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Guest Post: Robb Wolf Answers Your Paleo Diet Questions

Posted By Guest On August 23, 2011 @ 8:10 am In Guest Posts,Health | 165 Comments

Over the past few years, leading paleo spokesperson Robb Wolf [7] and I have forged a great Internet friendship. Suffice to say, we think a lot alike and exchange ideas often. Yet, we hadn’t actually met in person until two weeks ago when Robb and his beautiful wife Nicki came out to Malibu to spend an evening with Carrie [8] and me. We had a fabulous time, great dinner and talked at length about the future of Primal/paleo/ancestral health. One of the topics was how to blend this information in a way that the various “brands” can be mutually supportive in the interest of everyone winning (and, of course, world peace). That’s sort of what the Ancestral Health Symposium [9] was created to do. However, we still get a lot of people on Mark’s Daily Apple who wonder about the differences between Primal and paleo eating styles [10], so I thought I’d put together a list of paleo-specific questions from MDA readers and have Robb do a guest post today on that topic.

Meanwhile, if you don’t yet have a copy Robb’s great book The Paleo Solution [11], you owe it to yourself to get an entertaining dose of his detailed perspective on diet, exercise and life. Looks great on the shelf right next to The Primal Blueprint [12]

What is your take on dairy? Why isn’t it part of your Paleo Solution, even in moderation? You’ve said that if you have any sort of metabolic derangement or autoimmune disease, you must stay away from dairy. Could you explain?

Whoa there Tiger!! What exactly do I recommend in my book [11], podcast [13] and free quick start guide [14]?

Try this paleo thing, strictly, for 30 days and see how you look, feel and perform. Track biomarkers of health & disease (before and after). Now, once you are healthy, non-inflamed and suffering from no autoimmune diseases you get to tinker. Is dairy a problem for you? Well, you will never know until you try eliminating it and reintroducing.

The literature is a mixed bag on dairy. Some information indicates it is pro-inflammatory and insulinogenic. Other work does not vilify dairy in the same way. Pedro Bastos gave a remarkably detailed accounting of dairy [15] at the recent Ancestral Health Symposium [9] and the take away I had was:

  1. Grass fed is better.
  2. Fermented is better.
  3. Traditional collection schedules were better (minimizing growth factors and estrogens)
  4. Genetic factors are important in determining individual tolerances.

Personally, I use a fair amount of grass fed butter, some cheeses, a little whey protein (Mark’s Primal Fuel [16] to be exact). If I use something like a low quality cheddar cheese I get acne, my joints ache and I get congested. If I use a LOT of whey protein (2 large doses per day for many days) I might get a little acne. So, I’m actually the “paleo” guy that in reality eats “Primal.” Am I a sell out? Is my information inaccurate? No, but different people have different needs, and I recommend a tight, “Orthodox paleo” approach in the beginning. Mark takes a different approach…we both seem to be reasonably successful with this stuff, and I think that is because we have tight rules for the folks who need it, provide plenty of latitude to the folks who can tinker more broadly.

How much fat should be in our diets?

Well, who are you and what are you trying to do? Are you trying to lose body fat? If so then we certainly want to attend to dropping insulin and reducing inflammation, but if you do not know the difference between a mouth and vacuum cleaner…you might have problems! An attendee at one of my seminars was trying to lose weight but was consuming a WHOLE can of coconut milk with every meal. She felt good, but thought she should be losing fat faster…At some point calories DO count!

Are you a skinny, high strung person with lots of activity? You could likely benefit from a good amount of fat (I’d go mainly saturated and Mono’s with a few grams per day of long chain N-3/N-6). I’ve seen some people (mainly academic types…with NO clinical experience of actually working with people) rip Art De Vany to shreds for his generally moderate fat recommendations. Art’s position is based on the observation that folks are generally not that active and therefore do not need that much more fat than what they get from their meat, fish etc. For the overweight and sedentary, I think this is spot on. Unfortunately there is no “one size fits all” answer with nutrition. We actually need to think and some of the best questions to ask are “Who and What”.

You often talk about how gluten wrecked you. Could you tell us more about the symptoms you experienced?

I had ulcerative colitis so bad I was facing a bowel resection at the ripe old age of 26. When I had an abdominal exam the pain was so bad it would make me break into a cold sweat in anticipation of just having the doctor push in on my stomach. I had depression, high blood pressure and broad systemic inflammation…I hurt everywhere. It sucked.

Could you touch on the health and fitness differences along gender lines? Are there any special considerations (hormonal or otherwise) that men and women need to take into account?

Women need to worry less about “losing” weight. Men need to worry less about “gaining” weight. If you are a coach dealing with a mixed population you need to be aware that women can move a given % of their 1RM for more reps than men (generally). Orthopedic issues that women face (knees specifically) are easily addressed by smart training (training the quads to fire properly when landing from a jump). All in all, not that much of a difference.

Some previously obese folks struggle to get lean. What is the best strategy (carb refeeds, IF, calorie restriction?) to really lean out?

Again, this depends. We have seen people eating an anti-inflammatory paleo diet for upwards of a year with little change in scale weight. They feel better, but weight is slow to budge. Then suddenly, “something” changes and weight loss is rapid and easy. I talked to several people at the AHS and I think severe inflammation is at cause here, and it may just take some time to turn things around. Here is a list of things to consider in general with weight loss:

  1. Sleep. Are you sleeping in a completely dark room, waking up without an alarm? No, then have NO expectations of fat loss. If it happens, you are lucky.
  2. Overtraining. Think that extra “cardio” is going to help you lean out? Have you ever heard of the “fat aerobics instructor” paradox? Less is often more here.
  3. Food intolerance. So you insisted on having cottage cheese and a piece of toast for breakfast, but otherwise eat “really clean”…food intolerance can fire systemic inflammation and stymie fat loss. Or, I just make all this up to be mean…
  4. Mouth or vacuum cleaner. A handful of almonds is fine. A 3 lb Costco container…not so much.

So, I’d get that stuff squared away, make sure your vitamin D level is good, take some probiotics and give things at least 3-6 months. From here you may need to tinker with a little intermittent fasting (16 hrs is fine) and a bit of planned calorie restriction but the above should address the vast majority of folks.

What is the cleanest refeed food regarding autoimmune, digestion, and allergies?

I’m guessing you mean carbs? I’m a big fan of yams and sweet potatoes.

Could you list, in order of importance, what foods to eliminate from the diet for autoimmune conditions like hypothyroidism and psoriasis?

Grains, legumes, dairy, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) most nuts & seeds (coconut ok). If you are really sick, cook all vegetable matter thoroughly, peel most vegetables and recognize that an almost total animal product diet may be necessary until you are well.

What are your thoughts on candida? How much does it affect cravings and weight gain? Is it possible to starve it and get rid of it with the right diet or not?

Candida is 100% an outgrowth of too many carbs, particularly fructans-containing carbs such as grains. If you comply with a low-ish carb paleo diet you will not have candida issues. The folks who have chronic problems tend to be chronic non-compliers.

What do you think about Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet which incorporates higher levels of carbohydrates including rice?

Again,“who and what”. If I have a metabolically broken person with terrible glucose control, a high carb approach is scientifically unfounded and from an ethic standpoint…immoral. We know better. Change gears to a metabolically healthy individual…it’s fine, as is evidenced by the Kitavans and others. White rice is pretty benign on the spectrum of grains, but I can dig around in pubmed and find plenty of literature on rice intolerance that results in enteropathy similar to celiac.

What are your thoughts on ways to spread the good info around (paleo networking), and ways to use paleo to teach physical education and to bring up kids and teenagers in the right way?

I think the paleo networking is just happening. We are working on projects like the Liberty Garden to raise awareness and interest in permaculture and a physician education program to finally get our health care providers educated in evolutionary medicine. As to PE? Find a local gym (like CrossFit or similar) and create a culture that allows for the kids to train. Start a charter school associated with the gym, and step outside the broken system we are offered as the “only” option.

Tell us about your partnership with Erwan Le Corre at MovNat. Where do you see that going?

I’m helping Erwan develop and systematize his curriculum. This will roll out in the form of an accredited certification program. I have no financial interest in MovNat [17], I’m just friends with Erwan and believe in his program, but I like to keep my autonomy so I’ll only be acting as an advisor.

Is Keystone 100% paleo?

Keystone [18] is pretty much paleo. Since moving to Santa Fe, NM he has taken a liking to lizards, moles and rabbits.

Thank you to Mark for the opportunity to check in with you folks!


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[9] Ancestral Health Symposium: http://ancestryfoundation.org/

[10] differences between Primal and paleo eating styles: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/whats-the-difference-between-primal-and-paleo/

[11] The Paleo Solution: http://www.amazon.com/Paleo-Solution-Original-Human-Diet/dp/0982565844/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314047269&sr=8-1

[12] The Primal Blueprint: http://www.amazon.com/Primal-Blueprint-Reprogram-effortless-boundless/dp/0982207700/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314047304&sr=1-1

[13] podcast: http://robbwolf.com/category/podcasts/

[14] free quick start guide: http://robbwolf.com/book-resources/

[15] detailed accounting of dairy: http://vimeo.com/27671369

[16] Primal Fuel: http://www.primalblueprint.com/products/Primal-Fuel.html

[17] MovNat: http://movnat.com/

[18] Keystone: http://robbwolf.com/about/robb-about-page-2/

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