AHS Recap: Nora Gedgaudas

I stuffed my head full of ideas at the Ancestral Health Symposium. Here’s my recap of some of the things I learned in the presentation “Diet and Mental Health” given by Nora Gedgaudas, a Certified Nutritional Therapist and author of the book Primal Body, Primal Mind. (For a very comprehensive round-up of other bloggers’ impressions of the conference, visit FreeTheAnimal.com.)

This was, hands-down, my favorite presentation of the weekend. Nora was a passionate, informative presenter, and I was very interested in the topic she addressed. In my pursuit of being the best version of myself, I’ve  wondered how I can minimize the nutty parts and emphasize the awesome parts. Nora gave us lots of insight into how finding our best self can be related to blood sugar, along with tasty soundbites to explain why the foods we eat have a profound impact on what we think of the world.


Things I Liked/Learned In This Presentation

1. “Stress is not what happens to us – it’s how we respond to what happens to us.
This is one of those quotes you hear and figuratively smack yourself in the forehead as if to say, “Duh! How have I not realized that before.” Or maybe you have and just need to be reminded. Consider this your reminder. We can manage our reactions to external factors to minimize our stress response – but the ability to do that is reliant on having the right biochemical balance in our bodies, which brings me to…

2. “Emotions are biochemical storms in the body and brain.”
And to experience emotions in a healthy way, we want to have favorable biochemicals moving around in our noggins. How do we optimize toward “favorable”? By managing our blood sugar.

3. “We see everything through the lens of blood sugar stability, hormones, and neurotransmitters – and interpret the world around us accordingly.”
This statement really made me sit up and pay attention. Anyone who’s ever eaten a basket of tortilla chips or a pint of ice cream, then thrown a tantrum like a 3-year-old who’s missed their nap knows that blood sugar swings can be vicious. But I found it really powerful to imagine the foods I eat forming glasses that actually distort – or clear up – the way I see the world around me. It further confirms my thinking that sweet or grain-based treats are best enjoyed with care in controlled circumstances. And that making any big decisions under the influence of too little sleep, too much sugar, or monthly hormonal surges is a seriously bad idea. Conversely, paleo eating pretty much prepares us for clear thinking and physical activity all the time.

4. “There is no fundamental separation between mind and body.” (See also: Your body is your subconscious mind. – Candace Pert)
Nora went on to explain that we know our brain and body need certain raw materials to function – and therapy won’t fix a raw materials problem. I like this idea because I’m a huge fan of therapy – my therapist gave me some wonderful tools to help me navigate my emotions and external stumbling blocks – but I also believe that we can go a long way toward healing ourselves – at least finding a solid place to start serious healing – with a liberal application of clean food, fresh air, water, and movement… all of which are high-quality raw materials.

5. “Nothing is more destabilizing to the brain than blood sugar surges. Nothing is more stabilizing than fat.”
The notion that fat, in adequate but not exorbitant quantities, is a key to health has really solidified for me as a cornerstone of paleo eating. Nora summed it up this way: “We are Ice Age beings. Fat means survival.” Being free of fat fear has been fabulous for food (Sorry! I couldn’t let go of the alliteration.), and, as it turns out, good for my brain and body, too. Don’t you love when it works out that way?

6. The Big Wrap Up
Nora did a brief overview of various mental illnesses and common associated factors. The same villains showed up over and over again: blood sugar swings, dehydration, gluten sensitivity, insufficient fat and/or protein intake. Her parting advice for optimal mental health and, potentially, longevity: eliminate dietary sugar and starch, eat moderate amounts of protein, consume fat to satiety, and liberally consume fibrous, green vegetables.


For more, visit Nora Gegaudas’s Primal Body, Primal Mind site, or pick up a copy of her book. I just ordered mine, and I’m thinking about organizing an online book club so we can read it together. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested, and I’ll share more details in the next week or so. UPDATE: Nora’s presentation is now posted here so you can read the whole thing in its original form.

(For a very comprehensive round-up of other bloggers’ impressions of the conference, visit FreeTheAnimal.com.)



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  • Jen says:

    Interested! I’ve just started the catharsis of exploring my emotions and daily activities to a new diagnosis of lupus through a blog. This includes my already started, but still new, adoption of a Paleo lifestyle. I’m curious to see what she has to say about the mind-body connection and also relate it to the emotional and mental health changes associated with autoimmune disorders. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kendall says:

    Smacking myself in the forehead!! I’ve spent many years trying to “minimize the nutty parts” as well. Feeling like I’ve come to a place of working through the past and being very comfortable in my skin but still fighting other’s behaviors when it interferes with my life. I think it would be interesting to take it to the biological level and have a true mind-body connection.

    Excited to see her talk once it’s posted and to read the book. Would love to be part of the online book club. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • I’m IN for the online book club! Thanks so much for sharing this recap. I also think that food plays a huge role in aiding therapy in creating a balanced, loving lifestyle. As a holistic nutrition counselor that’s one of the things I think of a lot. I’m on my way to check out the book now!

  • Shelly says:

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but the book link appears broken!

  • Beth says:

    Definitely interested in participating. Now I don’t have to go through the “stress” of which book to pick next. 😉

  • Kathy says:

    LOVE the idea of the book club. I’m in if you decide to do it!

  • Shannon says:

    This book sounds fantastic! I would love to join in on an online reading group.

    I’ve been primal for about 6 months, and one of the highlights to me is that my mood and energy have improved SO much. I feel more focused, and I don’t seem to have those days anymore where I just feel “blah” for no reason.

    I’d love to learn more about the connection. 🙂

  • Brittany says:

    I’m interested in an online book club! I just placed a hold on a copy at the library and it looks like it’s popular, so I may have to come late to the party.

  • Kristen Mullen says:

    I’d love to get in on the online book club. Nora’s talk was one of my favorites, and I immediately bought the book once home!

  • Jude says:

    OOH! Pick me for the club. My book just arrived yesterday – had it ordered for months 🙂

    I’ll hold off starting and I can read it with a bunch of awesome online people.

    (PS. So glad you had a good time!)

  • Lisa says:

    I would love to be a part of this online book club should you decide to do it. I’ve attempted a start at paleo eating a couple times, but so far have failed. Something I read in her “Top 10 Nutritional Mistakes” really stood out to me: “For instance, the only genuinely safe amount of trans-fats in anyone’s diet is ZERO. A single serving of trans-fat in French fries or chips may take up to two years for one’s body to fully eliminate”.
    Two YEARS!? Holy Cow. I know that one of the reasons I continue to fail at cleaning up my way of eating is by not reading all of the information that comes along with it to help me out and know the facts. I have ‘The Paleo Diet’ By Loren Cordain at home and have yet to really sit down and read it.
    I would find the online book club incredibly interesting and useful! 🙂

  • Carolle says:

    Talk about great timing and opportunity. I’ve had the book for a while and haven’t had the chance to crack it open yet.

  • Liz says:

    IN for the book club. When the time comes – whenever you’re set to go – I will blah-blah-blog about it and see if I can’t drum up a few more participants!

  • JennF says:

    I would also be in for the book club. I just heard Nora on the This Week in Paleo podcast and would love to read her book! What fun to discuss it with others!

  • ElanaK says:

    Read the book when it first came out and was very impressed. I’m in for book club so I’ll make time to read it again.

    Mel, you would probably find Julie Ross’ The Mood Cure very interesting. She’s a proponent of what is basically a paleo/primal diet with short-term supplementation of amino acids for specific psychological issues.

  • Ro says:

    I’m in! I’ve been following the Paleo lifestyle and you for a while, and I think its about time I got my life together. I was on Nora’s website this past weekend, and contemplated buying the book. So now I guess I will!

  • Duds says:

    I’m so in for an online book club! Going to get her book today!

  • Amy says:

    In for book club! I am going to buy a kindle today so that I won’t be behind the times with shipping delays!!

  • Marcy says:

    Nora is local to me – I actually saw her for neurofeedback training. It was great to spend time chatting with a nutritionally like-minded person and the neurofeedback pretty much changed my life.

    I went for anxiety attacks and depression, but the biggest outcome was actually sleeping! Before the treatment, I would never go all the way into a deep sleep. I thought I was just a light sleeper, until the first time I experienced real, deep sleep.

    Almost as huge, she discovered I had iron toxicity, otherwise known as heavy metal poisoning. I don’t have hemachromatosis, just sluggish thyroid but I had to give up my cast iron pans and I now donate blood regularly.

    Anyway, Nora is awesome and I’m glad you are sharing all the awesome stuff you learned at AHS.

  • This presentation was so good, it even got me de-lurking just so I could participate in an online book group 😉 Love your thoughts on how therapy is valuable, but nutrition is key. Also, as a mother of a 3-year-old who sometimes misses his naps, your description of blood sugar swings hits way too close to home.

  • Mel says:

    I’m so happy that you guys want to join me in reading Nora’s book! I’ll put together a plan this weekend and post details next week of when we’ll officially get started. Awesome! Thanks, everyone!

  • What an awesome post and what terrific comments (hey there, Marcy!). I so appreciate the positive feedback and the supportive words. I want to especially thank those of you that took the time to attend my talk at the AHS….There were some pretty amazing speakers there and I know you all had a choice. I hope my information was helpful to you!

  • Emma says:

    I just started reading it yesterday so add me to the list!

  • Caroline says:

    Great post Mel – thanks for such a great summary. I couldn’t get over to the US for the symposium, so appreciate such a good summary of something really important. I downloaded the book onto my iPad and will definitely be in a book club.

  • ElizabethJ says:

    If i can find the book at the library then i’m in. I have a $20 monthly book budget and i’ve already exhausted it for this month. I’ll check the library and post back.

  • ElizabethJ says:

    They have it! Mel, I’ll wait to put it on hold until you get back to us with a date. I’m very excited about this book club. Thanks for your awesomeness, Mel.

  • Meghan says:

    Nora’s is one of the first primal/paleo books I read. It was the first time this fat phobic, former marathon runner “got it.” I’d love to read this book again with an online book club. Honestly, this book changed the way I looked at food:)

  • Devon says:

    If I’m not to late I’d love to be included.


  • GeorgeK says:

    I too would love to participate in the online book club with a bunch of girls — count me in! 😉

    I’ve taken a look at the book at our local bookstore and it looks totally awesome. I’m off to buy it ASAP and can’t wait to get started!

    Excellent idea Mel, and thanks for the post!

  • Lisa says:

    Nora’s presentation was REALLY great and I learned a ton of information. I know she’s a clinician with a warm heart as well as a very sharp mind. She works with brains and bodies all day long and she comes from that perspective. Plus she is extremely passionate about nutrition. I’ve got her book (paperback and iBooks)…let me know more about the book club. Thanks for a great post!

  • Chia says:

    I’m in! Got my copy of the book today (ordered it right after reading the initial great post). Starting in now !!