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The Schwarzbein Principle II: Book Review


I’m very thankful to Gina, a reader friend, who wrote a great review for us on this book, The Schwarzbein Principle II, The “Transition”: A Regeneration Program to Prevent and Reverse Accelerated Aging, by Diana Schwarzbein, M.D.:

For me, this book was nearly as life-changing as “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” and “Nourishing Traditions.” Dr. Schwarzbein is an Endocrinologist (hormone specialist), so I really believe she knows what she’s talking about in this regard.

The book is primarily about the 3 major hormones:

Adrenaline, cortisol, and insulin, and how they are affected by stressors in our lifestyle and nutrition habits (as opposed to an actual glandular-based endocrine disorder). Dr. Schwarzbein includes the “healing stories” of three former patients, as well as her own personal story, throughout the book in order to illustrate the different metabolism types and the paths that led there.

She discusses each hormone individually (acknowledging that no hormone works by itself) and what role each one plays in our survival. When one or more of these hormones are out of balance, you have a damaged metabolism.

But you can heal yourself!

The four metabolism types are:

  • Insulin-sensitive with healthy adrenal glands (ideal)
  • Insulin-sensitive with burned-out adrenals
  • Insulin-resistant with healthy adrenals
  • Insulin-resistant with burned-out adrenals (most damaged)

At the end of the book are detailed nutrition and exercise plans for each individual metabolism. If you can’t figure out which one you are just by reading, have your hormones and fasting insulin levels tested.

Key points:

1. You cannot lose weight to get healthy; you must get healthy to lose fat-weight.

2. “Calories in, calories out” is a myth.

3. Your hormones, not your genes, determine your metabolism. Just because a person is thin and can eat whatever they want does NOT mean they have a healthy metabolism. Bad habits will catch up with you in time.

4. All types of stress (physical, emotional, nutritional, chemical, etc.) can cause hormonal imbalances.

5. 3 major hormones are responsible for utilizing/rebuilding your bio-chemicals (neurotransmitters, muscle/bone tissue, energy stores, brain cells, etc.).

6. Insulin is your “building-up” hormone. Adrenaline & Cortisol are your “using-up” hormones. They are designed to keep you alive in times of acute, life-threatening stress. They are very important; you don’t want any of your hormones to be too high or too low. Balance is key to healing your metabolism.

7. When you use up more bio-chemicals than you can rebuild, or vice versa, you have a damaged metabolism. A damaged metabolism causes degenerative diseases of aging.

8. Healing your metabolism is not just about weight. It’s about living a long, disease-free life; a.k.a. “Successful Aging.”

9. Most Americans have hormonal imbalances and therefore damaged metabolisms due to one or more of the following:

  • Too much daily stress; being overly busy (high adrenaline & cortisol levels)
  • Lack of quality sleep (high adrenaline & cortisol)
  • Overuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, birth control pills, or other drugs (high a & c)
  • Over-exercising (cardio-vascular exercise = high adrenaline, other exercise = cortisol)
  • Eating too much protein (high adrenaline) or not enough protein (high insulin) at every meal.
  • Eating too many (insulin) or not enough (a & c) carbs at every meal.
  • Eating a low-fat and/or low-calorie diet, skipping meals [a.k.a. “dieting”] (high a & c)

10. Surges in adrenaline and/or cortisol levels cause a surge in insulin (because insulin prevents your body from using up its bio-chemicals completely), which in turn causes a blood sugar “crash” and carbohydrate/sugar cravings.

11. Elevated insulin levels over time cause many disease symptoms and can eventually lead to heart disease, diabetes (II) and Alzheimer’s.

12. Insulin’s survival role is to keep too much sugar (glucose) from entering your brain for fuel, because too much sugar kills your brain cells.

13. Insulin is the reason dieters gain back fat-weight after they stop the diet (or when smokers stop smoking). Dieting causes the body to use up more bio-chemicals than it can rebuild; once a more “normal” diet is resumed, insulin begins to heal the body by “catching up” rebuilding all the bio-chemicals it lost during the “famine,” which leads to excess weight gain. This is the only way the body can heal.

14. As you begin to heal your metabolism/balance your hormones, the weight you put on is not just fat – it is lean body mass, bone density, and other structural and functional bio-chemicals as you begin to rebuild your body.

15. Your age and how damaged your metabolism is will determine how long your body will take to heal itself and eventually burn off excess fat-weight, if needed.

16. Never eat protein by itself. This causes a surge in adrenaline and cortisol.

17. Never eat carbohydrates by themselves. This causes insulin to rise too quickly and can also burn out or further damage your adrenal glands.

18. Eat 3 balanced meals consisting of the foods that you are made of: Proteins, Fats, non-starchy Vegetables, and real (unrefined) Carbohydrates (PFVC).

19. Do not eliminate any of the food groups (PFVC).

20. Eat 2 snacks consisting of at least Protein & real Carbohydrate, ideally all four. Snacking keeps your blood sugar levels even and prevents a hormonal surge or imbalance.

21. Alcohol consumption feels relaxing, but in fact raises cortisol because alcohol is a toxin. Over time this can damage your adrenal glands.

22. A “beer belly” is caused by high cortisol levels. Cortisol signals your body to store fat around your midsection only instead of evenly distributing it.

Something I learned that I didn’t know:

A very-low-carb diet can be just as damaging as a high-carb diet. Insulin is not your enemy. Balance is key in healing your metabolism.

I like that Dr. Schwarzbein acknowledges that fats like butter are good for you, and that cholesterol plays an important role in the body. However, in the section about actual food choices she contradicts herself at times. She says to stay away from man-made foods and damaged fats (hooray!), but gives the okay to eat canola and soybean oil, as well as soy products such as tofu and soy milk for vegetarians. But, I still highly recommend reading the book for her hormone expertise. I realized that I’m still recovering from 16 years of vegetarianism, even after almost 3 years of a WAPF diet and lifestyle. The information in The Schwarzbein Principle II was the extra “oomph” that I needed to speed up the healing of my own metabolism.

Me again (Kelly), WOW, my wheels are turning…what a great book review, thank you, Gina!

Gina Gina is 29 and was born and raised in Seattle, WA. Shortly after receiving a degree in Vocal Performance from Western Washington University, she moved to Whidbey Island, WA, got married and started her own private voice teaching business. It was during this time that she discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation and renounced her 16 years of vegetarianism. She currently lives in Eugene, OR where her husband is a grad student and Gina continues to teach voice lessons. They both enjoy the bounty of fresh food, farms, and farmers markets in the Willamette Valley.


  1. I recently picked up her first book and found it super helpful as I research and write about adrenal fatigue. I now suspect I have multiple hormones needing balance.

    I also found it weird that she was all for butter and then listed a low saturated fat diet option. Perhaps she caved to peer pressure?

  2. I’ve read the first Schwarzbein principle book and have recommended it to a few people with diabetes. I’m glad to hear of another WAPF person who found it could coincide with WAPF principles (excepting some of the oils and soy foods). Also, I live near Gina! :) Well, about an hour away – so “Hi, Gina!” as I wave at your from Oakland, north of Roseburg!

  3. Nice job of condensing a book, Gina! Thank you. I have read the first Schwartzbein principle book, need to look into this one. I am very glad you mentioned the point about not cutting out any food groups. Knowing the role that the various hormones play is very helpful. Thanks again.

  4. Thanks guys! It was actually pretty difficult to condense everything, as there is SO much more in the book. There are also sections on exercise, nutritional supplementation, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Even sample meal plans consisting of varying carbohydrate amounts. It really is amazing!

    @Shannon – she does recommend a lower-saturated fat diet for those with the most damaged metabolism. I can’t remember exactly why, but it has something to do with the fact that those people cannot metabolize fat correctly or use it for energy properly. That is, until they heal their metabolism.

    Hi Wardeh! Are you coming to any of the WAPF Eugene meetings soon? It’d be nice to meet you.

    Also, if anyone wants to read more about this book before buying it, a great blog to look into is Matt Stone’s:
    Click on “Diana Schwarzbein” on the right hand side, and read those posts. He also sums things up nicely. I would also be happy to answer any questions about it here.

  5. Gina – We’re about an hour south of Eugene, so I haven’t made it to any meetings, though not for lack of desire. I get the newsletter and am on the Yahoo! group (though not active). Maybe someday I’ll make it and we can meet. :)

  6. Great review, Gina. It’s been awhile since I read Dr. Schwarzbein’s books and this was an excellent refresher or introduction, with the salient points numbered and all! I do wish she would discover WAPF, then she’d be perfect!

  7. I read her first book probably about 8 years ago, and followed many of the principles in it for some time. As I learned more, I started thinking her philosophy wasn’t strict enough about eating whole, real fats from healthy sources and I sort of discarded her advice. It’s very possible that her theories have changed and/or my memory is incorrect about that particular topic, but in any case, I’m willing to give the book a try and see what’s there. It looks like great information and if I read it and like it, I’m likely to recommend it to others who need an education on nutrition. The fact that you’re endorsing it definitely makes me think it’s probably a sound book with good nutritional and health advice. It’s always good to have another piece of health literature to recommend to people who need help with their nutritional journey. Thanks Kelly!

  8. Hi Raine,
    Keep in mind that I didn’t read and review it, Gina did, but her judgment sounds good to me, too. :)

  9. I have a question. You said a low-carb diet is just as bad as a high-carb one? The GAPS diet isn’t low-carb, is it? I am on the GAPS diet and eat plenty of fruit, nuts and veggies. Is that ok?

  10. Bethany, Gina said that it said that in the book, but you may want to read it to know exactly what the author meant and find out more.

    Do you have the GAPS book? That would be helpful so you know the details of the diet, I haven’t read the whole thing yet. (I’m half-way through that one and a few more books, too!) Maybe someone else knows. :)


  11. @Bethany- I said a very low carb diet (ketogenic) can be harmful. Most people would agree that this qualifies as 50g or less of carbs per day. While I haven’t read the GAPS book, I am somewhat familiar with the protocol. The first phase sounds very low carb to me — almost no starch whatsoever (correct me if I’m wrong). GAPS seems to be targeted to a very specific set of health issues, and many people claim that it has worked wonders. I would *think* that if someone has to be on the first phase of GAPS for a very long time (several months) that it may actually do more harm in the long run, depending on their current metabolism. But I speculate.

    Some ideas to keep in mind: just because something makes you feel good (for a while) doesn’t mean that it’s right or good for you; just because something makes you feel bad at first doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or bad for you. A ketogenic diet will eventually burn out your adrenal glands and your body will eat itself. But it feels really good at first! Healing your metabolism will make you feel lousy for a while and then your body reaches homeostasis. Does that answer your question?

  12. I am about done reading the book, after reading the review here. Thanks so much for posting that review and for the writer of the review!

    I have a mixed responses- going from “oh yes that makes sense” to “really, do i need to eat THAT much protein in a day, and are soy and meat really my main options??!?!?”

    She has a bit of that fear mentality going on about even if you are feeling fine, you might be headed for disaster if you are not eating “right.” I think that can be one of those slippery slopes.

    After starting this book, I made some changes to my diet- i have really worked on combining fats and proteins w/ some carbs. Before i got too far into the book this meant that for my morning smoothie, i added coconut oil back in (somehow i had stopped doing that), a fresh farm egg, AND greens from my garden, in w/ the misc fruit. I thought i was set! but then i read how she recommended that you never drink a meal due to it releasing too much insulin and that was a bummer. :)

    I still have a hard time believing that a person must consume as much protein every day as she suggests…… I do eat meat, but very selectively and depending on my cravings. I choose to never eat soy, as I think it is not a good food source unless its fermented. So this means i’d be consuming A LOT of nuts and eggs. She never mentions plant sourced proteins, which I think is off putting as well.

    To close, I found a lot of very interesting information in this book. If I was in one of those categories where I had been damaging my body for many years, i’d jump on this wagon lickity split!
    I do think my adrenals need some added support, so i am planning on making some shifts. But i’m always hesitant when i read a food-type book that makes absolutes about what people should be eating, as if we all have the same make ups and needs.

    I appreciate her espousing balance so much, but in the end I don’t think it is really quite balanced enough, in the large view of things, for me.

  13. The GAPS diet is nothing like the ketogenic diet and does make you feel worse at first (from die-off) but better in the long run. So I think it is fine. And it is not low-carb; although it is starch-free, it allows all the veggies you want, with no carb restrictions. Does that clear things up about the issue?

  14. Re: Lisa’s comment:
    One should probably read the entire book before making significant changes. And be sure which metabolism type you are. *She lays out specific ranges of protein and carb intake per day (in 3-5 meals) for each type.*
    I don’t think she plays on our fears at all. I thought I was eating “right” but may have been damaging my adrenals from not eating enough carbs. I now feel even more balanced, no menstrual cramps, hair and nails are growing super fast, better digestion, etc. due to eating balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours.
    Depending on your metabolism type, drinking meals on a regular basis may not be good. Test it out — if you get hungry in an hour or two afterwards it may be a bad idea.
    She does mention plant-sources of protein — nuts & soy. But nuts are also relatively high in carbs, and soy…well, we know better.

    “But i

  15. Gina-
    Thanks so much for your feedback to my remarks. I do still have a bit left of the book to read- i’m just past the 400 page mark so maybe some of my concerns are left to be addressed.

    I just know when i looked at her vegetarian meal options, there was not much there for me, as often two of the three meals have soy in them. I don’t eat soy! My body does not like it. A bulk of the rest of the protein was from dairy- my body does not respond well to dairy!!! Luckily my body does great w/ eggs and i have a source to local grassfed organic eggs! :)
    By plant based, i meant other then nuts or legumes- i’m talking actual living plants- ie dark greens, ect, which are actually loaded w/ protein.

    I’m wondering if maybe the issue i’m having is that i’m pretty “healthy”- (i’m not the type to leave out carbs or fats or protein- it just doesn’t make sense to me and i’m fortunate enough to be able to ‘hear’ my body and respond accordingly.)
    and so when read her information was like “oh no! i’m not doing that, and i’m not doing that!!!!” <>
    Each body is so different, as she acknowledges, but it think the differences are greater then she acknowledges. I really do think there are people who need a lot of protein- my daughter and husband are like that. I would really have to become a different person to eat all that protein- all that soy and dairy really is not what my body has ever appreciated. Now that I’m not a vegetarian, I do love to supplement w/ local organic meats, and my body does appreciate that! But holy moly! not at the level she recommends.

    I look forward to reading the remaining pages and playing around w/ what feels good to me. :)

    Thanks again! :)

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