A number of people have now given us feedback after starting the diet, and I think this is a good time to review the effects, good and bad, that people have experienced.
In upcoming posts, I’ll discuss the negative experiences further and explore possible causes.
It’s gratifying that most people who have tried our diet have reported very positive experiences. Those who read the comment threads or Amazon reviews will have seen some of them; I get others via email.
Here are two from Amazon reviews:
I have battled Celiac disease for some time and got about 80% better with a Paleo diet… but the Perfect Health Diet was the first book that could finally answer that last 20% with science based logic. (Jordan Reasoner)
I can’t believe how much better I feel!…
I had been eating (very) low-carb and high-protein for the better part of a decade – and I had gotten a lot of practice arrogantly dismissing suggestions (from any source) that I should change anything about my diet….
Results: (after 1.5 months or so.)
- I’m no longer “brain-dead” and unable to think in the evenings after work.
- I no longer have fruit or chocolate cravings.
- I’m much happier, and wake up looking forward to the day.
- I’ve been much more social.
- The extra starch has not resulted in weight gain. (I always gained weight when eating carbs before.)
- It looks like the fasting (which I’ve never tried before) is helping my alertness and also contributing to healthy weight loss.
It took less than a week for me to notice dramatic changes….
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. (gp2x)
Here are two from the last few days’ comments.
Yours is by far, the best Paleo / Ancestral diet that makes sense…. I was very strict Paleo for a good 8 months, and yes felt fantastic and lost 10ks etc. But then started feeling tired, moody. Enter some carbs (from the suggestion of your book) in the source of potato and rice and taro – and now I’m feeling a whole lot better. Did I put on weight. Of course not! Essentially now I eat what my body craves. I can listen to it now and it responds accordingly. It knows when it needs more carbs (eg., after exercise). And it knows how much as well. (Lisa Weis)
Since reading Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories my life has been transformed. Who knew that butter was a healthy food. Previous to reading GCBC I was a fruit fiend. I ate bowls and bowls of cherries this past summer and wondered by I could not lose weight. I reached my weight loss goals by eliminating grains and limiting dairy to butter and cream and reducing fruit intake. That said, over the last month or so, I was wondering why my body seemed to be drying out from the inside out. I want to tweak my diet to optimum health and found your book. The information about the importance of mucin was helpful. What was missing in my diet was the carbs that you and the missus recommend. Sweet potatos, white rice etc. Maybe less protein than I’ve been eating and more saturated fat. (I’m alarmed by the stomach and other cancers suffered by long term adherence to the Optimal diet …) I’m having better results every day. I am fascinated that I have a laboratory of my own body to put your ideas to a test and have them show positive results. Thank you both so much for your work and above responses to questions and comments. (Doris)
I think these positive experiences are impressive considering that most of our readers have come from the low-carb Paleo community. Low-carb Paleo diets are far healthier than the Standard American Diet, and so improving health further is quite an accomplishment.
Another group that we are trying to help are people with chronic diseases. Probably most readers who did not arrive from the low-carb Paleo community have come from the chronic disease community. It’s a little early to report results, but at least some people are finding promise in our diet. Natalie wrote:
As someone dealing with chronic disease (a very unfun combination of Lyme, Babesia, and Bartonella), I know I’m always looking to find out more of what has worked and what did not work for others.
This blog along with many of the readers of this blog have been a tremendous help to me personally. For example, I now know I can avoid the daily “coma naps” if I don’t go crazy on the carbohydrates. I’ve actually received some excellent diet advice from my doctor, but he never told me to chill on the carbs! (Natalie)
Ketogenic diets are frequently mentioned by us as potentially therapeutic for many diseases. I’ve blogged previously about Claire’s discovery that ketogenic diets help her gastroparesis and Rob’s suppression of his lifelong migraines through fasting and ketogenic dieting.
As more chronic disease sufferers try the diet – for instance, Darren who has Lyme disease – we hope to prove that the Perfect Health Diet in conjunction with antibiotic therapies can lead to cures for these difficult-to-treat conditions.
So far, all the negative experiences I am aware of have come from low-carb dieters who had difficulty after adding carbs and/or cutting protein.
Don Matesz is an interesting case, because his own diet was already a “Perfect Health Diet.” His diet, if I’m not mistaken, was in the low end of our carb range and high end of our protein range. As a test he reduced protein and added carbs, heading toward the high end of our carb range and low end of our protein range. He didn’t like the results:
Just to experiment, for a couple of days Tracy and I reduced our meat intake by half. I reduced my meat intake from more than a pound daily to just about one-half pound, and, as the Jaminets suggest, replaced the protein with starchy carbohydrates (potatoes and sweet potatoes). For both Tracy and I, this resulted in a noticeable decline in mood and a dramatic increase in hunger and intestinal gas, along with a disruption of bowel function….
UPDATE: Don says that he does best eating above the bottom end of our optimal carb range, but that for years he has gotten into trouble whenever carbs reach 100g/day (the middle of our optimal range). It sounds to me like an unresolved gut dysbiosis.
Don’s commenter SamAbroad had a similar experience with reducing protein intake:
But I’ve also been following the PHD, and to be honest, I am so hungry and cranky when I restrict protein.
UPDATE: SamAbroad turns out to be our Sarah, and she says that the Perfect Health Diet “has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health.” Maybe we should move her to the Positive Experiences group!
I’m still following the diet, I eat circa 100g carbs from starch a day not including veg and this has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health along with including a vitamin C supplement. My low-level depression and anxiety have completely disappeared and the diet is considerably more varied and easier to stick to than VLC.
Sarah’s issue is that she needs to eat at least the midrange of our carb+protein “plateau range,” for reasons as yet unknown.
Chris Masterjohn had trouble with sweet potatoes:
Although sweet potatoes are considered a safe starch on the Perfect Health Diet, they are not very safe for me. When I discovered how yummy sweet potato fries are, I started eating several sweet potatoes per day. Within a few days, I was limping and my neck was stiff. By the end of the week, my limp was extreme. I looked online to see if I was eating anything high in oxalates, and sure enough, sweet potatoes are loaded with them. My symptoms dramatically improved after one day off sweet potatoes and were gone the second day.
Chris’s commenter Lisa also had trouble with sweet potatoes:
I’ve been very achy since I started eating sweet potatoes daily. Why would some of us be maladapted to oxalates?… I’m wondering if after a long stint of LC/paleo eating I’ve become intolerant to oxalates or to starch in general.
UPDATE: We discuss possible reasons for problems with sweet potatoes here.
Several people have gained weight after starting the diet. This Amazon review doesn’t come right and say that the reviewer experienced weight gain, but I’m guessing that was the case:
It is worth emphasizing what another reviewer noted: The Perfect Health Diet is not focused on weight loss. In fact, if you are coming to the diet from a zero-carb or very-low-carb regimen, you can count on an immediate and substantial weight gain if you suddenly adopt the recommended intake of “400 carb calories [100 grams] per day of starchy tubers, rice, fruit, and berries.” (K. Hix)
From the comments, Maggy reported weight gain:
Following your advice, I added back a bit of “safe starch” last week, and decreased protein intake, keeping sat fat and MCF pretty high. Well, I got on the scale today and have managed to put on 5 pounds! I’m trying to figure out what is going on and what I need to tweak. I do need to lose a good 20-30 lbs, and while I don’t want to compromise health, I also don’t want to put back on what I managed to lose doing a VLC diet.
Is this an adjustment period I need to get through? Maybe I’m one of those broken metabolism folks who has to stick with VLC? (Maggy)
These negative experiences will be the subject of my next few posts.
Because individuals are so variable, it is often not possible to figure out what is going on without experimentation with different dietary variations and considerable communication. Therefore, I’m most grateful to people like Maggy who are willing to experiment and share their experiences with us.
It’s interesting that the same dietary change – adding “safe starches” to a low-carb Paleo diet – made some people feel better and others worse.
This series may also lead us into the question of trade-offs in diet. These trade-offs may cause different people to prefer different diets. For instance:
- Shifting from lean-meat-and-vegetables to starches and fats may increase the pleasure of eating and improve health in some, but promote weight gain in others.
- Higher protein may promote athleticism and fertility, but shorten lifespan (as it does in some animals).
In writing our book, we tried to present the evidence underlying all of our recommendations, and provide healthy ranges for the various nutrients with explanation why the reader might prefer to be at the high or low ends of the range. Our goal was to empower each reader to find his or her own “perfect health diet,” not to rigidly prescribe a specific way of eating.
But negative experiences on a diet can also have diagnostic value. For instance, when I first adopted a low-carb Paleo diet I developed severe fungal skin infections. The new diet revealed an infection I hadn’t known I had. For this reason, even negative experiences can be beneficial, as they may open a path to curing an underlying but hitherto concealed health problem.
We see this blog as a communal enterprise, in which we and our readers together try to discover the truth about diet and health. Therefore, we hope that anyone who does have negative experiences on the diet will not hesitate to report them in the comment threads and work with us to discover the cause.