This week, Harvard-trained physician, Dr. Akil Palanisamy discusses why he thinks a modern approach to Ayurveda – one that integrates Paleo principles, too, is the key to optimal health, more energy, and less disease. Ayurveda is the traditional Indian form of medicine that centers on mind-body-medicine, healing foods and spices, breathing, and yoga.
Integrative Medicine Doctor
Dr. Akil studied biochemistry at Harvard University, received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his residency in family medicine at Stanford University. He also completed a fellowship in integrative medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, and is certified by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Paleovedic Diet. Dr. Akil practices at The Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco, one of the oldest centers for integrative medicine in the United States. He has worked with thousands of patients to help them heal and recover from chronic diseases using dietary changes and nutritional supplements. He blends his western medical training with holistic approaches including functional medicine and Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:06] Welcome back to the Glow Life. I’m your host, Maria Marlowe. On today’s episode, I am joined by Dr. Akil Palaniswami and we’re going to be talking about both the paleo diet and the ayurvedic diet. And that’s because Dr. Akil feels that a combo of these two diets or ways of living are really the best way to achieve health. So he’s going to be sharing some tips from his book The Paleovedic Diet: A Complete Program to Burn Fat, Increase Energy and Reverse Disease. He’s going to explain why he thinks it’s beneficial to combine both principles from Paleo and Ayurveda to optimize your health.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:51] Dr. Akil studied biochemistry at Harvard University. He received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and he completed his residency in Family Medicine at Stanford University. He’s also studied integrative medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, as well as Mind-Body Medicine at Georgetown University. So he’s a very, very well studied guy and he has a lot of incredible information and insights to share today.
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Maria Marlowe: [00:02:25] Dr. Akil, welcome to the show.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:02:27] Thanks so much, Maria, for having me on.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:29] So the paleovedic diet is a combination of Paleo and Ayurvedic principles. So can you just share a little bit about why you thought it was so important to combine these two eating styles?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:02:44] Absolutely. So I see in my practice every day with people that nutrition is a big challenge. People are always trying to figure out what is the best diet for them. What do they eat on a day to day basis? And we know now that there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to diet. Each person’s unique, each person is different. So I use a paleo template as a starting point because I think there’s a lot of wisdom we can gain from how our ancestors ate. But then I found Ayurveda to be the best practice to customize the diet. So to help each person figure out their constitution, their body type, what tendencies they have and what foods are best suited to their constitution. And so that’s why I combine those to form the paleovedic diet.
Maria Marlowe: [00:03:31] And so what are some of the main principles of this approach in terms of carbs, for example, gluten, dairy? Because on one hand, paleo prescribes certain things. And Ayurvedic diets, can say the complete opposite. So yeah, how do you navigate that?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:03:49] Yeah, exactly. And I think what I found was that with paleo in other sources, it was very restrictive and I felt like it didn’t need to be as restrictive as it was portrayed. And so, for example, legumes are often excluded in a paleo diet for various reasons. But when I did research, I found that actually legumes were part of our ancestral diet for a long time around the world in different cultures. Beans and legumes were gathered and consumed. So my goal at a high level was to make the paleo diet more broad and more inclusive. And in Ayurveda, that’s the general approach is not to be overly restrictive. Yes, I do think certain foods are inflammatory. You know, you mentioned gluten, so that’s probably a good place to start.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:04:41] I do find that, you know, gluten-free whole grains like rice and quinoa are often well tolerated by many people. But I find that gluten often is not well tolerated, and I think that’s for two reasons. One is that there’s a huge change in the type of wheat that we’re consuming now compared to even one hundred years ago. Just a lot of genetic modification changes in the gluten composition, changes in how it’s prepared. And then secondly, we have huge changes in our gut microbiome, the bacteria that affect every aspect of our digestion and also metabolism, inflammation and the immune system and the bacteria actually play a key role in what foods you can tolerate or what foods you’re sensitive to. And the disruption in the microbiome is a big reason why gluten is one of the foods that’s much harder to break down. And so that’s one of the foods that I recommend… I mean, I recommend doing an elimination and then reintroducing to see how you’re tolerating it. But in general, I’m not a big fan of gluten overall.
Maria Marlowe: [00:05:53] And then what about dairy?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:05:55] So I think with dairy, there is a difference, of course, in different types of dairy. I am really a big fan of ghee, the clarified butter, because in AYurveda, ghee is actually considered medicine. And the issue with dairy is that some people could be lactose intolerant where they can’t process the sugar, lactose and a lot of us lose that enzyme to break down lactose as we get older. That’s very common, then you can’t handle milk and things like that. And then the other protein in dairy is casein, and some people have a sensitivity to casein as well. The great thing about ghee is there is no lactose and no casein. So even people who have sensitivities generally can do well with ghee. And then you again have to do the elimination and then reintroduce to see how you tolerate.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:06:49] And then there’s a spectrum in terms of gradual introduction of dairy that has more and more casein and lactose. So you usually start with ghee and then try a butter and then you can try cream. And then after that, progress up to different types of cheeses, so sheep’s milk and goat’s milk have lower casein than cow’s milk cheeses. So that would be the order to try those and then eventually yogurt and kefir, down the line. And I generally not a big fan of milk for adults, but you know, I think I would leave milk to the very end.
Maria Marlowe: [00:07:27] So it sounds like in terms of the paleo side of things, the paleovedic diet is based on Whole Foods. You’re avoiding gluten. It sounds like you’re checking for food sensitivities, doing eliminations even with the dairy. So on the Ayurvedic side of things, I know that in Ayurveda, there’s three doshas. And then based on those doshas, sometimes you’ll want to eat different foods, right? If you have too much air or vata energy, there’ll be certain foods that are better for you. So can you walk through that a little bit, I guess, the personalization part?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:08:04] Yeah, absolutely. So there are the three main doshas, like you mentioned. There’s vata, which is associated with wind and pitta, which is fire and kapha, which is earth. And vata is one that is… The qualities of vata are wind and Ayurveda which is a five thousand year old system of medicine, uses more of a qualitative science. And so with vata, you think of the qualities of wind like light, cold and dry, and pitta has the qualities of fire. It’s hot, sharp and penetrating, and kapha has the qualities of earth, so heavy, cool and damp. And then when it comes to the foods, you actually also can classify all the foods with their qualities, and you want to first figure out your dominant dosha. You can do like a questionnaire that I have in the book or other or see a practitioner.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:09:01] And then you want to say, for example, if you have high vata, then you want to have foods that have the opposite qualities of wind. So warm, moist, heavy. So for a vata person, they recommended not to have too many raw foods, which are light too many salads which are cold and to have more cooked foods. Always have warm foods. And then with all three doshas, you can use spices as well to modulate the qualities and help. In Ayurveda and the paleovedic diet, I think spices are a central element because they really are medicinal. You know, the more research is coming out, we find out that spices are really a class of medicine in themselves, and so I really focus a lot on using spices, how to use the top 14 spices that I recommend and recipes as well in the book. So I think that spices are really underutilized in the paleo world, and that’s another area where I found combining them into the paleovedic worked well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:10:08] Yeah, I’m a huge fan of spices myself. I have probably 50 of them on hand at any moment, but I really love cooking with them because they add so much flavor. But then also they are very medicinal and I think probably the most popular Ayurvedic spice is turmeric, which really had its moment and you can find turmeric and just about any food these days. So I’m curious from an Ayurvedic perspective, would you say turmeric is good across the board or is it better for certain doshas? What are your thoughts on turmeric?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:10:41] This is actually hotly debated in Ayurvedic circles. And there are some practitioners feel that turmeric is very drying and not appropriate for certain doshas, but I’m of the camp that actually turmeric works well. Because most of the time, if you combine turmeric with a fat like ghee or coconut oil, it counteracts that drying quality. And so when you’re consuming it, you always have it with a fat. And then if you have it with a bit of black pepper, then it increases the absorption by 2000 percent in one study. And so cooking with turmeric, I think it’s really beneficial for everyone. There are just so many antioxidant benefits, anti-inflammatory and also it’s not as well known, but it’s really a good antimicrobial, so it’s very good for your immune system. It reduces levels of bad bacteria and viruses. That part of turmeric is not well appreciated, but it is very powerful in that area.
Maria Marlowe: [00:11:44] Interesting. And so I’m curious. So you grew up in India, correct?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:11:49] Actually, I grew up in Singapore, and then came to the U.S. when I was about 10. Yeah, I was born in India, though.
Maria Marlowe: [00:11:54] Ok. No, I ask, because I know you’re obviously you’re a Harvard trained M.D., but you also studied Ayurveda and incorporate that into your practice. So I’m just curious because I was actually in India a few years ago and I wanted to go to an Ayurvedic doctor just to kind of like, see what it was like. And I had a hard time actually finding one because most people were practicing more. And maybe it’s just where I was in a major city. They were practicing more like traditional medicine. So I guess my question is, how prevalent is Ayurveda still in in India?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:12:32] Great question. Yeah, super common. I think the path that I took actually was not from my upbringing, but I got into that through yoga because in college I became an avid yoga practitioner. And then when I applied to medical school, started learning about ayurveda and then decided to combine ayurvedic training with my medical school education. So on summers, I would travel to India and study in different universities and study with different Ayurvedic doctors, and then created my own program of learning both essentially. So in India, I think Ayurveda has gone through its ups and downs.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:13:16] I think that now it is still used by a big chunk of the population. They often go to it more for chronic conditions where, if they have an acute infection or injury, they know to go to the conventional doctor. But if they have more chronic condition or symptomatic issues, often they do go to Ayurvedic practitioners. I think Ayurveda is more popular in the south. Certainly, south of India, it’s very, very popular. And then depending on which state you’re in in the north, it can be more or less popular. But throughout India, it’s tons of Ayurvedic practitioners and medical schools as well. So I think it’s going through a bit of a revival as well now, which is great to see.
Maria Marlowe: [00:14:04] Yeah, it’s definitely becoming more and more popular. I mean, even in the States. Maybe five, ten years ago, most people had no idea what Ayurveda was. And you know, fast forward to today, a lot of people have heard of it and even know what it is. So definitely having a resurgence or growth in popularity. I’m curious, what are your favorite parts or what aspects of Ayurveda make it so powerful?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:14:31] Well, there are several. I think one is the understanding about uniqueness and understanding about individual body types and the need to customize everything, not just diet but lifestyle, routine, physical activity, mind, body practices, fasting. Everything I think can be customized according to Ayurveda. And then the area of spices, you know, like we talked about are hugely beneficial. And then I think the third really big area is mind-body approaches with yoga and pranayama or breathing exercises, meditation, of course. So I think there was really advanced understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection. And that’s another area that Ayurveda really excels.
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:20] And I think this is also an area where we’re starting to hear more about the impact of our thoughts and our stress on our health. And so, I’m glad that this is an area we’re looking into now because stress makes such a hugely negative impact on our health. But now people are turning to things like meditation and yoga to help with that. Breathwork even. I’m curious, in terms of lifestyle practices like meditation and in yoga, what do you recommend to people?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:15:53] Oh yeah, absolutely. And. You know, before I answer that, can I mention one other thing about the paleo diet that I forgot to mention?
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:59] Sure.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:16:00] So the other reason I really like the paleo approach is the focus on nutrient density. You know, we’ve lost so much of that in our modern fruits and vegetables, even compared to what our ancestors ate, because all of the antioxidants and phytonutrients, phytochemicals in our food, I mean, that’s our primary defense against disease. And when I looked into the research, I saw there’s huge declines in the levels of these nutrients, mainly because… And I’m just talking specifically about fruits and vegetables, but mainly because they have been bred to be much sweeter and larger and more productive.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:16:40] But they’ve lost a lot of these key phytonutrients which may have, a bitter taste or not be like contributing to the productivity of the plant. And so that’s another area where I really believe like eating more of a wild approach to like fruits and vegetables and also the way you cook and prepare them, it makes a big difference. So for example, with carrots, when you cook them, you actually release eight times as much of the beta carotene compared to raw carrots.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:17:16] And then same thing with tomatoes, when you cook them, in a tomato sauce, there’s three times as much of the lycopene that is accessible, to you. And then even choosing the right kinds of vegetables. So, for example, with onions the closest to wild onions are actually green onions. That’s how onions used to look. They were like a very small bulb and mostly green. So the green onions have one hundred and forty times more phytonutrients than white onions.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:17:51] And that’s why I also spent a lot of time in the book talking about how to choose the right vegetables. You know, how to shop, how to prepare them, and sort of like, there’s some simple hacks where you can increase their nutrients and recover those as well, because I think that’s not often talked about, you know, people think, OK, I’m just supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables. But if you’re just having like iceberg lettuce and the same broccoli every day and not eating a big variety and not eating to maximize your phytonutrients, you could be really missing out on a lot of the benefits of these fruits and vegetables.
Maria Marlowe: [00:18:31] Yeah, no, that’s those are all great tips and making sure to eat the rainbow, eat a wide variety of colors. And I think variety is really important. Which brings up another question. So you also talk about toxins and the importance of reducing our exposure to toxins. So can you share a little bit about that? And then also relating to food and toxins, should everything be organic in your opinion? Or where do you stand on that?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:19:00] Well, I think with organic, I refer people to the Environmental Working Group. They have their dirty dozen, which is the 12 vegetables that are highest in pesticides where you want to try to always get organic and then the clean 15, which are the 15 that are much lower where it’s OK if you are not able to get organic. So I think you can use that as a good guide. And then with toxins, think that’s a huge area. There’s over 80000 chemicals used now for different purposes in the world. So all of us are have a chronic, low level exposure to these through our food, water, air. It’s kind of unavoidable. And these include things like heavy metals, pesticides, other industrial compounds.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:19:50] So I think it’s really important to filter the drinking water. I think that is a really big source that people often don’t realize so either a reverse osmosis water filter or a good countertop water filter, there’s a few options there. So I think water is really key. And then, you know, you talked about eating organic. I think that’s that’s important as well and then minimizing exposure to plastics and chemicals in the house and also with the cosmetics making sure you’re looking at safe cosmetics and then incorporating regular detoxification. I think that’s really important as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:20:30] Actually, I’d love for you to talk about that a little bit because I feel like detox, you sometimes see these memes that, oh, we don’t need to detox because our body already has detox organs, right? And so I understand the sentiment is maybe a detox tea or this detox product. Maybe it’s just someone trying to make a quick buck, but there are things that we can do in order to support our body’s natural detoxification processes. Our organs need certain nutrients, so can you just talk through that? Why is detoxification so important and how can we best support our body’s natural detoxification?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:21:06] Yeah, absolutely. Well, we do have the organs of detox like our liver and kidney, but they’re really overburdened because with these 80000 chemicals, they’re working overtime. And so I think reducing body burden of toxins is really beneficial because government agencies have studied the average American and found about one hundred and twelve or hundred and fifteen toxins on average, in each person. So it’s not something that is like a small issue, like there’s one toxin or two toxins we’re trying to take care of. So that’s why these practices are beneficial. And I think using food is really what I recommend, primarily.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:21:52] So all of the cruciferous vegetables support phase two liver detox. So all of the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, all of those. And then one of my favorites is the beet greens, which are the leafy tops of the beetroot. They’re the richest food source of betaine, which is another key chemical that supports bile flow and supports methylation and supports the liver. So beet greens, great food to support detoxification. Turmeric, actually, we talked about but hugely helpful for the liver detox as well. I actually really like ground flax seeds because they’re very high in polyphenols, which feed your good bacteria. But they also, as a fiber source, help absorb and bind toxins in your gut and pull them out regularly.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:22:45] So I think incorporating, like ground flax seeds and other fiber sources is important. Actually, I think garlic is huge as well because with one class of liver detox that uses sulfur compounds and garlic and onions, shallots are all good for that. I also really like algae, like chlorella. I think chlorella is a great addition to a smoothie. There are studies that suggest that it helps remove mercury from the body. It’s very nutrient-dense, and it’s something easy to add to food.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:23:21] And then finally, I would say, besides all the foods, sweating regularly is very important for detoxification. So not just with exercise, but with the sauna, steam room or hot bath. When your body’s heated from an external source, it’s actually much more effective at detoxification than from exercise, where you’re heating it from an internal source. So I think incorporating some type of regular sweating is really also very helpful.
Maria Marlowe: [00:23:50] So are you a fan of infrared saunas?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:23:53] Yeah, I think actually any type of sweating will work. You can do a regular sauna, steam room. Infrared saunas, they are helpful because people who can’t tolerate a regular sauna, they can be in that because it’s a lower temperature. And then maybe they penetrate a bit deeper as well. So I think they do have some advantages.
Maria Marlowe: [00:24:13] So another area that’s a little bit controversial, I feel like in the nutrition space is the question of to eat meat or not to eat meat. And paleo is, of course, includes meat. Whereas Ayurveda, I believe, is more vegetarian. So how do you approach meat versus vegetarianism? What are your thoughts?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:24:34] Yeah, exactly. So my first approach was to point out that paleo actually was a plant-based diet because for most of our ancestors’ life, they gathered plants and consumed leaves and roots and tubers, and then they did hunt and fish. But it’s hard to catch your prey. And so that was not the total basis of the diet. So it was primarily plant based diet. But yes, whenever they could hunt or fish, they would catch prey. And so in Ayurveda, it’s again very customized, according to the body type. Ayurveda as well recommends plant-based diet, which I think paleo is. And in terms of the doshas. For vata dosha is the one that is most recommended to include animal protein and then pitta and kapha body types can do well with vegetarian diet. And in fact, for kapha body type, they recommend usually avoiding dairy and being more vegan. So there is a broad range, but I do feel that it’s in sync because I think of paleo as really a plant-based diet originally.
Maria Marlowe: [00:25:44] Yeah, agreed. I think that it’s sort of kind of become known more as a meat-based diet, but definitely, plants were a huge part of the Paleolithic diet.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:25:55] Exactly.
Maria Marlowe: [00:25:56] So in doing research for your book or just in general, were there any surprising things you learned or surprising superfoods, even that are super beneficial that most people not might not even realize?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:26:11] I was researching apples, and then I found that when you looked at the wild apples that we used to consume and compared them to our modern supermarket apples, the decline, the difference in phytonutrients was forty seven thousand percent. So it was just a really huge difference. The wild apples, which I think these were from Nepal that they studied, they had four hundred and seventy times the same antioxidants as a regular apple. So obviously, we can’t go to Nepal and get the wild apples, but I think we can use a… So for example, I think the Golden Delicious apple was the one they tested, which is very low in nutrients, like very sweet. And better options are Granny Smith. It’s actually much more nutritious. And I go through those in the book. But I think like Macintosh is good as well. And you want to avoid Golden Delicious and Ginger Gold and Pink Lady, which are less nutritious.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:27:13] And then I think another key point to remember is antioxidants are primarily found in the skin of plants and fruits. So because the antioxidants is how the plant defends itself. So with an apple again, the skin is where most of the nutrients are. And this applies to most other foods like potatoes and sweet potatoes, berries, any type of… whenever you can eat the skin, you should. And so in those cases, you know, good to try to get organic, but a lot of the nutrients and antioxidants are either in the skin or just below the surface so that the plant can protect itself against the sun, insects and other causes.
Maria Marlowe: [00:27:57] So yeah, that’s a great tip. Everyone’s always surprised when I eat the skin of a Kiwi even. Most people think you can’t eat it, but you can.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:28:06] Yeah, exactly.
Maria Marlowe: [00:28:08] So let’s talk a little bit about gut health, because that is, of course, very important to overall health. And I know, especially in Ayurveda there is a huge emphasis on gut health. So what are some things that we can do to support our gut health?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:28:24] In Ayurveda there’s the concept of the agni, which is a-g-n-i, the digestive fire and the agni is something that is correlated with the microbiome, I think, in modern science. But the agni is kind of the most important factor in your health and digestion and metabolism. And some things you can do to help strengthen the agni is that in Ayurveda they recommend not having too much liquid with the meal. So if you’re having a lot of water, it’s better to have it an hour apart from meals.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:29:04] And then also, not recommended to have cold drinks. Ice cold beverages tend to weaken the agni. And then with the food, if you incorporate, chew a piece of ginger right before the meal that actually stimulates the agni and stimulates your digestive enzymes as well. So there’s a number of things like that of course… Spices all stimulate the agni, so you using plenty of spices is beneficial as well. So I think keeping the agni strong is really important, and that is one of the main things that Ayurveda emphasizes.
Maria Marlowe: [00:29:43] And since spices have come up so many times, I’m curious if there are any besides turmeric. What are your other top two or three that you think everyone should have in their kitchen?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:29:54] So I’m a big fan of ginger. I think there’s a lot of research showing the anti-inflammatory benefits of it and also anticancer. And then, you know, we all know it’s good for infections like colds and viruses, but also very good for the digestion, really good for any type of nausea or just as a general support for gut health. And I also really like cinnamon. I think that is not appreciated as much in terms of anti-inflammatory, but actually has a really powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Plus, it’s really good for blood sugar metabolism, which so many people are are struggling with. And then one that’s lesser known, I would say, is clove.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:30:44] So cloves, actually in a few studies have been shown to even have more antioxidant effect than turmeric. So clove, I recommend using clove powder and just using cloves in cooking. There was actually one study that looked at people who consumed cloves for seven days, and they found that after just seven days, their blood tests of inflammatory markers were actually significantly lower. And it was just, I think, a quarter teaspoon of clove powder of cooking amount, not a supplement. And so I love that study because it just shows the power of spices in your diet. It’s just like a culinary amount and it’s just one spice. But if you incorporate multiple spices, they work together to reduce inflammation, and they also have prebiotic effects for the microbiome. So they’re very good to feed your gut bacteria as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:31:42] I love that, and I love that you pointed out that it’s really just a small dose that you need oftentimes. I think you said a quarter of a teaspoon because sometimes you think, Oh, in order to have such a significant effect, you’ll need such a large amount, but you really don’t. And yeah, so cinnamon, cloves, I love chai tea without the dairy, without milk. That’s a typical Ayurvedic or Indian beverage. So what does it have in it? It has cinnamon, mace, ginger, cloves…
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:32:12] There’s a lot of variations on it, but those are the main ones usually.
Maria Marlowe: [00:32:17] So that’s that would be a very healing beverage. So is there anything else that you want people to know about the paleovedic diet?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:32:28] Yeah, we didn’t get to talk about that, but this is a huge area and that is prebiotic foods and fermented foods. So those are also… I’m a huge believer in the microbiome and the importance of our gut bacteria. And the best way to support the gut bacteria is really these prebiotic foods. So the prebiotics, they have fibers that feed the good bacteria and then the probiotic foods actually have the good bacteria. So those include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and others.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:33:07] And then the prebiotic foods, those have unique compounds that help you grow your gut bacteria and really create a healthy ecosystem. So they include things like artichokes, asparagus, leeks, the garlic and onions as well are quite good. And if you can get Jerusalem artichokes, those are like the highest source of inulin in food, which is really good for the gut bacteria. So there is many more, but getting those prebiotic foods is really, really important. There’s so much we could say about that, but just, prebiotic and fermented foods, I think.
Maria Marlowe: [00:33:48] And there’s a growing popularity of probiotic supplements and probiotic supplements as well. So of course, getting them through food, I think, is ideal. So what are what are your thoughts on supplementing?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:34:01] Probiotics, I think can be very powerful. They generally don’t stay in your system long-term. So most studies show once, they usually stay for about two weeks maximum. So once you stop taking the probiotic, it usually gets out of your system, but it can have a beneficial effect in terms of modulating the immune system or if I’m trying to treat a specific issue like treat someone’s constipation or diarrhea or SIBO or some specific purpose, I use a probiotic.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:34:35] So we’re using it for a specific indication and a specific time. And then you stop. And then prebiotics, I think there are so many great prebiotic foods that I really emphasize those because you can get very rich sources of prebiotic that way. So I think in the long run, I really recommend fermented foods and prebiotic foods rather than the supplements, because that’s really what is going to determine the long term picture in terms of your ecosystem and the all the microbes.
Maria Marlowe: [00:35:09] Got it, and since we’re in winter season now and still in COVID times, any tips for supporting the immune system?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:35:19] There’s a lot that people can do. I think making sure your vitamin D is really optimal, that’s very important. Getting it tested is probably the best way. I recommend you get your twenty five hydroxy vitamin D level between 40 to 50 at least, and there are supplements you can take to do that. You can try to get a lot of sun exposure. You can also take cod liver oil, which is a food that has high level of vitamin D. So that’s probably the most important thing in COVID times. We know that for sure, vitamin D makes a huge difference in COVID outcomes.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:35:59] In addition, I think getting plenty of vitamin C, all of the citrus fruits, and that’s important for the immune system. Also, zinc and one of the best food sources for zinc is pumpkin seeds. So it’s much higher than other types of seeds and nuts in zinc. So trying to incorporate pumpkin seeds regularly, I think that’s very beneficial. And then omega 3s are important for the immune system. So either eating fish or incorporating flaxseed, chia seeds, those are good vegetarian sources as well. So I think making sure your diet is really rich in vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc and omega 3s is probably a good place to start.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:36:46] And then bone broth, you know, this is great winter in wintertime. Obviously, it’s very well known now, but bone broth is really rich in amino acids, and gelatin helps keep your gut in a good shape and 70 percent of your immune system cells are in your gut. So if you’re taking care of your gut, that’s really key for keeping up your immunity as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:37:10] And can you speak a little bit to oil? So you mentioned, for example, I think coconut oil before and the importance of high-quality oils, which oils you like and which oils you recommend avoiding.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:37:23] I recommend completely avoiding vegetable seed oils. Those are very inflammatory. So anything like soybean oil or cottonseed oil or anything made from a vegetable seed? I think ghee is extremely healthy. That’s a great oil to cook with. I think olive oil is actually very healthy, too. And there is a common misconception that you can’t heat olive oil because it will oxidize. That’s actually not true, according to research, unless you’re in a commercial kitchen cooking with olive oil. But at home, we use olive oil for cooking. That is quite effective. We also use coconut oil quite a bit for more high heat purposes.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:38:08] So I think coconut oil and olive oil and ghee are good. I think avocado oil is also out there. I would prefer probably just eating the whole avocado because you’re missing out on all the phytonutrients by just using avocado oil. But I think the main one to avoid is really all of those vegetable seed oils, which are very high in omega six. So, you know, corn oil, cottonseed safflower, soybean oil, et cetera.
Maria Marlowe: [00:38:36] Got it. All right. Well, this has been really enlightening. I really appreciate you sharing your insights from your book on the Paleovedic Diet. So if people want to learn more, where is the best place for them to find you?
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:38:50] My website, which is doctorakil.com, is probably the best way to learn more. And then I’m also on social media like Facebook and Instagram as well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:39:04] Awesome. Well, I will put your website and a link to your book to order that online in the show notes, and thank you so much for coming on the show.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy: [00:39:12] Oh my pleasure. Thanks for inviting me, Maria.
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