Nora Gedgaudas, a widely recognized expert on what is popularly referred to as the “Paleo diet” is the author of the international best-selling book, Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and A Longer Life. She is also a highly successful experienced nutritional consultant, speaker and educator, widely interviewed on national and international radio, popular podcasts, television and film. Her own popular podcasts are widely listened to on iTunes and are available for free download, along with numerous free articles and a location on the homepage, where anyone can subscribe for her free newsletter. She maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon as both a Board-Certified nutritional consultant and a Board-Certified clinical Neurofeedback Specialist.
You can find Nora’s most personal interview here.
So…what the heck is this frozen pile of rocks, anyway…and why am I using it as my logo?
The word “Inuksuk” is an Inuit word, essentially translating to “Stone Man”. Many of you are aware I have spent considerable time in the High Arctic and feel a special connection to that place. So that is part of it. What many people do not realize, however, is that the closest we have on earth to a modern-day people group who represent our Ice Age ancestors and who are still largely eating an Ice Age diet are the peoples of the Arctic. The inuksuk is a worthy symbol of that way of life. It is a Primal, ancient icon.
Throughout the Arctic, newer and ancient inuksuit (the plural for inuksuk) stand everywhere as navigational landmarks on an otherwise featureless landscape. They are designed to help point the way to where you are going and also to help you know where you are along the way. They were and are used as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, hunting grounds, food caches and even sacred locations.
I’m guessing by now the reason for my use of this symbolism is obvious.
To me the inuksuk is a signpost—a way of helping people to navigate the often confusing and harsh landscape of nutritional lore. It is there to help keep you reminded of where you are in your journey to health and the solid bedrock of foundation you must travel upon to reach your best destination. It is a reminder that we are all creatures of the Ice Age–those frozen winters of unimaginable duration and other extreme conditions throughout the planet (even where it wasn’t frozen) that we have endured in one way or another throughout our evolutionary history. We have lived in mostly complacent ignorance of this part of our history for the last 11,500 years during this unusually warm and temperate period…a mere eye blink in earth’s grander cycle.
It was during this tiny, seemingly insignificant 11,500 year spike of solar warmth in the grand Milankovitch Cycle that we have experienced literally the whole of human civilization and agriculture. We are, nonetheless, still that 2.5 million year-old Ice Age creature in our fundamental design, whether we are aware of that or not. We are not fundamentally agricultural beings, we are Primal beings.
Let the inuksuk be your reminder.
The FULL Bio
Who is she, really?
It all started in a hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on June 10th, 1961…
I was raised in a prominent medical family, steeped from the get-go in sciences and obsessed even as a small child with interests in biology (I was reading and absorbing advanced college textbooks on invertebrate zoology at the age of 7). Both my parents were Lithuanian immigrants who had first moved to Munich, Germany, then Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada before finally moving to and settling in St, Paul, Minnesota. “As the most science-oriented child in the family and the most like my father, I was fully expected to follow suit into the field of medicine.” My father was a world renowned radiologist (his department at the University of Minnesota hospital was the first in the country to obtain full-body CAT-Scan and MRI due to his influence). He was president of the Roentgen Ray Society, Chair and Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota medical school in its hey-day. He has a wing of a medical library there named after him. He literally wrote the book on Radiological Cardiology. He passed away on July 25th, 2006 of a sudden heart attack. My older sister also went on to become a radiologist and she and her radiologist husband are in medical practice in Atlanta, GA. I became acquainted first-hand with the conventional medical paradigm and mind-set at the earliest possible age and learned very well what it meant to be part of that system. As the most science-oriented child in the family and the most like my father in many ways, I was fully expected to follow suit into the field of medicine.
My parents dutifully and with considerable discipline followed what the medical establishment had advised them was a “heart healthy diet” and they endeavored to eat foods that were low fat, low sodium and cooked with only vegetable oils and margarine. They both exercised daily. Neither was ever overweight. “I read innumerable books on self-help, spent a fortune on tapes and programs of all kinds… learned how to ‘walk on fire,’ tried hypnosis, acupuncture… all sorts of deep inner spiritual work, sitting at mountain tops and in remote natural seclusion…” My mother (a former “prima ballerina” with the Kirov Ballet) had cancer twice–managing to survive both bouts, many years apart, severe arthritis, spinal degeneration and osteoporosis, and suffered depression and instability issues. My father suffered undiagnosed (but obvious) depression for years, had his gallbladder removed (along with a massive, mysterious abdominal cyst), high blood pressure, severe prostate enlargement and surgery, a silent heart attack and cardio myopathy, a kidney transplant, a large aneurism on his aorta that needed surgical intervention, a couple of bouts of skin cancer and, finally, suffered a massive and fatal heart attack. Clearly, the dictates of the AMA and USDA food pyramid had not led either of them down the primrose path to greater health and vitality. The best that medicine and its conventional philosophy was able to do was keep them patched up as things fell apart along the way.
My earliest passion for diet and nutrition began back in about 1978 as a college student while in a university pre-med program. My interest in the subject of nutrition magically sparked through a series of serendipitous events and I became a voracious reader on the subject, devouring volumes and volumes of carefully selected sources of information I thought would give me the strongest and most solid scientific background. I was determined to know all there was and the most accurate of all there was. I went to medical libraries and looked up the most current research and began frequenting health food stores, familiarizing myself with all the newest supplements and what they were purported to do. I became extremely knowledgeable very quickly and applied what I was learning to myself in no small way. I quickly learned that I could radically change how I felt and functioned by what I ate and supplemented with and this thoroughly fascinated me. It seemed logical that food and nutrients would be utterly foundational to health.
Given all the conflicting and industry-driven information coming at me from all sides I also occasionally got led down some paths along the way that proved unfruitful, erroneous or ineffective. I became interested in vegetarianism for a time (as this approach seemed so heavily promoted by natural health pundits in those days) and tried out that way of eating for a year or two. I craved meat horribly during that time and developed an eating disorder that persisted for quite a while and only subsided once I finally resumed meat eating. I felt immeasurably healthier returning to what I later realized to be a much more natural human diet, though wasn’t sure why, at the time.
I enrolled in a graduate-level course in nutritional science as an undergraduate, convinced I would get the most cutting-edge, advanced possible information to feed my insatiable interest. This course had been designed for health care professionals and physicians, so I was sure I was getting some pretty high-level information. I went into the class already considerably informed, expecting to become more so. I found myself utterly SHOCKED at how woefully inadequate, limited and incomplete the course material really was—and how many inaccuracies and outdated facts were being presented as “higher education”. I left the program, completely disgusted and disillusioned. I realized that conventional forms of “higher education” were not going to teach me what I wanted and passionately needed to know.
Over the years, I underwent many different life transitions that involved everything from making a living as a musician, wildlife scientist (I worked with wolves for many years and actually spent a summer of my life living less than 500 miles from the North Pole with a family of wild wolves… but I digress), veterinary specialist, “smart bar” bartender (long story), board certified personal trainer and nutritional counselor. Let’s just say I’ve been around the block once or twice and have had my share of interests… Through every bit of it all, though, my passion for advancing my nutritional expertise never waned and only seemed to grow. For some reason, it never occurred to me I could actually make a living at it.
I struggled through the years with chronic dysthymia–punctuated by bouts of significant and even debilitating depression. I also suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. Although there were sound reasons for my nervous system to go there, given certain life circumstances, I also felt a “physiological underpinning” beneath this that seemed relentless. I could manage it for periods of time with exercise, certain supplements and amino acids, but it always seemed to come back to bite me and drag me under. As I got older, the bouts seemed to become more frequent and deeper…harder to surmount. Psychotherapy radically improved the quality of my relationship with myself and others, deepened me and immeasurably improved the quality of my life (thank you, Patty Lee Holman, MA). Still the physiological underpinnings that were for me, depression, persisted. I read innumerable books on self-help, spent a fortune on tapes and programs of all kinds, studied NLP, spent a week at a Tony Robbins seminar, learned how to “walk on fire”, tried hypnosis, acupuncture, meditation and did all sorts of deep inner spiritual work, sitting at mountaintops and in remote natural seclusion. –All to my considerable betterment for sure…but ultimately to no avail. I EVEN went the medication route for a time (longer than I should have, actually—a year or two) using every SSRI and tricyclic antidepressant they had. I found that I was not so much “less depressed” on medication as much as I seemed to “care about the depression less”. I wasn’t having the “low lows”…but wasn’t having the “high highs” either. My life and affect were largely flat. I gained weight, lost my libido and became disillusioned by pharmaceutical interventions and psychiatry, altogether. I realized I was being given a mere band-aid…a means of artificially manipulating my biochemistry in an effort to temporarily ameliorate a symptom (while creating others)…all at uncertain cost to my long term health and well being. I finally stopped all medications altogether…and forever.
Shortly thereafter, I stumbled across a book that changed my dietary views and overwhelmingly grounded my understanding of what truly constituted a healthy diet and led me to an unshakably solid foundation. This book was entitled: “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Dr. Weston A. Price—arguably the most important book on diet and health ever written (…well, besides mine). 😉 At last, it all made sense. The inspiration of Dr. Price’s incredible work led me down the road of later studying the origins of our human dietary requirements from an evolutionary perspective. I found myself studying many, many hundreds of scholarly and scientific sources in an effort to arrive at the ultimate understanding of the selective pressures that served to design our Paleolithic ancestors…and our modern nutritional requirements. Through 2.6 million years of hominid evolution there were consistent principles which prevailed and honed our primitive physical excellence. At last—I’d found the “Holy Grail” of nutritional foundations that liberated me from all the conflicting dietary information and confusion that so inundated the field. It all finally made sense. Over two decades of massive research and exploration finally consolidated in a cohesive, solidly rational and practical view.
I was still struggling with depression, though, and was determined to find a way to escape the oppressive imprisonment of my own nervous system.
It was then that I discovered a previously unknown field called “Neurotechnology”. I read an article in Omni magazine about this newly emerging discipline and its varied approaches. It presented the brain as more than simply a hodgepodge of psychological constructs or biochemical fluctuations,but as a “bio-electric” organ, intimately dependent on timing mechanisms to maintain homeostasis and optimal functioning. Turns out the brain’s timing mechanisms are subject to dysregulation… and any dysregulation could generate dysfunction. A new found passion for information and answers led me to the field of Neurofeedback–a scientific and non-invasive process designed to restore healthy timing to the brain and nervous system. Though it is a much longer story, suffice it to say that after Neurofeedback session #2 all those life-long feelings of helplessness and hopelessness simply evaporated and never returned. Forty sessions later I was immeasurably transformed…and utterly prepared to devote whatever it took to become the best Neurofeedback practitioner I could possibly be. I studied with the most talented, passionate, gifted and deeply humanistic leaders and scientists in the field of Neurofeedback, Dr. Siegfried and Susan Othmer. My profound regard and respect for these two human beings and their incredible work has only deepened and grown over many years. Twelve years later (still depression, anxiety and panic-attack-free) I continue to practice Neurofeedback very successfully in conjunction with nutritional therapy as a means of bettering the lives of hundreds of individuals. It is the most rewarding and gratifying work I can imagine.
One thing I have learned, however, is that all the best quality Neurofeedback training in the world cannot put a nutrient there that is not there and cannot override some toxic or offending substance that doesn’t belong. The brain and the body need certain raw materials in order to function. I have consistently found that where there is an issue with poor quality of diet that Neurofeedback is nowhere near as effective or lasting in effect. As time goes on, new research emerges in the field of nutritional science and my understanding of the workings of functional processes deepens, the more important and prominent a role diet and nutrition plays in my approach to addressing the health and well being of my clients. Today I fervently believe that at least 70% (or more) of all mental and physical ills can be prevented or reversed with appropriate diet and nutrients. Neurofeedback is the powerful synergist that resets the timing mechanisms and phase relationships in the brain so that flexibility of functioning is restored and the nervous system’s stress-threshold is considerably raised. With healthy dietary practices in place, I expect my clients to go on to lead happy and fulfilled lives, no longer in need of my services. I am happy to report that the feedback I get from many of them years later remains positive and inspiring. I LOVE the work I do.
I did finally discover a nutritional certification program that I was able to trust to provide me with a basic, scientifically sound,physiologically-based education, training and credentialing, as well as an underlying foundation that drew from the work of many great nutritional pioneers…among them, Weston A. Price, Royal Lee, and Francis Pottenger. I knew I’d be in good company here. The Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA) teaches sound, foundational, principle based nutritional coursework, in addition to functionally-based techniques that can be used to assess nutritional status and progress on an individual basis. Caveat: The basic NTA coursework is extremely rudimentary in nature and admittedly lacks the sort of minutiae that adds to a more sophisticated knowledge of physiological systems. That said, the Nutritional Therapy certification beneficially allows one to move to far more advanced levels through access to healthcare practitioner-level continuing education elsewhere. The NTA program can be a useful foundational stepping stone to higher learning, in this regard, and can be your first step into a much clearer and more exciting grasp of the sophisticated machine we all inhabit and how the way we eat influences us. (If you decide to enroll in the NTA program, please let me know and also tell the NTA that “Nora sent me!”)
This brings me to today… and to a book that I have written that was more than 10 years in the making. It is the culmination of more than 25 years of dedicated personal research and understanding that was uncontaminated by the varied agendas of educational, economic or political institutions. From the beginning I have sought the truth. I intentionally avoided conventional interpretations of that truth, as I am inherently mistrustful of the “agendas” of conventional paradigms. By seeking out the least “mainstream” sources of quality, science-based information I was able to think outside the confusing and economically-driven mainstream box. I have sought to understand the most foundational principles and aspects of what makes us all function…and dysfunction. My understanding of diet and nutrition stems from a solid insight into the fundamental workings of human physiology (something mainstream medicine has forgotten…or forsaken) and our evolutionary history. I believe that real restoration of health can come ONLY with a restoration of a healthy foundation…and that prevention (as opposed to passive dependency on available treatments) is key to our long term survival and longevity. I believe in self-empowerment of individuals and I believe that total health is our Primal birthright.
It’s why I do what I do and what has brought me here. It is an honor for me to share all of this incredibly important, life transforming information with you.
To your total health and well being,
Nora T. Gedgaudas, CNS, NTP, BCHN