Customer Reviews: The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body
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on January 28, 2014
While you all have waited patiently for years as Dr. Sarah Ballantyne wrote The Paleo Approach, I was lucky enough to begin following her protocol well before it was available to the public. I started my journey on healing when Practical Paleo first came out and I started with the methodologies Diane put forth for autoimmune conditions (autoimmune protocol: AIP).

Problem was, after following the AIP for nearly 3 months I wasn't seeing healing. Some of the super negative symptoms were alleviated, like adrenal fatigue, clumps of hair falling out and terrible acne, but when I reintroduced foods I would get flares again. I distinctly remember it being SO. HARD. Like, temper tantrums in the car hard because everything, EVERYTHING I was used to eating had eggs or nightshades and I was overwhelmed at the idea of living the rest of my life that way. All of which contributed to my ongoing struggles with depression - the obsession with food was beginning to overwhelm me, it was starting to cause disordered eating again, as I looked for ways to "get around" the AIP.

I was so frustrated, I began talking with Sarah about what her thoughts and recommendations were. It was at this time that Sarah was hundreds of thousands of words deep into writing The Paleo Approach (no, seriously, it's a tome). There were a few things she shared with me about what she found in the scientific literature about recommendations she was going to make, versus things I'd read in Practical Paleo and other resources.

And so it began, in 2013 I started following The Paleo Approach. Mostly this meant that I focused more on what to add to my diet instead of what to remove from it. Sarah and I talked every week on The Paleo View and nearly each episode each one of us would get more and more geeked out on nutrient-density, our new favorite word. We began exploring healing foods; Matt and I became so inspired that we wrote the nose-to-tail cookbook, Beyond Bacon - almost every recipe of which includes bone stock and/or lard (high in Vitamin D and easy for me to digest).

I'd been following a low-fat, low-carb version of paleo for years. Turns out, it made me sick. It affected my adrenals, thyroid function, and ability for my body to heal itself. I was nutrient-poor, despite eating what I thought was the best diet possible. Perhaps for some people eating that way is healthy for them, but for me as a busy woman with no gallbladder and previous metabolic syndrome, it ended up as a disaster long-term. Turns out, a high protein diet (especially when the protein is mostly poultry) wasn't doing what I thought it was for my health. I got over my fear of fat and incorporated more nutrient-dense healing fats, specifically lard, coconut oil and ghee/butter (I was shocked how well I tolerated ghee and butter after a lifetime of being dairy intolerant). I switched my proteins to a majority of grass-fed red meat and pastured pork, added seafood and incorporated the true superfoods: organ meat and bone broth.

One of the things I learned from Sarah is the importance of vegetables. I've popularized #morevegetablesthanavegetarian in social media - but it was Sarah's focus on the importance of vegetables - specifically a variety of colorful ones - that really made me focus on them. For a while, I'd actually reduced the types of vegetables I was eating because I wanted to stay away from foods high in insoluble fiber - which I personally let affect the quantity of veggies I was eating. When Sarah told me she had research that greens rich in insoluble fiber, even cruciferous ones, showed to be positive healing foods from her research it was a big change in how I approached nourishing myself. As I started adding in much more vegetables, especially leafy greens, it was amazing how much it affected my digestion and how I felt.

From the prior AIP protocol I was already consuming fermented foods rich in probiotics, which is another big important factor in helping to heal the gut through food. So then I turned to lifestyle factors.

I learned to love myself and let things go. I know... it's hokey. And intangible. And something I can't possibly define for you to replicate... although I've tried to articulate it a zillion times on The Paleo View. Stress Management was defined and something I began when I first started Practical Paleo`s AIP. But it's not something one can fix overnight. Over time, and through Sarah's repeated reminders of the scientific backing behind stress being a leading causes of health deterioration, I learned how to slay the stress monster.

First, I gave myself permission to do something(s) for me. Without guilt or remorse. It was really hard in the beginning to know I was missing out on time I could (or as I thought, should) be doing: helping with dinner, spending time with the kids, staying later at the office, etc. But then I realized I deserve to take care of the only body I'll have to carry me through this life. My children deserve a role model to show them that sometimes it's OK to stop and put the gas mask on yourself before helping others - I learned to take care of myself first before putting others ahead of me. This, was huge.

I learned to breathe. There was a point at which my stress levels had caused an eye twitch I couldn't get rid of for months. And I had begun grinding my teeth and experiencing frequent headaches from it. I even had about a 6 week period of time where I was experiencing frequent anxiety attacks in crossfit, unable to breathe when something ended up being harder than I anticipated. It made me want to quit, and I've never been a quitter. It was at this time Sarah talked to me about relaxation techniques she highly encouraged. It was so bizarre for this scientist to be telling me to do some hokey-pokey-crunchy-granola-meditation... but she was right. My body was overwhelmed and needed a break. So several times a day I intentionally stood up and walked around the office, finding someone to smile with and change my environment while activating happy hormones. During crossfit I learned to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth with deep, intentional breaths. Soon, the twitching and anxiety attacks just went away!

I learned to let things go. This was the hardest for me and is something I'm still actively working on. I talk out loud about what I can or cannot do. It's about acknowledgement, doing what you're able the best you can, and then forgiveness. What a concept... all backed by science to help you be healthier!

Be positive! No, really. Of course not everything's great. But almost everything has something positive about it. So I learned to frame things to myself positively and it helped me have an overall positive outlook and attitude.

Sarah goes over LOTS more stuff in The Paleo Approach but these are the things that I personally applied to my own life.
The results?

I've resolved ALL of the autoimmune related health issues I experienced in 2011 and 2012.

Let me restate that, because I want to make sure it's heard. I no longer have symptoms of autoimmune disease, adrenal fatigue, micro-nutrient deficiencies, skin breakouts or depression (at all). My body has not only recovered fully from the autoimmune flare, but I've actually been able to heal my body even further - now able to consume foods like high quality heavy cream and cheeses without distress! And when accidentally exposed to gluten or intentionally eat things I know my body has a difficult time with (like nightshades or grains) I find each and every time my body responds better than the time before. I have successfully reintroduced nuts, seeds, chocolate, egg yolks and seed spices (all in moderation) but have found that egg whites and nightshade vegetables (except peeled white potatoes) are something I can not (yet) tolerate.

I plan to continue my healing journey and hope to be a role model for those out there with autoimmune conditions. Keeping in mind that 2 years ago I was depressed with barely enough energy to slog through the day (thyroid and adrenal issues), I now am a fully charged woman who manages this blog, a podcast, writing books, a full-time job, raising 3 boys AND am training for a StrongMan competition in just a few months. I'm happy to report that The Paleo Approach quite literally gave me my life back.
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on January 28, 2014
For anyone with an autoimmune disease, this is the most incredible gift from heaven you could ever wish for. It is the most thoroughly researched, detailed and comprehensive roadmap for recovery. Seriously, this book is going to change thousands of lives, and that is no understatement!

How do I know this, you ask? I used these principles, personally, to heal myself from two debilitating autoimmune diseases.

Back when I discovered the Autoimmune Protocol, Sarah’s blog was in its infancy, and there were a few voices in the Paleo community talking about these “extra modifications” that were necessary for those with autoimmune disease. While I started with an elimination diet, my journey ended up addressing all of these other pieces of the puzzle that didn’t really fit into a simple diet change. Things like learning how to prioritize sleep, managing my stress, getting the right amount of physical activity, sunlight exposure, circadian rhythms, and doing further testing and treatment for deeper issues (gut pathogens, parasites, fat malabsorption, and the MTHFR mutation) and finally finding meditation and doing work on an emotional level. Sarah addresses all of these topics, and then some, in this book, and has backed up what many of us have found by trial and error with hard science.

The Paleo Approach is divided into two parts. The first half of the book is called “The Cause”, and its chapters detail what autoimmune disease is, how the immune system works (complete with amazing diagrams), what causes autoimmunity, how diet and lifestyle factors contribute to our conditions, and what to do with all of this information. The second half is called “The Cure”, and it contains the details of Sarah’s plan—which foods to include, lifestyle habits that promote healing, how to transition, troubleshooting the protocol, and reintroductions. I’m not going to spend a lot of time summarizing the information here—but just know that Sarah has gone into an incredible amount of detail to talk about just about any question or topic you could have.

Some of my favorite aspects of the book:

-Comprehensive charts of foods to eat and avoid. She has also included a copy in the back of the book for easy reference. When I say comprehensive, I mean eight pages, with a small font. I would be surprised if anyone could find a food that isn’t included on either of these lists!

-Detailed illustrations to complement the intro chapters. The immune system is incredibly complex to understand, and Sarah’s illustrations made so many of the concepts of leaky gut and the immune system more understandable. They are really well done!

-Chapter reviews, summary guides, and nutrient tables. I found the chapter reviews helpful for synthesizing the most important information in a section. The summary guides in the back are an awesome reference, as are the nutrient tables.

-Troubleshooting checklist. This is an awesome tool for anyone who has tried the approach and needs some ideas of areas to consider because they aren’t making progress.

The last thing I want to tell you about—this book has a lot of information. By a lot, I mean over 400 pages, literally crammed full of the most thoroughly researched, pertinent information you could hope for. Sarah tackles some pretty deep scientific concepts with her signature approachable, and fun writing style. I think it is absolutely necessary for those of us with autoimmunity to understand these concepts in-depth, so that we can have a better understanding of how our bodies interact with the environment as well as so that we can advocate for ourselves best in the doctor’s office.

If you have an autoimmune disease, please do yourself a favor and get this book.

If I haven’t convinced you by this point, I don’t think there is any hope for you! I am living a healthy and happy life today, because of these principles—they saved my life. Sarah is an incredible force and we are so lucky she was able to create such a life-changing roadmap for recovery using ancestral diet and lifestyle changes to heal from autoimmune disease!
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on March 24, 2015
There is a lot of information in this book on why you should follow this protocol if you have an autoimmune disease. She includes a lot of scientific data to prove her point. All that is good.

She then gives information on how to start the program, which foods to avoid and which are ok. Then how to re-introduce foods that you have eliminated from your diet. Also good. (Kindle/tablet readers see my warning below)

Then information on lifestyle change, also good.

I think there was too much scientific least half the book as it related to paleo and auto-immune disease. Then more when discussing lifestyle change in the second half.

I would have preferred less science and more details on how to actually use the diet. I would have liked examples of several meal plans, I would have liked more specific information on how much to eat of each food group. I use My Fitness Pal to keep track of my daily intake of all foods and their nutritional vakues. I still am sometimes eating more carbs than fat or protein, sometimes the protein is more than fat. Because I am guessing as to quantity/ serving size. My understanding is fat should be the highest percentage of calories, then protein and then carbs, but I am not sure how to get there. I need that type of detail.
There are NO recipes in the book.

WARNING. I purchased the Kindle edition. The lists of foods are basically unreadable. Parts of words are scattered all over the page. This is true of 90 % of all the lists in the book. I had to go online to get food lists from other sources. So that part of the book was worthless to me. But did not base my review on that, but certainly left a bad experience. That should be one of the most important details, but could not be read.
I feel like I did not get my money's worth with the Kindle edition.

Update 7/13/2015

While I am not thrilled with the Kindle edition of this book, I am very pleased with the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet. I have been following it religiously for just over 4 months now and can attest to its effectiveness. I have Myasthenia Gravis, a rare autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness.
Prior to starting this diet, I was so weak that some days I could barely walk, had problems swallowing, breathing and severe double vision. On good days, I could go to one store with my husband and help with laundry and at times some light chores. Now 4 months later, I play golf twice a week, can drive myself to stores and actually shop. I am back to doing all the cooking, laundry and many other household chores. I also walk 1 to 1.5 miles a day. I do have to rest often and I need a handicap flag when playing golf. I still require routine medication for this disease. But instead of getting weaker each month, I am now getting stronger.
My husband says this diet is a miracle and I agree.

It is not a 'fun' diet to be on. It is very restrictive and I miss a lot of my favorite foods, plus it can be a little more expensive. But in my opinion all that is worth being able to participate in life again and feel better while doing it. All my physicians have reviewed the diet and all have 100% approved and encouraged me to stick with it. For some reason I found that surprising. I assumed at least one would have some doubts or concerns. But it was just the opposite.

Just thought I would share my experience.
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on December 3, 2014
Reading some of the reviews of this book makes me both sad and angry. Although I would agree that every single book review is simply a highly-charged and personal opinion, summaries stating that "this book is a rip off and a marketing ploy" are simply unfounded and false.
Let me back up a bit. I became sick in the latter 90s. I eventually researched all that I could find and determined that I had Multiple Sclerosis. It took over TWELVE years to get a diagnosis from more than my GP. I was told to leave neurologists offices and to never return, that I had NO idea what Multiple Sclerosis patients are suffering from and that I should be ashamed. Well, I wasn't ashamed, I knew my own body and I persevered. The day after 9/11, and 27 (yes, 27!) MRIs and other tests later I finally got the diagnosis I had laid out so clearly to each doctor. They finally found HUNDREDS of lesions on my brain and spinal cord. I had even had the most recent MRI done the week prior to this hospital running their own tests. My personal diagnosis was spot on!
What I learned was this: not all MRI results are equal. An MRI machine that is the slightest bit "open" for patient comfort will NOT produce an accurate imaging of your brain or spinal cord. I had so many lesions that even when I went to Mayo in order to get a second diagnosis, the head of neurology stated that he had never seen so many lesions, on top of the fact that I was able to do things that he and ALL of his neurologists could not believe until they saw it with their own eyes. They stopped counting lesions at around 400, because they stated it didn't matter anyway, since they had no idea what that even meant. They had seen patients with ONE be in a wheelchair for decades, while I was walking on my own with hundreds of them!! NO EXPLANATION.
I have gotten really burned out on being the guinea pig. I took every single drug for MS, none of which could promise healing but hoped for a reduction in relapses. I filed for bankruptcy, lost my job, lost my long term benefits because the fine lines stated that unless the MS was diagnosed within a year, it paid NOTHING. A six figure income equaled NOTHING in disability benefits. Nothing. Just a major debt for medical tests.
Why do I say all of this? Because I want to share my HOPE. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne has once again given me hope, as has Dr. Terry Wahls. Their protocols are very similar. In my opinion, Sarah's is more restrictive. I WANT nothing more than to heal whatever I can. If that means be more restrictive, then so be it. Modern Western medicine has nothing to offer me, other than drugs that nearly killed me. I'll pass on that.
Reading both the Paleo Approach and the Paleo Approach cookbook has changed my life. I had already cut out gluten and sugar before diving in 100% on Sarah's version of AIP on November 1. Today is December 3rd, so it has been just over a month. I have happily lost 24 lbs. without doing a single exercise. My screaming with pain joints feel fantastic! Is my MS healed? Not hardly. BUT I feel like I can face the day and even work for the first time in over a year. No typical doctor/neurologist could do that for me.
Yes, the book has simplistic illustrations. I think that is a GOOD thing. I'm very well educated and don't need them, but nearly every friend and family member in my life DO. We all need to be able to clearly understand WHY we are doing ourselves harm. If we don't understand it, then our human nature will return to ways we all ate and lived life before out of pity or confusion. When we understand it, we at least can make an educated decision as to our choices. I have yet to see a better book that explains the problems of autoimmune diseases and difficulties than the Paleo Approach. I can do a lot, but I don't have years to research it and write a better one of my own. Why try? I'll take Sarah's and Terry's research and happily pay for it with the purchase of a few books. I have and I have not regretted it. I have a part time job because I'm told repeatedly that I am overqualified for full time work, I can hardly pay rent, but I will find a way to eat AIP until I am again healthy. I do not regret that decision. I just say if you have a leaky gut, you're crazy to ignore it. If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, then you are only doing yourself a disservice if you don't EMBRACE this book and determine how much of it you can implement. I don't know you, but I am certain you are worth it too.
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on January 28, 2014
The research Sarah has done and the resources she has made available on her blog enabled me to overcome a decade of ill health and, when you get right down to it, saved my life. I never doubted for a second that her book would be the single most important resource any autoimmune patient — or practitioner that treats autoimmune patients — could arm themselves with.

Sarah writes that she set out to create the kind of one-stop autoimmunity resource that she wishes she had had when she was diagnosed, and boy, did she do just that. The Paleo Approach is as comprehensive as it gets. Sarah dives into the genetic, environmental, dietary, and lifestyle risk factors for autoimmune disease including (but not limited to) toxins, infections, gluten, nightshades, stress, and sleep quality. She describes how our gut, immune system, and hormones work (or don’t work, as the case may be). Most importantly, she offers ways to set things right with practical recommendations for diet, lifestyle, and working with your healthcare providers. Essentially, The Paleo Approach answers this question: “What is autoimmune disease, why does it happen, and what can I do about it?”

If you’re already familiar with Sarah’s website, then you know that she has a knack for explaining advanced science in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way. It’s exactly the book you should take to your skeptical doctors, family, or friends any time you find yourself having to explain your disease or defend your lifestyle. With over 400 pages and about 1,200 scientific studies cited, The Paleo Approach is not only thorough but pretty hard to argue with. In fact, the scientific heft of her book is such that it would not be out of place in classrooms, but it doesn’t read like a textbook. It reads like a conversation. Sarah is down-to-earth and her genuine enthusiasm, compassion, and intelligence shine. She is 100% “The Paleo Mom”, a woman who will guide you gently but firmly as an autoimmune newbie and encourage you to become an autoimmune expert responsible for your own health.

The book is beautifully designed, with bright colors, gorgeous photos, and scientific illustrations like those you can find on Sarah’s blog. The troubleshooting guide will be a godsend for those who find themselves stuck. The comprehensive index, glossary, and chapter reviews make it easy to look up any terms you may want more information on, and there are complete food lists and nutrient analyses for approved foods and even some previews from The Paleo Approach Cookbook. The testimonials throughout the book ensure that you’ll find someone you can relate to for whom The Paleo Approach has already made a world of difference. Reading about everyone’s real-life experience put the human spin on the science, and anyone looking for a sense of community will appreciate their inclusion.

If you have autoimmune disease, know someone with autoimmune disease, or just want to better understand how our lifestyles impact our health, this is the book for you. It leaves no stone unturned. If finding health is a journey, this book is the Sam Gamgee to your Frodo. It’s full of great advice that will ease your burdens if only you heed it.
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on May 23, 2014
I'm a long-time sufferer from psoriasis (since birth essentially). I read a LOT and this book makes MEDICAL sense to me, not hocus-pocus by so-called "experts".

I've been doing this lifestyle change (not a "diet"!) for 2 months now. I just got the official results back today. My total cholesterol has plunged to 120 mg/dl (I'm over 50 years old!), my triglycerides have plummeted to all-time lows. LDL ("bad" cholesterrol) is down, HDL ("good" cholesterol) is up. I've lost 25 pounds without even trying, and no hunger. That alone is worth it. Wow.

I'm weaning off the biologic medicine for psoriasis, and have seen no ill-effects. My dermatologist is fascinated by this, and is very interested to see my results, since she says that no one is willing to fund studies to test whether diet can actually change the outcome of auto-immune diseases like RA, psoriasis and others.

Thank you for finally explaining to me what has long been a mystery. This is a life-long change for me, and I'm not looking back.
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on March 12, 2014
Sarah Ballantyne really outdoes herself with this book. I am curious and scientific at heart, but I confess that when it comes to what to eat, I have believed pretty much anything that was available in print, from mainstream media, to personal blogs, to whatever turned up at the end of a Google search.

My typically analytical approach to problem solving went out the window faced with making decisions about food and health, as I trialled about 15 different eating programs all created with some pretty flimsy science. Enter Sarah Ballantyne, aka The Paleo Mom. There are some other great blogs and bloggers out there presenting findings about food and our bodies in the Paleo realm, but when I got to Sarah's blog I knew that she was different.

Sarah's voice is genuine, rational and methodical. When faced with a problem or what appears to be a gap in our understanding our how food effects our body, she does what is done is the rational sciences, she goes back to scientific basics, breaks it down and lays out the causes and effects. As she works through immune system, how is works and what happens when it stops working how it is meant to and we are faced with autoimmune disease. It was a light bulb moment for me.

What is also different for me about Sarah's book is what is missing. It is free from a "rar-rar" sales pitch. She's not selling supplements or snacks. She believes that we're capable of understanding what is going on "under the hood" of our bodies. She lays out well researched hypothesis about food, our bodies and our health, utilizing a ton of science that is at our disposal at this moment in time. And like all good scientists - she leaves it up to us to apply our critical thinking hats to take that information for ourselves and accept or reject that hypothesis with all our facts at hand.

Bravo Sarah putting together such a thoroughly researched book, grounded in so much science and told in your grounded and authentic tone! This book takes our understanding of autoimmunity to a new level. I come away from reading your book so much more knowledgeable and informed than when I started. Thank you for sharing all you learnings.
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on February 18, 2016
This plan works! I have a type of colitis that is autoimmune, in addition to other autoimmune conditions. After the first 6 prescription medications didn't help, I went to a new GI doctor and started yet another medication. The new medication helped initially but the diarrhea returned a few months later. That's when I discovered the Paleo Approach, and committed to following it. Before starting the Paleo Approach I had been eating "mostly paleo," so the transition wasn't as difficult as it might have been. Within 1 week of strictly following AIP I was symptom-free! My GI doctor encouraged me to continue the Paleo Approach because he knew I thought it worked, but I don't think he was convinced. Months later when I continued to have good results, I brought the book to one of my doctor appointments. He wrote down the title and author, and did his own research. Now it's a year later, I have tapered completely off of all GI medication and remain essentially symptom-free. My GI doctor is now recommending this diet to his other patients who have the same type of colitis, They, too, are finding relief. I said I am "essentially" symptom-free now. The times when I have minor colitis symptoms, I'm pretty sure it's because I eat too much fruit, which is still a temptation for me.
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on February 14, 2014
I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease as a teen. I have struggled with so many health issues, and it just seems like nothing worked to improve my health. I began to turn to nutrition and found moderate success. Dr. Ballantyne's research, and clear writing style has finally explained what is going on, and how to fix it. After a month on her AIP protocol, I am seeing improvements I only dreamed of. If you are interested in nutrition for health reasons, this book is indispensable. It has given me hope.
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on March 2, 2016
This book is overwhelming. I can honestly say I have not read it from cover to cover. I would be surprised if anyone does. It reads like a textbook, but it is filled with TONS of great information about autoimmune disease and how to heal using a very restrictive diet. I appreciate the research and effort that was put into this book, but if you are looking for a quick read or reference guide, this isn't for you.
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