Is an Autoimmune Paleo diet safe?

If you’re dealing with an #autoimmune disease, chances are you have heard of an autoimmune paleo diet, or maybe even tried it. This diet excludes all grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, nightshades, and sometimes other foods such as citrus or natural sweeteners.

While many have used this diet successfully, I want to present another way to look at this diet because, unfortunately, I have also seen many people GET sick while eating this way.

If done right, this diet can be healthy and can aide in healing a leaky gut (which we know is at the root of autoimmune conditions) as well as reducing your allergen load (which helps reduce immune stimulation). But there are REAL risks with this diet that you should take into consideration before starting or before you continue with it.

  1. Lack of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These are essential to human health and without them you can end up digging a deeper hole for your health. You must rely on fatty animal foods to get these vitamins and since avocado, olive, coconut, and meat fats primarily the only fats allowed it can be tricky to get enough animal fat. Most people are used to buying lean cuts of meat to begin with. Use lard, tallow, duck fat, or chicken fat in cooking, and non-lean cuts of meat as solutions to this problem.
  2. Lack of cholesterol. Cholesterol is the raw fuel that our hormones are made from so we need it for our thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormone health. Cholesterol also fights infections (we know infections are a cause of autoimmunity to begin with so we need cholesterol). It also aides in synapse formation so without it we can get brain fog and memory loss. See above for ideas as this only comes from animal fat sources. 
  3. High in thyroid-stimulating fats. If you are hypothyroid, this isn’t a bad thing. But if you have Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism, relying on avocado and coconut as your primary fat sources (both of which are thyroid-stimulating) can have dire consequences. I have seen many hyperthyroid patients eat an AIP diet and get worsening of symptoms — rapid heartbeat that can’t be slowed, anxiety, weight loss, mania, sweating, etc. 
  4. Weight loss. This is one of the number one complaints I see when people come to me while on an AIP diet before we make alterations. Bottom line, it is HARD to get enough calories daily while eating AIP. It kind of ends up being like the chicken breast and broccoli low-fat diets of the 80’s/90’s. You can add coconut cream to smoothies, put coconut butter on apples or sweet potatoes, fry vegetables in animal fat, dip vegetable chips in guacamole, and eat fruit (especially dried fruits), and have sausage or bacon daily for additional calories, but you will likely still lose weight. If it gets to a point where you are losing too much weight (again, VERY common), you should think about adding in the least allergenic of the foods you have eliminated and see how you feel and how your blood work looks. White rice and legumes that have been soaked or sprouted tend to be okay for some.
  5. Worsening of mental health or mindset. Simply put, it is hard to ENJOY life when all you are worrying about is diet. If you have to eliminate these foods because the diet genuinely is helping or because you do notice a reaction to these foods, then by all means stick with it. But JOY is a required element to the healing process and it’s not fun for anyone to miss out on social events or to simply start hating food because there are so many rules. Rules and the perceived “punishment” make us sick.

Remember, there are always more sides to the story. Just because a diet is popular at the moment doesn’t mean it’s right for YOU. You are a unique being and deserve a diet as unique as your genes and life history. A standard approach can never take those things into consideration. 

Ready to figure out the perfect diet for you? Ready to improve your lab work and daily symptoms? Click here to book a nutrition consultation. 

The definitive guide to low-carb snacking

Who should eat low-carb? I never ever recommend the same diet to every client I work with. We are all way too genetically and “environmentally” different. That is, no two people have the same nutritionally-significant gene mutations and no two … Continue reading

anti-candida diet menu ideas

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Systemic yeast infections are a hallmark of autoimmune and thyroid disease — the two often go hand in hand with yeast overgrowth or fungal infections. In order to improve your thyroid numbers and immune function, eliminating the yeast in your body — and the foods that feed yeast — is essential.

Anti-candida (ie: yeast) diets vary in severity, but the most important points to remember on any anti-yeast elimination diet are:

  1. avoid sugars — even natural ones (like honey or maple syrup), high-sugar fruits, and also artificial sweeteners
  2. avoid anything that is inherently moldy or a mushroom itself (ie: moldy food, mushrooms, truffles, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, old spices)
  3. avoid vinegar and condiments made with vinegar (mustard, mayo, ketchup)
  4. avoid food allergens — most commonly gluten and dairy, but also avoid any other allergens you react to
  5. avoid high starch foods — grains, beans, legumes
  6. avoid processed meats and low-quality proteins — choose organic, wild-caught, pastured, grass-fed proteins
  7. avoid refined fats and oils (ie: canola, soy, sunflower)
  8. add probiotic foods
  9. avoid chemicals in your food, water, and beauty/hygiene routine
  10. usually there is an underlying food sensitivity that needs to be addressed. “untreated” food intolerances can and will feed yeast in the body. common examples: gluten intolerance, egg or airy intolerance, oxalate sensitivity, phenol sensitivity, histamine intolerance, etc. so yes, elimination of known allergens is important, but consider which foods you may also be sensitive to and eliminate those. 

Keep in mind that going too low-carb can actually slow your thyroid, so a strictly ketogenic diet (no carbs, even in the form of low-sugar fruits and root vegetables) is not ideal or the goal. Candida takes time to eliminate and chances are, if it’s causing you trouble (ie: thyroid or autoimmune symptoms) it’s already pathogenic and will need months or years to get rid of. Be patient and don’t rush the process. Stress can and will give yeast a better opportunity to proliferate. Shorter “cleanses” — where the diet is followed for a month or two — can be useful as well if you don’t feel comfortable committing to a long-term diet upfront.

anti-candida meal ideas:

  • B: smoked salmon and fried egg with sauteed zucchini and bell peppers, or cucumber slices
  • B: bacon (high quality with no additives) and roasted sweet potato with toppings you like (coconut butter or ghee, caramelized onions and spinach)
  • B: sausage (high quality with no additives) and eggs with a low-glycemic fruit and coconut flour bread
  • B: chia seed pudding with unsweetened coconut milk, cinnamon, and berries of your choice (or also use coconut butter to make it more rich)
  • L: leftover salmon with plantain chips and salsa and guacamole
  • L: simple tuna salad (lemon, fresh herbs, water-packed olives, olive oil) over lettuce and veggies
  • L: homemade beef chili (meat, veggies, fat, broth, and spices) topped with green onion and zucchini “pasta” if you like
  • L: homemade baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant, garlic, onion, pureed with lemon, olive oil, sea salt, and tahini if you like) with veggie chips and roasted chicken
  • D: middle eastern meatballs (ground pork, onion, cilantro and basil, curry powder) with roasted beets, and raw vegetable sticks and garlic-hemp seed dipping sauce
  • D: grain-free salmon cakes with water-packed olives and roasted red peppers served over a salad, with roasted spaghetti squash
  • D: seared scallops  or shrimp with roasted carrots, parsnips and onions, served with sauerkraut
  • D: lettuce wraps of bacon, roasted chicken, tomato, onion, leftover baba ghanouj on romaine lettuce leaves with sweet potato chips

calcium sources in a dairy-free diet

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If you’ve gone dairy-free for healing food allergies and a leaky gut (a cause of autoimmunity and thyroid disease), you may be concerned about calcium intake and not getting enough to support your bones and teeth. Don’t worry — there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium full of taste and nutrition to incorporate or emphasize in your diet.

dairy-free calcium sources:

  • canned wild-caught fish (with the bones. the bones disintegrate when you cook/eat them)
  • greens and green vegetables
  • nuts and seeds, especially sesame seeds/tahini
  • seaweed (only if your thyroid can tolerate)
  • water kefir made with egg shells
  • bone broth (also happens to heal Leaky Gut — a cause for thyroid disease and autoimmunity)

There’s also evidence mounting that the amount of calcium a person eats in a day may not be as important as the other nutrients she’s eating it with. That is, co-factors like Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 (found in animal fats) are essential for calcium absorption. So be sure to eat adequate thyroid-stimulating and immune-supporting fats each day to maximize calcium intake.

food ideas:

(As always, homemade ensures better nutrition!)

  • baba ghanouj made with tahini
  • hummus made with tahini
  • grain-free salmon cakes
  • cup of bone broth as a snack
  • sardine salad (á la tuna salad) mashed with mayo, herbs, and lemon
  • homemade nut milks with the pulp
  • water kefir flavored with fruit of your choice
  • seaweed snacks (often toasted with sesame oil)
  • dairy-free cheeze sauce/dip made with hemp seeds, cashews, almonds, or macadamia nuts
  • raw dark greens salad topped with soft-boiled eggs and probiotic vinaigrette
  • green beans almondine
  • chili made with bone broth
  • water kefir “Icee”: blended with ice and frozen fruit
  • green juice made in your juicer
  • mock tuna salad nut paté
  • seaweed salad (using a gluten-free and/or soy-free “soy sauce” substitute)
  • almond flour pancakes
  • herb-only salad: parsley, basil, cilantro, mint tossed in a light dressing
  • smoothie made with homemade nut milk, nut butter of your choice, fruit and dark greens