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Pop Tarts or Paleo Diet?

Pop Tarts or Paleo Diet?

Written by
May 26, 2016
Updated February 13, 2019
Category: Nutrition

I probably haven’t eaten one of those since high school, and that does not make me a better human than anyone else. In every consult, I make sure to tell my clients that we cannot be attached to a “Paleo Diet.” Instead, we have to be attached to nutrient density and finding a diet that they can digest, assimilate, and eliminate without immune burden, and adhere to long-term.

Some people can eat grains and not have any noticeable or long-term consequences. Yet, what bothers me most in the Paleo community is the complete disregard for caloric density by authors and physicians. Yes, in a Paleolithic world, our hunger may have been more regulated, and we would go through periods of famine and plenty.

That is not the world we live in now, and to infer that if we go back in time with our diet, all of our hunger issues and cravings from blinking lights and constantly driving by Chick-fil-a will evaporate is a poor hypothesis. Environment matters, probably more than anything else.

We have to educate our clients why Auto Immune Paleo or some other elimination diet is the best place to start. Then we have to give them a plan, a place to start, and make sure they don’t stray into a field of bacon with rivers of coconut oil, because otherwise shit like this happens.

How Paleo Made Me Fat…and Pop Tarts Got Me Shredded.

Here is where selection bias comes in. Dr. Layne Norton and I have the exact same degrees, yet he sees people who want to get shredded and are likely fairly robust. The resilience of the people I see varies immensely, but most of them have GI symptomatology.

I have an immense respect for Dr. Norton and all those that can drive people to the bounds of their potential. There is always a cost, and I will never be the guy to get you insanely lean for a bodybuilding show, and if you want to do that, you should seek out the best.

That degree of control and type A-ness is not where I want to live. What wakes me up in the morning is individualizing dietary and lifestyle protocols to drive health and performance.

“I am on day 18 of Auto Immune Paleo, supplements, 8 hours of sleep, less screen time, lots of water, and mindfulness. I feel really good! I officially have gone a week without any diarrhea for the first time in my life, and have constantly weighed 152 the last few days! I think the most life changing thing so far has been my anxiety! It has drastically decreased. I feel like I can function like a normal human now, and a pleasant one! Can’t wait to continue this journey. Oh and for the first time in my life, these things people call abs have started to peak out. Thanks for everything you’ve done so far!!”

Pop Tarts were killing her. So what gives?

Let’s look at immunoreactivity testing

Pop Tarts or Paleo Diet?

The above quote is from a 24 year old female with a family history of Autoimmune Disease and GI Symptoms. (She is also immune reactive to multiple epitopes of gliadin)

Now let’s flip it. A 22 Year Old with No Family History of Autoimmune Disease and No GI Symptoms (I advised she not run Cyrex testing)

Pop Tarts or Paleo Diet?

Let’s check out some others.

Pop Tarts or Paleo Diet?

That is from a 17 year old with no GI symptoms, BUT 5 out of 8 of his immediate family members have an autoimmune condition and his fraternal twin brother has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

Pop Tarts or Paleo Diet?

This last one is me. My father has Celiac Disease, my mother has Hashimoto’s, and my grandmother has MS. I am lucky. I pounded grains until I was about 22 and had constant GI symptoms. The conventional medical model wanted to put me on Prilosec forever.

I have not knowingly consumed gluten in seven years, however I do absolutely fine with dairy (genetically and physiologically), rice, and corn. And these items show up consistently in my diet on training days when it is difficult for me to keep my blood sugar balanced with tubers and leafy greens (possible, but my jaw hurts, and I won’t adhere long-term).

On non-training days, I eat “clean” and take all the grains out, not because of how it makes me feel, but because it naturally lowers my carb intake on the days where I don’t need as much. It works for me, and it has for a long time.

I am not naïve enough to think that what works for me is the answer for all mankind. However, I do believe in the elimination and reintroduction process. I also believe that those with consistent GI symptoms should not be eating pop tarts, and that the risks of pop tart consumption far outweigh any potential benefit for those with an autoimmune disease or family history of auto-immunity.

You might think that this may not be a lot of people, BUT more than 60 million Americans have chronic constipation, 136 million suffer from a GI infection, and 20% of the country has reflux symptoms, and over 50 million Americans have an overt autoimmunity. That’s a lot of people whose only benefit from pop tarts is getting to look normal in our current environment.

The risks involve flaring a disease state or never letting your GI tract heal. There is also the risk of a disordered eating pattern, which comes from an attachment that somehow moderation of sugar laden wheat is healthier or needed. If you are reactive, you can not have a little bit of anything that causes you symptoms or you are immunoreactive to.

Maybe down the line (3 to 6 months), once immune tolerance is re-established and borders are sealed, you can re-test or play a bit more.

The elimination approach is the gold standard in research, and even these type of food antibody testing modalities will not pick up all food intolerances. For example, you could have a carbohydrate, FODMAP, sulfur, etc intolerance for many other reasons.

You could also have an IgE response like a post nasal drip from dairy or death by peanuts, which would need to be investigated via skin testing. Or you could not do well with protein because your meal hygiene is atrocious or you have low HCl due to mitochondrial damage or a sluggish thyroid.

My goal of this post was just to present the other side, and to applaud the validity of the point that not everyone has food immunoreactivities, and that someone could in fact get very impressive results without a “Paleo” approach and that many DO! If you want to read more on this, read everything by Aristo Vajdani and Alessio Fasano.

The testing above is from Cyrex Labs. I make no money on ordering food immunoreactivity panels, and I have no financial connection to Cyrex. Furthermore, I only ask patients to spend the money on this type of testing when the need is there.

This testing also does not take the place of a proper elimination and reintroduction protocol. The ultimate goal is always eating the highest quality, nutrient dense food that we can afford, and for some people, a pop tart post training may not even rock the ship, but for others it could sink them into an immune tail spin for 3 to 6 months.

Pop Tarts or Paleo Diet?

Ben House, PhD, CN, FDN, fNMT, NCSF, USAW LI SPC has worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Nutritionist since 2006. House is currently the owner and founder of Functional Medicine Costa Rica. House was accepted to medical school without an undergraduate degree, but elected to finish his degree and pursue a career in the health and fitness sector. He is currently practicing Functional Medicine after finishing his PhD and a multi-year metabolic health study within the Nutritional Sciences Department at UT-Austin. House has numerous publications in peer reviewed scientific journals such as The International Journal of Obesity, has presented his work at multiple international conferences, and lectures regularly on health and nutrition at The University of Texas.
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