30 days of complete paleo

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 22, 2011 at 7:46 AM

When converting to a paleo diet and lifestyle, how important is it to go completely 100% paleo for 30 days? Is this detoxifying process necessary for your body to convert to ketosis? Basically I have been following on and off for over a year but have struggled with keeping a completely clean diet for over a week. How important is the 30 day "cleanse" and will the process provide noticeably different results than just eating paleo 60-80% of the time. Lastly what are the key factors/foods that are highest on the elimination list? Thanks!



on November 22, 2011
at 11:23 PM

....your answer to above (yes/no), will likely be an indicator as to whether you are keto-adapted or not (which may be of interest since you mention ketosis in your question)



on November 22, 2011
at 11:21 PM

....your answer to above (yes/no), will likely be an indicator as to whether you are keto-adapted or not (which may be of interest to you since you mentioned ketosis)



on November 22, 2011
at 08:27 AM

Hi christine, good question. Are you able to do a 23 or 24 hour (ie. 'dinner to dinner') water only fast fairly easily, without craving food, getting light headed or hypoglycemic?

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9 Answers



on November 22, 2011
at 04:52 PM

The biggest issue that paleo addresses is the damage caused by grains and legumes, specifically wheat and to a lesser extent soy. Going partially paleo does not allow your gut to heal, so you're still going to suffer from leaky gut and all the auto-immune damage that causes along with it.

So I'd say it's critical to go 100% at least for that first 30 days so you'll notice the damage that grains cause when/if you go back to them. It's also important to continue to avoid all grains and legumes, even after the 30 days so you avoid re-damaging your gut.

The reason for this is that most people do have a reaction to wheat and other grains, and almost everyone is damaged by things like trans fats and PUFAs from seed and "vegetable" oils. Most people do not have symptoms such as IBS or Hashimotos, or celiac disease, or arthritis, and yet still have leaky gut and suffer from silent inflamation which shortens their lives and makes them sicker. Those that do have symptoms have most of them go away when they do. It's not always a cure, but it's pretty darn good.

Most who avoid these things also find they no longer get colds or flus 2-3 times a year and have their energy levels and health go up.

It's not magic, though it sounds like it to those still on a Standard American Diet (SAD), but look at it this way, if you're eating poison, and are used to feeling bad but are chalking up the symptoms to just normal aging, but then stop eating those poisons, of course you'll get better and feel better. If you then tell other folks in your family or your friends about it, they'll think you've joined a cult because they're so used to feeling like crap all the time, that they don't realize they're not supposed to feel like crap as they get old. Until they see the change and try it for themselves. :)

So again, it's critical to remove at least all grains and legumes. You can play with nightshades and dairy after the 30 day elimination and see if you're ok.

Note that going into ketosis is completely different from compliance with avoiding all grains and legumes.

You'd want ketosis in order to a) lose weight, b) lower or remove insulin resistance, c) start autophagy in order to remove junk cell parts clogging your tissues. This is very useful in and of itself, but save it for after getting your gut healed as that is hard enough to adjust to.

Now, if you're pre-diabetic, type 2, overweight, or insulin resistant, going into ketosis is a very positive thing. Doing it via coconut oil is even more beneficial as coconut helps heal our guts too. Doing the same and using intermittent fasting (IF) is even more beneficial above that.

If you don't need to go into ketosis, and are comfortable with your leanness and health, then don't. If you miss neolithic foods and are ok with finding alternatives to some things, for example making coconut/almond flour pancakes and are willing to live with the carb load, by all means do that.

To illustrate:

If you're eating boxes of processed junk food and fast food, going to a clean diet that includes grains is also going to improve your health (i.e. standard, but misguided definition of a "healthy" diet or vegetarian diet).

But removing all grains and all legumes and trans fats and seed oils will improve your health way beyond that. So it's a whole spectrum from being completely broken to completely healed and in optimum health.



on November 22, 2011
at 04:11 PM

The paleo community as a whole agrees on only four points: 1. avoid processed food 2. avoid gluten 3. avoid excess fructose and 4. keep PUFAs low. If you are doing those four things, you are 100% paleo.



on November 22, 2011
at 04:05 PM

The main purposes of going 100% ancestral for 30 days are:

  • find out if you are intolerant of one or more foods, so you want to be symptom-free and introduce suspected foods one at a time

  • avoid foods you believe to be unhealthy based on direct content or industrial processing

In the first case, as you find favorite foods that don't reduce your energy and feelings of well-being (including BG, BP?) you would add variety to your menus. One or more foods might be technically non-ancestral but they are fine for you.

In the latter case, you might still use a small list of foods at first to get symptom free, then introduce ancestral foods only to build variety in your menus. Any ancestral foods that give you trouble could be excluded and those that particularly agree with you would become staples.



on November 22, 2011
at 07:55 AM

Ketosis will happen if you drop below a certain level of carbs. Often 50 grams.

For an ordered list of things to avoid I like Kurt Harris's description here: http://www.archevore.com/get-started/

I like his gradual aproach over the 30 day aproach.



on November 22, 2011
at 07:16 PM

Ketosis is only a function of the amount of carbs you're eating, there's nothing specific to paleo that causes ketosis (or specific to ketosis that requires paleo). They are two separate things. Generally people do go somewhat ketogenic when eating paleo because the diet is naturally lower in carbs than a typical diet, but it doesn't HAVE to be.

The most important reason not to cheat for your 30 days is to give your gut time to heal. I've read a couple of places that even very small gluten exposure can damage your gut and take upwards of 6 weeks to heal. So even if you only have one small cheat cookie every week, you may still be able to lose weight and get the benefits of the diet that way, but you won't actually heal your gut - which I think is the most important part of paleo.

I wrote this as an answer to a similar question before:

Some things are "all-or-nothing" and some things are "less is better than more" and yet others are "more is better than less".

For me, all-or-nothing really falls in the category of gut-irritants because anything that irritates your gut causes damage that can take weeks to fix. So a small exposure once in a while really becomes a chronic problem. To that end, I say grains and legumes are just off limits.

In the "less is better than more" category, I place sugar. Granted sugar is a real toxic substance and your body does what it can to get rid of it, and chronically elevated sugar levels are bad. BUT if you're insulin sensitive and can process the sugar, then your body is doing it's job (it may break down the road and not continue to do it's job) and it's probably best to cut back on the sugars, but a gradual ramp down will show some improvement. Here's where I agree with Sisson's 80/20 rule.

For the "more is better than less" category, I'd add saturated fat. If you can get some, great it's a good building block. The more you can get, the better, but if someone is a low-fat person, then their body will probably recycle what sat fat it can, so as long as some is coming in, it's not THAT bad (look at all the vegetarians who get nearly no sat fat, they're still OK - not great, but OK).



on November 22, 2011
at 04:18 PM

Especially with gluten, I think it's pretty important to give your gut some time to repair. Even a small exposure to it every what, ten to fifteen days?, keeps the small intestine damaged. So for that I think yes, it is essential to do the 30-day strict period.



on November 22, 2011
at 03:56 PM

If your in "good" (if your eating SAD...your not, but assume good means detectable disease process with todays technology) health already and just looking to get healthier I think either slowly changing over (like the NAD by kurt harris, like eric pointed out) or the 30 day full on like Robb Wolf or Primal can work just find depending more on your personality.

If on the other hand you have a specific ailment I believe its vital to go whole hog with strict rules for at least 30 days to start.

Either way is better than not doing it at all though! So don't fall into analysis paralysis!


on November 22, 2011
at 11:46 AM

I think it's useful, but not essential, to do a 30-day complete paleo to start (or as a refresh). One of the values of doing it this way is that seeing the difference in how you feel completely off neolithic foods can help people make the commitment to the diet as a lifestyle. But over at Being Primal, Dean argues that "telling newbies to go 30-days completely Paleo is absolute insanity."

It's really a question of wade in the shallow end or dive into the deep end? The question is are you just getting used to the water temp or learning to swim? That makes a big difference!

Anyways, the 30 days is not so much a detox process as it is substituting whole, nutrient-dense foods for the high calorie, nutrient-poor foods in the standard Western diet. And it's not about ketosis unless you choose to go low carb.

It can provide noticeably different results from 60-80% paleo, especially if you have any sensitivities to neolithic foods. I agree with Eric that Kurt Harris has a good approach to doing this gradually.

Me, I've been doing this over a year and have yet to do a 30-day 100% clean stretch. My diet is essentially the love child of the Jaminets' PHD and Tim Ferriss' SCD: I eat PHD 6 days a week, and one meal a week, I eat what I like (so it's like 95/5 ;). Like Dean, I've found that the longer I go, the less I am using/needing the crutch of my old foods.

But I am actually contemplating doing a 30-day deal after the holidays. Just seems like a great hello New Year thing to do!



on November 22, 2011
at 01:35 PM

Honestly, I'm not sure how a 60% paleo diet would differ much from the SAD. If meats, fruits, veggies, nuts/seeds, healthy fats, and possibly some dairy are only 60% of your diet, what are you eating the other 40% of the time?

I really don't think you'd get particularly good results.

I think starting with a strict 30-day program is a great way to get everything that could be causing you problems out of your diet and start figuring out what works for you and what doesn't. Then you will be able to modify the diet to suit your particular needs and goals. However, if a 30-day program seems too difficult for you (especially if you are currently eating a diet that would require a lot of changes), a gradual program like Kurt Harris's (mentioned above by Eric) is a great option, too.

A lot of people misunderstand the whole 80% thing. The idea is to strive for 100%, but understand that occasionally life will get in the way so you may only hit 80% and you shouldn't get all stressed out about it (personally I think this is low and suspect most people who are committed to ancestral eating usually hit much higher). The idea is not to strive for only 80%; that is not likely to give you good results.

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