Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Paleo Approach

Preface: The Paleo Approach was released in February, but two (good!) things delayed my review: 1) this book was not something I could read thoroughly and quickly, and 2) it is such a wonderful resource, that I was compelled to loan it to others who needed to preview it more than I. Now that I have it back and have had more time to parse through the pages, I bring you my review.  

Why should you be concerned with autoimmune disease?  Autoimmune conditions are common! An estimated 50 to 63 million Americans are affected by autoimmune disease.  It can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are often dismissed as effects of a stressful lifestyle, so many people with an autoimmune disease may not even know it!

Autoimmune diseases are special.  They are diverse, painful, often have invisible symptoms, and are without cure.  Many with autoimmune conditions, ranging from eczema and rheumatoid arthritis to lupus and multiple sclerosis, accept their condition as a given and take whatever symptom-mitigating drugs are prescribed to them by their doctors.  These medicines often only mask symptoms and come with unfortunate side effects that may still dampen the user's quality of life.

However, most autoimmune conditions are understood to be not only based in genetics, but are also triggered by environmental factors.

What if lifestyle changes could put these diseases into remission?   What if the drugs and their effects were no longer needed?  What if there was a different approach that could give hundreds of thousands of people their skin, their energy, their focus, their mobility, their lives back? 

There is.  Although the approach is old, the book that puts all the piece together is new: 

The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne is  a  the book on autoimmune disease and the lifestyle factors that affect our health, for better or for worse.  I'd been eagerly anticipating this book, and I was so eager to read it and share its contents with you, that I reached out to the author and offered to share a review.

*NOTE: To those who doubt, don't be deterred by the word "paleo" in the title.  This book is about so much more than the "Caveman Diet" joked about in mainstream media.  So much more! 

About the author, condensed from her website,  
Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D., is the blogger behind, cohost of The Paleo View podcast, and author of The Paleo Approach and the upcoming The Paleo Approach Cookbook.  Before she was a blogger, she studied physics and earned an Honors Bachelor of Science with Distinction, followed by her doctorate degree in medical biophysics.  Her research spanned the gamut of inflamation, innate immunity, endogenous anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant enzymes, gene therapy techniques, microcirculation and vascular biology, liver health, and critical care medicine.   She then went on to four years as a postdoctoral fellow, continuing medical research in the fields of innate immunity, inflammation, vascular biology, critical care medicine, and gene therapy.  Throughout her academic career, Sarah earned a variety of awards for research excellence and published 14 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. 
When Sarah's first daughter was born, Sarah decided to become a stay-at-home mom.  At that time, she was morbidly obese and suffering from over a dozen immune- and autoimmune-related diseases.  After her second daughter was born, Sarah discovered the Paleo lifestyle, which had an amazing effect on herself, contributing to her 120-pound weight loss and healing many physical complaints including: IBS, acid reflux, migraines, asthma, anxiety, allergies, psoriasis, and lichen planus.  She was able to discontinue prescription medications she'd been taking for 12 years after only two weeks, and these remarkable changes inspired her to become a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for the Paleo lifestyle.  On her blog, on her podcast, and now in her book, she distills complex scientific concepts into straightforward and accessible explanations. Learn more about Sarah's background here

In a nutshell, that explains why Sarah is such a powerful advocate for a paleo-based lifestyle.  She is a "scientist both by training and by nature", so she really knows her stuff about how our bodies work.  She is living proof of a method that works, as she's shed an impressive amount of weight and "cured" several health conditions that had long plagued her.  Further, she's a mom and is actively improving the health of her family by incorporating her own experiences with science and medicine 

When the book arrived, I was positively giddy.  I knew from listening to her podcast that she'd poured her heart and her soul, her knowledge and her artistic skills, into this book, but WOW.  I couldn't stop looking at it, feeling it, admiring it.  It's truly a work of art, and outrageously comprehensive.  Typically when I get a book, I read it, you know, start to finish.  Not with this one, though.  Although you could, certainly, sit down and read it cover to cover, your brain might explode in the process.  This book has so many moving parts and pieces, so many sections, and so much to teach you, that I'd personally recommend reading in chunks or treating it more as a resource--hopping section to section as questions and concerns arise.

The Paleo Approach is a textbook, and I mean that as the greatest compliment I could give it.  It first struck me based on flipping through the pages, seeing the layout, how interesting and engaging the pages were.  The pages are color-coded by chapter.  There are titles and subtitles, headings and sub-headings, diagrams and key words, "fun facts" and "how-to"s.  Instead of problem sets or questions for thought at the end of each chapter, the "problem" to solve is taking control of your own health.  How does each section resonate with your current state of health, and the choices you make every day?  Are your choices helping or hurting?  Which facts, numbers, tips, or lessons could help better inform your decisions?

And, again, I can't stress enough: This book is visually stunning and scientifically overflowing.  So much information comes in such a beautiful package--a rarity in the literary world.  At last, the science is shown in color, made relatable and interesting, and will help spread a message that can and will change lives.

Don't confuse this book with a "Paleo Diet" book, either.  This goes so far beyond diet!  Sure, nutrition plays a big role, but just as much attention is drawn to other lifestyle factors, such as sleep, stress, and movement.

The book chapters are divided into two parts:  The Cause and The Cure.  

Part 1: The Cause
This is where the author's science background shows its strength.
Ch. 1 The causes of autoimmune disease
Ch. 2 Dietary Factors that Contribute to Autoimmunity
Ch. 3 Lifestyle Factors that Contribute to Autoimmunity
Ch. 4 Moving Forward

Flipping through these pages, you'll occasionally think you are holding a biology textbook.  The vocabulary, the graphs, the molecular drawings... this isn't a light read, but it is explained for readers without a scientific background to understand.  What happens on a micro level influences how we feel on a macro level, so Sarah leaves no stone unturned when talking about the science!

This includes not only food as you might expect, but also detailed science on the lifestyle factors, such as sleep.  Circadian rhythm and cortisol, for example, play a large role in your health.

Don't be frightened, though.  Even though this book is dense with science, Sarah breaks it down into digestible chunks (no pun intended!), so those of us without a science background can keep up.

Not into it?  Go ahead and skip this part.  However, I'd recommend taking a look anyway to see what you learn.  It's easy to "know" what to do, but unless you understand it on a deeper level, you may not be truly convinced enough to follow through 100%.  As always, knowing the WHY helps inspire the HOW.

Part 2: The Cure
The latter half of the book outlines the lifestyle approach that can put the Part I's "causes" into remission.  These are the tried and true methods to alleviate symptoms of autoimmune disease and have given so many people their lives back. 

Ch. 5 The Paleo Approach Diet: Recommends what TO eat before what not to.  She emphasizes the positive, the high-quality, nourishing foods that contribute to a healthy life.  This chapter is followed up with Food FAQs.

Ch. 6 The Paleo Approach Lifestyle: Prescribes lifestyle factors that contribute to health. Manage stress, have fun, connect with nature, listen to music, get enough good sleep, add low-intensity activities to your life, get a massage, keep a gratitude journal, and so forth.  Not only advises what to do but also WHY it's important for health and HOW to make it work in your life.  Also answers questions about what to do about other factors standing in your way of making positive changes.

Ch. 7 Implementing the Paleo Approach:  Addresses topics such as: How long it takes to heal; if just a little bit will hurt; how to eat in restaurants; how to eat while traveling; how to explain your new lifestyle choices to family, friends, and strangers; how to handle setbacks.  This chapter helps you put everything you've just learned into practice. 

Ch. 8 Troubleshooting: Answers all remaining questions and provides more tips, tricks, and tables to help you implement your new lifestyle. Topics include: allergies, inteolerances, and sensitivites; supplements; shopping in season; and a full "troubleshooting checklist" that addresses Diet, Digestion, Circadian rhythms and sleep, activity, stress management, the need for conventional or complementary medicine, the need for supplements.

Ch. 9 The Long Haul: How to reintroduce foods and maintain your health over the long term.

Finally, in addition to a textbook-worthy glossary and countless references, the back of the book contains 34 pages of Nutrient Tables.  Thirty-four pages I kid you not!  You want to find real food sources of a nutrient?  Look no further.

This is one book you can certainly judge by its cover.

Last-minute, I decided to vlog about it, because it's that great.  Here's your quick peek inside The Paleo Approach:

Is this really a CURE?  As I mentioned above, autoimmune conditions don't have cures, and the author explicitly explains (on page 264) that, while there is no cure, this is the next best thing.  Without curing your disease, you can successfully put it into remission for the long-term by changing lifestyle habits.

As evidence, there are individuals' testimonials sprinkled throughout the book. These can also motivate you to follow through until you see results.  If it seems like a lot and you're doubtful it'll work, just read through these personal stories of overcoming illness.

Personally, I've implemented many nutrition and lifestyle suggestions outlined in the book, and watched my own maladies disappear.  My eczema vanishes when I eat cleanly as outlined in the book.  My migraines, too, are affected by dietary choices and proper hydration.  My energy levels vary depending on other lifestyle and activity choices.  I've personally experienced the changes promised, and vouch for their effectiveness.  If I did it, so can you!

When you see the light, you'll want to spread the word.  I've made a point of loaning this out and even purchasing for a friend.  I'm still reading, learning, and spreading the news.  This is a book you'll want to share with anyone suffering from autoimmune conditions.  Even if you're not, there's a lot to learn about this book in terms of lifestyle factors that affect health.  Popular media tells us it's all about food and exercise, but our bodies are so much more complex than calorie calculators.  To find true health, you need to look at all the puzzle pieces.

In The Paleo Approach, Sarah Ballanytne has created a comprehensive resource that puts the puzzle pieces together for us and outlines the steps to achieve healing and long-term health.

Dare you to read, learn, and live The Paleo Approach!   

Get it on Amazon--paperback or Kindle, currently well below list price!
Get it now
The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease, Heal Your Body

PS: Keep an eye out, too, for Sarah's follow-up book: The Paleo Approach Cookbook: A Detailed Guide to Heal Your Body and Nourish Your Soul - available August 2014.

Have you ever struggled with an autoimmune condition?  
How did you overcome it, or are you still searching for the right approach?

Disclaimers: The opinions expressed above are entirely my own. Post contains affiliate links. See disclaimers page for details. 


  1. sounds like an interersting read! i'm glad to hear there is science included but also that they make the science easy to understand!

  2. Check out this paleo recipes

  3. i also found that my skin problems resolved with diet changes. maybe this has more i can try and keep going


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