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Trouble in Paradise

An Open Letter to the Weston A. Price and Paleo Communities:

As a family doc who has been instructing people to eat a la Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF) for a decade, and Paleo for about 6 months, I was intrigued to see the recent furor between the two. Just last week I was delighted to read about an upcoming event featuring Robb Wolf (Mr. Paleo) and Sally Fallon (Ms. Weston A. Price) with our collective hero, Joel Salatin. Sigh, I almost wished I lived on the East Coast: spend a weekend at Polyface Farm graced with the wisdom and presence of two nutritional icons.

Now I learn that there is trouble in paradise, and the two communities are head to head (nose to tail?) in a serious feud. Sally Fallon, President and guiding force of WAPF, led off the skirmish with a strong denial of affinity with the Paleo community, including some rather inaccurate portrayals of just what Paleo is. Paleo bloggers, on the rebound, have responded with both thoughful analysis (such as this one from the Paleo Mom) as well as that old familiar feeling, "Well, if you feel that way, I'll take my marbles and go elsewhere."

To any folks who see, as I do, and as the Paleo Mom describes, the immense overlap (oh, about 95%) of principles between the two organizations, please, let's stay involved and get these two camps together again.

I have to say, when I'm 20 minutes into a 30 minute appointment with a suffering patient, there's nothing I love so much as Paleo's highly efficent and slate-clearing first step: "Just take out all grains, legumes, and dairy for a month, and see how you feel. Then we can talk about if and how you re-introduce foods, with particular attention to how you prepare those foods." Frankly, that is much easier than step by step going through the quality of everything they are eating, all of which usually needs some tweaking. My patients are generally not happy with how they feel: they are overweight and/or diabetic and/or hypertensive and/or inflamed and/or .. you get the idea. Nothing works faster for sorting out food sensitivities and awakening someone to the power of food than a month of real change.

I also appreciate the individual adjustment that is intrinsic to all serious Paleo work. Adjustments that have allowed people like Loren Cordain and Dr. David Perlmutter to change their stance on saturated fats. Originally fat avoiders, they have both adjusted their stance closer to what WAPF has always recommended. Personal tweaking that allowed my rheumatoid arthritis patient to experience relief from her constant pain on 30 days of Paleo, pain that stayed gone when she re-introduced dairy (good news!), but returned when she reintroduced wheat (bad news). Perhaps with some healing of her gut (lots of drugs under her belt, literally) she'll be able to tolerate sprouted grains in the future (WAPF), but perhaps wheat is just too gluten rich these days (Paleo) for to ever be able to eat. Both camps appreciate that modern science has identified that gluten stimulates zonulin which can create a leaky gut and serious illness, including auto-immune illness.

Not every Paleo writer is perfect of course. Take the conventional and sometimes Paleo preference for "lean meat." Perhaps someone really does believe you should cut off the fat, but in general when I hear lean, I think "pasture-raised meat which is naturally lean, and you can and should eat all the fat on that meat that you want to." By far the most important (for us as individuals, for our families, for the planet) words in those lines are "pasture-raised" and both Paleo and WAPF worlds will do well to attend to the HackMeat conversation brewing - trying to solve the problem (the great problem) that demand for pasture-raised meat has outstripped the supply, and what are we going to do about it?

And that is truly the point - we all have a lot of work to do, through the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund and through the dollars we hand to our local farmers, insuring that we have nutrient dense (a WAPF term that the Paleo community has popularized broadly) foods available to us from farmers who are safe and well-reimbursed for the service they provide.

I think the communities of WAPF and Paleo overlap as naturally as do our shared tenets. I hope Sally Fallon will be happy to learn that she has mis-represented the depth, integrity and versatility of the Paleo message, and the Paleo-ites (OK, that's not a word) will remember our collective gratitude for the ongoing work WAPF has done sustaining the farmers we all need and developing the nutritional understanding on which we all depend daily. As you would with any close member of your family, speak up and say, "Say, friend, I think you misunderstood what I said." Let's stay seated at the same table of nutrient dense pasture-raised food and sort it out together. Let's get this done, because we have a lot of work to do together."