We are so excited to have Jamie Koonce as our guest contributor today to discuss how she uses the Paleo or Autoimmune Paleo Lifestyle for her clients as a functional medicine and nutrition practitioner.


Functional Medicine, Paleo and Autoimmune Disease

Many of my functional medicine and nutrition clients don’t come to me for help because they want assistance going Paleo or Autoimmune Paleo. The typical client is seeking to figure out the root cause of a chronic skin condition such as acne, rosacea, or eczema, chronic digestive problems, ongoing fatigue, or a weight control issue, and then find a natural remedy to that underlying problem. They assume I’m going to run a few lab tests, recommend several hundreds of dollars worth of vitamins and other supplements, and tell them to eat less meat and saturated fat, carb up on quinoa and raw fruit juice, and exercise more. (While I do think that some targeted supplementation can be useful, it’s not going to be effective if food sensitivities aren’t addressed first.)


When I suggest that a client go 30 days without gluten, grains, and dairy, it can at first seem like I’ve given them a life sentence in jail. “But how will I live without bread? And what will I eat at birthdays if I can’t have cake?” Telling an autoimmune client that 30 days without gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshades might help them feel better can come as a major shock when they were expecting for me to simply sell them a bunch of vitamins or “detox” products. It can seem a little overwhelming at first when you imagine a life without “the usual suspects” — those foods that perpetuate chronic disease and can lead to autoimmune flare-ups.


When I went paleo in 2004 to heal myself from nutrient deficiencies and some autoimmune conditions that were triggered by a combination of chronic stress, chronic cardio, and a vegan diet, I was not sure what I would do without oatmeal, Ezekiel bread, and my favorite blueberry bran muffins. In those days, coconut flour, almond flour, and various paleo recipe blogs and treats were not around. I didn’t even know for sure if a paleo way of eating would help me. But after a week of getting real nourishing foods into my body, I stopped craving the muffins and other non-paleo foods. After 30 days, I felt better than I had felt in years. (In the photos below, you can see the visible changes in my health that have taken place over the past decade since starting this lifestyle. I definitely feel healthier in my thirties than I did in my teens.)

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The honest truth is that by practicing a paleo or autoimmune paleo way of eating, you can actually eat a wider variety of foods that the typical person eating the standard American diet with no restrictions. We’ve got such a huge variety of foods to choose from: pastured pork, venison, grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, goat, liver, heart, sweetbreads, pastured poultry, oysters, crab, clams, sardines, wild-caught salmon, cod, tuna, herring, bone stocks, marrow, tallow, coconut, plantains, purple sweet potatoes, orange sweet potatoes, yams, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, artichokes, olives, sea vegetables, mushrooms, onions, kale, collards, spinach, beets, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, jicama, parsnips, radishes, berries, melons, apples, citrus, and a variety of herbs and spices such as sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, turmeric, and cinnamon. This is only a partial list of the variety of ingredients in the paleo kitchen, and the different combinations and ways of preparing these ingredients are endless. Contrast that with the Standard American Diet, which is primarily composed of corn, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, tomatoes, potatoes, canola oil, a wide variety of preservatives and artificial flavors, and maybe even real cane sugar.
Of course, it can be less convenient sometimes to eat strictly paleo when you’re busy and can’t just pop in to a fast-food restaurant and grab a grass-fed paleo burger and some sweet potato fries cooked in lard, or sit down at a local Denny’s to a paleo meatloaf with some nourishing liver hidden inside. This is why I always advise my clients to keep some prepared “go-to” meals in the freezer, and keep some portable items such as canned sardines, jerky, and a piece of fruit in their car or desk at work. Now I’m recommending Paleo-On-The-Go because they’re the only Paleo meal delivery service that offers a seafood, tasteful offal dishes, bone broth, and an entire meal plan based on the autoimmune protocol.

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