Data Max

Search

Understanding the Risks of Paleo: Who Shouldn’t Try It and Why

Table of Contents

The paleo diet has gained popularity in recent years as a way to improve overall health and well-being. It involves eating foods that were available to our ancestors during the Paleolithic era, such as meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables while avoiding processed foods, grains, and dairy products.

While the paleo diet also called the paleolithic diet, caveman diet, or the stone age diet has its benefits, it's not suitable for everyone. In fact, there are some people who should avoid this diet altogether due to potential dangers.  The theory is that the rise in chronic diseases in modern society stems from the agricultural revolution. It suggests that adding grains, legumes, and dairy to meals may lead to a host of chronic diseases and conditions — from obesity to allergies. The paleo diet is not necessarily a low-carb diet. It can be designed to be low-carb, but you can also increase your intake of fruits and starchy vegetables to bump up your carb intake if needed. 

Who Should Avoid the Paleo Diet?

People with Kidney Problems

One of the main dangers of the paleo diet is that it can put a strain on the kidneys. The diet is high in protein, and excessive protein intake can cause the kidneys to work harder than usual to process and eliminate waste products from the body. This increased workload can be dangerous for people who have pre-existing kidney problems or are at risk of developing them.

People with a History of Eating Disorders

The paleo diet can also be dangerous for people with a history of eating disorders. The diet can promote restrictive eating habits and may trigger unhealthy behaviors in individuals who struggle with disordered eating. It's important for people with a history of eating disorders to approach any diet plan with caution and consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant dietary changes.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women

The paleo diet may not provide sufficient nutrients for pregnant or breastfeeding women. These women require a higher intake of certain nutrients, such as calcium and iron, to support the growth and development of the fetus or infant. The paleo diet may not provide enough of these nutrients, leading to deficiencies and potential health risks for both the mother and child.

People with Diabetes

The paleo diet is often touted as a way to manage diabetes by eliminating processed foods and carbohydrates. However, this diet can be dangerous for people with diabetes, as it can cause a significant drop in blood sugar levels. Additionally, the high protein intake associated with the paleo diet can put a strain on the kidneys, which can be particularly dangerous for people with diabetes. The researchers do not recommend following any form of the popular Paleo diet. Their findings suggest that the Paleo diet could be particularly dangerous for people who are already overweight and who have sedentary lifestyles.

Individuals with Certain Medical Conditions

Lastly, the paleo diet may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions. For example, people with gout, a type of arthritis, may need to limit their intake of high-purine foods like meat and fish, which are staples of the paleo diet. People with a history of heart disease may also need to approach the paleo diet with caution, as it can be high in saturated fats and cholesterol.

When Should I Stop the Paleo Diet?

When It Causes Nutritional Deficiencies

The paleo diet excludes several food groups, such as grains, legumes, and dairy, that are important sources of essential nutrients, such as fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. If you've been on the paleo diet for an extended period, you may be at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies. Symptoms of nutritional deficiencies may include fatigue, weakness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Additionally, any dietary pattern — including an unrestricted dietary pattern — has the potential to lead to low or deficient nutrient intakes. Cutting out food groups like legumes, all grains, and dairy could increase your risk of under consuming certain nutrients.

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if you have a nutritional deficiency and to develop a plan to correct it.

When It Causes Digestive Issues

The paleo diet can be challenging for some people to digest, particularly if they're consuming large amounts of meat or fat. This diet can cause digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. If you're experiencing these symptoms regularly, it may be time to consider stopping the paleo diet or modifying it to include more fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

When It Causes Mental Health Issues

The paleo diet can promote restrictive eating habits and trigger unhealthy behaviors in individuals who struggle with disordered eating. Moreover, restrictive diets can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. If you're experiencing any mental health issues or disordered eating behaviors while on the paleo diet, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action.

When It Causes Physical Health Issues

Lastly, some physical health issues may require you to stop the paleo diet altogether. For example, if you have pre-existing kidney problems, excessive protein intake from the paleo diet can cause your kidneys to work harder than usual, leading to further damage. Similarly, if you have a history of heart disease, the high saturated fat intake associated with the paleo diet can put you at greater risk of developing further complications.

Conclusion

While the paleo diet can provide some benefits, such as weight loss, improved blood sugar control, and reduced inflammation, it's essential to be aware of the potential dangers associated with this diet. By understanding who should avoid the paleo diet, you can make informed decisions about your dietary choices.

Moreover, it's crucial to note that the paleo diet may not be suitable for everyone, even those who don't fall into the above categories. It's important to approach any diet plan with caution and consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet.

If you do decide to try the paleo diet, it's essential to make sure that you're getting all the necessary nutrients, such as fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. These nutrients are often lacking in the paleo diet, and deficiencies can lead to health risks.

In summary, the paleo diet may not be suitable for everyone. People with pre-existing kidney problems, a history of eating disorders, diabetes, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and individuals with certain medical conditions should approach this diet with caution or avoid it altogether. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant dietary changes to ensure that you're making the best decision for your health and well-being.

Caroline Buckee

Caroline Flannigan is an epidemiologist. She is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and is the Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top