About Sarah Ballantyne, PhD

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headshot2Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. (a.k.a. The Paleo Mom) is the blogger behind the award-winning blog  www.ThePaleoMom.com, cohost of the top-rated and syndicated  The Paleo View podcast, and author of two upcoming books The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook.

Sarah has always had many interests and talents, which is reflected in the diversity of this blog. Here, you will find explanations of the science behind the Paleo diet and lifestyle, along with a strong focus on modifications for autoimmune disease sufferers, articles related to the practical implementation of a Paleo diet and lifestyle, detailed discussions relevant for paleo families and kids’ health, and recipes that span the gamut from kid staples, to comfort foods, to quick & easy meals, to gourmet dishes, to treats for special occasions, to snacks and nut-free baking, to recipes compliant with the autoimmune protocol for those who suffer from autoimmune diseases (like Sarah).

Sarah started her academic career in physics, earning an Honors Bachelor of Science with Distinction from the University of Victoria, Canada in 1999.  Her honors thesis work was in radiation therapy for prostate cancer, which prompted her to look for medical research applications in graduate school .  Sarah earned her doctorate degree in medical biophysics at The University of Western Ontario in 2003, at the age of 26.  Her doctoral thesis was titled “Progressive Liver Injury during the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome:  Heme Oxygenase as a Therapeutic Target”.  Her doctoral research spanned the gamut of inflammation, innate immunity, endogenous anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant enzymes, gene therapy techniques, microcirculation and vascular biology, liver health,  and critical care medicine.

Sarah spent the next four years doing medical research as a postdoctoral fellow first at in the Cardiology Department at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada and then in the Department of Cell Biology at The University Of Arizona.  In Toronto, Sarah continued her research in the fields of innate immunity, inflammation, vascular biology, critical care medicine, and gene therapy, with a new focus on Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and the role of angiogenic growth factors in controlling inflammation and the innate immune system.  In Tucson, Sarah switched gears and studied epithelial cell biology with particular focus on trafficking of proteins required for tight junction assembly, maintenance of epithelial cell polarity, and characterization of a new tumor suppressor called endotubin (which suppressed epithelial to mesenchymal transformations through maintenance of tight junction integrity).  Sarah’s focus included cell trafficking (how cells shuttle proteins from one part to another in a targeted way) and cancer biology.

Throughout Sarah’s academic career, Sarah earned a variety of awards, including: awards for research excellence including from the American Physiological Society (3 years in a row) and from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research / BioContact Quebec (1st place);  many fellowships, including from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF), Pfizer Canada (through HSF partnership), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Strategic Training Initiative in Cardiovascular Health Research (TACTICS); and, a research grant through The University of Arizona Cancer Center Gastrointestinal Specialized Program of Research Excellence (GI-SPORE, a National Institutes of Health grant program).   Despite Sarah’s relatively short academic career, she filed one patent (in both the USA and Canada) and published 14 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals (including 7 first author papers; and 12 of which can be seen here), several of which continue to be highly-cited today, and 25 abstracts presented at international conferences.

Even though Sarah was enjoying a successful and vibrant burgeoning academic career, she opted to become a stay-at-home mom upon the birth of her first daughter.  Sarah’s decision to give the world of medical research a break when her first daughter was born was inspired both by the profound influence of her own mother during her upbringing and by a recognition that her health was not going to accommodate any attempts at finding balance between a high-powered academic career and her desire to be a fully-engaged parent. At the time her first daughter was born, Sarah was morbidly obese and suffered from over a dozen immune- and autoimmune-related diseases.

biggest

Summer 2005–at least 275lbs, but I will never know for sure because I was too scared to weigh myself. I was depressed and very sick.

After her second daughter was born, Sarah discovered the Paleo lifestyle. It had an amazing effect on her health, including contributing to her 120-pound weight loss! Over time, she healed herself of a long laundry list of physical complaints including: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, acid reflux, migraines, anxiety, asthma, allergies, psoriasis and an autoimmune skin condition called lichen planus. In fact, Sarah was able to discontinue six prescription medications, some of which she has been taking for 12 years, within two weeks of changing her diet! The dramatic improvements in Sarah’s conditions convinced her never to revert to her previous eating habits. She quickly became a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for the Paleo lifestyle, which led to the creation of this blog.

Summer 2012.  Happy, healthy, fit.

Summer 2012. Happy, healthy, fit.

Sarah is passionate about scientific literacy and about distilling scientific concepts into straightforward and accessible explanations. As a scientist both by training and by nature, Sarah is deeply interested in understanding how the foods we eat interact with our gut barriers, immune systems, and hormones to influence health. Sarah’s innate curiosity goes further than just understanding diet and she is also deeply interested and lifestyle factors like sleep, stress and activity. Sarah believes that the true rationale for this way of eating and living stems, not from evolutionary biology (although that is a great place to start for forming hypotheses), but the thousands of scientific articles that each evaluate one small piece to the picture of how diet and lifestyle contribute to health and longevity.

Sarah is more than just a scientist. She is also a devoted mom and wife. It was important to Sarah to improve the health of her family in addition to addressed her own health conditions. Sarah successfully transitioned her originally skeptic husband and two spirited young daughters to a paleo diet and lifestyle. It was a slow road (full of challenges, victories and baby steps), but the difference in her family’s health was also profound. Sarah blogs about the challenges of raising a paleo family and living in a family where the members of different dietary requirements.  In fact, it was this part of Sarah’s journey and Sarah’s indentify first and foremost as a mom that inspired the name of this blog.

Sarah has also always loved food and loved cooking. She loves being creative in the kitchen and finding ways to reinvent old favorites. She cooks mostly for her family, which is why you will see such a diversity of recipes on her blog. She believes that even healthy food should taste amazing and that there can be room in life for celebrations with food and occasional treats (and that what occasional means is individual). Sarah also loves to draw, and yes, both the stick figure illustrations and the more technical illustrations (in this blog and Sarah’s books) are her own.

Sarah’s personal experiences with autoimmune disease is the reason for the large amount of autoimmune-related content on her blog and the reason why her first two books are focused on how to modify a paleo diet to reverse autoimmune disease. However, this is not an autoimmune only blog. Only a subset of both the scientific content and the recipes are focused on autoimmune disease. Instead, ThePaleoMom.com is a family-centered blog, a food blog, a “how to” blog, and a science blog. Sarah approaches the Paleo diet from a place of realism and a focus on long-term sustainability, that understands the individual nature of each of our bodies and that different diet choices work better for different people. It is a blog that respects your choices, and shares in both struggles and successes. It is a blog designed to explain the why’s behind a Paleo lifestyle to inform your choices and give you the tools you need to be successful.

You can also find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

You can read more about Sarah’s personal journey to paleo here and see more before and after photos here.

 Most posts about Sarah:

 

Comments

Thank you so much for this life-altering info. My symptoms started at birth (adopted with evaporated milk and corn syrup formula) and after 59 years of trying all the diets, Dr’s advice (made it worse), no gall bladder, you have finally given me hope with the auto-immune data. I hope to be free of all ‘bad’ foods in a couple of days and never look back! Blessings to you!

Hi my name is Barbara and have been following you on FB. I saw your post about disabling the message part and that if we have questions to ask them here. Is that correct ? If so I have a ton of questions. I am new to the Paleo Diet. First I am looking for a good Paleo Book. One that I could Plan my meals and tract my food. Any suggestions ?

ahhh, I found it! ;) Barbara, it is up in the top right of the web page under the “connect with me” box. You should see it right below the facebook icon. If you don’t have Outlook, you can right click on the icon and click “copy email address”…you will then be able to paste it into yahoo or hotmail or whatever service you use. :)

I just found your site! One of the members of our local paleo primal meetup made your plantain lasagna for our recent potluck. I am so excited about cooking more w/plaintains and about the recipes for these and other foods on your site.

I would love to offer you a copy of my cookbook, The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook in trade for your book. I would love to review your book on my blog and would hope you would do the same if you like my book. You can read about my book on my blog, http://www.TheHealthyCookingCoach.com

Please contact me.

Hi Sarah! I can not find your email so I’m just posting here… I am moving from raw vegan diet into paleo diet, kind of. I won’t eat land animals, but I will eat seafood. With fish, what part of the fish is the fattest? Is it the skin? (I might not eat it, if so.) Also, fish aside, what other ocean animals are high in protein and low in fat? What is the healthiest form to get your seafood in (example: fresh oysters or smoked oysters or oysters suspended in oil in a store package)? It would be great to see an article on this topic! Please email me! Very curious / cautious. Thank you so very much!

Not sure why you want to avoid fat from seafood. It’s by far the healthiest fat you can eat, with thousands of studies proving the health benefits and it is an essential fat. I don’t think the fat is concentrated in the skin the way it is in land animals, but more that some fish are fattier than others. Shrimp is a very lean shellfish, scallops are pretty good too. Fresh is always best, frozen is a close second as long as their are no additives. Smoked, packaged and canned aren’t quite as good but still okay (as long as the cans are BPS-free). Depending on how long you’ve been vegan, I would definitely recommend going slow with protein and maybe taking some digestive enzymes for the first few months that you start encouraging proteins into your diet.

Hi! Your website has been sooooooo helpful with information and ideas these last two weeks! When I start reintroducing food, is it okay for me to bake with eggs (like your pancake recipe) and eat it (I’m following auto-immune protocol)? I never really ate eggs alone except when my mother made chorizo and egg tacos, but always baked with them and ate what I baked. Is that okay?

Sure. Just because you’re reintroducing eggs doesn’t mean they have to be straight. Just make sure you are only eating one new food at time so that if you have a reaction you can be sure what the culprit is.

My full name printed. I see no way on here to contact you directly. Would you kindly delete my last name or if not possible, my post? Thanks!

Hi Sarah,
Our 23 year old daughter, who is currently back home while her husband is deployed to Afghanistan, just started all three of us (her, her dad and me) on the Paleo diet. She’s been on it for about a week and it only took her 5 days to convince us. One of the main reasons is that my husband and I could probably start our own pharmacy with all of the medications that we take. Also, I can almost quote you when I say that I suffer from IBS (constipation), migraines, allergies and anxiety. I also add border-line high blood pressure, diabetes, undiagnosed skin rash flare-ups, about 60 lbs overweight and a fused C4/C5 (neck vertebrae) fusion (bone-on-bone) which causes much chronic pain.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your website and dedication and tell you that I look forward to the improvements to come in our health alone.
Take care, Kimberly Lemberg

I am very aware of how our bodies are plagued by illnesses these days because of what we eat. My husband is gluten sensitive and almost died on us before we found out what was wrong. He was just diagnosed with AS and I have Hashimoto’s. We’ve done the Fungus Link, the leaky gut cure and the Wheat Belly diets. I have removed all nightshades, gluten and most dairy(except yogurt, fetta and goat cheese), but our go to meals are mainly nut meals and eggs. I see that we need to go a step further in eliminating those two culprits and probably all dairy. What resources do you recommend as far as cookbooks or recipes? There are lots of Paleo recipes out there but not a lot of AIP.

How soon after beginning the paleo diet should I feel relief from my IBS? Have you met others that in spite of following the paleo diet have to follow a FODMAPs diet also?

wow….I just listened to your George , Stefanie and saras podcast. I am still processing it all. My addiction started at 14 with anorexia, at 18 turned to bulimia and I also picked up alcoholism .I have been sober for 4 years now but the bulimia is still alive and present. I feel so hopeless however this podcast was so helpful. I am looking into treatment but I cant afford it. every day is a battle. I just want to wake up and not dread the inevitable binge. To not hurt myself on a daily basis , or learn how to cope with feelings of sadness and loneliness, happiness or celebrating , or just ANY emotion without food, which leads to binging and purging. thank you for this pod cast and your website

I’m also new to the Paleo Diet…in fact, I have just learned about your website tonight. In the meantime, I’ve been doing some research about this particular diet (per my daughter’s insistence, “Mom, I think your problem is that you have leaky gut disorder- and you need to find out about this Paleo diet, like right now!!) And so I have. But after all the investigation regarding foods- what to eat, what not to eat- I’ve run into a problem. I don’t understand why most articles warn against nightshade vegetables (like eggplant) and meat which have purines but on your particular diet these are allowed. Can you clear up the confusion? I want (need) to get started with this regimen very soon as I have developed an autoimmune problem (leaky gut which has brought on severe arthritis) and I want to be sure that the foods I’m eating will in fact begin to alleviate the pain and not worsen the situation.
P.S. I’ve been up for hours reading what I can and I want to say here that I am Really enjoying your website! It’s so fun and interesting. Although I’m in misery with my knees, ankles, etc. reading your articles has really helped to boost my attitude- all the way to positive- and has given me hope that I can begin to enjoy life again. THANK YOU!

Nightshades are typically included in a standard paleo diet, but are a common sensitivity so many people additionally eliminated them from their diet. I typically recommend starting with a standard paleo diet and trying that for a few months before experimenting with additional eliminations, unless you are critically ill (at which point, I typically recommend the autoimmune protocol, more info on this in the autoimmunity menu). This post explains why they might not be the best food for many people: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/08/the-whys-behind-autoimmune-protocol.html

As for purines, low-purine diets have traditionally been recommended for those with gout and hyperuricaemia (high blood levels of uric acid). However, more recent scientific research shows that refined sugar, and especially fructose, is the more likely culprit, especially in conjunction with obesity and alcohol consumption. Research actually doesn’t support low-purine diets and all and in fact show the opposite–that consumption of vegetables high in purines and consumption of red meat BOTH are known to decrease the risk of gout.

Good Afternoon, I am currently casting for TLC’s the Next Great Baker and we are looking for very specific teams of bakers. We would love to introduce paleo bakers to this season I would love to give you and your followers some more information. Please email me at mdelima@highnoontv.com for more info, and anyone on your site may do so as well.

Outstanding site. Thank you very much for putting it up and for maintaining it. Based on my amateur diagnosis, my wife will be following the SIBO and auto immune modifications (forever, perhaps). We’ve stopped hoping for a cure, but just relief would be great. David

Wow! I was so excited to pick up my book on Friday. Because of the snow yesterday, I was able to sit and read it for most of the day. I can’t wait for your cookbook!

I believe I may have just self diagnosed myself with oral lichen planus thanks to your latest FB post! I have had symptoms for 2 yrs & have seen many health professional both conventional & alternative. I have been GF for 13 yrs but now believe I may be experiencing a cross reactivity. problem is, I can’t figure it out! Chocolate(but I’ve cut it out & didn’t improve), corn (really don’t eat it but could be getting it from eating chicken?) or hemp. You mention potatoes, I only eat sweet potatoes-are they an issue? Do you know how to go about having the blood test done & the cost?

Hi Sarah. I believe the mysterious bumps on my 12 year olds wrists are LP. I have Hoshimotos so she is already predisposed for AI issues. Do you know if there is an antibodies blood test for LP like there is for Hoshi’s? I would like to get her tested. Thanks!
:)Tina

Hey Sarah! You are a rockstar and I love your site … I’ve been doing Paleo on and off for the last year. For me it was about getting my energy back and feeling good. Paleo really works!! I feel so much healthier!!

Love love love the sit and I’m stoked to try out some new paleo recipes.
-Amy ;)

Hi Sarah, Im so glad I found your site. I am already eating Paleo and trying to convince my daughter not to be a strict vegetarian due to us both suffering with Chronic Lyme disease for last 12 years and both being low thyroid and digestive issues. So far Paleo has really helped me but your autoimmune information is just what I am looking for as acid reflux and very inflamed digestive problems are a major player for me and I have not been able to pinpoint where I was going wrong to correct the leaky gut etc. My diet (so I thought) was very Paleo and very disciplined but I think you have just led me to the key to get these additional issues corrected once and for all. I will be ordering your book and will be following your blog from now on. I have followed Dr. Terry Wahls with great interest as her protocol for reversing MS is very useful for people with Lyme disease and now I have found you and your autoimmune information I really think this will assist me in refining a sensible diet for myself and my 20 year old daughter. Great site and extremely valuable. Thanks from a Lymie mum in the UK who really appreciates this kind of very valid information. I will be sure to post your information on my Facebook page for other people with Lyme disease to make use of.

Hi Loz, I was wondering if you would give an update about your experience with Lyme disease and the AIP protocol. I just started the approach about 3 weeks ago and have been having a tough time with it (lots of die-off symptoms, disrupted sleep and mood issues).

Sarah, I’m so glad I found your site! I am still learning and reading all I can. I bought your book and it has helped me more than you know! You put a lot of thought into it so that anyone can understand! I absolutely love all your giveaways too!! ;-)

Hi Sarah,

I’m so glad to have found you. I have followed you on Facebook for a little bit and just downloaded your book. I have only made it to the preface, but I got on your site to check out your “about” section. I would love to read some of your papers…but I can’t get the link to work. I’m interested because I’m a nurse by training (an anesthetist now, however). But in 2008 I worked as a nurse in an ICU in Michigan that served as one of the few referral centers for adult ECMO. The “swine flu” epidemic threw me for a loop. I witnessed people my age-in their twenties- that were overweight or obese, but otherwise “healthy” that were deathly ill or dying-placed on ECMO, in ARDS, in hypercoaguable states, some of which had even received the vaccine- and I just didn’t understand how it could happen. My only presumption was that they had an underlying immune deficiency that was unknown….but of course this testing was never investigated. Later a friend of mine referred me to a naturopathic doctor and while my diet change has been tumultuous, I have reaped many benefits from it. I’m excited to read your book in its entirety and pleased that is it written with a scientific base.

Thank you for your work!!

Erica

Curious…Have you ever had someone with severe alopecia see healing and their hair restored after following the autoimmune protocol?

Suggestion: It might be a good idea to have a tab on your site for, Updates, so that as you discover additional info, that supplements your book, The Paleo Approach, we can quickly find that information on your site?

Sarah, I am a recent divorced father w/ 2 kids. After working for 18 years in the advertising field I went back to school because I felt a calling to become a chef. I have a BA from DePaul but I also went back to school and earned a culinary certificate from Kendall College as well. My calling to become a chef has never been more real…Let me explain.

I never knew this, but I lived my whole life (or at least from what I can remember) w/ a bi-polar disorder. I knew after my divorce I needed to find what was wrong w/ me because I was a good person but I did some really awful things and couldn’t control my actions. I would look into the mirror every day and say “you are a good person, why the hell did you just do that!” I had no answer. I loved my wife but loved myself more and was always looking for the most pleasurable experience with what ever was presented to me. It could have been a w/ a person I knew (man or woman) or sport or drugs, or alcohol or… it didn’t matter. I just looked for the “high”

I lost my sister to sex, drugs and alcohol in 2008 then moved out of my home in 2009.

Not to bore you, I will get right to it. Grain, specially wheat, barley, rye was the culprit to my emotions. When I went “gluten free” for 5 days I came out of a fog and had too many memories that all came back. I even had to be admitted into hospital for a few days because I was having some really bad thoughts. However, I came back from what I call “my retreat” w/ such an understanding of what food does to us, I started my own personal chef and catering business focusing on allergen free cooking, mainly gluten, soy, and dairy free. However, this “night shade” thing and Paleo approach has me excited because it works! individuals and families alike retain my services because they can either relate to my story or they need help. I can fix people w/ food. I am 25/27 w/ my clients and the numbers keep growing.

I want to help people attain inner peace. I find many of my customers come from NA, SA, or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, Sex, Narcotics). They are “addicted” but can’t figure out why. I know why which is why I started a new brand w/ in my company:

“The Gandhi of Gluten Free”
Remove the wheat and attain inner peace w/ what you eat”

I will be exhibiting at this years GF and allergen expo in Illinois in a few weeks and I have gone a branded a new me –

http://beaukcatering.com/

I am almost whole now and loving every minute now, and will never go back. I even try to live the Paleo lifestyle but I am an endurance athlete (master spin instructor for 15 years) and I am afraid I won’t be able to ride that first century ride of the year. No worries, my mind is healthy for the first time and I LOVE IT! I am a nutritional chef now, I will figure it out.

I do have 2 question for you:

1. Why is this site and your followers predominantly female?
2. Why do women have more issue w/ their thyroid then men?

I know too many men that could benefit from our knowledge. I have theories as to why but I want to get your professional scientific answer before I share what I think.

Thanks Sarah for your time. I know you get back to people so I will wait and see how you answer the above questions.

Chef Beau
“The Gandhi of Gluten Free”

What a story! Thank you for sharing. I had a similar experience with gluten before I was diagnosed with Celiac – it left me an impulsive, cold-hearted person, and left me with a lot of regrets when the fog finally cleared. I think there are a lot of reasons Sarah’s followers are (or appear to be) predominantly women — the fact that autoimmune disease affects more women than men (probably due in part to our more complex endocrine systems and the stress things like pregnancy put on our bodies when coupled with poor diet/lifestyle) and her focus on feeding Paleo kids and families, which despite shifting norms is still largely a woman’s role. I think other Paleo moms might identify with her more, or come looking for “how to be a Paleo mom”. That said, Sarah does have a lot of male readers! – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

I loved your articles but I’ll be honest I was a little skeptical of it all because I am forever seeing “mums” offering diet advice from facts they found on Google. It’s nice to finally see someone who has credentials. Thank you for sharing your experience Sarah

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