This year I was finally able to attend Paleo f(x), a three-day nutrition and health conference held in Austin, Texas. Read below for my Paleo f(x) 2017 recap and top five takeaways!
It's been a few days since I returned home after attending Paleo f(x) in Austin, Texas last weekend, and my brain is still swimming with all the awesome information I learned! I attended Paleo f(x) with my mom– the woman who introduced me to paleo– and we spent three jam-packed days listening to presentations and panels given by incredibly knowledgeable speakers, as well as touring the vendor fair– eating lots snacks and butter coffee samples!
It's amazing to me how there is always something new to learn about health and nutrition. That's science for you– it's always changing and evolving. It's fluid. Which is why being dogmatic and rigid about your understanding and beliefs isn't going to serve you. Heck, I used to think my bowl of Multigrain Cheerios and skim milk was a healthy breakfast. I've come a long way!
I've decided the best way to share some of this new info with all of you is to break it down into my Top 5 Takeaways. I will keep my points somewhat brief, so as not to bog down this post, but if you have additional questions, please post them in the comments. I'd be happy to discuss these further!
My Top 5 Takeaways from Paleo f(x) 2017
1. Inflammatory Diseases Begin in the Gut
Dr. David Perlmutter kicked off Paleo f(x) with his keynote talk, "The Paleo Brain Advantage." I learned a lot about the gut-brain connection at the Nutritional Therapy Association Conference back in March, and Dr. Perlmutter emphasized and expanded upon the topic even more.
It's recently been revealed that our brain cells can in fact regenerate into adulthood. However, chronic intestinal inflammation alters the brain's ability to manufacture new brain cells (a process known as neurogenesis).
How does the gut become inflamed? If your gut microbiome (comprised of the bacteria, yeasts, protozoa, etc. known as "probiotics" that live in your digestive system) isn't in balance and/or if the integrity of our gut lining is compromised (leaky gut). What begins as inflammation in the gut can spread throughout the body– to the organs, joints, skin, and the brain.
This is the culprit behind many food allergies and sensitivities, but is often the root cause of other inflammatory diseases such as autoimmune disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and many others.
So what can you do?
First, avoid foods that damage the gut lining, such as artificial additives (colors, flavors, sweeteners), trans fats/hydrogenated oils, highly processed/refined foods, and improperly prepared grains (especially gluten).
Second, promote a healthy gut microbiome by consuming probiotic foods (fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kvass, kombucha) and/or supplements, prebiotics (fiber-rich foods that feed the good bugs), eating a lower carbohydrate diet, and consuming more healthy fats (animal fat, coconut, avocado, olive, butter, etc.). Avoid excessive/frequent use of antibiotics, and follow up any antibiotic treatments with plenty of the foods mentioned above. Choose organic foods as often as possible (the Dirty Dozen is a good place to start), since pesticides damage the microbiome.
Bottom line: protect your gut, protect your body and brain from disease!
2. Environmental Toxins Cause Cancer
While you may think that Paleo f(x) was focused entirely on diet, there were several sessions that had to do with how lifestyle factors affect our health as well.
Chris Kresser's talk "Too Much Junk in the Trunk" discussed the ways that environmental toxins can cause us harm, as well as the insufficient and outdated methods used to test a chemical's so-called safety.
It's estimated that 35% of cancer cases are caused by environmental toxins, though that number may be much higher since most cancers have more than one cause, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the blame. Environmental toxins can also lead to hormonal imbalances, infertility, autoimmune disease, heavy metal toxicity, obesity, birth defects, and more. And while these serious conditions are terrible and terrifying, it's believed that even low levels of different chemicals in the body can cause chronic inflammation.
The sad truth is, we can't rely on governing agencies to protect us from potentially dangerous toxins. Companies are allowed to release products containing new chemical additives without being tested for safety! Basically, they are "innocent until proven guilty." That's not a risk I want to take.
So what can you do?
Do your best to limit your exposure to environmental toxins. While it's impossible to avoid all toxins in this modern world, there is a lot you can do to minimize your toxic load. First, eat real, whole foods (preferably organic) and work on gut health (see above). Then take a look at your personal care products, like skincare, makeup, soaps, toothpaste, and so on (check out some of my top picks here and here). Swap out cleaning products for natural versions, invest in a quality water purifier, and ditch plastic food containers for glass or metal.
Bottom line: Take your health into your own hands. Proceed with caution when it comes to manmade chemicals and limit your exposure whenever possible.
3. Bone Broth is a Powerful Healing Food
Bone broth is all the rage right now...but why? Isn't it just soup?
Traditional bone broth is made by simmering bones in water for many hours, or even several days. This slow cooking method extracts the bountiful nutrients found in the bones, such as minerals, vitamins, gelatin and collagen. Since the broth is easy to digest and therefore assimilate these vital nutrients, it has long been used as a traditional healing food, as Dr. Josh Axe discussed in his presentation "Ancient Medicine for Modern Disease." When you were sick as a kid, your mom would make you chicken soup, right? Now, Campbell's isn't quite the same thing (at all), but the idea stems from ancient wisdom passed down over generations.
While helpful when under the weather, bone broth is also a incredible tool for maintaining good gut health. Collagen, gelatin, and the other amino acids (proteins) found in bone broth help strengthen and heal the gut lining.
In his presentation on toxins (discussed above), Chris Kresser listed some of the key nutrients needed for healthy detox, many of which are found in bone broth. Yet another reason to start consuming this healing food.
Bottom line: Start making your own bone broth and consuming it regularly. I like using my slow cooker. There are some good instructions here.
4. Plant-Based Diets Are Not More Sustainable
I pretty much had to go to Diana Rodger's presentation as soon as I heard the name of it: "Why Soy Won't Save You in a Zombie Apocalypse." Despite the humorous title, this talk was an eye-opening look at sustainability.
While I understand why some people have a hard time consuming meat and animal products (I love animals, too!), I don't agree that a plant-based diet is more healthful. Eating an abundance of plant foods, yes, but omitting animal products from the diet, no. It is a luxury of our modern times and humans would never have gotten this far without consuming meat (more on that later).
But this presentation wasn't about the health benefits of an omnivorous versus an herbivorous diet. It was about the environmental affects of raising crops versus raising animals for food.
An argument of some vegetarians and vegans is that growing and eating plants is better for the planet. However, not every surface of the earth is farmable. To make some places (like parts of California, for instance) suitable for growing crops requires tremendous resources. Grazing animals such as cows, however, can turn inedible grassland into edible meat. As for the concerns of greenhouse gas pollution from raising cattle, herbivores grazing on grassland actually helps sequester carbon into the ground. The issue of pollution comes when we raise animals in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), which I agree is absolutely inhumane and unsustainable.
Diana made several other points to demonstrate that eating plant-based doesn't make you beyond reproach or somehow outside of the flaws of our food system. There is still harm incurred through growing crops. Monocropping depletes the soil, transporting crops consumes resources, animals are killed by pesticides and harvesting machines, agricultural laborers are often treated horrendously, and there is even evidence that plants can experience pain and communicate it to neighboring plants.
Bottom line: A plant-based diet is not the answer to saving the human race or the planet. We need to return to sustainable methods of raising animals, in a model that reflects nature, so that we can protect the environment and eat as humans are meant to eat.
5. We Became Human Because We Ate Fat
Since I'm once again eating a low carb, high fat ketogenic diet and have been reading the merits of such a diet a lot lately, I was obviously intrigued to attend Nora Gedgaudas's presentation on "How Dietary Fat Made Us Human." It was probably my favorite presentation of the whole weekend!
While I understand the physiological benefits to including lots of healthy fats in the diet, I hadn't yet learned much about the evolutionary significance of dietary fat (from animal sources) in humans.
Humans have a much larger brain than their ape cousins. Why is that? When early man started walking on two legs, leaving its hands available to make tools and hunt, our intake of animals (and their fat) increased dramatically and our brains grew dramatically as a result. Some scientists believe it was the consumption of fish that allowed for our brains to develop into the incredibly complex organs they are today, but further research has shown it is far more likely that it was the consumption of large, grazing mammals and their copious amounts of fat (it was the ice age, after all).
It's understandable to assume that since an animal consumes mostly carbohydrate-rich foods (think grazing herbivores eating grass, or even chimps eating leaves, berries, and so on), that that animal must be burning carbs (glucose) for energy. In fact, these animals have complex digestive symptoms that ferment those carbohydrates into fatty acids to be used for energy. That's right, that cow is running on fat, not carbs! When humans started consuming more animal products, we basically traded a more complex digestive system for a more complex brain. That means we are designed to consume copious amounts of fat, not carbohydrates!
Bottom line: Reduce carbohydrate intake (especially sugars, refined starches, and grains) and replace those calories with high-quality animal fat. It's good for your gut, and your brain!
There you have it! My Paleo f(x) 2017 recap and top 5 takeaways. I would love to hear your thoughts on my five points above and discuss them further if you have any questions.
Who's going to attend the newly-rebranded Health f(x) next year?