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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