What About Dairy and Other Primal Diet Questions

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Recently by Mark Sisson: Are Oats Healthy?


Over the past few years, leading paleo spokesperson Robb Wolf and I have forged a great Internet friendship. Suffice to say, we think a lot alike and exchange ideas often. Yet, we hadn’t actually met in person until two weeks ago when Robb and his beautiful wife Nicki came out to Malibu to spend an evening with Carrie and me. We had a fabulous time, great dinner and talked at length about the future of Primal/paleo/ancestral health. One of the topics was how to blend this information in a way that the various “brands” can be mutually supportive in the interest of everyone winning (and, of course, world peace). That’s sort of what the Ancestral Health Symposium was created to do. However, we still get a lot of people on Mark’s Daily Apple who wonder about the differences between Primal and paleo eating styles, so I thought I’d put together a list of paleo-specific questions from MDA readers and have Robb do a guest post today on that topic.

Meanwhile, if you don’t yet have a copy Robb’s great book The Paleo Solution, you owe it to yourself to get an entertaining dose of his detailed perspective on diet, exercise and life. Looks great on the shelf right next to The Primal Blueprint

What is your take on dairy? Why isn’t it part of your Paleo Solution, even in moderation? You’ve said that if you have any sort of metabolic derangement or autoimmune disease, you must stay away from dairy. Could you explain?

Whoa there Tiger!! What exactly do I recommend in my book, podcast and free quick start guide?

Try this paleo thing, strictly, for 30 days and see how you look, feel and perform. Track biomarkers of health & disease (before and after). Now, once you are healthy, non-inflamed and suffering from no autoimmune diseases you get to tinker. Is dairy a problem for you? Well, you will never know until you try eliminating it and reintroducing.

The literature is a mixed bag on dairy. Some information indicates it is pro-inflammatory and insulinogenic. Other work does not vilify dairy in the same way. Pedro Bastos gave a remarkably detailed accounting of dairy at the recent Ancestral Health Symposium and the take away I had was:

  1. Grass fed is better.
  2. Fermented is better.
  3. Traditional collection schedules were better (minimizing growth factors and estrogens)
  4. Genetic factors are important in determining individual tolerances.

Personally, I use a fair amount of grass fed butter, some cheeses, a little whey protein (Mark's Primal Fuel to be exact). If I use something like a low quality cheddar cheese I get acne, my joints ache and I get congested. If I use a LOT of whey protein (2 large doses per day for many days) I might get a little acne. So, I'm actually the u201Cpaleou201D guy that in reality eats u201CPrimal.u201D Am I a sell out? Is my information inaccurate? No, but different people have different needs, and I recommend a tight, u201COrthodox paleou201D approach in the beginning. Mark takes a different approach…we both seem to be reasonably successful with this stuff, and I think that is because we have tight rules for the folks who need it, provide plenty of latitude to the folks who can tinker more broadly.

How much fat should be in our diets?

Well, who are you and what are you trying to do? Are you trying to lose body fat? If so then we certainly want to attend to dropping insulin and reducing inflammation, but if you do not know the difference between a mouth and vacuum cleaner…you might have problems! An attendee at one of my seminars was trying to lose weight but was consuming a WHOLE can of coconut milk with every meal. She felt good, but thought she should be losing fat faster…At some point calories DO count!

Are you a skinny, high strung person with lots of activity? You could likely benefit from a good amount of fat (I'd go mainly saturated and Mono's with a few grams per day of long chain N-3/N-6). I've seen some people (mainly academic types…with NO clinical experience of actually working with people) rip Art De Vany to shreds for his generally moderate fat recommendations. Art's position is based on the observation that folks are generally not that active and therefore do not need that much more fat than what they get from their meat, fish etc. For the overweight and sedentary, I think this is spot on. Unfortunately there is no u201Cone size fits allu201D answer with nutrition. We actually need to think and some of the best questions to ask are u201CWho and Whatu201D.

You often talk about how gluten wrecked you. Could you tell us more about the symptoms you experienced?

I had ulcerative colitis so bad I was facing a bowel resection at the ripe old age of 26. When I had an abdominal exam the pain was so bad it would make me break into a cold sweat in anticipation of just having the doctor push in on my stomach. I had depression, high blood pressure and broad systemic inflammation…I hurt everywhere. It sucked.

Could you touch on the health and fitness differences along gender lines? Are there any special considerations (hormonal or otherwise) that men and women need to take into account?

Women need to worry less about u201Closingu201D weight. Men need to worry less about u201Cgainingu201D weight. If you are a coach dealing with a mixed population you need to be aware that women can move a given % of their 1RM for more reps than men (generally). Orthopedic issues that women face (knees specifically) are easily addressed by smart training (training the quads to fire properly when landing from a jump). All in all, not that much of a difference.

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