7 Myths About the Auto Immune Protocol and Paleo Diets

I like to keep on top of the news. Especially when it concerns lifestyle choices I've made. But I see too many well-written - but poorly researched - articles on how bad paleo diets are - and that includes the autoimmune protocol, which I follow. 

There was one article recently that headlined how harmful the diet was - and had as its headline image a man enthusiastically ripping apart a piece of raw, bloody meat with his teeth. Yep. We're not doing that on our lunch break, just so you know.

So I wanted to talk about a few of the main gripes I have with these kinds of articles: 

1. The paleo diets are 'elitist' because meat is expensive
Believe me when I say that my shopping bill went DOWN when I started eating paleo. Yes, I was buying (where I could, but not always) organic or grass-fed meat, which is expensive. But I wasn't buying the crisps, biscuits, cakes, bread, fruit juices, oven chips and chicken nuggets that I used to buy. I was shelling out instead on offal. Like liver, kidneys and heart. My butcher gives me FREE bones for broth and stock. I use every bit of the chicken from the Sunday roast. See? Nothing goes to waste, not even the bones. Buying processed (expensive for what they are) foods, only mainstream cuts of meat (fillet steak and chicken breast fillets, I'm looking at you) and chucking leftovers in the bin? Now to me, that's an elitist way of eating.

Roasted marrowbones. Cheap. Sometimes free. And paleo.

2. The paleo diet is a low-carb diet and can therefore mess up your digestion
Who said it was low-carb? I've never heard that. I eat tons of carbs - sweet potatoes, carrots, squash - just not bread. Carbs are very important as a source of energy and to help keep your digestive system running smoothly. In fact, on paleo, it becomes a bit of a mission to find carbs and include them in your diet. Yes, we're actually looking for carbs. And my digestion has never been working so well, thanks.

3. The paleo diet is just a fad
Hmm. Archaeological evidence points to early Man eating seafood, foraged vegetables, nuts, berries and meats. We're talking over 10,000 years ago - before we started farming. I don't recall Time Team ever digging up a paleolithic skeleton and finding it clutching a crumpled up, faded doughnut packet. But if you want to call it a fad, please do. It'll be the longest running 'fad' in history. 

Celeriac chips - one form of starchy veg and important for carbs

4. The paleo diet is a high meat diet and could cause cancer
OK. Firstly, it's not 'high meat'. It's just low-rubbish. If you're doing paleo the right way, you'll be eating a wide range of foods - seafood, fish, meats, poultry. We do eat bacon, but we recognise that there are limits and it should be eaten occasionally. We eat well-sourced, natural cuts of meat. When the 'processed meat and cancer' headlines hit the news a year or so ago, they were talking about sausages, bacon, burgers and chicken nuggets if I remember correctly. Not duck legs or pork belly. And we don't just eat red meat. I probably eat beef or lamb once a week - the rest of the time it's chicken, turkey, fish and seafood. Secondly, paleo eaters eat a lot more veggies than you would probably imagine. We have to. You need something else to fill your plate when you don't have bread, rice or pasta. Dr Terry Wahls - who used a paleo diet and functional medicine to reverse multiple sclerosis - recommends eating 9 cups of veggies every day. 

5. The paleo diet contains a lot of fat - including saturated fat - which will give you heart disease
More and more medical professionals are coming out with the idea that it's not fat that's making us all ill, but too much sugar. And carbohydrate is, ultimately, a form of sugar - if we don't use it quickly. I remember a while ago, a nurse at my doctor's surgery was appalled when I told her I ate quite a lot of avocado, and told me to stop it, for the sake of my blood pressure. Now, fats are seen differently, as we learn more about what causes heart disease (inflammation) or makes us more chunky (sugar). Read up on Dr Malcolm Kendrick (a British doctor) and the posts explaining this on Mark's Daily Apple.

6. Paleo diets are not environmentally sound because of the huge quantities of meat eaten
Firstly, it's not all about meat. But you knew that, from statement 4, above. Now consider this. What meat we do eat, we try to get grass-fed or higher welfare, because that's where you get the rich and beneficial omega-3 oils contained in the meat. We don't really like to eat shellfish that's been intensively farmed with chemicals that could be contaminating the seas of the world. The argument about using huge patches of land to grow grains to feed cattle - naturally grass-eating animals - is also worth considering here. And let's not forget the smoke, chemicals and waste being pumped out by factories that produce our processed, conventional foods. Have a look at what Mark Sissons has to say about this in his post on feeding the world on a primal diet. 

7. Diet can't 'fix' autoimmune disease, only medicine can
If I had a pound coin for all the times I was told this (usually by doctors) - well, I'd be blogging from a balcony in Monaco by now. While no one is claiming that autoimmune disease can be 'fixed' completely - it's something you might have to live with for a long time, maybe the rest of of your life - but an autoimmune-friendly diet might send it into remission. Look on the web and you will see lots of success stories, if mine isn't good enough for you. Look at what Sarah Ballantyne (The Paleo Mom) says about Dr Terry Wahls' promising clinical trial on diet and autoimmunity. If you're on medication I wouldn't suggest stopping it though - work with your doctor and your meds alongside a AIP diet and I bet you'll see some difference. I know I did. Other factors like stress, sunlight and vitamins play a part too, I should also add.