Paleo Lifestyle and Addiction Recovery

Paleo Lifestyle and Addiction Recovery

Paleo Lifestyle and Addiction Recovery – what is the Paleo Lifestyle and what does it have to do with addiction recovery?

Dr. Herby Bell writes on the connection between chiropractic | neuroscience | addiction in this guest post.

Dr. Herby Bell writes about the Paleo Lifestyle and its role in Addiction Recovery.

The following is a guest post by Dr. Herby Bell. Dr. Bell is a Chiropractor, Recovery Coach and owner and director of Recovery Health Care, an integrated approach to addiction treatment in Redwood City, California. For more information please call 650 474 2121 or email:

Paleo Lifestyle and Addiction Recovery by Dr. Herby Bell

I was introduced to the Paleo Community about a year ago by a colleague, Dr. Andrew Miner of Augusta, Maine. A prince of a guy who lives his talk and true to form, I discovered for myself that the ancestral health principles as the foundation of the Paleo Lifestyle he suggested, just plain work and work beautifully.

What is meant by “ancestral health” is the study of modern health from an evolutionary perspective to develop solutions for our current health challenges. It is an expansive body of research that documents how our ancestors lived and survived in the Paleolithic Era to pass on our current genetic structure, expression and potential.

The Paleolithic Era is a vast period of time from ~ 2.6 million years ago to when the agricultural revolution began, about 10,000 years ago. The purpose for knowing this is to realize that what makes our bodies thrive today was shaped over eons of time and that as modern human beings, we require time honored, pure, essential nutrients and not just the latest new and improved General Foods product.

Okay, cool. So what does this have to do with addiction recovery you might ask? Well, just about everything I’ve learned about the Paleo Lifestyle is applicable to addiction recovery in really great and practical ways.

For starters, the Paleo Lifestyle stresses the concept that if we’re not feeding ourselves with nutrient rich, genetically congruent, non toxic and pure foods, there’s no way our brains can function properly–and remember, addiction is a brain disorder.

What foods are they? Here are the basics:

  • Minimize/replace fast, fried, processed foods, refined carbs/sugar products (bread, cereals, grains…mhmm, that stuff)
  • Eat “pastured” (not pasturized) animal protein: Organic eggs, wild fish, poultry, meat–in moderation
  • Eat organic “above ground” fibrous green leafy, red and yellow vegetables with some exceptions like sweet potatoes
  • Eat only seasonal fruit with wild berries being at the top of the list
  • Satisfy your appetite with saturated fat, (Yes, saturated fat is good!) content foods like organic meat, fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, olive oil, coconut, coconut oil, etc.

So why these changes and these specific choices? Because they minimize unnecessary insulin production (bad juju) and inflammation responses, (so long, Advil) so prevalent in our standard diets. And because they stop the food craving, addictive rollercoaster ride that our standard, high carb, low fat diets perpetuate–and this helps prevent addiction relapse.

How do I know? Because the scientific literature is full of research studies saying so, but really, because I’ve done it, it works and I wouldn’t live any other way now.

Was it difficult to adopt the Paleo Diet? Well, to tell you the truth, for me it was a lot like stopping alcohol and drugs–and that saved my life! When I got free and clear of the foods that were making me sick and tired and became comfortable with the routine of the foods that made me feel alert, alive and fantastic–and it took about 90 days to actually feel the proof–there was no looking back anymore than I’d consider using drugs and alcohol again. Why?

Additionally, the Paleo Lifestyle stresses that if we’re not exercising or moving like our ancestors did–nearly daily because they had to, to survive–our brains let alone the rest of our bodies, cannot possibly function properly. Let’s get that addicted noggin’ workin’, people.

And what’s best about the general Paleo exercise recommendations is that, “less is more”, i.e., easy does it–but DO IT as loosely outlined here:

  • Walk–a lot
  • Lift something heavy two or three times/week
  • “Red-line” it every 7 to 10 days (age and condition specific)
  • Take a day of rest–’bitchin idea

The key is that these two lifestyle practices need to go together: Moving well and eating well in order for you to be thinking and feeling your best–every day.

And oh, BTW, I forgot to mention that as an added benefit the Paleo Lifestyle returns folks to their natural body weight in the safest, healthiest and most sustainable manner possible just in case America might be interested in that…Do recovering addicts need a boost in self-esteem? Who doesn’t?

If you’re in addiction recovery or want to be, check in with your ancestral health, ( health care provider and your local Paleo Lifestyle community found wherever people are thriving.

You’ll be glad you did and if you’re like me, you’ll realize that your recovery is just the next, very right thing to happen in what the wonderful poet and author, Mary Oliver refers to as, “Your one, wild and precious life.”

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3 Responses to Paleo Lifestyle and Addiction Recovery

  1. Great post! I have been gradually shifting toward a more Paleo diet and have been moving more and have definitely notice a great difference in a very short amount of time! I can see how a Paleo lifestyle would be supportive of recovery and help the body, mind and soul heal. Thanks for this post! Great information in an easy to read and remember context!

    • Herby Bell says:


      Thank you for your comment and offering your personal experience. It surely is an “N=1” experiment, IE, one has to try it to know it. And yes I agree, more conscious moving, eating and thinking is what recovery–from anything–is all about!

      Healthiest Regards,


  2. Cindie Hicks says:

    I realize this was written in 2013 but I will reply in hopes you will see it. Thank you so much for the article as it spoke directly to my hopes that a Paleo diet would indeed break the vicious cycle of food addiction behavior. I only wish I could find a 12 step Program for food addiction that supported Paleo diet as a food plan! Thanks again!

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