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Paleo Diet for Edema: Ancient Ancestor Health Food

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Certain foods have been linked to Edema, a condition that causes the swelling of extremities. The Paleo Diet may offer relief from edema as it avoids specific foods known to induce water retention. This 'diet' is actually more in line with what humans have consumed for thousands of years and science is showing it may be of use for combating edema.


It's an uncomfortable condition in which feet, ankles, legs and sometimes even your hands, wrists and face swell up. We know that the swelling is caused by excess water-retention, but what's to be done about it? Could it be that simply changing the paleo diet will solve the problem? It's possible that it might.

However, if you're experiencing edema and haven't seen a doctor yet, do so before you try any home remedies like switching diet. Edema can be a symptom of some pretty serious illnesses, including liver, kidney, or heart problems, and you need to be sure you'rein otherwise good health.

Of course, your doctor might conclude that you have idiopathic edema. That might sound very scientific, but what doctors are telling you when they give this diagnosis is simply "I don't know why you have edema".

Food Allergies and Edema

When doctors don't know what to do with you, they resort to treating symptoms, but this is an unsatisfactory approach. After all, although medications can relieve the troublesome swelling, you have to keep on taking them, and the cause of the problem hasn't been addressed at all.

Foods can make a difference. Dairy products, wheat, and sodium have all been linked to edema. And that brings us to the Paleo Diet since it excludes any kind of food that our hunter-gatherer ancestors would not have eaten. All three of these possible food triggers wouldn't have been on any self-respecting caveman's menu.

The Paleo Diet

The paleo diet isn't some imaginative concept dreamed up by a wild-eyed would-be caveman. Instead, it gained popularity after Dr. Loren Cordain, a Colorado State University professor of health and exercise science, published his book, The Paleo Diet. He points out that the development of agriculture is relatively recent in evolutionary terms. For thousands of years, before people settled down and started growing crops, we hunted, and we gathered.

Then we got into growing certain crops, began to consume them in amounts that our bodies simply aren't equipped to handle, and developed a whole lot of health issues as a result. What we need to aim for if we want a truly healthy diet, he says, is the balance our ancestors achieved without ever having to think about it. According to academics who have studied prehistoric diets, that means getting 35 percent of your calories from fats, 35 percent from unprocessed carbs, and 30 percent from protein.

And in case you're wondering where salt comes into the picture, it's worth noting that historically, we ate very little salt. Indeed, salt was considered so precious that it was seen as a form of currency, hence salary, a word with its roots in the Latin word for salt. The discovery that salt could be used to preserve food would only have been useful after we became agriculturists and began to horde food. Hunter-gatherers would rarely if ever, have eaten salt.

What Would Human Beings Have Eaten in the Paleolithic Age?

It doesn't take much imagination to come up with a list of prehistoric foods that has been confirmed by historians. Hunter-gatherers ate grass-fed meat. They also ate freshly gathered seasonal fruits and vegetables, and nuts would have been a popular treat. And for those who were brave enough to raid beehives, there would have been the very rare sweet reward of honey.

What human beings NEVER ate includes a lengthy list of things we regard as food today. Food was certainly never preserved, packed with additives, canned, or packaged, and since grains would have been grasses with very few kernels (before hybridization) growing amongst a diverse mixture of other plants, gathering them would have been an all-but pointless exercise.

Given that so many of the foods we eat today weren't part of the diet we are evolved to eat, it's no wonder that so many people are lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, and prone to symptoms after eating foods that would have been considered toxic and dangerous (think beans and potato-related crops).

What Are People Saying About the Paleo Diet for Edema?

Since following a paleo diet eliminates salt, dairy, and wheat, there's a good chance that it will be helpful to people with edema caused by food allergies. Allergies are really an autoimmune response. You introduce something into your diet that your body decides is toxic, and the body attacks itself in an attempt to deal with the threat.

Is the paleo diet a cure-all? Probably not, but it certainly seems worth trying. People are claiming benefits in managing diabetes, dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, and there are certainly many people who say it helped with edema too.

What Does Science Say?

In the scientific community, there's a great deal of debate about the logic behind the paleo diet. The official line is that there isn't enough evidence to support the paleo diet. However, the little evidence that has so far been gathered looks promising. The most interesting of the paleo diet studies in this instance was an analysis of the effects of the paleo diet on metabolic syndrome. And in case you were wondering, edema is one of the symptoms of this disorder.

What Can We Conclude?

Science places a heavy burden of proof on researchers, so it can be extremely difficult to reach any conclusions – even when we're discussing accepted wisdom. Thus, when we hear the insufficient evidence conclusion, we shouldn't assume that a remedy won't work. The very scientists who reach this non-conclusion will concede that just saying there isn't enough evidence is not the same as saying something does not or cannot work.

Anecdotal evidence, the stories people tell and the case histories they report, do seem to point towards the paleo diet as a potential solution to edema. Will it work for you? That depends on the reason for your edema. However, if it stems from food allergies or sensitivity, it seems likely that by eliminating the foods the Paleo diet doesn't permit, you should be able to solve the problem.

Returning to our original question: Is the Paleo Diet helpful for people with edema? we can, therefore, respond with a qualified Yes.

Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema