Paleo Challenges: Roadblocks You Should Know While On Paleo Diet

It is no surprise that you may know a person or two that have tried the Paleo diet. With its popularity at present, many are opting to give this diet a try. However, you may have doubts if it really works. But then your curiosity gets the best of you and you decided to learn more about what it is and how it works.

Undergoing the process of change is always a challenge. The mere thought of something changing within our lives oftentimes makes us feel uneasy. Going on a lifestyle change, especially when it comes to our diet is no different.

If you are thinking of starting yourself on Paleo, you must be feeling the same thing. Paleo, like any other diet plans out there, requires you to stick to a list of food that you are allowed to consume. This means that your diet or eating habits will go through a drastic change and we cannot ignore the fact that there will be Paleo challenges along the way.

It is human nature that we get used to or become comfortable with things that we commonly or frequently do. Of course, this includes the way we eat. We get used to food that we consume on a regular basis and abstaining from them can be really difficult. Maybe you will be able to have a great start in doing Paleo, but after a week or two, you might start having second thoughts about it. Do you know someone that had the same dilemma? Or maybe at some point, you experienced this challenge as well.


Paleo Challenges

Paleo Challenges

Change is never easy and is oftentimes arduous. Sometimes, it takes more than willpower and discipline to achieve your goal. And there are a lot of reasons people fail to stick with their diet plans. Here are some of the Paleo challenges that we have found.

Problems Of The Gut

The most common issue people face upon switching to Paleo is digestive problems. They often experience bloating, stool changes such as constipation or diarrhea, and gas. The more severe symptoms can be the pain in the abdomen or heartburn.

Intestinal inflammation, less enzyme production, and decreased stomach acid are the three main factors why people experience digestive issues while in Paleo diet.

Problems Of The Gut

It is also important to acknowledge that, people who experience digestive issues while on this diet, most likely already had the pre-existing condition before going into it.

Let’s discuss more these three factors.

1. Low Stomach Acid

Low Stomach Acid

Acid isn’t always bad, in fact, it is necessary for digestion. The right amount of acid must be present in the stomach for the proper chemical reaction to take place in order for the body to absorb nutrients from food.

The acid in the stomach aids in digesting protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The process begins upon consumption of food. Stomach acid secretion leads to the production of pepsin which is an enzyme that can digest protein.

If the amount of stomach acid is less than normal, it goes the same with the amount of pepsin produced. If this happens, protein in consumed food will not be broken down into amino acids and peptides. This leads to undigested proteins to rot in the gut causing bloating, gas, heartburn, and other digestive problems. Since there is a decrease in stomach acid and as an effect, of pepsin, proper nutrient absorption is also impaired. Proteins the process of digestion will then end up in the bloodstream causing the body to react to them as foreign intruders that lead to autoimmune responses and allergic reactions.

There are also issues that incur with low stomach acid causing undigested carbohydrates. The breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates occur when the release of pancreatic enzymes are stimulated by the right amount of stomach acid. If there is insufficient stomach acid, secretion of pancreatic acid will not take place and carbohydrates will not be digested. As a result, undigested carbohydrates can cause excessive growth of bacteria in the small intestine causing acid reflux and gas.

2. Less Enzyme Production

Less Enzyme Production

Insufficient enzyme production causes failure to digest or absorb protein, carbohydrates, and fat which leads to digestive issues. Enzymes used in digestion are primarily found in saliva, stomach, and small intestine. They are responsible for breaking down large food molecules into smaller ones so it can be properly absorbed in the stomach and into the bloodstream.

Proteins are broken down into peptides and amino acids by proteases and peptidases. While lipases are responsible for the digestion of fats into fatty acids and glycerol molecules. On the other hand, the job of carbohydrases is to transform carbohydrates into simple sugar. And lastly, nucleases turns nucleic acids into nucleotides.

There are a number of causes of the decrease in enzyme production. One of them is actually low stomach acid. To stimulate enzyme production during digestion, the acidity of the partially digested food in the stomach has to be in the right range. Otherwise, the production of enzymes will be hampered.

Deficiency or impaired supply of micronutrients is another cause for the decline in enzyme production. Having a poor diet will not get you the micronutrients required to aid in producing these enzymes. Moreover, poor diet or diet of highly processed food or refined food contains no enzymes, unlike raw fruits and vegetables that have significant amount of enzymes in them. Lastly, stress and aging are also factors in the decline of enzyme production.

3. Intestinal Inflammation

When the body reacts to harmful stimuli like irritants, pathogens, or damaged cells, this leads to inflammation. It basically serves as the body’s protective system but can be a serious problem if it becomes chronic. Symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pains are results of chronic intestinal inflammation.

Also, skin rashes, muscles and joint pains, and depression can also be part of its symptoms. Although there is little information regarding the cause of gut inflammation, sensitivity to insoluble fibers in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds may be one reason. For someone with a pre-existing problem of intestinal inflammation, intake of insoluble fibers in large quantities can make it worse.

Intestinal Inflammation

Gut infection is one of the common causes of inflammation wherein the culprit is usually parasites, pathogens, and fungi. Another cause is autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Consumption of gluten, simple and refined sugar, refined flour, and highly processed food can also cause intestinal inflammation. In addition, good and bad bacteria imbalance also causes the gut to be inflamed.

Fat Burning Capacity And Sugar Cravings

Fat Burning Capacity

Many of those who shifted to Paleo diet from their regular eating habits experience sugar cravings and erratic energy levels. It is common especially for those who are used to a high carbohydrate diet and switching to Paleo diet.

Some of the symptoms that you may experience are energy crashes, sugar cravings, being anxious, lightheadedness, spacing out and difficulty in focusing, and feeling of intense hunger. Understandably, people will easily drop out of Paleo diet when bombarded with these symptoms.

However, you must also know more about the cause of these symptoms to be able to address them properly. The main factors are slow fat burning, blood sugar imbalance, and micronutrient deficiencies.

1. Sluggish Fat Burning

To produce energy that the body needs, our bodies burn fat and carbohydrates. Switching from a high-carbohydrate and low-fat diet to a low-carbohydrate and high-fat causes your body to also shift from firstly burning carbohydrates to primarily burning fat for energy. As a result, your body fails to get the cellular fuel it requires, thus you experience an extreme craving for sugar.

Sluggish Fat Burning

Nutrients such as carnitine and riboflavin are necessary for the process of burning fat. Carnitine is responsible for delivering fatty acids to the mitochondria during the transformation of fats to energy. The decline in carnitine and impaired enzymes can cause failure of transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria that cause energy production to crash.

Riboflavin, on the other hand, is a coenzyme that aid in converting fatty acids into energy once inside the mitochondria. It is mostly found in food such as meat, fish, asparagus, green beans, okra, chard, and persimmons.

2. Blood Sugar Imbalances

blood sugar balance


Glucose is a major factor used in cells to produce energy. Failure in the supply of glucose into the cells affects every system in the body. This is why there are blood sugar imbalances that cause fatigue, energy crashes, sugar craving, and other symptoms. Blood sugar imbalance ranges from high blood sugar or termed as hyperglycemia, low blood sugar known as hypoglycemia, and reactive hypoglycemia which is a combination of both.

Problems in controlling blood sugar levels can often come from poor diet and eating habits. This can lead to leptin and insulin resistance that causes failed glucose tolerance. Other causes can also be the low or disrupted cortisol/melatonin rhythm, micronutrient deficiency, thyroid function issues, and stress.

3. Micronutrient Deficiencies

Micronutrient Deficiencies

When it comes to energy production and blood sugar control, carnitine and riboflavin may be the most essential nutrients required but there are other micronutrients that are as necessary. Chromium, Magnesium, Biotin, Choline, and CoQ10 are among those.

Chromium is responsible for enhancing the purpose of insulin and aids in delivering glucose in cells. Too much consumption of simple and refined sugar can decrease chromium and be a cause of blood sugar imbalances. This can lead to anxiety, sugar cravings, and fatigue.

Another mineral that is important in controlling blood sugar levels is Magnesium. Enzymes in the body use magnesium to process glucose efficiently and it is also said to decrease inflammation. Unfortunately, magnesium is hard to obtain from food. A few food sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, and dark chocolates. However, the downside is that they also contain phytate which prevents proper absorption of magnesium by the body.

Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H is also called as Biotin which is water-soluble and is involved in energy production as well as aid in fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Research shows that biotin levels and blood sugar levels are inversely correlated. It is often found in meat, fish, and poultry.

Lastly, there is CoQ10 which is a fat-soluble antioxidant in cells which is the primary factor in generating cellular energy which is ATP. A mild decrease of CoQ10 can have serious effects on energy and cellular functions as most of the body’s energy is produced with the help of CoQ10. It is mostly present in red meat, liver, and fish.

Impaired Detox Capacity



The main organ of detoxification is the liver wherein it transforms toxins that are mostly fat-soluble into water soluble compounds to be expelled out of the body. With a weakened detox capacity, the healthiest diet plans will not be able to improve or ease the issues you experience. Impaired detoxification capacity can cause hormonal imbalances wherein partially metabolized hormones becomes incapable of throwing off its natural mechanism.

Another result of detoxification issues can be seen in the skin in the form of breakouts and rashes. Also, there is also issues with energy crashes, mood disorders, depression, and brain fog and cognitive decline.

Final Thoughts

Like any other diet plans out there, undergoing or starting Paleo may throw some challenges along the way like what we have discussed in this article. You may have experienced some of them while you were trying a different diet plan or simply shifting to a healthier lifestyle.

However, the more important thing before starting any diet plan is to assess yourself first. Know what issues you already have and understand the root cause for each condition. In this way, you can address the problems properly before you start out for Paleo.

In reading through this material, have you learned or gained knowledge regarding the challenges you may be facing or currently having while in Paleo? Do you also want to know about possible solutions that you can work on to address this issues?

If you are interested to find out more about how to properly address these challenges or if you want to share your ideas with us, please a comment below.

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