Paleo is an excellent substrate for health. If we had all eaten this way from birth (after our mothers had in turn eaten that way from birth) I think there would be little need for treatment of what are known as diseases of civilization.
I, however, spent 46 years eating an industrial Western diet before switching to paleo. Luckily, paleo seems to have pretty much resolved the health issues that I was experiencing. On the other hand, I don’t expect that those 46 years will have no effect. There is probably metabolic and cellular damage that will catch up with me sooner or later.
Other people are less lucky than me. If you comb through the posts at paleohacks.com, you find people with serious health problems (hypercholesterolemia, fibromyalgia, failure to lose/gain weight, allergies, etc.) that paleo has not corrected. There are two ways of looking at an issue like that:
- There are perhaps a few ways to tweak the paleo paradigm to get a better outcome. More fat, less fat, less cheating, no dairy, fermented vegetables, elimination diet, organ meat, grass fed meat, more vegetables, no vegetables, no fruit, no nuts, higher carb, lower carb, zero carb, supplements, exercise, leptin reset: there are lots of ways to do paleo. Some of them might fix a particular health problem that “generic” paleo hasn’t solved.
- Maybe the person is simply damaged beyond the ability of paleo to repair. There is no reason to think that the harm caused by an industrial diet can always be corrected by a healthier diet. Sometimes medication, surgery, or other intervention is necessary. In other cases, there might be no way to fix the problem. There is no point at which it makes sense for someone to blame themselves (or have other people blame them) for health problems that persist after a reasonable attempt to implement a paleo approach to diet and wellness. Just because a particular problem resolves for some people on paleo is not a reason to believe that problem will go away for everyone on paleo.
How do you tell whether changes to paleo will solve any particular problem? Beats me. If paleo isn’t working, I think it does make sense to spend some time making changes that might help. At some point, it’s probably necessary to seek other remedies. At that point, the problem is finding a practitioner who won’t tell you that the first thing to do is stop that crazy paleo stuff and start eating a normal diet again. That will become easier as paleo becomes more mainstream and has more research support.