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Top 5 Mistakes Paleo Eaters Make

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January 17, 2015

The Paleo diet movement continues to grow. I find more and more of my patients have heard about it, and some have begun shifting their diets toward Paleo eating. This is great news, but there are some dangers in these transitions. Here are the five most common mistakes people make when they transition to a Paleo diet that prevent them from enjoying the full health benefits of this way of eating.

1. They swap out 6 to 10 servings of gluten-containing grain products for 6 to 10 servings of gluten-free products.

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Not eating gluten is a good development, but many gluten-free products are loaded with sugar and white flour, which is damaging to your cells and health. They also can be very expensive! If you consume gluten-free products, limit yourself to a maximum of one small serving per day.

2. They don't eat enough vegetables.

The phytonutrients in plants provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and speak to our DNA, promoting good genes and silencing bad ones. Vegetables are good for us, reducing the risk of cancers, heart disease, and mental health problems, and everybody should be eating 6 to 9 cups of fruits and vegetables per day.

3. They are eating too much meat.

Traditional societies that ate only meat were also eating a lot of fermented and raw meat — not the factory-farmed meat that's loaded with growth-promoting chemicals and antibiotics. Limit your meat consumption, which should be about 6 to 12 ounces a day.

4. They don't eat organ meat.

Liver is a superfood, packed with vitamins, minerals, and essential fats. Organ meats were prized in traditional societies and would have accounted for about a third of all the protein consumed.

5. They are not eating seaweeds.

Traditional societies traveled great distances or traded to get access to seaweed, which contains iodine, selenium, and other trace minerals that are essential for health. Including them in the diet improves immune function and hormone balance.

I'm one of the few physician scientists studying the efficacy of Paleo diets to treat disease. I conducted a clinical trial, testing how the Wahls diet (which is a modified Paleo diet), along with exercise and meditation, reduced fatigue in those with secondary and primary progressive multiple sclerosis. We observed the largest reduction in multiple sclerosis — related fatigue that has been reported to date.

Diet and lifestyle account for 75% to 90% of the risk for developing illnesses like high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, dementia (including Alzheimer's), autoimmune problems, and cancers. The food we eat is one of the most powerful environmental factors that determine our health.

To learn about how you can use food to restore your health and vitality, take the Food Fundamentals course. In it, I outline how the epidemic of chronic disease developed over the centuries, the role food choices play in health of our cells, the role of toxins in chronic disease, including dementia, and how to design an eating plan to help you feel, look, and think better.

Learn more about my work at my website and from my new book, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles.

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Terry Wahls, M.D.
Terry Wahls, M.D.

Terry Wahls, M.D. is a professor of medicine at the University of Iowa, where she conducts clinical research on the use of diet and lifestyle to treat brain-related problems. She has also worked at the V.A. for many years in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic and was the Director of the Therapeutic Lifestyle Clinic. In both clinics, she focused on using diet and lifestyle to treat traumatic brain injury and neurological and neurodegenerative disorders.

She received her master's in medicine from The University of Iowa, as well as her master's in business administration from the University of St. Thomas.

Wahls has progressive MS. For seven years, she declined steadily, and though she took the newest drugs, including very potent biologic drugs, she ended up in a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. When she started studying the latest brain science and designed a diet and lifestyle program specifically to support her brain cells, her decline slowed, then stopped, then she recovered. Now, she bikes five miles to work. She uses these principles to help others with a wide variety of brain-related symptoms end their decline and suffering, and restore their lives.

She has authored The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles, as well as its companion cookbook, The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life. Terry also holds her Wahls Protocol® Seminar every August.

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