Last year, my husband and I found ourselves reeling from a holiday season’s worth of indulgence. After too many rounds of boozy cocktails, airport meals, and more holiday cookies than I care to admit, we decided to hit the nutritional reset button by starting a month’s worth of veggie, fat, and protein-rich meals. The caveat? We’d be cutting out all added sugar, alcohol, grains, and other no-nos that went against the policies of our intensive Paleo-inspired food plan. On the first day of 2018, kitchen stocked with ghee, dark leafy greens, and a ridiculously large stash of canned coconut milk, we started our Whole 30.
The Whole 30, as you may know, is a Paleo-inspired plan for healing your gut and improving your general wellbeing. Its founders, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, stress the power of eliminating possible sources of bodily inflammation in order to later reintroduce ingredients one by one in hopes of discovering the triggers that lead to fatigue, bloating, and other common food-related maladies. To be frank, I’ve never been particularly interested in emulating the ways of our paleolithic siblings. After all, I’m an anthropologist by training; I see no need to put hunter-gatherer society—rife with issues of food scarcity and early death—on a pedestal. Taking the stance of an evolutionary reactionary isn’t going to, in itself, lead to improved health, and neither is shunning the fantastic developmental enhancements that have blessed us in the modern age. That being said, I’ve long taken an interest in slow, sustainable, farm-to-table food that stresses the importance of eating whole, unprocessed meals. As a lifelong sufferer of IBS, the tenets of Paleo, which strive to minimize the inflammatory effects of grain and legume consumption and regulate insulin through limiting sugar intake, struck a chord. Once I realized how easy this seemingly complex diet could be with a little meal prep and recipe creativity, I was sold.
I’m not much of a drinker, so ditching booze for 30 days was an easy task. Cannabis, however, has proved a productive and loyal friend to both me and my sorry stomach: I relished my daily ritual of lighting a post-dinner joint, running the bath, and getting lost in a novel. Beyond relaxation, cannabis helps me to creatively brainstorm, eases my ever-present muscle tension, and soothes my addled digestive tract. And, given that I was less interested in becoming a 21st century neanderthal than improving my relationship with food, did it really matter if I kept partaking if I kept the spirit of Whole 30 in mind?
I took to the internet to answer this question and soon discovered that many fellow stoners had tread this path before me. What I discovered is that there’s no consensus on whether or not cannabis is Paleo, per say. Sure, “cavemen” didn’t cultivate grains or cannabis, but they also didn’t drive Teslas, hit Black Friday sales, or binge-watch two entire seasons of Netflix’s Big Mouth in one day (OK, maybe that last one pertains solely to me). And, as far as this layperson is concerned, this lack of consensus is for the better. While the core of a Paleo lifestyle is diet, as Diana Hsieh explains, Paleo involves “an ever-evolving framework of principles for living well, not dogma written in stone by any supposed authority.” Importantly, proponents of the Paleo lifestyle stress the importance of simplifying the ways in which we fuel and heal ourselves through what we ingest. In terms of cannabis, this might mean placing emphasis on the source of your goods: under what conditions and methods is the cannabis you’re ingesting grown? If you prefer edibles, what ingredients are included, and what is their function? For many, cannabis can ease various ailments, lessening the reliance on multiple drugs and supplements to treat symptoms. Some Paleo-minded professionals stress that, as with food, the less processed the cannabis, the better. And, according to Paleo guru Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple, consuming flowers or products that use the whole flower rather than isolating particular components means you get the benefit of reaching all of your brain’s diverse cannabis receptors. You might, then, seek out a cannabutter, infused ghee, or oil if you’re interested in edibles, and find ways to incorporate these healthy fats into your meal plans. Likewise, there are plenty of well-balanced strains on the market that take pesticide-free growing and soil composition as seriously as they do any other element of production.
The takeaway? Following a Paleo lifestyle means, first and foremost, listening to the unique needs of your body, and consuming in a way that benefits your bodily systems in a holistic way. Whether cannabis consumption fits into your plan is a personal choice; if it does, there are plenty of Paleo-friendly ways to partake.