About Sarah Ballantyne, PhD

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headshot2Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. (a.k.a. The Paleo Mom) is the blogger behind the award-winning blog  www.ThePaleoMom.com, cohost of the top-rated and syndicated  The Paleo View podcast, and New York Times Bestselling author of The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook.

Sarah has always had many interests and talents, which is reflected in the diversity of this blog. Here, you will find explanations of the science behind the Paleo diet and lifestyle, along with a strong focus on modifications for autoimmune disease sufferers, articles related to the practical implementation of a Paleo diet and lifestyle, detailed discussions relevant for paleo families and kids’ health, and recipes that span the gamut from kid staples, to comfort foods, to quick & easy meals, to gourmet dishes, to treats for special occasions, to snacks and nut-free baking, to recipes compliant with the autoimmune protocol for those who suffer from autoimmune diseases (like Sarah).

Sarah started her academic career in physics, earning an Honors Bachelor of Science with Distinction from the University of Victoria, Canada in 1999.  Her honors thesis work was in radiation therapy for prostate cancer, which prompted her to look for medical research applications in graduate school .  Sarah earned her doctorate degree in medical biophysics at The University of Western Ontario in 2003, at the age of 26.  Her doctoral thesis was titled “Progressive Liver Injury during the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome:  Heme Oxygenase as a Therapeutic Target”.  Her doctoral research spanned the gamut of inflammation, innate immunity, endogenous anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant enzymes, gene therapy techniques, microcirculation and vascular biology, liver health,  and critical care medicine.

Sarah spent the next four years doing medical research as a postdoctoral fellow first at in the Cardiology Department at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada and then in the Department of Cell Biology at The University Of Arizona.  In Toronto, Sarah continued her research in the fields of innate immunity, inflammation, vascular biology, critical care medicine, and gene therapy, with a new focus on Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and the role of angiogenic growth factors in controlling inflammation and the innate immune system.  In Tucson, Sarah switched gears and studied epithelial cell biology with particular focus on trafficking of proteins required for tight junction assembly, maintenance of epithelial cell polarity, and characterization of a new tumor suppressor called endotubin (which suppressed epithelial to mesenchymal transformations through maintenance of tight junction integrity).  Sarah’s focus included cell trafficking (how cells shuttle proteins from one part to another in a targeted way) and cancer biology.

Throughout Sarah’s academic career, Sarah earned a variety of awards, including: awards for research excellence including from the American Physiological Society (3 years in a row) and from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research / BioContact Quebec (1st place);  many fellowships, including from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF), Pfizer Canada (through HSF partnership), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Strategic Training Initiative in Cardiovascular Health Research (TACTICS); and, a research grant through The University of Arizona Cancer Center Gastrointestinal Specialized Program of Research Excellence (GI-SPORE, a National Institutes of Health grant program).   Despite Sarah’s relatively short academic career, she filed one patent (in both the USA and Canada) and published 14 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals (including 7 first author papers; and 12 of which can be seen here), several of which continue to be highly-cited today, and 25 abstracts presented at international conferences.

Even though Sarah was enjoying a successful and vibrant burgeoning academic career, she opted to become a stay-at-home mom upon the birth of her first daughter.  Sarah’s decision to give the world of medical research a break when her first daughter was born was inspired both by the profound influence of her own mother during her upbringing and by a recognition that her health was not going to accommodate any attempts at finding balance between a high-powered academic career and her desire to be a fully-engaged parent. At the time her first daughter was born, Sarah was morbidly obese and suffered from over a dozen immune- and autoimmune-related diseases.


Summer 2005–at least 275lbs, but I will never know for sure because I was too scared to weigh myself. I was depressed and very sick.

After her second daughter was born, Sarah discovered the Paleo lifestyle. It had an amazing effect on her health, including contributing to her 120-pound weight loss! Over time, she healed herself of a long laundry list of physical complaints including: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, acid reflux, migraines, anxiety, asthma, allergies, psoriasis and an autoimmune skin condition called lichen planus. In fact, Sarah was able to discontinue six prescription medications, some of which she has been taking for 12 years, within two weeks of changing her diet! The dramatic improvements in Sarah’s conditions convinced her never to revert to her previous eating habits. She quickly became a passionate and enthusiastic advocate for the Paleo lifestyle, which led to the creation of this blog.

Summer 2012.  Happy, healthy, fit.

Summer 2012. Happy, healthy, fit.

Sarah is passionate about scientific literacy and about distilling scientific concepts into straightforward and accessible explanations. As a scientist both by training and by nature, Sarah is deeply interested in understanding how the foods we eat interact with our gut barriers, immune systems, and hormones to influence health. Sarah’s innate curiosity goes further than just understanding diet and she is also deeply interested in lifestyle factors like sleep, stress and activity. Sarah believes that the true rationale for this way of eating and living stems, not from evolutionary biology (although that is a great place to start for forming hypotheses), but the thousands of scientific articles that each evaluate one small piece to the picture of how diet and lifestyle contribute to health and longevity.

Sarah is more than just a scientist. She is also a devoted mom and wife. It was important to Sarah to improve the health of her family in addition to addressed her own health conditions. Sarah successfully transitioned her originally skeptic husband and two spirited young daughters to a paleo diet and lifestyle. It was a slow road (full of challenges, victories and baby steps), but the difference in her family’s health was also profound. Sarah blogs about the challenges of raising a paleo family and living in a family where the members of different dietary requirements.  In fact, it was this part of Sarah’s journey and Sarah’s indentify first and foremost as a mom that inspired the name of this blog.

Sarah has also always loved food and loved cooking. She loves being creative in the kitchen and finding ways to reinvent old favorites. She cooks mostly for her family, which is why you will see such a diversity of recipes on her blog. She believes that even healthy food should taste amazing and that there can be room in life for celebrations with food and occasional treats (and that what occasional means is individual). Sarah also loves to draw, and yes, both the stick figure illustrations and the more technical illustrations (in this blog and Sarah’s books) are her own.

Sarah’s personal experiences with autoimmune disease is the reason for the large amount of autoimmune-related content on her blog and the reason why her first two books are focused on how to modify a paleo diet to reverse autoimmune disease. However, this is not an autoimmune only blog. Only a subset of both the scientific content and the recipes are focused on autoimmune disease. Instead, ThePaleoMom.com is a family-centered blog, a food blog, a “how to” blog, and a science blog. Sarah approaches the Paleo diet from a place of realism and a focus on long-term sustainability, that understands the individual nature of each of our bodies and that different diet choices work better for different people. It is a blog that respects your choices, and shares in both struggles and successes. It is a blog designed to explain the why’s behind a Paleo lifestyle to inform your choices and give you the tools you need to be successful.

You can also find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

You can read more about Sarah’s personal journey to paleo here and see more before and after photos here.

 Most posts about Sarah:



im still a little confuse, I have fibromyalgia, can I eat eggs, and cook with olive oil or its best to cook only with coconut oil?

Patricia, cook with fats that are solid at room temperature – they are most stable and can withstand the heat. Coconut oil, butter, lard, bacon fat, tallow, red palm oil. Save the olive oil for salads.

You are suggesting to people to eat Coconut oil, butter, lard, bacon fat, tallow ?

What insanity.

I have seen not one single research study published in a respected, peer reviewed, referee’d scientific journal that confirms this “paleo diet” is healthful. On the other hand, the China Study is the mother of all health studies, over 20 years, that CONFIRMs without a doubt – – that cholesterol is the main cause of many of our health problems. As I understand, this paleo diet espouses eating meat. Well, all meat contains excess cholesterol, which is bad. There are more than one Physics graduate who became a medical researcher who now manages a diet website to make money off it.

I agree. What bullshit. Show us the evidence for your matter-of-fact statements, stay-at-home mom. I have a Ph.D., too. That doesn’t give me the right to wear a white coat and pass myself off as a medical “Dr.”

I see a lot of recipes with coconut flour, coconut flakes and coconut oil. I can’t tolerate coconut at all. I’m also allergic to all bell peppers. What can I swap out? I was advised to go paleo bc I was just diagnosed with Hashimotos and I’m not responding well to Synthroid.

Any protein injected into the body, especially along with an adjuvant
can cause the immune system to be sensitized to that protein. Subsequent
exposure to the protein will cause the immune system to attack that
protein. This is the mechanism used by vaccinations.

When one receives an intramuscular shot (vaccines or even a Vitamin K1
shot that includes an adjuvant) the muscle can be pierced and muscle
proteins such as tropomyosin can be deposited along with the vaccine and
adjuvants. In theory, the immune system can develop sensitization to
tropomyosin. Tropomyosin is also present in the brain and intestines.
When the sensitized immune system attacks tropomyosin, the result could
be autism and intestinal inflammatory disorders such as IBD and
ulcerative colitis.

More details and peer-reviewed references to the mechanism described are


Tropomyosin sensitivity also of course means seafood allergy.

Likewise, skin proteins from skin pierced by the injections are also
deposited along with the vaccine and adjuvants. Sensitization to skin
proteins can cause autoimmune skin disorders such as eczema. This can
explain why eczema has been increasing over the last decades given the
increasing number of adjuvanted injections in the vaccine schedule.

Hello Sarah, I heard you today on the Hashimotos summit. I’ve been struggling with a plethora of health challenges for most of my life but more intensely for the past 3 years when a recurring, itchy rash started to appear on my lower legs. After hearing about your experience with Lichen Planus, I believe that’s what I’ve been dealing with. I’m so relieved to have a direction for my alternative health practitioners to go with the rash. I’ve been following a Paleo-like diet for the past 3 years, most recently a modified GAPs protocol. The rashes calmed down last winter during a trip to Mexico but have since returned. Did your rash completely heal on the Paleo AIP? How long did it take? Any insight you have would be much appreciated. I feel so fortunate to have ‘met’ you.

My 18 year old daughter has the autoimmune disease Scleroderma with Raynauds as one of the symptoms that she battles the most with. (she was diagnosed at 8 years old.) Praise Jesus for incredible healing for her. The Scleroderma has been in ‘remission’ for lack of a better term. The Raynauds has signifcantly affected the growth of her hands especially. I did some research on Gluten and the impact is has on the Immune System. I wasn’t able to convince her that she should be gluten free. I recently started Cross Fit which led me to check out a Paleo lifestyle recommended by my coaches. I’m reading your blog with all of the references to the Immune system being impacted by Nightshades. Do you have any data regarding Scleroderma and Paleo that I could share with my daughter?

I recently read a post on this page that those following the AIP diet should avoid slippery elm bark since it stimulates the immune system. I am a bit confused by this reasoning since I have read in alternate places that immune stimulating herbs are beneficial in helping those with low immunity. Can you please explain this further

Hi Sara and team,

I’m new to Paleo since my Crohn’s Disease has developed and progressed over the past couple years. I am hoping for some guidance. I enjoy swimming. I find that spending time in the pool helps my skin and is a great form of exercize. What’s the overall opinion of being submerged in water that is treated with chemicals, especially for someone that has a sensitive G.I. tract? Swollowing some amount of water and absorption through sinuses is pretty much unavoidable. Have you seen this discussed anywhere or heard of negative impact on gut microflora? Interested in your thoughts. Thank you for all you have done, love “The Paleo Approach”.

Make sure the pool uses chlorine and not bromine. Bromine will cause your thyroid to go into hypothyroid and could be the cause of your Chrones

Hi, my daughter is 8 and has had an annular lesion on her cheek for the past 2 years, came out from being on a swim team. All of her bloodwork done by rheumy is normal, and they did a few skin scrapings and cultures for ringworm and they all came up negative. She is a happy healthy girl but this rash will not go away and they believe it is a form of subacute cutaneous lupus, tumid lupus, or granuloma annulare. The only way to determine what it is, is to do a punch biopsy which would permanently scar her face. And then they would most likely put her on Plaquenil – for a 1 inch rash. Too bad it is on her face :(. My question to you is if you have heard anyone experience success or remission of cutaneous lupus with the Paleo diet?

Hi Sarah, I am wondering … do you have information how AIP is affecting complete blood test results? Is it safe in long run? That much meat and oils and fats :) Just wondering :)

[…] Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, author of The Paleo Approach, and also known as The Paleo Mom,  is the modern expert on all things AIP. She is a scientist and master researcher on autoimmune disease and it’s relation to diet and lifestyle factors. She also suffers from autoimmune diseases. She has provided the autoimmune community with a plethora of information on nutrition, sleep, adrenal fatigue, exercise, scientific studies, and so much more. Anything you need to know about the AIP can be found in her books or on her website. She also has a real compassion for those of us suffering from autoimmune disease, as she is one of us. […]

Hello, fellow Arizonan! Doing AIP in Arizona with all this fabulous Mexican food is hard!! I have NASH, IBS, PCOS, and Hashimotos. I was wondering if any of these can be reversed by AIP. I’ve been seeing a funtional medicine doctor and started Paleo. He wants me to follow AIP exclusively for three weeks and then slowely transition back Paleo to see how I do. To be honest, it is a little daunting. Where the weight loss results immediate or did it take time? I haven’t lost anything on Paleo yet but I’m hoping AIP may do the trick. Love the site!

I started with paleo, and switched to AIP when I read some of the research behind it. i used the paleo quick-start guide. It was very helpful.Is there such a thing for AIP — a broken down list to help avoid pitfalls, and make sure to hit all the high points?

[…] As Dr.Sarah Ballantyne shares in her book, The Paleo Approach, autoimmune diseases are becoming an unruly epidemic in today’s society.  Though 1/3 can be accounted for by genetic predisposition, the other portion is heavily influenced by environment, diet, and lifestyle factors, all of which have gone down the tubes in the last couple of centuries.  As the standard American diet, heavy in grains, sugar, and damaged oils, becomes all the more prevalent, so does the risk of one developing an autoimmune disease, and that is not just a coincidence. That being said, while it is sad that more than half of the nation is developing debilitating, life altering autoimmune diseases, there is a beacon of light.   This ever-growing ray of hope is called the autoimmune approach to Paleo, and it is undoubtedly one of the greatest means of finding healing in the seemingly hopeless and incurable health conditions that autoimmune conditions are.  What is the Autoimmune Paleo Diet? The Autoimmune approach to Paleo (i.e. AIP) is a scientifically founded way of eating for those with an autoimmune disease(s), developed by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne of the Paleo Mom.  Ultimately, the protocol eliminates all pro-inflammatory foods and lifestyle factors, which then reduces any potential, damaging attacks that the body may have on itself, thus decreasing autoimmunity and allowing it to heal. Along with a given autoimmune disease, there are typically many other health conditions that arise in an individual, including leaky gut and hormone imbalance.  Therefore, with the combination of a nutrient-dense, healing diet and lifestyle, inflammation that would otherwise be stimulated through mere living, is exceptionally lowered.  From there, the body is able to begin rebuilding itself at a cellular level, simultaneously regulating the immune system, supporting proper organ function, and many other parts of the body that have been effected by a given autoimmune disease.  That being said, the autoimmune approach to healing should not be seen as an end all, be all, to cure one’s illness, but rather, the building blocks that allows one to take control of their health once more.  Though I myself have been following AIP for at least a year now, all of the effects and internal damage caused by Chronic Lyme Disease are not all magically healed.  However, what AIP has successfully eliminated all of the extra inflammation present from the autoimmune aspect of my disease, and thus help me find a way in addressing all of the other complications present.   Overall, an autoimmune approach to the Paleo diet is full of healing foods that help the body reduce attacks on itself and thus repair and rebuild its damaged systems. After all, health truly starts with what we put in our bodies.   Foods on Autoimmune Protocol […]

Hi! I LOVE LOVE LOVE your site…it’s a breath of fresh air! I have scrolled up and down many times (all the time I can find) and I agree 100000% with all that you teach! I am NOT new to ‘dieting’ , in fact, I think my ‘dieting’ (10 + years of bodybuilding diets) and over training is what is causing me now to not feel well.

To make a LONG LONG story short….I am having some major issues digesting a lot. 5 years ago when my body was giving up on me and i was taking massive amounts of fat burners , doing 2-3 hours of cardio a DAY , eating very low carb and frequently ‘drying my body out’ with laxatives and pills…….EVERY.JOINT.HURT….I stopped having a menstrual cycle, I literally felt like my body was 80 years old (I was only 28).
I was confused, sad, frustrated AND trying to live up to my ‘old’ self…a seasoned athlete, successful personal trainer to more than 30 clients a week, healthy food coach (go figure lol), and basically a cheerleader and life coach for sooo many….BUT I was breaking down inside:(

Something led me to a holistic practitioner (I new I needed to get my hormones right…but had no idea what adrenals were!)….Well, I did salvia tests…I had severe sentiviiy to many of the foods I was eating…but most importantly I had horrible cortisol and DHA…NO uters lining (my OBGYN said he’s never seen anyone like this not even able to measure it), I had two doctors tell me at the age of 27 that I had pre menopausal symptoms….

Fast forward and now after 8 years of no cycles….I got ONE (after 1 year on DHEA and pregnenalone )…AND doing different diets….and basically gaining weight after 6 surgeries in 5 years (talk about added stress to an already messed up system!)….AND after One menstrual cycle…Gods miracle happened and my husband and I got pregnant! (something I was also told would never happen without medication!)….

I looked to food for my healing..I ate avocados daily and included Flax oil, lean protein…oatmeal…coconut oil…Its a superfood…I ate it!!!! but NOW after nursing for over 18 months now…my body is FREAKING OUT!!! I got what I THINK Is psoriasis ….on my elbows and knee…I ran across thepaleomom.com and read about AIP (paleo is pretty common around us…my husband owns a crossfit gym lol)…but the AIP is something totally new to me. I haven’t been able to do crossfit since he started in 2009 due to all of my issues and I was SOOO weak:( I’m still recovering from that.

I started it..and in 5 days you can hardly see my psoriasis AND many of the other skin issues I was having have disappeared! ..BUT….NOW>>>>>> something happened…my stomach after 2 weeks on AIP…looks pregnant….I feel horrible and now I”m consitpated (something that I am NEVER) ….and i actually gained 3lbs….

I was wondering if you could give me any tips??? Also, My body is still healing..I got pregnant only 3 months into FAI/hip surgery..AND due to being pregnant and now having my son (a very attached one) I am unable to get my other hip done…so my activity is suffering AND I know there is a lot more going on inside my body than JUSTdealing with poor digestion .

any help or insight is appreciated!!!! I know this diet will work…and I’m thinking to follow low FODMAP??? I increased my Yams…in place of my oats and quinoa and rice…and plantains…but I”m thinking the yams are being horrible for my tummy..

thanks in advance for even reading…like you said, you often feel alone , even to those close to you ..they just don’t get it…so you just don’t bother, you try to ignore things and deal with it, Also, how do you feel about working out while healing? I mean I know it doesn’t make sense on some levels but I also know that you HAVE to workout to be healthy!


I am a certified fitness nutritionist and LOVE your blog. I’m a huge science nerd and love making connections between the environment, behavior, food, and genetics. I am on the search for some good books the focus on genetics, hormones, and nutrition. I want to understand pathways and make connections. Any suggests would be great! Thanks

Hi Sarah,

I want to personally invite you to be featured as a wellness expert on my upcoming Get Healthy Now telesummit.

The story of healing yourself with the Paleo lifestyle is incredible! The weight loss, getting rid of the autoimmunity issues, coming off all those prescriptions in two weeks time? WOW!!! I sooo want to share this story with others who are suffering.

You have a powerful story that can change lives. When people identify, they listen. I would love to be a part of getting your message of courage and hope out there to the listening audience of my telesummit.

This telesummit will be a win win for everyone–you will get broad exposure as a result of the significant reach of the collective panel of telesummit participants, the listening audience will learn about you and how your work may help them, and I will expand my mission of helping others heal in their lives plus increase my networking circle with other professionals like you.

Let me know if you will agree to an interview, and I’ll take the next step in making this come together easily. Your audio interview would be prerecorded in advance to make it super easy to fit into your schedule.

You sound like a perfect fit for my panel of experts in natural healing, and it would be a great honor to interview you.


Dr. Lisa
The Health Revolutionist™

Is Wheat Grass OK for someone with sjogrens? In your book you mention that Spirulina and another type of Chlorella plant stimulates the immune system. Thank you, Kris

Dear Sarah, Thank you for your important work. In The Paleo Approach, p. 103 you report that “Agglutinins from nettle …increase intestinal permeability.”

There’s good history of nettles being a medicinal food and this data supports it:
Urtica dioica agglutinin (UDA) is an unusual plant lectin that differs from all other known plant lectins with respect to its molecular structure and its extremely low specific agglutination activity. http://www.pharmascholars.com/upload/pharmacy_52e146bd2a005.pdf

Pleas advise. Are nettles good on the AIP diet?
Thanks, Rebecca

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