Ruh-roh. (Photo Credit: We Love Costa Rica)
Following our Paleolithic ancestors, our Neolithic ancestors lost an average of six inches in height. Most people now have those last 5-10 pounds that seem impossible lose. The causes for both, surprisingly, may be the same.
Robb Wolf can explain. Robb, a former research biochemist, has functioned as a review editor for the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism and is co-owner of NorCal Strength & Conditioning, one of the Men’s Health “top 30 gyms in America.” He’s also a former California State Powerlifting Champion with a competition 565 lb. squat, 345 lb. bench, 565 lb. deadlift…
I have known of Robb for several years, but I only met him through a friend a week ago. Several weeks earlier, that same friend had sent me a copy of Robb’s book, The Paleo Solution, which I ended up devouring in a few sittings. The chapters on digestion and improving digestion were particularly fascinating to me, and, for that reason, this post is a book excerpt. It details a particular problem and specific solutions. Enjoy.
Enter Robb Wolf.
A Common Problem
Below I describe several people who at first glance appear different, but in fact they all share a common problem. They had significant health issues with no apparent cause or solution and assumed they had no treatment options, as their doctors were stumped and could offer few solutions.
For you, this chapter may represent the “missing link” in your quest for improved performance and health.
Alex, Age Five
I first learned of Alex from my friend Kelly. She related a story of a little boy who was very sick, underweight, and suffering from constant digestive problems. If you like kids and other small, scurrying critters, Alex’s features and symptoms were literally heartbreaking. He had painfully skinny arms and legs, attached seemingly at random to a torso dominated by a prominently distended belly. At night Alex thrashed and turned in his bed, wracked by diffuse pain in his arms, legs and, especially, his belly. Alex had severe lethargy and a “failure to thrive.” His doctors ran extensive tests but found nothing conclusive. They recommended a bland diet of toast, rice puddings, and yogurt, but with no benefit to the little guy.
Kelly contacted me on behalf of the family and asked if I had any ideas that might help Alex. I made a few specific recommendations, which the parents enacted immediately. Within ten days, Alex’s perpetually distended belly was flat and normal. He gained six pounds in a little over two weeks and was noticeably more muscular in the arms and legs. His sleep shifted from the thrashing, restless bouts that left him listless and tired, to the sleep all kids should have: restful, unbroken, and filled with dreams. Alex’s energy improved to such a degree that the other kids and parents could hardly imagine he was the same kid. He was healthy and happy, all because of a simple adjustment he and his family made to his eating.
Sally, Age Sixty-One
Sally was referred to us by her family physician. Sally’s doctor had worked with her on a variety of issues: low thyroid, osteoporosis, gall bladder problems, depression, and high blood pressure. It was an impressive and ever-growing list of ailments that both Sally and her doctor attributed to “normal” aging. Her doc was pretty forward thinking, however, in that she recommended that Sally perform “weight bearing exercise” to help slow the progression of the osteoporosis and muscle wasting that been accelerating in the past four to five years.
When this recommendation brought Sally to us, she was a bit reluctant to get started with a strength-training program and was very reluctant to modify or change her nutrition. We were gentle but persistent.
Our recommendations focused on specific changes to her nutrition and lifestyle. Within two months Sally was off her thyroid medications, her gall bladder issues were gone, she was four pants sizes smaller, while her symptoms of depression had disappeared. After six months of training with us and following our nutrition recommendations, it was discovered that she was no longer osteoporotic.
Of all the improvements, Sally’s doctor was most impressed with the increased bone density. She asked Sally what she had modified to affect this change. When Sally told her doctor how she had changed her nutrition, her doctor pondered things for a moment, then said, “Well, it must be something else! Food can’t do all that.”
Jorge, Age Forty
Jorge started working with us primarily to lose weight. At five feet nine inches and 325 pounds, Jorge was heading down a path of significant illness stemming from type 2 diabetes and obesity. Compounding Jorge’s situation was a condition neither he nor his doctors could figure out. Nearly every time Jorge ate, he would break out in a rash and his tongue would swell. Like really swell. Jorge had to keep an epi-pen on his person at all times, similar to someone who has a severe allergy to bee stings or peanuts.
Jorge is a practicing attorney and several times a week he would dash out of the courtroom on a mad trip to the emergency room, where he would receive antihistamines to bring his tongue swelling under control. His doctors were (again) stumped. His blood work did not show a specific allergy, nor did he appear to have a full-blown autoimmune disease. Certain immune cells were obviously overactive, but in an atypical fashion that left the allergists and rheumatologists scratching their heads.
We recommended a nutritional change for Jorge, which he fought tooth and nail. God has never made a person more appropriate to be an argumentative lawyer! Part begging, part threatening, we finally won Jorge over and told him, “Just do this for a month. If it does not work, what have you lost? If it does work, what will you have gained?”
Jorge gave things a shot and his tongue swelling disappeared. Now a year later, Jorge is down to 255 pounds and making headway toward his goal of a lean, strong 225 pounds. Thankfully, Jorge now argues for us instead of against us! Not to beat up on the physicians too much, but when Jorge told his docs what he changed, they too did not believe the cause and effect staring them straight in the face.
So, What Did We Do?
It will come as a surprise for most people that the underlying cause of all the issues described above, in these very different people, was the same thing—a common component in nearly everyone’s diet. Gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye oats, and barley. Other grains such as corn and rice have similar, but less problematic proteins (we will talk about that later).
OK, calm down, I get it. Bread, pasta, and cookies are yummy. They are also likely killing you. The other sections of this book I’m willing to give you a “pass” on understanding the technical points. Most people kinda get the insulin/high-carb issue. People are slowly realizing there are “good fats.” So, I’ll not hold you responsible for that material. However, I insist you read this grain issue, ponder it, and then do what I recommend.
We are going to learn the whole story about gluten, grains, and their roles in disease. I’ll then give you quantifiable measures for determining how much healthier you are without them. Then it’s all up to you. If you want to be healthy, you will find some level of compliance that works for you.
We have all seen pictures or videos of smokers dying from lung cancer yet still smoking through tracheotomy holes in their throats. Amazing, right? How can people do that? Well, gluten consumption is on par with a pack-a-day smoking habit.
Like most things, we need to start at the beginning.
When I say “grain,” I am talking about one of many domesticated grasses in the gramineae family. This includes staples such as wheat, rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, and sorghum. These plants are derivatives or descendants from wild grasses that have been managed and bred for 2,000–5,000 years. All grains have the following anatomy:
The bran is the outer covering of a whole, unprocessed grain. It contains vitamins, minerals, and a host of proteins and antinutrients designed to prevent the predation, or eating, of the grain. When you see brown rice, the bran is the flakey outer covering of the rice.
The endosperm is mainly starch with a bit of protein. This is the energy supply of a growing grain embryo. When you see white rice, this is the endosperm with bran and germ removed.
The germ is the actual reproductive portion of the grain. This is where the embryo resides.
In the wild, the cereal grain is distributed by the wind, and when conditions are right, the germ (embryo) begins the process of growth using the endosperm for energy. It may come as a surprise, but plants are not benign, altruistic organisms just waiting to send their next generation of young into our mouths in the form of sushi rice or French bread. Grains, like all critters on this planet, face the challenge of surviving long enough to reproduce. This is particularly problematic for grains in that their most nutrient-dense portion (the part we eat) happens to be the reproductive structure.
Sidebar: Oats, Quinoa, and False Friends
Hey Robb, I appreciate your concern, but my dietician told me Oats are gluten-free, so no need to worry about my morning bowl of oatmeal? Yep, I love oatmeal too, but it contains similar proteins to gluten. Cereal grains tend to have proteins that are high in the amino acid proline. These prolamines (proline rich proteins) are tough to digest, and thus remain intact despite the best efforts of the digestive process to break them down. The result is gut irritation, increased systemic inflammation, and the potential for autoimmune disease.
Corn has a similar prolamine called zein. Now you can heed or disregard this information as you please, but grains are a significant problem for most people. Upon removal of these grains, you will notice that you feel better. With reintroduction of grains…well, you feel worse. Keep in mind this inflammation is also a factor in losing weight and looking good, so don’t dismiss this if your primary goal is a tight tush. What I’m asking you to do is take 30 days and eat more fruits and veggies instead of the grains. See how you do. Not so hard, right? And just to head you off at the pass, let’s tackle two other grain related topics: “Whole grains” and Quinoa.
When we factor in their anti-nutrient properties, and potential to wreck havoc on our GI tract, grains are not a sound decision for health or longevity. For the purposes of our discussion, consider dairy and legumes in the same category.
[Note from Tim: Many of you know that I consume some legumes and beans. Normal cooking will reduce anti-nutrients in both, but, when possible, I also soak them overnight beforehand in water with a tablespoon of baking soda. Soaking for 24 hours at room temperature has been shown to remove 66% of the trypsin (protease) inhibitor activity in mung bean, 93% in lentil (this is what I eat most often), 59% in chickpea, and 100% in broad bean. Remember also to distinguish “in vitro” (e.g. red blood cells in a petri dish) vs. “in vivo” (e.g. after normal digestion) studies.]
Quinoa pops up frequently and the refrain goes like this, “Robb! Have you tried this stuff Quinoa (the pronunciation varies depending on how big a hippy you are). It’s NOT a grain! It’s fine, right?”
Well, you’ve likely heard the expression, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…” Quinoa is botanically not a grain, but because it has evolved in a similar biological niche, Quinoa has similar properties to grains, including chemical defense systems that irritate the gut. In the case of Quinoa, it contains soap-like molecules called saponins. Unlike gluten, which attaches to a carrier molecule in the intestines, saponins simply punch holes in the membranes of the microvilli cells. Yes, that’s bad. Saponins are so irritating to the immune system that they are used in vaccine research to help the body mount a powerful immune response. The bottom line is if you think grains or grain-like items like Quinoa are healthy or benign, you are not considering the full picture.
One for Me and One for You
Some plants, like blueberries or similar fruits, have evolved a strategy of “give a little to get a little.” Critters (us included) eat these fruits, then pass the seeds in a convenient, warm fertilized package that all but guarantees the next generation. Sewage systems aside, this is a reasonable trade off. The critter that eats the blueberries gets a little nutrition in exchange for spreading the blueberry seeds for subsequent generations of blueberries.
Other plants take a different approach and try to dissuade all predation by shrouding themselves in nasty substances that are either irritants or outright poisons. Consider poison oak or poison ivy. These plants have developed chemical warfare capabilities and use oils that have a tendency to work their way through the skin of animals that come in contact with the leaves. This oil sets off an alarm that irritates the immune system. Lymphocytes and other white blood cells attack the oil and in the process release pro-inflammatory chemicals that lead to a rash. Keep this idea in mind as we talk about grains, as it will help you to wrap your mind around what is happening when we eat this “staple” food.
If we compare grains to the strategies listed above, “give a little, get a little,” like the blueberry, or “bugger off,” like the poison oak, we see that grains are much more like poison oak. If a critter eats a grain, that’s it for the grain. That does not mean that the grain goes down without a fight! Grains are remarkably well equipped for chemical warfare.
Grains contain a variety of proteins, some of which are called lectins (not to be confused with the hormone leptin). In simple terms, lectins stick to specific molecules and thus play “recognition” roles in biological systems.
For our purposes, we will look at wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which is one of the nastier lectins, but also one of the better studied. Keep in mind, WGA (or similar molecules) are found in all grains, but it’s my opinion (and that of many other researchers) that wheat, rye, and barley, which are the gluten-containing grains, are likely the worst of the bunch with regard to health. Millet is similar to oats, in that it contains a protein only a few amino acids different from gliadin (the main problem in gluten), and it is therefore problematic for digestion. Be careful with “gluten-free” snack foods that seem too good to be true, millet-based or otherwise. Corn and rice can also be problematic, but they are safer if consumed infrequently (we will look at this later). WGA and similar lectins are problematic for several reasons:
- Lectins are not broken down in the normal digestive process. This leaves large, intact proteins in the gut. If you recall, most proteins are broken down in the digestive process, but the structure of some grain proteins makes them very difficult to digest (for the geeks: these proteins are high in the amino acid proline). Grains also contain protease inhibitors (dairy and some other foods also contain these), which further block the digestion of dangerous lectins. This lack of adequate protein digestion leads to serious problems, as you will see.
The lectins attach to receptors in the intestinal lumen and are transported intact through the intestinal lining. Remember how amino acids and sugars are transported out of the intestines during digestion? Certain lectins “fool” transport molecules in an effort to gain entry into our bodies intact.
These large, intact protein molecules are easily mistaken by the body as foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, or parasites. It’s perhaps unpleasant to think about, but the intestines are not the nicest place to hang out. This area is a major source of infection by bacteria and viruses, and the immune system lies primed, waiting to pounce on any invading pathogen. Not only does WGA enter the system intact, it damages the intestinal lining, allowing other proteins to enter the system. Why is this a problem? Our immune system mounts an attack on these foreign proteins and makes antibodies against them. These antibodies are very specific to the shapes of these foreign proteins. Unfortunately, these proteins also tend to look like proteins in our body.
Brother from a Different Mother—Molecular Mimicry
Proteins are made of molecules called amino acids (AA). Let’s imagine for a minute these amino acids are represented by Legos, with different shapes and colors denoting different amino acids. Imagine a string of Legos with a specific sequence; let’s say its five to ten Legos long. Now imagine another, identical set of Legos attached on top of many more Legos. The top five to ten of the long piece is identical to the short piece.
Let’s assume the short piece is WGA and the long piece is a protein in the beta cells of your pancreas where insulin is made. If the WGA is attacked by the immune system and an antibody is made against it (because the body thinks WGA is a bacteria or virus), that antibody will not only attach to WGA, it can also attach to the protein in your pancreas. When that WGA antibody attaches to your pancreas, it precipitates a wholesale immune response—attacking that tissue. Your pancreas is damaged, or destroyed, and you become type 1 diabetic. If that protein happened to be in the myelin sheath of your brain, you would develop multiple sclerosis.
Most people are familiar with a condition called celiac, which is an autoimmune disease caused by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and millet. It is clearly understood that celiac is an autoimmune disease caused by lectins. It is also clear that other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s, multiple sclerosis, and a host of other autoimmune conditions occur at much higher rates in celiac patients. However, this association, for whatever reason, was largely dismissed as an anomaly until researchers recently made the connection between the development of celiac and other autoimmune diseases.
We now understood that WGA and other lectins have a significant effect on the enzyme transglutaminase (TG). Transglutaminase is an enzyme that modifies every protein we make in our body. How many proteins does TG modify folks? That’s right, all of them. Heart, brain, kidney, reproductive organs—all of them. So, if lectins can cause problems with TG, and if TG modifies every protein in our body, how many things can lectins cause problems with? I hope this is obvious—lectins can and do affect every organ system. Reproductive issues, vitiligo (a skin condition where the individual loses pigmentation in the skin) Huntington’s, narcolepsy—we have found literally hundreds of conditions in which lectins appear to be the causative factor. Not only do we have science to support this, we have observed clinical resolution of these conditions upon the removal of grains, legumes, and dairy. I hate to do this to you, but we have to go back into the intestines.
Really? Digestion? Again?
When food is emptied from the stomach into the small intestines, it is mixed with bile salts that are produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Remember, bile salts are much like soap and are critical for our digestion and absorption of fats. In addition to bile from the gall bladder, the pancreas releases digestive enzymes that are critical to digestion. And lest you forget, much of the digestive process happens at the tiny structures in our intestines—the villi and microvilli. Now let’s see how lectins interact with the intestinal lining to produce autoimmunity.
Lectins such as WGA bind to a receptor in the microvilli, allowing WGA to be transported into the body. This is the mechanism of the autoimmune cascade I described above. If the gut wall (microvilli) becomes damaged, the entire contents of the intestines can now make its way into your system. Yes, that’s as bad as it sounds. You are not only in a position to create antibodies against WGA, which leads to autoimmunity, but you now have the potential to develop multiple allergies due to a permeable gut lining and inadequately digested food. This is how you can develop allergies to chicken, beef, apples, or other normally benign foods.
Additionally, if your gut is damaged, you expose yourself to a host of chemicals that would normally remain in the intestines. This can lead to conditions such as multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, which is regarded more as a psychiatric problem than legitimate medical condition.
Let me be crystal clear about this: Anything that damages the gut lining (including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, as well as alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy) can predispose one to autoimmunity, multiple chemical sensitivities, and allergies to otherwise benign foods.
As my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach says, “This no opinion is, this fact is.”
“If the gut wall (microvilli) becomes damaged, the entire contents of the intestines can now make its way into your system.” [Note from Tim: this is where the “feces in the bloodstream” post title comes from]
Full of Bile
While this digestive disaster is taking place, there are several other problems brewing. As you recall, the function of the gall bladder is to release bile salts into a meal as it is emptied into the duodenum from the stomach. When the intestinal wall is damaged, the chemical messenger, cholecystokinin (CCK), is not released. CCK usually sends the “on” switch to the gall bladder and the secretion of pancreatic digestive enzymes. When this signal is blocked, we do not properly digest our foods, particularly fat and protein. The lack of bile release allows cholesterol crystals to form in the gall bladder, which leads to gall stones. The standard medical practice of removing the gall bladder is effectively killing the “canary in the coal mine.” Gall stones are a symptom of a problem, an alarm. Instead of treating the cause (remove grains) we cut out the gall bladder. People who have had gall bladder removal are almost certainly undiagnosed celiacs and likely have a number of other progressive diseases. In my experience, these individuals are plagued with digestive problems, culminating in dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.
The disruption of CCK and related hormones (PYY, adiponectin) in the signaling cascade of digestion is a really big deal. Not only is the digestive process severely damaged, much of our satiety signaling is taken offline as well. We cannot properly digest our food, we are always “hungry,” and the very food we crave, refined grains and sugary junk, happens to be the cause of the problem.
It Gets Better
Another piece of the chemical defense system used against us by grains is a group of enzymes called protease inhibitors. Protease inhibitors prevent the breakdown of proteins. This means that when you consume grains you do not effectively digest the protein in your meal. Protease inhibitors also stymie the digestion of lectins such as WGA, making these already difficult-to-digest items virtually indestructible. This leaves more large proteins in the intestinal contents, which increases our likelihood of developing autoimmunity, allergies, or chemical sensitivities.
If you do not have a bellyache thinking about grains by now, let’s look at one more player: antinutrients such as phytates. Phytates are important for seeds and grains because they tightly bind to metal ions (like magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and copper), which are crucial for the growth and development of the grain. If the metal ions are not tightly bound by the phytates, the process of germination can happen prematurely and this can spell disaster for the grain.
When we consume grains, the phytates are still active and powerfully bind to calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. This means the calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron are unavailable for absorption. Because of the action of antinutrients such as phytates combined with the gut damaging characteristics of lectins and protease inhibitors, our Neolithic ancestors lost an average of six inches in height vs. our Paleolithic ancestors due to the Neolithic diet of grains and legumes. Are you concerned about osteoporosis or iron deficiency anemia? Do you suffer from fatigue or heart problems that might be caused by magnesium deficiency? Have you diligently consumed a “smart” diet of whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy as per the recommendations of your dietician and doctor? Do you see how ridiculous that suggestion is in light of what you now know about grains, legumes, and dairy?
Thank You Sir, May I Have Another!
Here is a recap of how grains cause malabsorption issues and how that affects our health and well-being:
- Damage to the gut lining. If the gut is damaged, you do not absorb nutrients. We need healthy villi and microvilli to absorb our nutrients, be they protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, or minerals.
Damage to the gall bladder and bile production. If you do not absorb fats and fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, K, and other nutrients, you will have problems utilizing any minerals you do absorb, to say nothing of the nutrient deficiencies from inadequate essential fats.
Phytates tightly bind to metal ions and make them unavailable for absorption. Analytical chemists actually use purified phytates in experiments where it is necessary to quantify the amounts of metal ions like calcium, zinc, or iron in a sample because the phytates bind to these metals tighter than just about any other molecule. The same thing happens when you eat phytates, and this is not a good thing for bone health or iron status.
Open door for autoimmunity and cancer. Once the gut lining is damaged, we are at exceptionally high risk of autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and several types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The pancreas is assailed by grain-induced inflammation due to CCK problems and elevated insulin levels. This inflammation is a potential cause of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Why does all this happen? Because grains are pissed that you want to eat them and they are willing, and able, to fight back.
Here is a short list of the problems associated with leaky gut and the autoimmune response:
• Type 1 diabetes
• Multiple sclerosis
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
But I’m Not Sick
Some of you, however, may think you have no issues here. You have eaten grains, legumes, and dairy your whole life and are “fine.” Well, maybe. But I suspect that is not the case. I’ll bet that if you completely remove these Neolithic foods from your diet for one month, you will notice a dramatic improvement in how you feel and perform. Why? Because if you are consuming these foods, I’ll wager you have gut irritation and other systemic inflammation issues.
A recent study looking at children with type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune condition) found that a significant number of them had overt gut pathology, i.e., celiac. Some had a positive antibody test for celiac, but a number of kids were negative on both the WGA antibody test (a common blood test for celiac) and on an intestinal biopsy. So doctors would think there was no gluten influence in their condition. Interestingly, however, nearly all the kids showed antibodies in the deep tissues of the microvilli to . . . transglutaminase.
The study authors suspected most of the kids would at some point develop what is commonly described as celiac. What this tells us is gut damage can be fairly benign (few symptoms) but still lead to autoimmunity. Once initiated, autoimmunity can and does progress to other problems. Your doctor or dietician will likely dismiss this information, especially if you are “negative” for any of the standard blood work or lab tests for celiac. They are foolish in this regard, but hey, it’s only your health.
Trust your medical professionals, they always know best. Or, try a simple experiment: Follow a Paleo diet, and assess how you feel and perform. I know, I can hear the MDs now, that it’s “just anecdotal.” If you are going to save your ass you are not likely to get much support in this matter unless you have a forward-thinking and aggressive primary physician.
What is the ultimate gold standard in all this? How do you know for sure you do or do not have an issue with these foods? The answer seems obvious: remove the potentially offending foods! Reintroduce them after thirty to sixty days. See what happens. Now there is a caveat to this. You only need to be exposed to things like gluten once every ten to fifteen days to keep the gut damaged. This can bedevil people as they “cut back on gluten” but do not notice an improvement in their overall health. I’m sorry but there is not a pink “participant” ribbon given out for doing this “almost correctly.” You need to be 100 percent compliant for thirty days, then see how you do with reintroduction.
Now, I’ll be honest, the reintroduction is for you, not me. If I did a phone consult with you, I’d ask, “How did you do when you had that piece of bread?” I know exactly how you did—I’ve seen this scenario thousands of times, but you are the one who needs convincing. When you reintroduce gluten you will not feel good. Sorry kiddo, it’s just the way it works. Now it’s up to you to decide if health and a long life are worth forgoing some of these foods more often than not.
Does all this seem hard to believe? Well, remember how I described the effects of poison oak on your skin? It’s a similar deal here with gut irritation and lectin exposure. If you want to get the full power of this program, you need to actually give it a shot. Worst-case scenario: You spend a month without some foods you like. Best-case scenario: You discover you are able to live healthier and better than you ever thought possible.
But I Like Bread and Pasta!
Yes, I like that stuff too, but they make me sick. I suspect it makes you sick, as well. Not only do grains make you sick by raising insulin levels, messing up your fatty acid ratios (n-3/n-6), and irritating your gut, but they are also addictive. Grains, particularly the gluten-containing grains, contain molecules that fit into the opiate receptors in our brain. You know, the same receptors that work with heroin, morphine, and Vicodin? Most people can take or leave stuff like corn tortillas and rice. Suggest that people should perhaps forgo bread and pasta for their health and they will bury a butter knife in your forehead before you can say “whole wheat!” Sorry folks, I don’t make these rules, I just have the lovely task of educating you about them.
Why I had to focus on gluten-free living, exercise, and trying to get you healthy, I will never know. I should have just peddled hookers, cocaine, and pastries! So much easier.
Instead, here’s a one week food plan. There are hundreds of great options, but this is a simple menu to get you started:
BREAKFAST: 2–4 poached eggs, almonds, small piece fruit or berries
LUNCH: Chicken fajita salad
SNACK: 2 oz chicken, apple, few avocado slices
DINNER: Grilled salmon, roasted green beans, side salad
BREAKFAST: Leftover salmon, walnuts
LUNCH: Lettuce, tomato, onion, and condiments of your choice over 1–2 burger patties, orange, almonds
SNACK: Jerky, macadamia nuts
DINNER: Rotisserie chicken, steamed broccoli, side salad
BREAKFAST: Leftover chicken w/salsa, ½ avocado
LUNCH: Tuna and cabbage salad
SNACK: Remainder of tuna and cabbage salad
DINNER: Crock-Pot pork loin, tomato sauce, zucchini, chopped cauliflower, basil. Make a large portion, leftovers will be used for several meals!
BREAKFAST: Slice of ham, 2–3 scrambled eggs, fruit
LUNCH: Leftover pork loin
SNACK: 2 hard-boiled eggs, almonds
DINNER: Stir-fry beef salad. Serve over bed of greens with balsamic vinegar
BREAKFAST: Sausage stir-fry breakfast
LUNCH: Easy ceviche
SNACK: 2 oz chicken, apple
DINNER: Spaghetti squash (Note from Tim: this is delicious) or kelp-noodle spaghetti: cook either choice with marinara sauce, ground meat, olive oil
BREAKFAST: Chicken apple hash
LUNCH: 5–6 oz deli turkey, ½ lb steamed broccoli, drizzle with olive oil
SNACK: 2–3 oz turkey, carrot sticks, almonds
DINNER: Indian-style coleslaw, leftover pork loin, side salad with olive oil
BREAKFAST: Western omelet, sweet potato hash
LUNCH: Lamb patties, tomato, lettuce, strawberries
SNACK: Turkey, avocado
DINNER: Halibut, roasted asparagus, berries with balsamic vinegar
For full 30-day meal plans, recipes, and more, this is the resource.
Afterword: Holy religious war, Batman! Hundreds of strong comments below, including a few very smart contributions from MDs, nurses, etc.. Robb has also answered some of the most common questions in the comments.
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1,401 Replies to “How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)”
There are studies ongoing and testing clinical effect of Paleo diet. Hopefully they’ll deliver and give sound clinical evidence to support the diet in the long term. Then we dietitians could recommend Paleo open-heartedly. Personally, I’m a bit concerned about the recent data showing that increased protein intake is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially with congruent restriction on carbs. Without going into details, other issues lurk around corner as well.
Neglected but quite important benefit of Paleo diet: it’s one of the best solutions to restrict salt intake effectively. High intake of salt is a vast problem. Thanks, for interesting post!
With respect to you Tim, I think you need to find a different source of scientific method than Robb Woff. My points are to him, being you are outsourcing your information. When someone doesn’t understand simple pathology and proclaims alarmist views for profit, it isn’t only lacking of critical assessment, it it immoral.
Already Robb is committing the 4 common sins of fad diet and alarmist behavoir. I think you will find in a few years you will look back on this fad you are propagating and face palm.
#1 – Rare people have a disease, so we all must have it.
#2 – Having to work hard means something must be wrong.
#3 – If we don’t know enough about it, it must be bad.
#4 – Cherry picking data leads to lots of groovy and scary articles.
If you really look at the breakdown of these particular amino acids in our digestive system you will find that the majority of people have no problem – at all – digesting these substances. Since there are too many areas to attack here, I will stick to the raid on gluten.
You Can Catch A Genetic Disease?
The ability to not properly digest gluten (actually it’s a protein called gliadin) is due to a lack of genetic based enzyme activity. The average person has the ability and the enzymes to break down this activity. Research shows this particular enzyme set does not show to decrease or slow with age.
The disease – if you have it – can progress with age.
With age comes the debilitation of your digestive system if suffering from this problem. This is something that has to take place for years. Think of it much like smoking. The first few years you smoke everyday, it doesn’t affect you much. 10 years later, you could have anything from asthma to cancer. A non-functioning enzyme system in your digestion will do that very thing. It will slowly work away at the fibers of your digestions and poor absorptions will take place. You get sick based on a “fed” malnutrition. It is even more rare that holes are formed and leaking takes place in the blood stream. If this happens , you get very, very ill. It isn’t “oh, I am bloated today or feel I have some joint pain.” It does not produce a rapid histamine-type reaction. Meaning, you don’t eat gluten and then feel sick. It doesn’t work that way. That is an allergy based reaction – two separate things.
It could take over a year to feel the effects from restoring your gut health based on gluten removal. It is not instant gratification. If you have an instant response you could be dealing with a wheat allergy or merely just overeating for your caloric needs. Eating an excess of daily calories leads to the following
-Increase in Thirst/Urination
So on, and so forth.
Since it is hard to overeat veggies and meat, the Paleo type solutions seems to make sense on paper and in application, but they fail in pathology and could led to more problems than they claim to solve.
Lastly, because a small genetic based population has a disease, does not mean you have it. Are you afraid of catching autism? What about down-syndrome? You can’t “catch” celiac disease. It can progress if it already is prone in your body though and it can progress with not taking care of yourself.
Just as we are finding out now, in the 80s/90s alarmist were wrong about animal fat. You will see the same research, time and again being brought forwards about grains.
It just occurred to me that the Paleo and Raw Food movements are two sides of the same coin, which just happen to hate each other.
Both claim to reflect the way we evolved to eat, both promise broad cure-alls, and neither lacks for heartwarming stories of miraculous recovery. But, at the end of the day, it’s really hard to tell how much of the benefit simply comes from cutting out junk food and specific allergens.
The idea that meat and animal products are bad for you is only the wishful thinking of Vegans.
There has never been a successful group of Vegan humans throughout history. It is basically a very untested dietary experiment that I will have no part. Especially given so many anecdotes of people’s health being destroyed by going vegan:
Hi Tim and Robb,
Indeed this posting created a Fire Storm of response.
We don’t always notice how often we are eating gluten laden wheat. You may have cereal for breakfast (wheat), a sandwich for lunch (wheat again) and pasta for dinner (wheat AGAIN!) and then gluten is hidden in many other foods as part of wheat fillers.
ORGANIC: As a closing point: purity of our food in terms of how it is grown and prepared I believe is extremely important. My family and I have eaten organic food for over ten years to support the planet and get purer food. Even when we were on social assistance (welfare) we ate organic which prompted me to help other people learn how to buy organic food inexpensively. If you don’t mind me mentioning people can learn how to buy organics inexpensively by visiting my site.
Best of health to all,
I don’t believe in eliminating pastas and grains. Eating in moderation (small quantities and less often) is the way I go. Otherwise you’ll be bored with the few options left. Pork and ham which you have in your diets are unhealthier than pastas and grains.
Is it true, that creatine speeds up metabolism at rest state and you lose your weight faster?
Just a quick note. I have been doing mostly Paleo 80/20 for about 6 months now. I dropped 10 lbs in the first week and 20 overall. I think cutting the sugar, salt and grains made the biggest impact. From my overall understanding, I don’t look at this as a low carb diet. We get plenty of carbs from fruits and vegetables. Now when I eat a large carb meal – Red Robin burger w steak fries (YUMMY!) – I crash HARD!
I have turned three people including my father onto this lifestyle and EVERYONE has lost weight and everyone has improved energy. I don’t consider this a fad, I consider this a choice. To each his own and good luck everyone!!!
Thank you for sharing your passion in genuinely wanting folks to be healthy. The education gained through your knowledge is invaluable. You give so much and expect little.
I just can’t buy this article. There are too many good sources that would argue against it. Dr Weil for one here..
I think his anti-inflamatory diet would be safer and tastier. Clearly we eat too many carbs, especially the over processed kind. But total elimination seems far too extreme to me and I think it would actually cause other health issues down the road.
I also get very tired of the anti-gluten crowd attempting to label all grains as evil and spreading fear which is sure to upset our stomachs if we think about it when we eat carbs. Not cool.
Do all the Paleo diets have meat / non-veg in them ? Can Robb or you please suggest an all veg diet? I would definitely like to try this as I am currently 220 lbs and want to go down to 180 lbs (height 5′ 11″ age 27).
I have slowly been lowering the amount of wheat I consume and I do feel better. I have made several gluten-free substitutions and most of the stuff tastes just as good as wheat filled food, once you get used to it.
I still drink beer which contains gluten, but lowering the amount of gluten filled foods has definitely made me feel better.
Hey Tim and Robb,
I respect your advice and will experiment with your suggestion.
However I can’t help but think of my years in Japan, where as you’ll know Tim people eat enormous amounts of rice, even for breakfast, and and aren’t exactly ripped but are generally thin and healthy. Given how bad rice is according to this post, are there any reasons for this that can satisfy my last doubts?
I have struggled with environmental allergies since my teenage years. I speculate that my most severe allergies (cats & certain tree pollens) are do to my heavy exposure during my childhood and then complete absence for a few years.
I can see how this diet might have similar results. Removing these “toxins” from the body completely for a long period would likely increase the negative reaction if you ever do eat them again. Basically, I dont want to make my life miserable if I ever decide to have a bowl of pasta or a beer again.
Any thoughts on this Tim or Robb?
Very good article
The Japanese diet is one of the healthiest on earth. I know this through living there for a year. Never felt better in my life. And I was the thinnest I’ve ever been, without dieting on purpose.
The Japanese also have one of the Longest Lifespans in the world, with much lower rates of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer than in the US.
Another thing you notice in Japan is how much younger everyone looks comparing to their age group in western countries.
Contrary to a popular belief – Rice is not the main food in Japan. The Traditional Japanese meal is based on fish, which is consumed at every meal (yes, breakfast too).
Beef and chicken are served in very small portions.
Dairy and bread ARE NOT part of the Traditional Japanese Diet!! They hardly eat any white flour. Japanese noodles are made from buckwheat flour.
And of course Soy beans are eaten in many forms – tofu, Miso soup, Tempeh and Natto . Soy products are a great source of protein.
One very interesting fact is that the Japanese don’t like sugary desserts.
The Japanese desserts have a very subtle sweet taste, which comes from sweet bean paste, mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts. These may sound a bit dull, but they actually taste great and are not just empty calories.
Many westerners (me included) lose a lot of weight living in Japan, making no effort at all.
Anyone else had this experience?
I’ve lived in Japan for four years and I’d like to disagree with a couple things you wrote. Rice is a HUGE part of their calorie intake here in Japan. That goes for everyone from elementary kids all the way to retired folk (from what I’ve seen, and I’ve been here four years). Also, while their lifespans are among the longest and the world and the rates of some forms of cancer are low here, stomach cancer is actually quite high in comparison with other countries.
On the other hand, the small portions, as you mentioned, are a big part of their success in longevitiy in my opinion. I don’t remember the exact wording but there is a proverb that goes something like “eat till your 80% full and you’ll live a long life”, and a lot of people follow that. They also eat a wide variety of things at every meal which covers a lot of bases nutritionally.
Sadly consumption of Western food is on the rise, leading to chubbier children. However, many of my foreign and Japanese male friends alike have rejoiced at the increase in bust and posterior size in the ladies. Always a silver lining, as they say.
I just read Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal by Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS and he says the exact same thing as Robb. So, I dropped gluten and most alcohol, dairy, and coffee as well for a week or so and dropped 10 pounds, my joint paints is 85% down, and even though I am in a seriously precarious financial position at the moment, the depression/anxiety I’ve dealt with for years is very minor. The “Leaky Gut Syndrome” is just plain established fact. Gluten looks exactly like thyroid, so our auto-immune system overreacts and attacks both. I challenge all you grain defenders to try his challenge. Drop for 30 and let him buy your blood tests. Be ready to publicly blog a “Robb Was Right, I Was Wrong” when it happens.
Also, regarding the finding of cereal grains that are 110,000 years old. Great, so, compared to our 3.5 million years of thriving without year-round carbs, and mostly on fat & meat, a few isolated peoples figured out barley. That means if our whole history was a day, we’ve been eating grains for about 45 minutes instead of 4 minutes. Still, not enough time to evolve to thrive on it. And…let’s not forget all the modern studies of hunter gatherers. For goodness sakes, read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Even Weill admits it has changed the game.
So, let’s say I grant the earlier date on grains, that means that 3,390,000 years we did just fine without them. And, in many places we did just fine with only fat & meat for a good part of the year, every year. Logic would dictate that a meat-centric diet without grains works for man or we simply would not be here, but we are year, therefore- QED
Tim, You may be able to get away with the cheat, but Dr. K claims it’s worse than Robb says and that one instance of gluten intake can cause a reaction lasting up to 6 months in people with a leaky gut. http://thyroidbook.com/
While I find your post interesting, I don’t agree with the part on soy.
Soy contains isoflavones, plant hormones that have been shown to have an estrogenic effect on the body (it mimics the actions of estrogen, which reduces test levels and inhibit muscular hypertrophy. (Nutrient Timing, 128)
While my drinking water already contains estrogen (from birth control pills), I’d like to refrain from getting extra amounts if possible.
This is a fairly short post about the affects soy poses on us..
An amazing article and certainly “food for thought”….. but it seems like such a big step. I am amazed at what we do to ourselves…
Thanks for all of the comments too; very informative.
What? I’m not going to give up my weekly portion of quinoa!
It ain’t gonna walk like a duck if you cut it’s feet off. Most quinoa sold commercially in North America has been processed to remove the saponin coating. Given that quinoa is such a potent source of gluten-free protein and nutrients I think that it’s reproofing should be reconsidered. Especially for paleo-vegetarians.
Even if it’s not pre-treated, the saponins on quinoa are essentially harmless to the GI tract. Studies show that these saponins are only really irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract, so unless you plan on snorting lines of quinoa, you should be fine.
Cold-blooded organisms, insects, and ruminants have a more difficult time digesting quinoa saponins, which would support the “One for me, one for you” argument.
Interestingly, quinoa saponins are going to be used as a safe alternative to traditional pesticides: http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/biopesticides/ingredients/tech_docs/brad_097094.pdf
The only real concern with quinoa is the high starch content.
Is that drawing of a grain supposed to look like a face?
Note to Jimmy (above)…
Ever heard of organic chicken, or free range with no anti-biotics or hormones?
Acidity is one thing often overlooked and eating lots of meat can make your pH levels plummet. However, like anything it is all about moderation. Eating red meat or chicken 3 times a week is plenty if you are getting a good dose of marine life.
On that note, sure salmon and tuna can contain mercury. Solution? Eat them up to 3 times per week and substitute the remaining days with small fish like sardines.
The Paleo diet makes PERFECT sense. With a son that has grown up on an Italian diet and shows all the symptoms of the first case study, Alex, I know what I will be doing today!
Here’s an interesting article about someone studying the paleolithic diet:
Great article (awesome title a SEO lesson in itself) and even better discussion. Some links to fuel up it (formatted to avoid WP spam blocking)
Regarding veganism/vegetaranism and enviromental issues:
It’s very common to hear that eating meat destroys the enviroment. Although industrialized meat production has a tremendous impact, traditional farming is quite the contrary. In Spain the Dehesas, and Cañadas both used for livestock are the most valuable enviromental areas, with a higher ecological value than any other farm field. The question would be, can we feed human population just only with this type of food? Maybe we are too many inhabitants, but that is another issue.
Regarding meat consumption. Why eating meat made us human or the Kleibers Law:
Regarding dairy. What are the real arguments agains fermented grass-feed dairy products? No clues whatsoever in the article. What do you think about butter (see link below)?
Finally, I find quite interesting the point mady by Sylwester regarding different genotypes/phenotypes among human populations. Not every populations would have the same tolerance to food (eg. lactose intolerance higher in some regions).
Regarding evolution, are we sure that the evolution in our specie is stopped? Not so sure about that: ‘The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated H…’ by Gregory Cochran, Henry Harp… http://amzn.to/cSKaIR. Quoting from one review:
“They initially retreat, however, to Gould’s 40,000-year benchmark to consider how H. sapiens replaced H. neanderthalensis and to argue for genetic mixing such that modern humans got from Neanderthals the innovative capacity for civilization. Later, agricultural life created problems necessitating adaptations, most importantly to disease and diet, that persist to this day among inheritors of the populations that made them.”
One thing is for sure, we, our nature and our enviroment are way too complex to get just one right answer. Everybody needs to research and test what works best for himself. In my case moderate carbs, moderate grains, moderate sugar.
Thanks for the great read! I’ll have to pick this up on Amazon. I would recommend you checkout “The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain but I assume you’ve already read it.
Looking forward to your new book.
I found this an interesting read. My background is in genetics and have done nutrition research for many years. What I have found is that there are no absolutes. And like any science, it is all theories. The only way to know if something works is to test it and test it again.
Note: genetically some people will do well on this diet for the reason mentioned. BUT, there are others who genetically are able to digest grains and others who are able to digest dairy, these has been recently discovered when doing genetic research, particularly around dairy. Also for some this will be easy to follow and incorporate into their life but not for others. My caution there is that from my experience people who stress about food and what they can and can’t eat are no better off due to the increased stress and anxiety. Stress shuts down digestion and has the potential to create inflammation which is counter-productive to the results they expect. We can not dismiss the mind-body connection here.
The effect of grains in the body last for about 7 days from ingestion and for dairy it is about 14 days. And with these foods a little is still some. For example you can’t have the light a little bit on, it’s either on or it’s off. So too with eating these foods you either do or you don’t. I found the inclusion of meat interesting because in the process of digesting meat, it creates lots of waste products which can have it’s own issues.
The quality of the food we eat is important too, fresh as we can get and the least processed is the preferred option. For each person, recognise your means and work within those, see nutrition as a journey for you to discover what works for you. All these books are guides and ideas for you to test and try.
Great to see you! A few questions for you:
-Is porphyria cutanea tarda a GENETIC disease or an autoimmune disease?
-Is Huntington’s a genetic disease or autoimmune?
-Is Multiple Sclerosis a genetic disease or autoimmune?
-is Celiac a genetic disease or autoimmune?
-Same for vitiligo, type 1 diabetes, and essentially every autoimmune condition known.
So Leigh, are these diseases genetic? As you jested above should people be “afraid of catching them?” Would you like to meet the family of the two women we have worked with who have reversed early onset Huntington’s, an otherwise fatal neurological disease? These women are now being followed by UCLA and UCSD. Would you like to explain to them how silly and quaint all this is? How about the folks who have reversed Porphria?
Leigh, this is a story of epigenetics plain and simple. Gene/environment interaction and in this case all of these diseases share antigens to the transglutaminase enzyme. Does it affect every person the same way? Absolutely not. Neither does getting a sunburn. Leigh…you are so off the track on this it’s like I need to re-teach you pathology to even begin to have a conversation. Alarmist? “Try it, see what happens.”
Leigh, occasionally, you almost do good work.
@Robb: Huntington disease is genetic. There’s no”predisposition. If you have the repeat expansion, you’re gonna get it.
Fantastic article, horrible title!
Things to consider:
1. The “average” age of people in centuries past is often based on the total estimated birth rate. A generally high infant/child mortality rate skews the results. If you take into account the life span of those people who survive to reproductive age, the numbers get better. Investigate on your own the research done on the life spans and mortality rates of nomadic peoples and peoples who live on subsistence farming without access to modern medicine.
2. While eating unprocessed dairy products might be more natural and contain more beneficial enzymes and nutrients, they can also be rife with disease. Things like bovine tuberculosis and other pathogens can be found in raw milk and raw milk products. Many people have little to no idea of the number pathogens that are transmissible to humans from animals and are unaware of the diseases that people have had to deal with until very recently in human history. This hold true even for animals raised in pristine, natural conditions.
3. The assumption that the digestive system of all humans are the same and are affected the same is debatable. Take the recent study on how Japanese people have bacteria that aids them in the digestion of seaweed. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/04/07/gut-bacteria-in-japanese-people-borrowed-sushi-digesting-genes-from-ocean-bacteria/
It may be that people with gluten sensitivity lack the correct bacteria to successfully process it, though this is pure speculation on my part.
If after reading this blog post people come away thinking “I need to eliminate all gluten from my life”, then I would say you missed a lot of information and I suggest reading Michal Pollan’s take on “nutritionism”. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/magazine/28nutritionism.t.html
I am so utterly utterly confused.
There is so much conflicting information on diet and health and what you can / can’t eat and at what time of day that I simply switch off and decide that it’s all to hard.
As far as I know I’m healthy and feel ‘good’ although how ‘good’ my good is compared with Robb’s I have no idea.
This post is a massive amount of content and I tried my best to understand it but by the 800~ word mark I gave up.
@ Tim & Robb: For this to have impact what’s the next action that doesn’t mean throwing out my entire pantry?
Just eat lots of veggies and lean protein and you’ll be good to go.
Tim, can we skip or cut way down on the Legumes ( breakfast only) to lose more weight faster? Will the slow carb diet still work?
(I’m at week 6 and not losing lbs fast enough for my taste)
Great article! I’m definitely going to try this out, but I have one question around tracking progress. When you say get your blood checked, what actual tests are you referring to? Are these the types of tests you must go to a doctor for or can you do them through someone like LabCorp?
Thanks in advance
Hey Robb and Tim,
Great stuff. I love the fact that despite the natural tendency to lean 100% Vegan or Vegetarian when first starting down a natural health path that there are other options as described here. Personally I went from a member of the SAD diet myself to 100% vegan to raw and now end up somewhere in the middle fluctuating as my body tells me what its looking for and i thought that was one of the best comments in the thread was instead of judging, try it for yourself and listen to your body. Of course this wont work 100% if your still sucking down 4 Pepsi’s and a box of ho-ho’s everyday, but you will definitely feel the difference.
Interested to your thought on if there is a French Paradox at all when it comes to grains(i.e.- breads) as well, in addition to wine.
Keep up the good work.
P.S.- on a side note Tim, the 4hww inspired me to start my gig a few years back and has been the best decision I ever made, so thanks for the push.
Thanks for the kind words, Mat! I’ll have some thoughts on the French Paradox soon. The short answer is different genetics. I don’t think it’s a paradox so much as genetic variance. More soon…
I do well on spelt and don’t do well on wheat. Is this anything to do with French use some kind of older grains that are not genetically modified?
But, it doesn’t apply to most people.
The reality is that each of our metabolism is unique.
I have been investigating eating and health for many years and have yet to find a one-size-fits-all regimen.
Find what works for you and stick to it as best you can.
Don’t forget drinking water, exercise and accepting your body as a body and not you.
is flax seed allowed in the paleo diet?
If you could revisit the comment Robb you would note I was speaking of only Celiac and your attack to gluten (though we could discuss the pathology of some of the other things you are discussing here).
I will quote myself – “Since there are too many areas to attack here, I will stick to the raid on gluten.” The following comments were made about that of Celiac Disease.
Celiac disease is an inherited disease. Linked to genetically transmitted histocompatibility cell antigens (HLA DR3-DQ2, DR5/7 DQ2, and DR4-DQ8) – others are still being discovered.
Look into some of these studies which touch on the issue of genetics, progression, and curative measures.
Immunogenetics. 2010 Jul 27. [Epub ahead of print]
Celiac disease: how complicated can it get?
Tjon JM, van Bergen J, Koning F.
Department of Immunohematology and Blood Transfusion, Leiden University Medical Center, E3-Q, PO Box 9600, 2300, RC Leiden, The Netherlands, email@example.com.
Gastroenterology. 2009 Dec;137(6):1912-33. Epub 2009 Sep 18.
Celiac disease: from pathogenesis to novel therapies.
Schuppan D, Junker Y, Barisani D.
Division of Gastroenterology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Notice this in the study
Celiac disease has become one of the best-understood HLA-linked disorders. Although it shares many immunologic features with inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease is uniquely characterized by (1) a defined trigger (gluten proteins from wheat and related cereals), (2) the necessary presence of HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8, and (3) the generation of circulating autoantibodies to the enzyme tissue transglutaminase (TG2).
Pay special attention to line #2.
This is just the tip to the iceberg that makes it very clear cut that HEALTHY and NORMAL digestive systems should/will have no problem with grain digestion. However, damaged systems are a different story, but again that is taking the problems of a small population and placing it on the world.
Now, can there be things that damage digestive systems other than having celiac disease? Yes, but the kicker is gluten is going to have little to nothing to do with it if you can breakdown the protein (which again most people can). General abuse to your digestive systems can cause all types of problems, but excess/quantity is going to be the bigger culprit versus grains.
And technically Robb, for conversation, celiac is generally classified as a genetic autoimmune disease. As to a few women being followed that land outside the norm, I think that proves one of my points right there. Also, they weren’t the point of my original comments anyway, nor was multiple sclerosis or anything else you want to claim be be cured by the removal of bread.
Rare doesn’t equal all. Correlation doesn’t equal causation either, for that matter.
Your diet helps people lose weight and is a good adherence diet, there is no doubt about that. You can make your attacks at my work, I certainly earned it with a bit of snarky behavoir in my comments. However, you will find that my position is one of moderate and not being guided by fear but instead critical thinking. The research you use to push your diet is where I have a problem. To me it is flawed and filled with alarmist behavior and propaganda that is backed by cherry picking research at best and anecdotal rantings at worst. While I believe your intent and success are good, I think it will contribute to the problem of people not getting the help they really need.
When you fill your tribe with nothing but flawed science, it will eventually be debunked by someone who has a higher following than me, and more and more frequently. In the end, it will become a punchline along with “eggs will kill you.” I think the Paleo Diet is but one option of many diets choices for lifestyle adherence. I don’t think it should keep making claims of curing genetic disorders. It’s hard to overeat meat and veggies, and allows for a lot of nutrients. Leave it at that in my book. The rest, becomes scare tactics and shock nutrition – things I am heavily against.
You are using stories about people with obvious allergies and dealing with extreme health conditions. Stories that scare the shit out of “molly-sue-jane” that just need to realize that those M&M’s she keeps scrapping from the bowl in her office do in fact have calories. That the fact she sits 10 hours of the day might just mean she can’t eat that much.
Lastly, where does it stop Robb? Did you know that celery is actually problematic for a high amount of people with grass allergies? Here are some more tolerance and ratings –
Chicken Allergy – 0.6% to 5% US
Beef Allergy – 3% and 6.5% US
Codfish – .5 to 1% US
There is no doubt that is dealing with an autoimmune disease like RA or MS that removing excess consumption helps first, increase of fats next, and removal of grains can be a help. But what about everyone else?
That is my question or perhaps you can clarify. If I am wrong and you are saying that everyone should not eat grains or that everyone will not be hurt by them then I offer up my sincerest remarks about that assumption. Otherwise, my case stands.
Thank you for your very thoughtful comment, Leigh. I really appreciate the dialogue.
Rational: In response to your raw dairy “can also be rife with disease”, yes that was true for the urban dairies of the industrial revolution that had very poor sanitation and in many cases had sewage in and around the cattle that were being milked. But today’s organic, pastoral dairy farms that practice safe milking don’t have those issues. They stringently screen for pathogenic bacteria in their milk and have a much better safety record than the corporate, grain (and whatever else) fed, stuck in a small concrete floor stall cow dairies who’ve had their milk heated over 400 degrees and then homogenized. The good bacteria present in healthy cattle actually live and regulate the milk on their own and kill off the bad bacteria and keep them at bay. I highly recommend reading the book I mentioned in my first comment. Nomadic dairy dependent people who milk their healthy grass fed animals don’t have any problems with “pathogenic bacteria” either for the reasons cited above and are some of the healthiest people on earth (as seen in the book).
Great post Robb! Loving the book! Thank you Tim for featuring Robb’s important message.
Tim or Robb, I’m curious, do you know of any studies that speak to what would happen if a very large percentage of the world’s population were to switch over to non grain based diets such as the one advocated in this article? Including grass fed animals. Would there be enough food to adequately feed the earth’s population or is the planet beyond the carrying capacity for change at this point?
If this is the case then the grains based U.S. food pyramid would make more sense. The damage grains cause to the individual are a necessary evil, in order to adequately supply enough calories and nutrition to the population in general. I’m not implying we are being deliberately misled, but trying to look at things from a broader nutritional point of view.
Most people I talk to are shocked when I try to tell them grain based diets are bad. They are really caught up on the “whole grains” mentality. Thanks for shedding more light on the subject.
Sounds like a lot of hogwash to me. Or BS, however you want to put it. All of a sudden gluten are the root of all evil. That’s not true.
Gluten allergies can be tested for. They even have a name for the disease, celiak disease. And yes, it does hurt and bother some people.
But making gluten the root of all evil?
My wife and I have been following a mostly grain/corn free approach for almost 3 months now. We are both avid CrossFitters (5x per week). Both of us are down about 20 lbs from when we started.
My upset stomach, which I always attributed to “greasy” foods actually seems to be due to the sugars and carbs I was eating a lot of before. I eat bacon and eggs every morning, bunless burgers, lots of coconut oil fried foods, etc (read: “greasy”) and I haven’t had an upset stomach in months.
Now, whenever I have a soda or even fries my stomach will rebel…Thing is I don’t WANT them anymore. We went through several days of beating back the sugar withdrawals. My wife’s were more severe. But once we made it over the hump, we adjusted well.
Both of us have energy to spare.
In 6 weeks: My 5k time improved by almost 10 minutes, my dead lift improved by 50 lbs, and all my other OLifts improved as well.
I’m not where I’d like to be strength or “appearance” wise, but we decided to focus more on eating REAL FOODS, not food products and that basically cut out just about any and everything in a box, jar, or bottle.
We shop the perimeter of the store. And for those folks who think a carb restrictive diet is boring, we eat VERY good, and spend Sunday afternoons planning our weekly menu together. Lots of variety to be had.
We try as much as possible to buy local grass-fed, free-range meat. And organic veggies and fruits. The money we save by not buying all the boxed garbage we’re actually able to move over to the meats and produce category. Overall, we’re spending less than we used to spend on the “normal” western diet.
I have to give this approach, call it Paleo, call it Primal, call it low-carb, call it No Food Products, call it whatever you want, TWO THUMBS UP.
So, why is it that the macrobiotic-eating Okinawans lived so long? Their diet was high in carbs and legumes, yet they were very healthy and often lived to 100. The new generation of Okinawans that are eating an American diet have become quite sick, so it’s not genetics at play here as much as it is the diet.
Wow, looking at the comments, many people here are really confused.
Here is a rough attempt at trying to clarify a few things.
At least as I understand them. Robb or Tim please feel free to correct me.
Paleolithic diet. Cave man diet. Non-grains based diet.
The theory is that since the Garden of Eden, or since our monkey ancestors climbed down out of the tree’s (Your choice), our bodies, over great spans of time have adapted to eating certain types of meats, vegetables and fruits.
With the invention of fire, humans discovered that previously inedible foods in their raw form, (grains, potatoes etc…) could be made edible through cooking, boiling etc.. (Processing).
The trouble is… mankind has not had fire for a long enough period of time to adapt to the foods we now make edible through cooking.
Thus these foods don’t react well with the human body and we get all of the associated health problems with grains that Robb mentioned above.
Humans are not designed to eat grains in their raw form.
We have found a way to cheat… by cooking or fermenting them first. We can now access the calories supplied by grains but at a cost to our health.
Also, as Tim may have been alluding to earlier.
Our ancestors were much shorter than people alive today. For example look at the doorways in old European castles or the sizes of suits of armor in both Europe and Japan. People in the middle ages were short of stature.
But what most people don’t realize is that Paleolithic hunter gather groups in Europe had an average male height of close to 6’ 3” as confirmed from skeletal evidence. Taller even than today which I think is still around the 5’ 10” range.
The advent of grain based diets about 5000 – 7000 years ago coincides with a huge spike in the loss of height, the advent of many diseases and dental problems as found in skeletal records.
The cultivation of grains and the massive amounts of extra calories they provided helped give rise to civilization, but at a cost. We are paying that cost more than ever today. I believe the number one source of calories in the American diet is from high fructose corn syrup.
Robb, I’ve not read your book. I’m going to go get a copy. So my apologies if you have already mentioned any of the above.
I too would like to see some adequate research, of which there seems to be little of presented here.
Jeez – if I see one more numptie claiming that human incisors are ‘proof’ we are meat-eaters, I will blow chunks (of red kidney bean chili, that I just had for a mid-morning snack).
Dummies used to claim claim that our modest canines were the ‘proof’, until folks like me started pointing out that gorillas have canines larger than a lion, and are 100% vegan (not ‘pretend’ vegetarian – 100% VEGAN). Pandas, too – although they don’t appeal to meatheads as much as the gorilla example (and gorilla metabolism is much closer to humans than pandas’).
There are any number of 100% vegan frugivores/herbivores that have similar dental arrangements to us; if you’re a 5-foot-six gym wannabe who thinks he has to have a steak to get 15-inch arms, then just say so – but keep the moronitude to a dull roar.
That said, I am not vegan – I eat eggs (and not just ‘free range’ – they have to come from chickens who won’t be killed the moment their productivity falls 5% percent… hard to do, but morality requires it). Maybe 4, 5 eggs a week – tops – very fond of Tim’s black bean/spinach/eggs breakfast (in France it’s called ‘oeufs à la cocotte’). And I weaken from time to time, because I like cheese (I eat maybe 100g a week).
I’m 45 years old, 6’2″, 225lb and have no ‘strength’ issues that are remotely meaningful – after the age of 25 I felt no requirement to bench 450… 300 for 6 is more than enough: I have been able to do that non-stop for 25 years (I’ve only been vegetarian for 3 years, but my strength has not changed). Even having become vegetarian, I have to exercise reasonably regularly to prevent myself from getting fat(ter).
I still couldn’t run out of sight in a day, but could walk as far as I could ever conceivably need to, carrying 40lb.
I confess a natural antipathy to anything ‘paleo’ – not everything old is good. Paleolithic life had plenty of rape, too – why not emulate that? It’s not clear to me why we would pick a caveman’s purported diet as a benchmark.
Also, everybody is ignoring the fact that the purported paleo diet is almost certainly a romanticised (Americanised) version – humans just aren’t good enough hunters: most primitive diets in the places we did most of our evolving – e.g., African bushmen – are heavy on nuts, berries and grasses collected by the chicks while the men go off failing to kill things; a lot of animal intake in genuinely paleolithic man was the opportunistic scavenging of, e.g., marrow from discarded animal femurs. Using TOOLS.
All that said, and ignoring the meat… less processed food is likely to be better for us; it’s certainly true that moving to wide-scale cereal agriculture did bad things for the health of Meso-Americans – but I prefer to see that as a (natural) outcome of central planning, since resources were diverted towards conquest rather than toward diversifying their food production system.
re. your comment about bodybuilders needing steaks to get big arms… the animals with the most muscle mass…elephants, cows, horses, etc., are vegetarian. Meat eating animals in the wild…coyotes, etc., are usually kinda scrawny.
Being of Italian descent, this diet is the polar opposite of what I grew up eating both in the U.S. and in Italy. I am a proponent of the so-called Mediterranean diet which I have been comfortable with, my parents, their parents, and my ancestors before me. I think the above article makes good points, but I believe the real culprit is an over-consumption of one food, not recessarily the fact it exists at all within your diet. My food plan is consuming good fats like olive oil and Omega 3s, vegetables and fruits, limiting red meat, and eating chicken and fish more often, in my mind, is a sensible diet. Couple that with red wine in moderation, no smoking, plenty of exercise, and a healthy mental outlook. Again, good points in the article, but I think I’ll stick with what works for me.
I apologize for not adding hearty bread (not bleached white), risottos, and polenta, and pasta in moderation. I think quantity and quality is critically important as well. Thanks
“Just eat lots of veggies and lean protein and you’ll be good to go.”
That’s all I needed to hear, thanks for the executive summary!
To John…thank you for asking the question most of us wanted to know. And I seriously laughed out loud at the question and Tim’s matter-of-fact answer.
Great post, TIm.
A question: What’s the status on whey protein supplements? Is it a big no-no?
All the best,
Hey Tim, Great post as usual…
I would like to know Robb’s opinion on the number of deficiencies link to the gluten-free diet:
Brandy! Or Rum.
Good grief, man!
Since I’m doing the slow-carb diet (with great results), I have been eating grains after my workout. What have you replaced your post-workout pizza with? I’m glad to hear that you still take your day off. Overconsumption Day my favorite day of the week.
I’m also eagerly awaiting your book. I wish I had thought to ask you a few questions when you were writing it–mainly “What is the 1-2-3 for a 6’4″ 190-lb male to look like Brad Pitt from ‘Fight Club’?” Is that in there? Haha.
It’s coming soon! I’ll get you to Brad Pitt. Might need some plastic surgery and drugs, but I can get you 90% there without those 🙂
I know exactly how this feels. I did it to lose weight. I cut all bread and grain products and I cut all drinks that had sugar, including milk, from my diet. I started eating more colorful fruits and veggies as well as some lean meats. I lost 60lbs and felt great. I decided to enjoy pizza with some friends, since I had not had piece for awhile, and man I felt sick from it. I can’t say that it is better to have loved a food and lost it than to never have loved it at all. I can say that I do feel better than I did and I am dropping more weight and am sure I will feel great doing so.
Having all this said, do you still eat whatever you want one day a week Tim????
Tim, first of all I love your book and I’ve enjoyed a great many of your articles. A lot of the science above holds true, but this diet plan is a health nightmare. Its a carb phobic plan, that like atkins will result in dire health. All these Paleo diets look to the past and make this massive assumption that in the past we ate an incredible amount of meat and there is ZERO evidence to support this. Its a literal creationist diet. Anyone who spends just a tiny amount of time looking at our evolution couldn’t possibly believe the claims surrounding these fads. This claim is based around the ‘Expensive Tissue Hypothesis’, which isn’t even a theory, its still just a hypothesis. Meat did not cause our brains to get big, even a strict reading of the ETH means you can outrule meat completely anyway. (You can read up on this in the website link). I’m not claiming we didn’t eat meat in the past, I am claiming it offers zero benefit to our well being, and it was a fallback food, it is NOT an ideal food. We do not have the physiology of an omnivore or carnivore.
Utlimately a 100% plant based diet or a diet with a very low animal product intake has stood the test of time, and is nutritionally, environmentally, and emotionally (for the sake of your EQ) by far the most superior diet. A look at the performance of vegan athletes – especially Michael Arnstein, and all these people who are turning to this diet for peak performance. Vegan is starting to get wide recognition for a good reason.
Yes some people fail on these diets, but if you examine their diets you’ll find a ridiculous eating plan, usually high fat, low carbs, or based around ridiculous food such as soy etc. High fruit and veg are the way to go (low fat, high carb). Protein is a non issue – all plants contain the 8 essential amino acids, and there is no medical term for protein deficiency.
Read ‘The China Study’, and Douglas Grahams ‘The 80-10-10 Diet’. Also see the Gerson and Hoxsey therapies, and the works of Caldwell Esselstyn, John McDougall, Dean Ornish etc. If you can cure every disease known to man with plant based nutrition, how can one possibly argue that this is not the way to go?
Also look at all the longest lived cultures and note that they only use meat as a condiment. These Paleo Diets are fad, and no athlete could perform well on them, because you simply cannot perform well on a low carb diet.
I agree that grains are not good foods, but the physiological affects are not as bad as high meat consumption – not even close. A look at of physiology and biochemistry rules meat out completely. Many of you will disagree, but look up the health benefits of meat, and then look and see if science agree’s. You can’t just look at one side of the argument and claim superior knowledge.
You can note the physiological effects of such diets. A high plant diet: Your sweat doesn’t smell, your feces doesn’t smell, and you go through a toilet role about once every 2 months, your farts and breath don’t smell. You have a great deal of energy because your body is getting the only fuel source is can thrive on: Carbs (I eat 4000 cals a day, currently do little cardio and 90% of my calories are carbs. I’m 5% bodyfat and I am in superb health, bar a little need cardio improvement).
A high meat diet: your like a walking trash bag, your fatigued, you smell, and you constantly crave carbs. You cannot perform athletic activities efficiently and your body is running via ketosis – Not a good idea.
Sorry Tim, some good advice, but a long term following of this diet plan will mess people’s health up, the effects will be the same as Atkins. High cholesterol, high fat and high protein are not your friends. If you wish, I can provide plenty of resources for a balanced perspective (everyone should read both sides).
I’m currently training to be part of the special operations community in the military. I essentially train similarly to a triathlete with longer cardiovascular needs. Additionally, strength training in both pure strength and muscular endurance are part of what I do daily. I’ve experimented with a “Paleo” type diet and essentially bonked due to lack of carbs (or so I think). What can I do about this? Are carbs okay before and after exercise? I really need that gel packet on three hour swim/run/pt sessions…
Thanks so much for your insight
this is a brilliant post tim and rob.
what i’d really like to know, as mentioned by another questioner is how do south asians (indians etc) resolve going on a diet that completely exlcuded their major source of noursihment?
i live in britain and i am definitely going to try this diet out, but dont know how i could convince the parents and rest of the family to take up a rice free, chappatti free, flour free diet.
everyone would be like, where’s the rice? lol
i would be most appreciative if you or rob mentioned some ethnic/asians alternatives to rice, that my family would be able to latch onto
cheers and look forward to hearing back from you!
Interesting article. About a month ago, I began to suspect something like this might be the cause of my IBS. I killed wheat products and went to fruits and vegetables, though I must admit that I have been eating some legumes and dairy. I quickly began to feel better. Well a month later I decided to introduce some breads to see how I would react. I have noticed that my stomach has been more upset and today I decided to eat my favorite dish, spaghetti. Guess what? I don’t feel good. Then I come across this article that validated my suspicions and provided some more info. Thanks for the menu plan, that will be helpful. I may not be in a position to dispute or agree with what was said in this article on a technical level, but I can definitely vouch for the results.
Yea…it is a lot. this is why I do the best I can for providing both a rationale for these suggestions, then simply “how to.” Then it’s just up to folks to tinker (if they want to) and see how they look, feel, perform.
I AM GLAD THIS INFORMATION IS GETTING A LOT OF ATTENTION. I AM AWARE OF A YOUNG GIRL WHO HAD RA (RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS) SO BAD, SHE COULD NOT ATTEND SCHOOL AT THE AGE OF 6. AFTER SEVERAL TESTS AND DRUGS AND 2 YEARS SHE WAS FINALLY DIAGNOSED WITH CELIAC DISEASE. SHE IS NOW IN SCHOOL AND ALMOST BACK TO NORMAL. I HAVE TWIN BOYS THAT HAVE GLUTEN ISSUES. CONVINCING ALL PEOPLE IN MY CIRCLE, BE IT PROFESSIONAL OR NOT WAS QUITE A BATTLE. AWARENESS NEEDS TO BE OUT THERE. I HAVE SEVERAL PEOPLE IN MY LIFE WITH THE AILMENTS LISTED, I HAVE TRIED TO CONVINCE THEM TO TRY GLUTEN FREE AND TO NO AVAIL I CANNOT SAVE THESE PEOPLE FROM THERE OWN DESTIN.
I CANNOT THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR THE TIME THAT YOU TOOK TO START MORE AWARENESS.
Hey, great article. Let’s see if I can loose my belly. Also, I laughed with the direct translation from Portuguese to English that your teacher does. It was hard to understand until I translated every word back to Portuguese without context. Heh.
I would add flax seeds and/or Psyllium to the diet, it really helps with some water soluble fiber.
I eliminated gluten from my diet after realizing that most members of my family including my self have celiac like symptoms.
I wonder if the increase in gluten and other food intolerances/ allergies may be related to GMOs.
I wonder if heirloom grains would demonstrate similar toxicities as there GMO counterparts.
I need to gain 10 pounds in 14 days. Any clue how to do that 😀 ?
Oh, indeed. I can’t guarantee low bodyfat, but a gallon of whole milk per day + approx. 20-rep squats to failure 2x/week will get you close.
ah yes the “super squats workout” The gallon of milk is pretty tough even for those not lactose intolerant
Loved this article Tim! My nutritionist gave a very similar diet as outlined above to me to follow, which solved my infertility at that time. I felt great and looked better than I had in years, too. Thanks for this reminder. Loved the lively discourse.
@CRD I agree. Since at least 90% of the human race survives on grains, then the species is pretty well screwed. Guess we can declare that the experiment labeled humanity is over. Back to the caves all you folks, and start foraging for food. The georgia guide stones are correct. the planet could not support even 500 million people on this diet. Let alone a city of even moderate size.
Something else also occurred to me. I’ll bet you have never seen a person with these gut problems who was not immunized as a child. I suspect that auto-immune diseases are triggered by immunizations. I seriously doubt if there is a case of AIDS anywhere in the world in a human that was not immunized as a child. You can bet your life that main stream medicine will never research this. There has to be horrendous consequences for injecting foreign proteins and monkey viruses into the bodies of infants, especially if they are not breast fed. Neither of my children were immunized before they were 18 years old. We’ll see how that goes. Bill Gates, in a TED talk, said that immunizations were an important part of population control. You can find the excerpt on youtube. His foundation has donated hundreds of millions for immunizations worldwide.
Hhhmmmmm…this vanilla haagendaz I’m eating is SOOO GOOOOOOOOOD!!! yummmmMmmMmmmmmmm…what a wonderful world… 🙂
Weird… I posted the same topic on my blog yesterday too. I didn’t know it was called Paleo diet though.
I lost weight (it’s a great diet to do before your wedding though you may never fit into your wedding dress ever again) and my digestive system felt clean.
When I tried to go back on it last year, I GAINED weight and broke out worse than a teenager. After reading Eat Right for Your type I lost weight by avoiding the nightshade family (peppers, tomatoes etc). Since I’m a Type A grains were recommended coupled with a vegetarian diet.
Asians consume MASSIVE quantities of grains most of them are pretty healthy with their ageless faces (not that I’m jealous :P) So, I don’t buy into the grains are bad ideology at all. I wonder if those people in the article were Type O.
All illnesses are a state of mind, therefore one diet could never be the right answer for everyone. We all have different issues to face in our lives including some that involve our genetics. We’re all dying anyway, so you may as well enjoy life and if for some that means giving up grains so be it.
I don’t suppose brownies are gluten-free? 🙂
Hi Robb and Tim,
I really enjoyed reading this article. I will give is a shot, at least with the grains.
I don’t eat a lot of legumes generally, but I do consume dairy on a daily basis (light/skim milk, cottage/yellow cheese, yoghurt) . Are there particular dairy products I should avoid or substitute? For example, should I use rice milk, instead of skim milk (or soy milk is better)?
One other question is regarding cancer. My father-in-law was diagnosed last week with pancreatic cancer. Do you think following this diet can help him? Can you please refer me to some literature so I can provide him with?
I can’t speak to cancer, as I’m no doctor, but I would encourage you to get some of this tea for your dad:
I’ve looked into Dr. Li quite closely, and he spoke at TED last year. Smart guy.
I’ve been Paleo for 7 months now and have never felt better, not just physically but also mentally. I feel more relaxed and better outlook on life. My stress level probably reduced to like 0-5%. If you haven’t gone off the crack (sugar and carbs), you should really try to. I got hooked after trying it for 6 weeks of logging what I eat on a support system. I’m giving back by setting up my own blog where people can log what they eat on my blog and we will help you change what you eat to become similar to what Tim posted above.
So Tim, will you be trying CrossFit next??
Check out Nora T. Gedgaudas’s book, Primal Body – Primal Mind. It is a wonderful work on paleo diet she studied for 25 years. It opened my eye and I am changing my diet eliminating grains and starchy carbohydrate and learn how to live on ketone.
Man, Tim it is great to read great research and such a diverse spectrum of topics from you!
My wife found the book “Deceptively Delicious” which is just another great way to introduce more of the good veggies into our diet without having to look at a 4 foot pile of broccoli with disdain!
Thought it would make a great example of how to get in more of those fruits and vegetables into our diet.
Great post. I’ve been following the paleo diet, not that strictly, for several years, and have experienced a number of health improvements including near total cessation of asthma symptoms. I wrote about my experience in detail here…
One tip that makes eating paleo easier — meats don’t have to be lean, especially if they are pastured/grass-fed. Omega-3 fats are good for you, and grass-fed meats are full of them. Also — the fat keeps you full. Too much protein and not enough fat can lead to digestive problems as well.
To those of you considering giving paleo a go, you’ll probably feel the benefits within three of four days.
Robb can you address the *overwhelming evidence* based issues in this video?
http://tinyurl.com/drgregercomplete And if you buy his 2010 DVD (all proceeds to charity) on his website he shows how gluten is bad for bowels if celiac (http://is.gd/fkFkm), but good for gut flora (http://is.gd/fkFlz)
While not a vegan I would like the *overwhelming evidence* as well as HCAs put to rest or at least addressed. Really — How can there be such huge a discrepancy?
I think this is amazing and I have cut grains from my diet multiple times but never lasted because it is so hard being vegan and eating gluten free. Do you have any suggestions for a vegan? A lot of the food recommendations include meat. What do I do if I don’t eat animals?
Bro is talking about health reasons, then he goes on to tell you to eat chicken period, pig, and beef.
Honestly feel like there are so many different stances on what is the most healthy, that you just have to pick one and stick with it. No time to listen to all the different diets.
Choose what sounds/works best for you.
I can seriously appreciate all of the thought, energy, and time Robb has put into this topic. It strikes me as curious though that the purest indicator is also the most difficult to test for… namely, how would eating this way effect longevity and quality of life? A 10 year test against a placebo would be interesting but how could it be done (fake meat made out of grain??).
Can people seriously avoid large sections of the food groups for the rest of their lives and is this really comparable to smoking? I have tested removing carbs and eating similar for several months in the past. Also tried a high carb and low fat concept as well. The similarity is funny in that when you go back to eating whatever it is you have cut out you don’t feel as well: fat, carbs, protein, etc… seems the adjustment phase is an issue, not necessarily a proof of bad foods.
Diets that are ripe in avoidance and deprivation seem hardly beneficial and they avoid a critical component of humanity. The emotional component of eating is a huge issue and challenge for the majority. Who really wants to be the pain in the ass at all of the family gatherings that won’t touch half of the home cooked stuff? Obviously, moving to less processing and eating more veg, fruit, and lean protein is going to be healthier. Grains are a cheap source of calories and shouldn’t be a huge portion of the diet. Less processed and more natural is better – don’t need a degree or a study to see it. We could shift a diet to be more natural and I would guess we would all feel better, though right now, with the country in an epidemic of obesity that stems from sedentary lifestyles and addictive, high sugar foods the kind of physical and mental discipline required to avoid glutens is well beyond the average person.
Fear sells though doesn’t it?
Then again, preaching moderation, portion size, and natural eating doesn’t have the sales slant to achieve it’s own niche.
There isn’t necessarily a harm in trying this out, but there may be a harm in assuming that it is the “way” because when you go back to carbs you don’t feel as well. The body tries to stabilize and regulate around any diet so reintroduction is always a process. Try switching out your cats food all at once. Any vet will tell you to do it slow and a little at a time. (yes I know we’re not cats…) The problem I have with it is in the inevitable fall off of the caveman wagon and the weight gain, guilt, and shame that just adds to another spin on the diet wheel.
If you’re not eating healthy and then you start eating clean without gluten do you think your blood work will improve? If you take sugar out of kids diet will their health and behavior improve?
One show I thought was interesting was Dr Oz’s show on people over 100 – the groups of people had several similarities: they ate natural, locally grown foods, they had strong family connections and prioritized family meal times, they had very active lifestyles with physical chores and walks every day, and they all had low stress levels with strong support groups. No mention of avoiding food groups…
It might be preferable to go with the live group vs. the dug up one.
Awesome science, thanks! Is the Paleo diet still the prescribed diet for CrossFit? A little OT: After another season of basketball league, I got frustrated being the “smallest” on the court at 6’1″ 120lb. I’ve been doing Crossfit 2-3x/wk as my only workout for the past 2 years, and haven’t gained any weight. I went with your 5×5 workout and put on 10lbs in a month. However, I’ve gotten slower on the court. Going back to Crossfit now, but I need to find a balance between the 2 workouts. Thanks for all your research, can’t wait to read the book. I’m wondering if you used the pics I submitted?
Wow, where do I begin…It was shocking to learn how grains and beans are killing us in terms of how they are digested and the various chemicals and proteins are harming specific body functions. I have been cutting down on grain and meat (although I eventually want to get rid of grain, beans, and meat entirely) while exercising a lot more since 2010. I heard from a friend that he mixes white rice with brown rice, although I’m doubtful about the intake effects of gluten. What do you think?
In addiction to the amount of meat (I don’t trust a whole lot of the meat out there as factory farmed garbage is so abundant), I also noticed a fair bit of nut in the content (i.e. danger for those who are allergic). What would you recommend modifying to ensure energy is being refilled while still sticking with the no gluten and lectin diet (or rather Paleo diet)?
Most importantly, I’m sure there are a fair number of researchers and doctors already confirming this finding. However, people are accustomed to gluten and lectin intakes from grains and beans for ages (thousands of years). In fact, many of them believe that grain and lectin are as healthy as vegetables and fruits to eat as one of the main pillars, on top of government nutritional guides. How would you convey the message of this diet needing to be changed particular if people don’t want to die prematurely, despite ingrained into the conventional belief?
Thanks for reading this long-winded question,
P.S. Btw, I’m in the process to become another 4HWW. I’ll let you know when I have a video ready once I did get my first dream coming true!
I meant another 4HWW success story.
This all makes sense to me in theory. I’ve had lots of people in my life who say that the way they eat changes the way they feel, their energy levels and whatnot. But I’ve never noticed any difference. My body does not seem to care what i feed it, with the exception of the odd indigestion from eating too much spicy food, the way I feel and my energy levels are constant.
My energy level is higher than most peoples and I almost never get sick. I’m willing to change the way I eat to improve my health and my quality of life, I just don’t know how I’ll know it’s making a difference? I’m 46 BTW and feel just as good as I did when I was 20. My girlfriend has been known to refer to me as the alien. While I can eat just about any kind of crap, I eat well most of the time.
Thanks for the great post!
Other than the occasional cookie and slice of pizza, I don’t eat that much grains. However, rice (sushi, fried rice recipes, etc.) and buckwheat (great morning starter) are consumed daily. Would you say that these two grains should be eliminated also?
It would also be tough to get rid of the yoghurt/kefir with crunchy cereal in the mornings… but then again, maybe that’s whats been giving me dreadful bloating all these years. I keep eating this cuz its fast and the dairy has some probiotics in it which is good for the intestine.
Other than that… gimme a nice fillet mignon w/ some green and a glass of red every day, baby 🙂
To complete the puzzle for those who might become interested in paleo nutrition, other than cutting grains, the next step is to cut fructose and sources of omega-6 fat like vegetable oils.
For those wondering what to eat after cutting all that: fat, lots of it, and animal fat that is. Refer to this previous post by Tim: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/06/06/saturated-fat/
People tend to push fruits and vegetables a lot, but when it comes right down to the science, you discover that they often don’t bring much more than enjoyment, taste and variety. Most fruits are high in vitamin C, an anti-oxidant, to protect themselves from their own poison, sugar. A lot of vegetables are high in nutrients, but so are organ meat, bone marrow, bone broths, butter, eggs, fish eggs and muscle meat. Most nutrients in those are much more bio-available. Most people are doing just fine on very low or zero carb diets and some benefit from such diets greatly. I don’t want to come off as purist carnivore, but simply bring contrast to the heavy pro-vegetarianism/plant based diets shown in a lot of the comments. Some people are so sick that it takes way more than simply cutting grains to regain health, but also nuts, seeds and fruits.
I think that any discussion on paleolithic nutrition should mention the importance of fat because otherwise people leave with the impression that they should eat lean protein and veggies. This will leave them hungry, cranky and could even lead to rabbit starvation in the worst cases.
I understand though that telling people to cut all grains and to eat up to 70% of their calories as saturated fat will make some people’s heads explode.
I hope though that Robb didn’t make the same mistakes/provisions professor Cordain made in his book about saturated fat just to be more universally accepted or politically correct. Simply too many people are in the know about paleolithic nutrition to accept any saturated fat or dietary cholesterol bashing anymore.
I’ll know soon enough because I just received his book and will be devouring it tomorrow.
It’s Tim that made me discover the paleo diet and now the paleo diet comes back to Tim, it has been full circle.
Dear Tim great article but I have one question. Is the “Becoming Superhuman” book still in the works? I’m excited and I can imagine everyone else is about all of the knowledge you can bestow upon us. Thanks again Tim.
Announcements coming VERY soon 🙂
Would this apply to people who are diagnosed with ‘IBS’ as well? IBS = Inflammable Bowel Syndrome or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I’ve done a lot of experimenting on behalf of my “illness” but have yet to find a long term solution.
Your best diet?
This nutritionist found his path in Alaska from the Inuit:
Everyone is so evangelical when they talk about something as precious as food! LOL
Strangely I changed my diet about 6 months ago to something very close to this thanks to Cyndi OMeara’s “Changing Habits, Changing Lives”, and it has made an amazing difference now. I’ve never really been a foodie and tend to have an “eat for fuel” attitude, so it’s been an easy change.
One problem I have though is this; I’m a fan of the boiled egg (easier clean up than other egg options) and I got excited when I saw your lesson on peeling boiled eggs without “peeling”. I have tried it and right now the score is “Eggs – 7, me – 0”. Lots of ridiculous moments as eggs and shells have disintegrated in my hand or sprayed across the counter! Tim, tell me it was a joke?
What about people who are insulin resistant, hypoglycemic or diabetic? Total abandonment of carbs in grain form might keep the blood sugar too low and cause fainting spells and dangerous blackouts. Should people with such disorders go on an interim “tapering” diet and work their way up or is it suggested that grains are that poisonous that even a spoonful will cause scatological havoc? Your response would be much appreciated!
There are other carb sources than grains and all those things you’ve listed except T1 diabetes are caused by eating way too many carbs anyways. Don’t believe me? Read Richard K Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, or go to his website, read it for free.
Or keep reading some paleo blogs, especially weight loss posts, since the same mechanisms that cause all those problems causes obesity.
Go to Mark’s Daily Apple and read the Ultimate Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Diabetes (I think that’s what it’s called)
I’ve been 95% paleo for the past 4 weeks now and in that time haven’t had to take one single prescription antacid – for me wheat and chronic heartburn go hand in hand…
My tips for anyone following this diet are:
* Get into Sous Vide cooking – and easily cook meat at restaurant grade with no skills required.
* Buy yourself a mandoline vegetable slicer and a Benriner vegetable noodle maker. These two cheap tools have made for me eating raw, nutritious vegetables a brand new and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
* Avoid foods in packets and those with ingredients listings on – nature makes the best food naturally and doesn’t require an interfering scientist to ruin it.
* If you’re used to highly processed foods then be aware that your taste buds will take a few weeks to get used to fresh fruit, vegetables and meats. Stick with it though because your taste buds change and you’ll relish fresh foods over processed any time!
Good luck and get stuck in!
Agreed on all points. Here’s a cool Sous Vide machine from Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades:
+1 on kindle version of the book. Is anyone listening?
I’m so happy Robb’s book is out. I highly recommend his nutrution seminar. Between Robb, the Zone, and Paleo for Athletes, everything you need to understand nutrition and completely change your life.
Tim, how much of your new book will be on nutrition verses exercise alone? Perhaps your book should be added to the list when it comes out. Looking forward to it.
Tim, my girlfriend is a Pescatarian and also has Multiple Sclerosis, your / Robb’s advice should hopefully help with alleviating her condition with the appropriate modification.
Instead of this tea, I would actually encourage the best japanese tea I have ever found in all of my travels through Asia :
The tea comes directly from the plantation, is sealed in vacuumed and nitrogen filled containers and provide the most well flavoured tea I have found in almost 10 years of becoming a tea connoisseur, maybe 5 if my teenage years dont count 😉
As for the Paleo debate :
It is interesting that most of the time there is disagreement. A friend of mine has already been convinced into doing an actual study for his Phd in medicine on the effects of gluten in the gut flora and on immune reactions in HEALTHY people. This might be groundbreaking actually.
We actually bet on this stuff. He says most likely he might find nothing and lay the grainbashing to rest once and for all with his dissertation, I believe he might be surprised that there ARE dangers in grain consumption for non celiac people, although I doubt that the danger is as insane as put by the paleo community.
The argument of “What our ancestors ate” is a great marketing gimmick. It is only semi-practical as a tool of understanding an optimal diet, since it brings with it the presumption that what we evolved on is actually optimal.
It might turn out that eating the kind of goo all day we have seen in Matrix might be our excitingly “optimal” diet.
That put aside, it is country dependent also. A friend of mine just visited the US, came back and was horribly shocked at the amounts of processed foods. He said to me “I couldnt even find normal food in a Walmart or other Supermarket! This is insane, now I know what Paul Chek and Mark Sisson meant when they were talking about less processed foods!”
So the shift to an optimal diet might be different depending on culture. I am an economic psychology student, writing my thesis on culture dependant attitude development. Then, we still have to take genetics as a given, which you have demonstrated with your Tweet on Japanese cultures, is making this even more interesting.
So, if you would want to take something optimal in dieet and take it down to its smallest core, it would be this :
Get enough greens and veggies
Get enough protein, get a complete amino acid profile
Get enough sun or supplement with Vitamin D3
Avoid potential poisons and allergens, aka grains and dairy, if you react to them.
Avoid overeating, involve periodic intermittent 24 hour fasts to increase autophagy of the cells
Avoid exceeding your maximum calorie intake, especially with carbs and protein, to avoid hyperinsulinemia.
And that is it.
Ive been on a paleo diet for some time, I still feel as if I am adjusting. I rarely if ever eat grains or anything of the sort, same goes for beans, legumes, peanut butter and such.
I still eat dairy though, I know theres some debate within the paleo community. Most of the dairy I eat though is cheese, greek yogurt, and natural, and if possible organic grass fed organic cream.
I’ve heard raw milk and cream and yogurt are good ways to get dairy and wont have much of an effect.
I have a reluctance to completely get rid of dairy though. I could easily replace it with coconut milk or cream, since the diet I am on is a high fat paleo diet.
Would it be wise to try to go without dairy for some time and see how that affects me? Anyone have any experience with this or no?
I am still dealing with some issues, though Im not sure if they have to do with my diet but they have been depression, anxiety and not sure what else. I also seem to be having joint pain/discomfort in my jaw, particularly on the right side of my jaw.
hi…nice article there….
just one doubt…the diet which you are recommending is fine for non-vegetarian people, what about Vegetarians….we have very limited options…..any possible solutions??…..(apart from eating vegetables/fruits the whole time)
Thanks for the great article neway…….
Glad to see Tim write this post.
I’m a big fan of Robb and finished the book over the weekend. It’s fantastic.
It’s one of those books that gives you all the science behind why you eat the way you do…(a bit too much science if you’re not to geeky – but overall worth a read)
That being said, Robb says multiple times, if you’d like to skip the science and just jump to the “how-to”, do it and you will benefit.
great stuff Tim – thanks for spreading Robb’s work.
One question I have, how is seafood not meat? Sorry, that little slight of hand has always confused me.
Second, for the China Study, hope you all have seen the work of Denise Minger, she basically takes the study and gives it a huge swirly and shows it for the bonk it is.
Her critique is so damning and thorough that Campbell has basically ignored any real engagement with it in his reply. Aka, he knows he has been caught and has no real way to refute his defenders.
Per this whole issue, what do you do with the many people groups who are healthy across a wide variety of dietary habits? There are many groups (believe the Georgians, the Loechestal Valley of Sweden, etc.) of people who consume some grains and yet have longevity, excellent development, and long health.
Perhaps the bigger issue with grains is more us than the grains… an antibiotic, chemical ridden people who have degraded our health for a few generations now.
John, totally agreed on Denise. It’s a great critique.
Interesting read but of course people jump on the POP DIET band wagon. I understand why people would hop on the band wagon though, most have no clue what their ancestors ate or why.
They ate high carb, high protein, high fat, high whatever was available!
Let’s get a few things straight.
1. There was no single “Paleo-Diet” during the “Paleolithic Period”.
2. Some populations did eat unprocessed grains.
3. Some carbohydrates in the form of simple or complex are GOOD and also enhance the effects of exercise during and after.
If you want to go back to the “caveman” period you should..
1. Hunt for and attack your food every day instead of ordering it.
2. Search and scavenge the forests for wild fruit, vegetables, and unprocessed grains.
3. Sometimes Fast because you’re not going to have food for days.
4. Come to the realization that all the activity/exercise from food hunting, gathering, and fasting was also an integral part of their weight/health maintenance.
My son at the age of one was projectile vomiting for two weeks after every bite. First change was no grains & oatmeal. He was fine again within 2 days. The second change was no more vaccinations. So perhaps the grains and oatmeal weakened his system and the shots put him over the edge.