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If the idea of strict paleo seems seems a bit much, consider challenging yourself to eliminate or restrict these 3 toxins:

If all you’ve got to give this Paleo Challenge is avoiding these three foods, you can still get great results. I’ve seen migraine headaches and chronic sinus issues, the kinds that require medication, resolve within 5 days of avoiding these foods, and that’s in addition to immediate weight loss.

Imagine your detoxification system is a bucket with a hole in the bottom. Toxins, substances that cause damage on a cellular level, are poured into the top and are removed through the hole in the bottom. The size of that hole in the bottom determines how much you can pour into the top of the bucket before overflow damage ensues.

Our modern environment teems with a range and volume of toxins far beyond what our ancestors evolved to process. Dietary toxins are, in part, so relevant to health today because the holes in our buckets were shaped and sized by a pristine environment entirely unlike today’s world.

But equally as relevant are the ways in which we’ve taken wild foods and, through agriculture and industry, significantly amplified the input to our buckets. It’s a toxic double-whammey. And the 3 foods listed above are not only toxic, but happen to make up 70% of Americans’ total daily calories.

I’m not going deep into the science of how these foods are harmful to human health here. I just want to give you the essentials to consider whether or not these foods may be diminishing your personal health and performance.

1. Gluten

Gluten is a protein composite that makes up 80% of the protein in the seeds of wheat, barley and rye. But before looking at gluten specifically, let’s look at seeds in general.

Seeds are a plants means for reproduction, and plants protect their seeds from predators with high concentrations of enzyme inhibitors and other toxins that can

  • Damage your gut
  • Bind minerals to prevent absorption
  • Inhibit digestion and absorption of other nutrients, including protein

And that’s all seeds, either gluten-containing or gluten-free. There are things you can do to make these foods more hospitable, such as soaking, sprouting and avoiding the biggest offenders, one of which is gluten (fyi -another big one is soy).

The issue with determining whether or not gluten is a problem food for you, is that because there are so many different ways it can interfere with healthful processes, there is a very wide array of symptoms it can create. Here’s a list of some things that may resolve or improve if you go without gluten:

  • IBS-like symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, changes in stool frequency
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory issues
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and muscle pain (non-WOD-related :))
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs
  • Eczema or skin rash
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Difficulty with weight loss
  • Blood sugar regulation issues – such as shakiness or weakness between meals

An individual’s tolerance for gluten is affected by many things including genetics, diet, gut flora, immune status and more, so a difficulty with gluten is something that can change over time.

2. Industrial Seed Oils

Consumption of oils from the seeds of plants like corn, soybean, cotton, sunflower and safflower has increased dramatically in the past 100 years. For some plants, like soy, we eat 1000 times more. Many of these oils started their careers as industrial lubricants and manufactured products before branching out into the food market with “heart-healthy” branding. They’re in just about all packaged, pre-prepared and processed foods, and if you find a restaurant who doesn’t use them please let me know.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had diets abundant in seafood, grass-fed animal products that gave them about a 1:1 ratio of pro- and anti-inflammatory fatty acids (pro-inflammatory=omega-6, anti-inflammatory=omega-3). This 1:1 ratio gives balance, since inflammation is a necessary process for healing. The problem the ration of theses molecules in the modern human diet is often as much as 20:1, which leads to a massive increase in inflammation.

The type of inflammation I’m talking about here, chronic, low-grade inflammation, can be hard to perceive – especially if it’s your ‘normal’. Elevated omega-6 consumption is associated with all inflammatory diseases including (but not limited to):

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

The damage caused by these oils is more of the long-term variety, so the effects of removing them from your diet may not be as dramatic as eliminating gluten or sugar. That said, they do increase your risk for many diseases and increase the overall toxic with which you body has to contend.

Plus you have the same potential for damage to your gut and inhibited nutrient absorption as with all seeds, as well as the potential for additional toxic chemicals depending on the methods of extraction.

3. Refined Sugar

Nobody thinks refined sugar is good for you, right? It’s high in calories, but entirely without nutrients and when you eat it you are compelled to eat just as much of everything else and then even more sugar. (As compared to healthy fats or even healthy carbs with which you naturally replace other calories.)

So let’s keep this part short — here’s a few things you might experience after you get over the addiction hump of giving up refined sugar:

  • A more regular appetite and greater satiety
  • More even moods
  • Less intestinal gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea
  • Less of anything related to inflammation
  • Weight loss or loss of body fat

To go more in-depth with this, check out Chapter 4 of Your Personal Paleo Code from your Paleo Challenge Upgrade Bundle. To go straight to Chris Kresser’s sources, visit


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