5 Common “Paleo Pitfalls” and How You Can Avoid Them

Paleo Diet

When adopting a paleo diet, patients can begin to see and feel positive results within weeks, often including increased energy, weight loss, and improved digestion. While following this grain-free, Paleo diet, the body can normalize hunger hormones, repair the gut and begin to shed extra weight, however there are a few common setbacks that can cause people to fall off track.  Here are 5 common “Paleo Pitfalls”, and how you can avoid them.

1. “Carb Flu”

“Carbohydrate flu” is a term that is commonly used to describe feelings of body aches, upset stomach, low energy and headaches that are felt during the early stages of adopting a paleo diet. These symptoms are most often attributed to a greatly lower carbohydrate intake than the body is used to.  These symptoms are most common if transitioning from a Standard American Diet, high in refined and processed foods, to a whole food based Paleo diet.  It is possible to transition to a Paleo diet and maintaining healthy carbohydrate intake with fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squashes and other root vegetables to avoid these symptoms.  If you are trying to initiate ketosis or focusing on a very low carbohydrate state for weight loss and fat burning, the symptoms may be inevitable in the early stages.  Although uncomfortable, these symptoms typically resolve within a week or two as the body adapts to the lower carbohydrate state.

2. Constipation

Constipation is a top complaint of people who adopt a paleo diet.  The initial increase in protein on the paleo diet can cause a loss of water and salt which contributes to constipation.  Maintaining adequate water intake each day can help combat this problem.  Another helpful key is to make sure you are seasoning your food using unrefined salt, such as Himalayan sea salt.  Salt intake is greatly reduced when you stop eating refined foods so adding a pinch of salt to your meal can help restore the salt and water balance that is often offset by the paleo diet. If you are having a particularly difficult time, the Ayurvedic supplement triphala can help get things moving.

3. Skimping on Fat

If transitioning from a standard American diet where fat, particularly saturated fat, has been deaminized, it can be shocking to start consuming fats regularly.  People who transition to paleo but keep a “low fat” mentality are missing out on the health and weight loss benefits that good quality fats provide. Incorporating healthy fats like grass-fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil and avocado will help you feel full and satiated at meals, preventing cravings between meals.  Saturated fat is also necessary for healthy hormone production and brain health.

4. Eating Too Many Nuts

Nuts and nut butters are an easy on-the-go food when eating a paleo diet, making them easy to overdo, but unfortunately, over consuming nuts commonly causes stomach upset and bloating.  While they are a handy snack in a pinch and are a great addition to smoothies, nuts are high in phytates (phytic acid), which binds to minerals passing through the GI tract and prevents those minerals from being properly absorbed.  Additionally, because nuts are higher in Omega-6 fatty acids (which tend to be pro-inflammatory) compared to Omega-3 fatty acids (which help reduce inflammation in the body), overindulging on them can actually create unwanted inflammation.  Ideally, keep your nut and nut butter consumption to one to two servings per day.

5. Missing Out on Prebiotics

Legumes are credited for giving the gut plenty of soluble prebiotic fiber which is the fiber that serves as the food source for healthy bacteria in the gut.  When you remove legumes from the diet, making a conscious effort to increase soluble fiber with prebiotic vegetables is a must to keep your gut microbiome in top shape.  Making sure to include foods like onion, garlic, leafy greens such as dandelion and chicory, leeks, asparagus, radish and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower can help serve your gut bacteria and promote a healthy microbiome.

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  • D

    Hi Dr. Lipman,
    I heard your interview on the autoimmune summit this week. It was fascinating and very informative. I recently started a paleo-type, ketogenic diet. It has helped with the pain I experience from ankylosing spondylitis.

    I have seen recommendations that on a lowcarb, high fat diet, it is important to increase your intake of sodium and potassium. What is your take on this? I recently learned that sodium can up regulate inflammatory pathways, and should be used sparingly by people with autoimmune disorders.

    Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated.


  • Consuming a moderately or predominantly
    plant-based Paleo diet the way our ancestors did (see http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/14/science/nutcracker-mans-secret-he-didnt-crack-nuts.html?_r=1 and http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/01/10/real-caveman-diet-research-shows-ancient-man-feasted-mainly-on-tiger-nuts/
    ) solves pitfalls 1,2,4, and 5. You need
    not be carb-phobic to succeed on a Paleo diet, because our Paleo ancestors
    weren’t! Eating plenty of plant foods
    helps reverse constipation that is commonly associated with low-fiber
    diets. If you want to eat ‘nuts’ that
    are, well, nut-free, then try Tiger Nuts!
    They’re a tuber that has the crunch/texture of cashews. You can munch on several pieces of Tiger Nuts and not worry about overdoing
    pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. Tiger Nuts also contain resistant
    starch, which feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. Grab a bag now at http://www.tigernutsusa.com