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.
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.
Dr. Terry Wahls is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. In 2018 she was awarded the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Linus Pauling Award for her contributions in research, clinical care and patient advocacy. In addition, Dr. Wahls has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for her brain and now pedals her bike to work each day.
She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles (paperback), and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. Learn more about the current study Efficacy of Diet on Quality of Life in Multiple Sclerosis. Pick up a one-page handout for the Wahls™ Diet. Follow her on Instagram @drterrywahls, and on Facebook/Twitter at @TerryWahls. Sign up to receive her weekly research updates.