The “Paleo movement” began with Loren Cordain and he still owns the trademarks to the term ‘Paleo Diet’. And yet, as with everything, this ‘movement’ has vastly evolved from its early beginnings.
In that evolution there have been rampant commercialisations and dilutions of the original themes and outlines. There have also been more nuanced studies and attempts at truly understanding, from a scientific perspective, whether there is any basis to the claims made by the original Paleo advocates.
Because Paleo has come to mean many things, we at Paleo in the UK are going to define here what Paleo means for us as we operate and expand this site.
There is no doubt that the Paleo word is an unfortunate one, largely because it conjures up the idea that those who utilise Paleo principles are trying, in a perhaps naive way, to reconstruct Palaeolithic lifestyles and diets. Whilst the Paleo idea is founded on understanding the evolution of human biology, it is not actually about attempting regression to ancient biology.
Instead it is focussed on truly understanding how far we have evolved, and how far our modern world has evolved – evaluating the mismatch between these two evolutions.
Instead of getting lost in the premise of ancestry, however, the reason our founder chose to establish this site is because she was frequently referring to the diet she was recommending to “Paleo”. In fact, many of her Functional Medicine and Nutrition colleagues were doing the same thing. Not because of ancient hunter-gatherer societies, but because modern science has identified the very foods recommended as part of a “Paleo Diet” to be exactly those needed for optimal human health. The Paleo Diet is, by default, low-inflammatory, nutrient-dense and made up of whole, recognisable foods which are optimally suited to human digestion and therefore conducive to human health.
The idea of ancestral nutrition is not about recreation of ancestral eras. It’s about comprehending the human body as it evolved through our ancestry, understanding that the evolution of physiology has perhaps not kept pace with the evolution of the environment in which we now live.
“Paleo” nutrition closely resembles that of hunter-gatherer ancestors, simply because it removes a lot of modern, processed, artificial foods. But there are major differences between real ancestral eating and today’s version of it: our foods are radically different in their nutritional profile, our access to alternative calorie sources is much broader (we can import global foods to our local supermarkets now) and our digestive systems have indeed evolved, to some degree, to digest more ‘modern’ foods.
So if it’s not about recreating ‘history’ or ‘ancestry’ or ‘eating like a caveman’, what is it about?
As far as we here at Paleo in the UK are concerned, the basic principles which have been termed “Paleo” actually reflect the foodstuffs and lifestyle practices that are simply nourishing and healthy to modern humans given their mechanisms of action and impacts on the human body.
On this site we assess the compounds, nutrients and components of foods and lifestyle practices for whether they provide sustenance and benefit, whether they are inflammatory (either generally/universally, and/or in the context of specific health conditions or symptoms), how they interact with gut bacteria, gut lining, hormones, neurotransmitters and cellular respiration and lastly, how they impact overall resilience and energy production.
Basically, we recommend what provides health, nourishment, optimisation and benefit to the human body and recommend avoiding or limiting that which has evidence to suggest that it is not supportive – and potentially damaging and draining – to our health.
The Information We Use
The scientific literature around cellular biology, molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry has grown exponentially. Using the scientific rigour of assessing mechanisms of action, along with the epidemiological evidence to suggest how these mechanisms truly work in practice, we are able to ascertain whether foods or lifestyle practices are health promoting or physically depleting.
This website and our recommendations have been built upon the basic tenet of “keep in what is additive and remove what depletes”.
The interesting part is that nothing is cut and dried, and rarely are foods or behaviours “all bad” or “all good”. For that reason, it becomes more about what is ‘healthful’: i.e. what gives more than it takes away. But this can be in any respect: sometimes giving to the soul, the mind and the social connection far outweighs any biological effects.
For this reason, but also because we are mindful of how extremes are never accurate in the realm of nutritional sciences, our pledge is never to be evangelical. Every week and every year there are discoveries in evolution and understand – and we STILL end up with grey areas, and (perhaps more importantly) things which are entirely dependent on individuality and personalisation.
This is why Paleo, as far as Paleo in the UK is concerned, is simply a template. We hope that this site provides you with information and education such that you are empowered to make choices about how you want to eat and how you want to live your life – with the knowledge of how your choices impact your wellbeing.
Just to be absolutely clear, we here at Paleo in the UK do not think that the Paleo diet and lifestyle is either necessary or a panacea for everyone. There are those who are robust and perhaps genetically blessed – those whom the biological impacts simply don’t effect.
Similarly, there are those for whom Paleo is not enough to resolve their chronic and life-altering conditions. That is why we have taken great measures to provide an extensive Autoimmune Area for addressing such conditions.
Likewise, our Functional Medicine Consultant founder has genetic conditions with associated health implications which cannot be ‘fixed’ by simply following a Paleo or even an AIP approach because food has nothing to do with their onset. And yet whilst these nutritional approaches are not a cure-all, they can provide benefit to most people in some way and they do protect our longevity.
We at Paleo in the UK believe that these dietary approaches can, and do, make demonstrable differences to people’s health: that’s why we wanted to create a reliable resource on this topic for everyone in the UK.
Paleo in the UK is a safe space where these diet choices are respected and lifestyle practices embraced. We welcome the involvement and enthusiasm of our readers and community members. All that we ask of you is to demonstrate respect for your fellow readers: for their approach, their dietary choices and for where they are in their healing journey.
And now – please explore! For the nitty gritty on the details of this approach go to our Paleo Area. If you’re into the Deeper Science, that’s here. Need the Autoimmune Area? You’ll find that here. If you want to know about everything that’s NOT about food, check out our Lifestyle Section and for those of you who just need all the things… Our Resources Pages are an ever-growing litany of all things Paleo and AIP. (And don’t forget to check out the Blog for the latest from the Paleo-sphere, the AIP worlds and our reflections on life itself…!)