Episode 28: History of the AIP with Robb Wolf

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Honoring The Paleo Movement’s Ancestors

Many of us have had our lives transformed through the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), including Robb Wolf who has reversed ulcerative colitis. While it’s not yet a mainstream healthcare approach, it’s gaining momentum and visibility worldwide. It’s been reported in mainstream news outlets like USA Today, and Sarah Ballantyne’s book, The Paleo Approach, became a New York Times Best Seller. At the same time, though, we’ve forgotten a lot of the pioneers who did the research we’re using in our own health journeys today. I invited Robb onto this podcast to help us honor them. Robb was doing paleo in the 90’s when very few people had heard of it. He became Loren Cordain‘s graduate student and delved into the research by his side. Loren is considered “the grandfather of the AIP.” Today, we’ll learn more about Robb, Loren, and the other researchers who first discovered the power of diet and lifestyle to reverse autoimmune disease, as well as the ones proving it through clinical trials today.

Listen to the Show

Show Notes

  • Intro (0:00)
  • Meet Robb (0:51)
    • Robb is a former research biochemist and one of the world’s leading experts in Paleolithic nutrition.
    • He’s the author of the NYT bestseller, The Paleo Solution.
    • He has one of the most popular podcasts in iTunes.
    • He also understands autoimmunity, having reversed ulcerative colitis himself.
  • Thank You to our Podcast Sponsor – Paleo on the Go (2:07)
    • A frozen meal delivery service, they have a large menu of items for the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP).
    • Use the code PHOENIX for 10% off your first order.
  • Robb’s Personal Healing Story (2:48)
    • At age 26, his ulcerative colitis symptoms were so bad that the doctors suggested bowel resection. Robb felt close to suicidal. Due to nutrient malapsorption, he lost 40 pounds off an already lean frame. He got down to 135 lbs at his lowest point.
    • Today, he’s 43 years old, and in great shape. He feels good as long as he doesn’t get exposed to gluten through cross-contamination. That will cause a flare of both gastrointestinal and neurological issues. He also watches his glycemic load and notices brain fog develop if he eats too many carbohydrates.
    • Robb has noticed that stress, lack of sleep, and excessive travel can all have a dramatic negative impact on his health. When faced with lifestyle challenges, he tightens up his diet. When the lifestyle piece is in place, his health and digestion are at their best and he has more leeway with food choices.
  • Robb’s Mother and Mother-in-Law had Autoimmune Disease (8:19)
    • His mother had health problems throughout his childhood. She went into the hospital with multiple organ failure when Robb was in his twenties. At that time, she was diagnosed with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s and celiac disease. Robb was never able to get his mother to change her diet.
    • His mother-in-law also had rheumatoid arthritis and treated it through the conventional method of immunosuppressant medication and surgeries. She died due to RA complications following physician mistakes made during an ankle surgery. Robb met his wife 3 months later, and it haunts him that he didn’t meet her (and her mother) just a year earlier.
    • Their experiences motivate Robb’s passion to educate the world about the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP).
  • History of the AIP  (16:40)
  • Educators vs. Scientists (33:30)
    • We need both, and their work complements each other. Research provides the foundation and also brings scientific credibility to the paleo movement. Education spreads the word, encouraging the 1:1 self-experiments that are changing lives, in turn driving more interest and funding back into the research.
  • Robb’s Experience Educating People about the AIP (39:32)
    • If he meets someone with autoimmune disease, he always tells them about the AIP. Responses vary from openness to anger.
    • He’s been educating people for 17 years now – 1:1, in groups, through his book and podcast, and over the internet. As a messenger, he’s been “killed” many times, but it’s the people he has helped that inspire him to continue.
  • The Specialty Health Clinic in Reno, NV (48:59)
    • The clinic completed a pilot project working with the police and fire departments in Reno. They implemented the paleo diet and lifestyle with officers at risk for diabetes and heart disease and saw marked improvements in their health. They estimated they saved the city $22 million dollars in healthcare expenses. They then asked Robb to collaborate and help them expand their program. Robb taught them about gut health and immune/autoimmune issues. Now, the clinic uses evolutionary medicine to treat a wide variety of health conditions.
    • Robb has been working on The City Zero Project for the past few years, and it’s almost ready for release. It will combine a practitioner certification program with a medical technology platform that will allow Specialty Clinic’s success to be duplicated across the nation. Robb’s goal is to literally transform medical care in the US and around the world.
  • Robb’s Current N=1 Self-Experiments (54:14)
    • Robb has experienced longstanding carbohydrate intolerance. When he eats a ketogenic diet, he feels great: his bloodwork is optimal, his energy levels are good, and he feels mentally alert and focused. When he eats more carbs, he feels horrible: his blood sugar becomes unregulated, he develops brain fog, feels “hangry” between meals, and even experiences vision problems. Grace Liu from the blog, The Gut Institute, believes that if he fixes his gut, he can fix his insulin resistance and tolerate carbohydrates well. Robb is not convinced this is true. He has been trying to “fix it” for 2 years, to no effect, and is starting to believe that his personal health history has set up his body to simply not tolerate carbs. He’ll keep experimenting under Grace’s consultation for another 6 months. After that, if nothing improves, he’s going to stick with a ketogenic diet and focus on making it as nutritious and microbiome-supporting as possible.
    • Complicating factor: Robb picked up a gut bug while traveling 1 month ago. The symptoms are debilitating, and so far it has been resistant to antibiotic treatment. His first goal is to clear this pathogen, and then continue his gut healing experiments.
  • Outro (1:02:57)
    • You can keep up with Robb and his work through his website and podcast. If you sign up for his newsletter, you receive a 24-part email series on applying paleo principles for optimal health.
    • Eileen (your podcast host) is the author of multiple books, written to help people thrive with autoimmune disease. Learn more on the Books Page.
    • If you like this podcast, follow or subscribe through your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe to Eileen’s biweekly newsletter.
    • Check out the entire archive of podcast episodes.

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19 comments on “Episode 28: History of the AIP with Robb Wolf”

  1. Eileen, another super podcast! The more podcasts I listen to, the more I appreciate the quality of your work! And I am relatively new to AIP so this interview was especially wonderful. Here’s a crazy question for you – have you looked into (or considered at least doing a podcast on) helminthic therapy? You and Robb both mentioned some lingering gut issues – wondering if adding helminths to the microbiome picture could be useful? Just a thought. (I am 7 months into AIP, with some snags due to many food intolerances, and 21 weeks into helminthic therapy for MS, celiac, Addison’s, and autoimmune kidney issues – and beginning to see really good results.) And if you run away screaming “Noooo! Not another crazy treatment suggestion!!!!” I totally understand. 🙂 Thank you so much for all your good work! You have been an enooys help to me.

    1. Hi Kelly. That’s funny because another friend of mine suggested a fecal microbiota transplant for Robb for the same reasons. Honestly, I’m in pretty good shape so not really an ideal candidate for an intervention like FMT or helminth, but Robb’s situation is acute enough it might be a good idea. I think it’s fascinating that you’re doing it. I’ve saved your email address, and I’ll let you know if I do a podcast on this in the future. Autoimmune disease treatment is so multi-faceted and fascinating!

  2. wow, I have been following a basic AIP diet for the past 8 months, I think it has made my like totally better. I have Hashimotos, with the ever frendly and helpful Cronic fautige and Fibermilga. (my spelling is not that good when I am tired. sorry) I have a few friends at work with simular issues, we exchange notes and ideas as well as recipies. I will mark you web page and listen to your pod cast again. Thanks again.

  3. Wow! I had absolutely no idea Robb also had ulcerative colitis. I’ve been following his work for a while but never knew this. It’s awesome to see him represent the IBD/paleo community. Thanks for the podcast!

    1. Laura, that was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to share his story. People ask him to weigh in on paleo debates like carb intake far more often than they ask him about healing (strange but true). As you can see, though, he’s really passionate about spreading the healing message to those who will listen.

  4. Thanks, Eileen, for helping us to know and remember all those whose hard work we are benefitting from today, as AIP helps so tremendously. It brought tears to my eyes hearing about all their hard (at times unacknowledged) work, knowing that I, and others, are the lucky beneficiaries.

  5. When Robb spoke on surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you I myself nodding. Incredible episode. So glad to be able to listen to this one today!

  6. Another great podcast, Eileen. I have a dear friend with RA who refuses to even think about gluten free, much less paleo or AIP, it is so sad to see the decline in her health, so I can relate, just a bit, to the push against Paleo that Rob has experienced. Thanks for all you do!

  7. WOW, this was a very powerful podcast for me at least. Thank you so much for bringing Robb to us today. I’ll be clicking over to his site as well. I’m sure they are many who are “resistant” to all of this, but I’m certainly not. At 68 years old, I wish I had known a lot of this a very long time ago, and I would be one of those such as yourself and Robb who is out there trying to help others!
    Thank you again Eileen. All the best. LG

  8. Fantastic podcast Eileen! I was fascinated about the section on how people with AI disease respond to suggestions on using the AIP to reverse autoimmunity. As you mention, I think some folks have had their hopes raised so many times only to have them dashed time after time. They don’t want to expose themselves to that sort of disappointment again even if the logic behind the AIP is strong.

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