be a tremendous part of my healing process.  When food is heated over a certain temperature, helpful enzymes are destroyed. These enzymes can help us to digest our food. I, personally, have found raw foods to give me more energy, fewer digestion issues, improved mood, and a greater overall sense of wellbeing.

Who May Benefit from Eating More Raw Foods? 

Raw foods may be especially helpful for people suffering from:

  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic migraines
  • Fibromyalgia and chronic pain
  • Food allergies
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Mood disorders
  • Obesity

Should any raw foods be avoided?

Depending on your diagnosis, you may be discouraged from eating nightshade vegetables and spices, such as:

  • Cayenne – (does not include black pepper)
  • Eggplant
  • Paprika
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes – (does not include sweet potatoes)
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes

These vegetables contain potent alkaloids that act as natural pesticides and may be triggers for people with autoimmune diseases. According to Mark’s Daily Apple, “Steroid alkaloids have been shown to block certain nerve activity that can, at high levels, cause muscle shaking, paralysis and respiratory difficulty. They have also been associated with inflammation, particularly in the joints.” Research shows that cooking these foods cuts the alkaloid levels in half, so you may want to think twice about eating these foods raw. Depending on your level of sensitivity, though, you may want to avoid them altogether.

Strategies: How to increase Raw/Paleo foods into your diet

Buy a high quality blender. There’s no better way to pack raw fruits and veggies into your system than to whip up a healing smoothie! A quality high speed blender can really revolutionize your mornings. It grinds up EVERYTHING to perfection, so not only can you make more smoothies for breakfast, but also fresh soups for lunch and dinner, raw nut milks and purees, the possibilities are endless.

Pick a day for planning. I take an hour on Sunday to map out a week’s worth of meals for my family, looking up recipes and making my shopping list. As you begin to build a database, this task becomes quicker and easier. When you find something your family really loves, add it to your “Top 10” list to pull out when you’re stumped for what to make. Planning ahead is the only strategy to avoid “emergency” pizza orders and drive-thru stops.

Prepare in bulk. Rather than setting aside one portion per family member, make some extra and pack them up into ready-to-go lunches. You’ll eat healthier and be less likely to cave in to quick convenience food when you don’t have the energy to stand at the counter chopping or blending.

Have emergency snacks on hand. There will always be days when the unexpected comes up. It’s always good to have items like nuts, apples, sunflower seeds, spicy kale chips, paleo style muffins, or homemade breakfast balls ready to go. Check out these raw snack recipes from The Raw Food Kitchen! Also, there are some wonderful Paleo snacks available today such as these grain free crackers

Find a friend. You don’t have to do this alone! Find a loved one who will make regular “prep” dates with you. Make it a social affair and a cherished time for spirited bonding with someone you care about.

Ready to make the switch?

Over the years, I’ve helped many individuals on their healing journey naturally, through diet modification and holistic solutions. Contact me for personalized suggestions, lifestyle tips, and assistance making the transition to a healthier way of life.

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Photo Credit: Renee Dee

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