Monday, November 23, 2009

Answers to Questions Posted by Blog Readers - 11.23.09

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your comments and questions! Our team is working to review your Paleo Diet-related questions and provide you with answers. We read all comments, and we are very interested in hearing your thoughts, learning about your experiences, and understanding what questions you have.

The Paleo Diet Team

Blog Q: Ok, so I am just starting the diet and have just a few questions. I know processed grain/rice is a no but what about wild rice? I'm from Minnesota and my dad and I harvest our own rice from wild patches that grow in lakes. The rice is just then shaken and boiled and not processed so would this be an acceptable food?

Second question: my friend is the one who started me on this diet and she said that the only cheese that is OK is goat cheese. I know goat cheese is still dairy so I just wanted to confirm that it's a no-go and also if there are any cheese or cheese like substitutes.

A: Virtually all grains contain harmful substances namely lectins, alkylresorcinols, alpha-amylase inhibitors and protease inhibitors, independent of whether or not they are refined or whole grains. However, we believe that rice is probably the less harmful grain and wheat, barley, rye and maize the worst ones.

Regarding your second question, goat cheese is still a dairy product. Cow milk proteins are well studied and have been consistently demonstrated to be harmful to humans, but there's not enough literature to scientifically demonstrate that dairy products derived from goats have the same deleterious health effects. We think that because goat milk contain proteins from a different species it may have immunity stimulating proteins, and may therefore increase the risk of allergies or autoimmune diseases.

Blog Q: I have been doing the paleo diet for a few months now, prior to this I followed
the Zone diet for 12 years. I have a mild autoimmune condition (lupus) ANA positive 1:64 speckled pattern. I used to get swollen knees, and a sore neck, but not any more using paleo foods combined with zone balance and added Omega 3 and vitamin D.

Other problems that are completely resolved are PMS (breast pain, but no more now), Severe menstrual pain (virtually none now with paleo, exercise and omega 3), Constipation (none now with paleo).

A couple of months ago I had blood tests and found a few problems. Thyroid: TSH slightly high 5.1, T4 okay. Also borderline low B12 and folic acid. Both of which I get plenty of in food and a supplement. I also have Raynauds (not very severe though).

Dr thinks they are all related to the auto immune problems. I would like to resolve the B12 and thyroid problem. I was using a little soy milk, but I've cut that out 6 weeks ago. I've started
taking iodine tabs (Kelp) and had to have a vitamin B12 injection. I would like to know what factors might be causing me not to absorb B12 and folic acid. Also how can I improve thyroid function.

No other health problems, I'm at my ideal weight, do CrossFit for exercise. I'm 50.


A: Your thyroid problems might be caused by an autoimmune reaction. Many Celiac Disease patients also suffer from Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and the former disease is triggered by grains containing gluten such as wheat, rye and barley. Hence, avoiding foods containing gluten may decrease the risk of an autoimmune reaction against your thyroid gland.

Legumes, cereal grains, eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, chili peppers, quinoa, amaranth, and root beer are foods containing lectins and saponins. Lectins and saponins, along with gluten, increase intestinal permeability, allowing the increased passage of bacterial, viral or food antigens into peripheral circulation. Some of these antigens may have molecular similarity (molecular mimicry) with certain self antigens, like thyroglobulin, and therefore can trigger an autoimmune reaction of T-Lymphocytes against our own tissues.

Iodine supplementation is a good intervention since it is needed for T3 production. Selenium supplements can also help because it is needed for T3 (the active form of thyroxin) production. Selenium deficiency is common because the soil where vegetables are grown nowadays are empty of selenium.

Regarding B12, a substance known as Intrinsic Factor is needed in order to absorb B12. Intrinsic Factor is produced in a healthy GIT, hence a Paleo Diet devoid of saponins, lectins and gluten can improve the production of Intrinsic Factor and therefore B12 absorption.

Blog Q: What is Dr. Cordain’s current recommendation regarding supplements? His books indicate supplementing certain vitamins (E, D, C, etc.) along with Selenium but I’m concerned that advice might be outdated. Recent literature (my apologies for not referencing them) along with some mainstream Dr’s--such as Dr. Dean Adel--indicate recent studies suggest supplements may be dangerous and to remove them all from your diet. Any comments or recent recommendations?

Similar Blog Q: In regards to the question on seafood, doesn't the recommendation to take supplements conflict with a recent newsletter that said vitamins aren't necessary? And that the human body wasn't meant to receive vitamins/antioxidants in pure form?

A: Dr. Cordain's current recommendations regarding supplements are based on the fact that our genome evolved in a diet rich in vitamins, mineral and phytochemicals compared to the typical western diet. In his scientific paper titled "The Nutritional Characteristics of a Contemporary Diet Based Upon Paleolithic Food Groups" he demonstrates that by eating a diet similar to what our ancestors did during 2.6 million years ago the amount of vitamins and minerals is much higher when compared to a typical western diet. This means that our "machinery", shaped by our ancient genome, needs high amount of vitamins, minerals and several other substances--not the ones recommended by current nutritional boards based on observations made in western populations. Hence, if you eat a Paleolithic diet you won't need to take supplements except for vitamin D, which is produced by the action of the sun in our skin. So, unless you have adequate exposure to sunlight (depending on season, latitude, skin color, etc.) you'll probably need to take vitamin D supplements.

In summary, if you've been eating a typical western diet, you are probably deficient in almost all vitamins and minerals, and will need to supplement them at least during a few months and cut them if you eat a Paleolithic diet most of the time. The ideal vitamins should be in their pure form.

Blog Q: In the newsletter v5 #24, you recommend breastfeeding until at least 1-1.5 years.

Is there a chance that auto-antibodies can be passed on to the child through mothers milk so that the child has greater risk in developing autoimmune disease? If that is the case, is it better to stop breastfeeding and start giving solid paleo food earlier?

Do you know if auto-antibodies pass on to the child during pregnancy?

Sincerely, Ohana

A: Dear Ohana,

Mother's milk provides the breast-fed baby with what is called passive immunity, this means that the mothers antibodies pass through to the infant in order to protect it against infections. Hence, the infant is protected against the same bacteria or virus as the mother is. However, our team is not aware of any research demonstrating that this mechanism increases the risk of autoimmune diseases. What has been shown is that food peptides from the mother's gut can pass on to the breast milk and therefore to the breast-fed baby. This might increase the risk of autoimmune or allergy diseases.

The bottom line is to eat as Paleo as possible in order to not increase the risk of these possible mechanisms of disease.

Regarding your last question, yes, auto-antibodies pass on to the child during pregnancy.


  1. I've been following the paleo diet for a long time and absolutely love it. However, recently, I've come across a few burning questions.

    First question - I'm familiar with paleo, but I know there are other similar diets, such as "The Primal Blueprint," which place far less emphasis on fruits. In fact, many of them encourage restriction of fruit to a few servings a day. They are effectively low-carb diets. They suggest keeping carbs below 150g/day, even if they are healthful carbs like fruits. The reasoning is that limiting these carbs will be beneficial in preventing weight gain. What is the paleo stance on this? Should one limit fruit intake in such a manner? As long as I am keeping protein intake high, is a bunch of fruit really going to matter?

    Second question - I've heard people discuss the idea of "calories in vs. calories out." According to some people, no matter what you eat, if you take in more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. Others argue, however, that it's not the quantity, but the quality of the calories that matters, i.e., if you eat completely paleo, and keep the macronutrient ratios in check, then there is no need to limit calories - you can eat literally as much as you want and not gain weight. What is your take on this?

  2. Hi there - I have been following a Paleo Diet for a few weeks now and there is no doubt that I feel much better for it. I did not need to lose weight and I always regarded myself as pretty fit and healthy. However, a little while back I developed a troublesome skin condition called Lichen Sclerosis which, without going into too much detail affects a rather sensitive part of the anatomy. Have you ever been asked about this condition and suggested dietary changes? I think part of the problem is that the etiology is not fully understood but many Drs seem to think it has an autoimmune component though I have read recent research that suggests oxidative damage plays a part and that antioxidant therapy may be useful in treatment. This condition is supposedly incurable (though manageable with potent steroids) but I'm sure it would give a great many people some comfort if simple dietary changes could help. Would be really great to hear your thoughts - Simon

  3. Hi there - really sorry to trouble you but I have only just noticed that my comment (re Lichen Sclerosus) was posted but there appears to be no reply. Is this something you may be able to address? Having read Dr Cordain's paper on hyperinsulimia, I wonder whether this may play a part in LS? As it stands, the only real treatment is high potency steroid cream which as you know brings it own challenges - a serious diet based treatment protocol would be a great comfort. For what it is worth, my symptoms seem to be under some control at present. Regards Simon

  4. hey.. thanks for the information, it helps me a lot :)

  5. I am also just starting out on the Paleo diet, I have previously tried Atkins but had problems finding some of their low carb products in my country. Paleo seems similar and as I love meat I am hoping to enjoy it.

  6. i love the idea that i give antibodies (help)
    to my baby

  7. can palo diet help me during pregnencey


The Paleo Diet Team invites you to leave comments or post questions to our blog. We receive a great amount of feedback, but we are not able to always answer personally. We read all comments, and we are very interested in hearing your thoughts, learning about your experiences, and understanding what questions you have. Note that we review all comments before publishing them on the blog. Comments posted that do not contain questions or comments related to paleo nutrition, or those that point to web sites that do not provide content that would be deemed helpful to our readers, will be rejected.

Thank you.
The Paleo Diet Team