Onion Skin Is Not Normal At Any Time of the Month

OnionThis post is for women. Men: skip this one unless you are a doctor or a widower dad with a daughter. Seriously! I’m going to talk about menstruation and stuff and this is just not for you.

For some reason I have no trouble talking about fecal transplants and how many times I’ve contracted pinworms in my life, but when it comes to menstruation I still feel a powerful and shameful urge to keep quiet.  Well here I am, working through it, because it’s time to talk about how different today’s sanitary pads and tampons are from the ones we grew up with. And it’s not like I grew up in a Little House on the Prairie; I grew up in the 80s.

LET’S GET TO IT THEN

I was one of those people who started using OB cotton tampons during my very first menstrual cycle. I liked the limited packaging, the small amount of waste, and the suggestion that they were 100% cotton, and I feel like they advertised in Ms Magazine and Mother Jones, which was cool. I also disliked the bulkiness and imagined mess of using sanitary pads, so I mainly avoided them. In addition, in 2000 I learned from a New Yorker article how to “skip” my period altogether by taking a series of low-dose birth control pills “straight through” for three months at a time, so that I only had to menstruate about 4 times a year instead of 12. By gaming the system this way, I potentially caused some long term issues but also potentially reduced my risk of breast and ovarian cancer by limiting the circulating estrogen and other hormonal surges that accompany menses. But that’s a lot of theory, and not something I would recommend again to anyone, ever (though it was super duper convenient). There are so many more complications with using the birth control pill that we now know about, but this post is not about the pill. The 90s and 2000s were a time when we were really excited about the convenience of prescriptions that could cure every perceived illness, discomfort or anxiety. This decade we supposedly know better.

SOME BIG MOTHERS

The thing is, you can’t go your whole life without sanitary pads. If you have a baby or sadly a miscarriage, you are going to need them for like a month afterwards. And not just regular ones, you are going to need some big mothers. In addition, when you are over 35, your Chinese fertility doctor is going to urge you not to use tampons anymore for one of those abstract reasons like that it blocks your chi. But on another level he might be worried about the dioxins and plasticizers in tampons now, and doesn’t want those things all up in your sensitive and permeable membranes interfering with your hormones and fertility.

I FEEL FOR TEENAGERS TODAY

Because I only ever used the mostly cotton OB tampons or the Natracare 100% organic cotton variety, I never had any issues. But a quick internet search will show you that teenagers today are freaking out over dry, peeling skin both inside their vaginal canal and on the labia. When they go to the doctor, they are told they just have sensitive skin and need to remember to rinse off their body wash better. Basically they are told they are stupid and should be ashamed of themselves. Doctors aren’t thinking about what is in these super engineered tampons these days – mainly, materials that are chemically manufactured to wick moisture away at any cost. Not just the “moisture” of menstruation, but all of it.

And so a lot of these girls give up on tampons and go back to menstrual pads with the same results. In particular, the Always brand menstrual pads are so highly engineered with moisture-wicking properties and an absorbent petrochemical gel interior that they can effectively suck the moisture out of your delicate skin until it is as dry and papery as an onion skin and peels off the same way. This peeling happens not just because the skin is dry, but also because it is reacting to the intensity of chemicals, plasticizers, and dioxins and so “sheds” the exterior skin to protect its deeper layers.  This is a chemical burn.

TALKING TO THE INTERNET INSTEAD OF OUR MOMS

It’s just the way of the world now that it is faster, more convenient and less embarrassing to ask the internet or Siri about our body issues instead of our moms or doctors. So that’s what teenagers are doing. Back in my day, we saved embarrassment by consulting our worn copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. But because products are changing at an alarming rate, problems are changing. You might actually get more relevant answers from the internet than from your mom. Sanitary pads and tampons used to be made of cotton and were generally benign. Not so anymore, and your mom and your doctor might not realize how much these products have changed.

The brightest, shiniest products in the feminine care aisle that are being marketed to our daughters (and ourselves) are the ones most likely to leave us with chemical burns. There is no reason for a teenager to complain of peeling skin and vaginal dryness during and right after their menstruation, and it is downright horrifying that teenagers today think that chemical burns and dryness are just part of their monthly period.

FUN EXPERIMENT

If you’re not convinced, why don’t you take an Always sanitary pad and put it against the inside skin of your mouth for 2 hours. Not only will you absorb dioxins, plasticizers and petrochemicals through your permeable mouth membrane, but the skin will dry up and peel a few days later. If it sounds unappealing to put these engineered products in your mouth, then don’t put them in or near your freaking vagina.

BUT I CAN’T RETIRE TO A HUT FOR THE WEEK

The alternative is using the $30 Diva Cup or similar product. It is a flexible silicone “cup” that you insert in the morning and remove at night (and then reinsert at night and remove in the morning if you want). Unlike tampons, there is no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. There is also no waste, no burden on your pipes, nothing to throw away at all. You just wash the cup and buy a new one every ten years.

You will be required to have a familiarity with your vaginal region and its canal. It’s the total opposite of those applicator tampons that come with a disposable ten foot pole so that you can essentially close your eyes and pretend the tampon is not really going inside of you.

But even with a silicone cup, you are going to need some kind of backup barrier. Natracare makes organic cotton menstrual pads and panty liners, which are fine. Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the ingredients in tampons and sanitary napkins, so be wary. Opt for an organic or at least 100% cotton claim if it’s going to be against your membranes or inside you. Again, if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it in your underwear either.

It might also be time to check out the reusable menstrual pad arena: Lunapads, GladRags etc. There is also a whole contingent on Etsy making these for your comfort and convenience. Why not support a person instead of a multinational?

After taking all this in, it might also be time to consider how different today’s diapers are from the ones we grew up with. Again, diaper manufacturers are not required to disclose the petrochemicals, dioxins, plasticizers and hormone disrupters that they make their huggy pampering portable toilets out of. If you’re going to use disposable diapers, use ones that are organic or at least suggested to be cotton against the skin. Don’t use anything with those super-absorbant petrochemical gels inside them. You could also try using the hybrid diapers that have cloth bases and flushable or disposable inserts made of fully biodegradable (and disclosed) ingredients. My favorite was the gDiaper system.

Hopefully by the time I am old and infirm there will be a great hybrid adult diaper too. Here’s to dreaming big.

FURTHER READING

Article on the hazardous chemicals in feminine care products, so you know I didn’t just make this up

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oopsie For Real

oopsie sandwichI’m not here to add anything to this recipe, just to say that I finally tried it. I baked them up, sliced them in two, and filled this weird little bun with salami, Swiss cheese and mustard. It was a revelation! I was eating a sandwich again! But without any aftermath of insatiable hunger and bloating.

What I’m talking about is this internet sensation called Oopsie Bread. The ingredients don’t seem to add up to anything, and yet by some dark magic they sort of form into flat, airy buns. The reason they exist is to create a case around other foods to make them portable – some people call this a sandwich.

The selling point of the Oopsie Bread over regular bread is that an Oopsie bun has 1g carbohydrate, 3.7g protein and 7.4g fat. This is like a dream come true for the LCHF crowd. In fact, I don’t think I was really “doing” LCHF until I tried this bread.

Consider that a classic slice of bread has 20g carbohydrates, 5g of protein and 2g of fat. Not to keep driving home the point about Lindt chocolate balls and how much I love them, but you could have 4 Lindt chocolate balls instead of that boring piece of bread. And chances are, you were going to have two slices. Just don’t waste your carbohydrates on processed grains. It breaks my heart.

Here is the simple method.

OOPSIE BREAD

  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

OOPSIE BAKING TRAYPreheat oven to 300 degrees

Beat 3 egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff peaks form

In another bowl:

Cream 3 yolks with 3oz of cream cheese

Add 1/2 tsp baking powder

Optional additions to the yolk mixture: 

  • 1/2 tbs fiberhusk, psyllium powder or flaxmeal
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder and 1/2 tsp garlic powder or
  • few drops of stevia or tiny speck of green stevia leaf powder

Now gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture.

Onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, use a spatula to form 6 “bun” shapes.

Bake for 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven.

Let cool, and slice for sandwiches.

These are great with nut butter, or like I mentioned above with cheese and salami.

Now here are some tips. If you don’t have a scale, then use roughly 1/2 cup of cream cheese for 3 eggs. Or let’s say you have 4oz of cream cheese handy, you can use 4 eggs to make the same recipe. 2oz of cream cheese? 2 eggs. Etc. You can also substitute cottage cheese for cream cheese, but I would really want to blend out the lumps. You can’t really add grated cheese to the recipe, because the buns won’t rise. But you can sprinkle some on top at the end and let the cheese get melty. And you can add any sort of powdered spice to great effect.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Luckily I Had Worms

That’s what my mother keeps telling everyone at cocktail parties. She seems to think that as guests are sipping their Opus One bordeaux and nibbling on canapés that they also want to hear about how I got intestinal pinworms not once, but twice as a child. Their eyes say stop talking, but my mother persists because she really wants everyone to know how lucky I am that I had worms.

In Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases, the author Moises Velasquez-Manoff explains, among other things, that a childhood infection with pinworms can protect you from developing allergies and autoimmune diseases.

SO I SCORED THE BIG ONE!

epidemic of absence

If you have a kid in school right now, you know that peanuts are no longer allowed on the property, that fun-zones have been replaced by nut-free-zones, and that probably a quarter of the kids in your child’s classroom has some kind of allergy to nuts, apples, dairy, wheat, shellfish or all of the above. And you might also remember that in your day, these allergies were extremely rare. And that in your mom’s day, they were completely unheard of. And so you’re probably wondering, like I was, what gives?

A lot of people have jumped on the foods themselves: maybe peanuts are different than they used to be, more prone to aflotoxins and full of concentrated pesticides or genetically modified to some shady degree or other. These factors could all be true, but they don’t explain why some children react to modern peanuts and some children don’t. In Epidemic of Absence, Vlasquez-Manoff attempts to get to the bottom of this discrepancy.

There are probably three ways a person can become allergic to peanuts, for example. The first is if they are introduced to the peanut protein through the skin, in a baby cream let’s say, before the protein is introduced orally. There is a reason babies put everything in their mouths – they are introducing proteins and foreign bodies in the correct order, so that their digestive system can file it away as what it is. When the order of introduction is backwards, the filing goes awry and when a peanut is ingested it will trigger an autoimmune response or allergy. This is why some doctors are now suggesting peanuts should be introduced earlier, not later, to babies and toddlers – revising the introduction time from 2 years to 7 months.

The second way a person can become allergic to peanuts, or anything really, is if their gut lining is compromised and allows proteins to “leak” through the lining into the bloodstream where they act as toxins to both the body and brain. A gut lining becomes compromised when good bacteria is minimized or eradicated by antibiotics or a diet high in carbohydrates or excessive fiber.

The common denominator in allergies and autoimmune diseases is the gut. Not just the health of the gut, the bacterial balance in the gut or the nutritional inputs into the gut – but also the residents of the gut like parasites, helminths and worms. We have co-evolved with these little guys for hundreds of thousands, say millions, of years. And it has only been extremely recently that we decided to get aggressive about expelling them from our guts for good. And yet in every case where well-meaning philanthropic foundations went into poor countries and eradicated their parasites and worms, it only took about five years for autoimmune diseases and allergies to appear for the first time.

I’m not just talking about some gentle sneezing and watery eyes. I mean suddenly children were coming down with multiple sclerosis, type-1 diabetes, lupus, Crohn’s disease and autism in populations that had never seen these diseases before. It’s worth reading Velasquez-Manoff’s book just for the incredible research into these parallels.

His thesis is that when we get a parasite or worm, it wakes up our immune system and forces it to develop. If your immune system doesn’t wake up and strengthen, the parasite will make you very sick and probably kill you (weeding those weak genes from the pool). But for all of those that are up to developing their immune systems and learning to keep their parasites at bay, and to live with a very low level of symptoms, those immune systems are better for it. These parasitically-infested people will live to become adults, reproduce and pass their genes along to the next generation. In a land of parasites and worms, you definitely want those fighter genes, and you want to epigenetically turn them on with your own parasite infestation.

But in a land without parasites and worms, having those fighter genes with nothing to fight leaves them untrained, fidgety and aggressive. Those fighter genes cause your immune system to attack innocent inputs like peanuts, or pollen, or even immunization shots, which will then present as a host of symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

Our autoimmune diseases and allergies are essentially adaptations to parasites that have gone awry in the absence of parasites.

So our third most probable way of developing a simple peanut allergy is by inheriting an immune system that is really well adapted to parasites, but has not been exposed to them. The immune system is hot on the trigger to attack a parasite, but in the absence of parasites, attacks a simple peanut protein.

Now if you are lucky enough to be on “rabbit cage cleaning duty” and the hand sink is really really far away, chances are you might come in contact with some pinworm eggs on the rabbit fur, unknowingly lodge them under your fingernails, chew on them later that night, and finally welcome them into your body. The pinworm eggs travel through the digestive system until they reach the duodenum at the entrance to the small intestine. After about 2 – 8 weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae, which grow rapidly, moult twice and migrate to the colon. The adults mate over the next few weeks. The males die and the females attach themselves to the intestinal wall to feed. When full, the females make their way to the rectum because their growing eggs need oxygen to fully mature. So they start wiggling their way out of your body, and then when you scratch at them, they release their eggs all over you. The eggs can live in virtually any environment for up to 3 weeks. Now you know all about my childhood, and if you catch my mom at cocktails she’ll tell you the rest.

These crawl out your bum

These crawl out your bum

USE IT OR LOSE IT

The thing about the immune system is that it is like a muscle or a brain neuron – if you don’t use it, you lose it. The body is a merciless pruner so that it can provide you with the exact body and mind you essentially order up through environmental inputs. If you are a Polynesian pearl diver from a young age, your eyes will develop the ability to see clearly underwater simply because your repeated actions of diving deep underwater and straining to see have told your body what you need. Our body is miraculous in what it will respond to. But as far as the immune system goes, if you encounter parasites your body will jump to the challenge to develop a stronger support system against the parasite, and eventually to live peacefully with the parasite. We have co-evolved for so long and are so co-dependent with parasites, that not having them is like missing an organ.

Does that mean we all have parasites, even here in the big city in my modern house? Probably we are all living with a very, very low level of pretty benign parasites. Go for a colonic at The Fenomen Clinic in Toronto and Tamara will probably show you a few parasites in your feces. Good times. The traditional perspective of colonic hydrotherapy is that it’s preferable to get rid of your parasites. Now we know better, so let’s bring them on.

REALLY, BRING ON THE PARASITES?

No, not really. I mean, if you are already weak and sick (with something other than autoimmune disease, like cancer or heart disease) or have some other problems, parasites might not be for you. However the author of Epidemic of Absence travels down to Mexico to infect himself with black-market hookworms, in hopes of healing his autoimmune alopecia and allergies. It’s a remarkable story, worth reading for yourself.

My takeaway is that there are definitely some risks involved with purposely exposing an adult immune system to parasites and worms. But that if you don’t mind taking that risk, and potentially feeling like you have the flu for 6 months to a year while worms course through your organs reproducing and feeding – you could be cured to some degree, if not totally. There are a ton of people trying this right now, with mixed results. But you will have to read their individual stories on the internet and decide for yourself. It will be years and years (or never) before any kind of clinical trial comes out on this. It’s not a medicine, after all – this cure is just a naturally occurring parasite which you can basically acquire by walking barefoot in Africa (which is how the black-market hookworms were originally smuggled back to Mexico).

EMBRACE BACTERIA

But my more general takeaway is that we all need to look at bacteria differently. It is who we are. Using anti-bacterial sprays and soaps is like using anti-human sprays and soaps. If they were labelled that way, would you still use them?

We need to be very careful with our use of antibiotics. That means not just avoiding prescriptions whenever possible, but also avoiding factory meat which is loaded with them even if it says it’s not. By law, commercial meat can state that it is “antibiotic-free” if antibiotics haven’t been administered for the two weeks prior to slaughter. That’s not enough, and there are tons of studies showing those antibiotics are still present in our food supply. Not to mention our water supply – full of antibiotics because of the huge doses given to factory animals. Basically you can do us all a favor by rejecting factory farming.

For your children and yourselves, the act of waiting out a fever, cough or cold is actually the work that the body and the immune system need to do to develop. By constantly curing our maladies and nipping them in the bud, we don’t let our immune system learn to do its job. And if we don’t use it, we lose it.

If you have to take antibiotics, at least get your fill of probiotics to replenish your gut. Go for kefir, unsweetened whole fat yoghurts, Bio-K, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and those acidophilus pills. Build yourself back up every way you can.

But let your kids be sick, let them play in dirt and barnyards, let them attend crowded sickly nursery schools, let them be slobbered all over by pets, and let them get pinworms and whatever. I mean, don’t let it get so bad that they end up in the hospital or worse. But lay off on all the worrying and the wiping and the cleaning. Humans evolved rolling around in dirt for the first year of their lives and ingesting crazy amounts of bacteria. Indoor plumbing is still a super new adaptation for us. I’m not saying I want to return to using a chamber pot and dumping it out my window every day, and then walking barefoot in it a few minutes later – but it’s worth recognizing that when we had those low levels of sanitation, autoimmune diseases and allergies were virtually non-existent.

The most important time to be exposed to bacteria, saprophytes, and parasites is probably while you are pregnant, for the sake of your fetus. The next most important time is passing through the birth canal, then the next six months to a few years or so of nursing, and then finally all through early childhood. If you weren’t able to be exposed to a birthing canal, breastfeeding, a farm, raw milk, forests or other stables of endotoxins and bacteria at those crucial stages in utero and in early childhood – then chances are extremely high that you suffer from allergies or autoimmune disease. Sorry about that. Let me know how your helminth therapy works out.

There is so much information in this book that just thinking about it makes me want to go back and re-read the whole thing again. I have barely summarized it, and I really hope you read this book over the summer. It’s not too late to change our behavior about microbes, bacteria and our gut – and epigenetics has left us a window to modify our genetic destiny. Even if you are riddled with autoimmune diseases and allergies, and your children are going the same way – there are still modifications you can make to ease their symptoms and more importantly to revise the genes they pass on.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MY WORMS?

I’m so glad you asked. Both times I acquired the pinworms, I was able to get to a doctor within a week of their exit strategy and started taking de-worming medicine. I feel for anyone who can’t get de-worming medicine, because they would most certainly reinfect themselves over and over again. If my worms weren’t completely gone, I would know about it. It was an itchy hell. But even though they are gone, my immune system benefited immensely by our time together. Whether the full life cycle was four weeks or ten weeks, their pinwormy presence in my gut alerted my immune system to wake up and start fighting. I don’t know if that brief romance was enough to keep autoimmune disease and allergies at bay for good, so I will also do my best to absorb bacteria from the environment wherever I can. This summer I’m considering drinking water straight from the lake all season for a handy dose of free saprophytes.

My daughter is going to be so excited about all the fun plans I have.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What He Said: Macronutrient Breakdown

Sometimes you read a post that is just so succinct and perfect that you want to shout it from the rooftops. That’s how I felt about Chris Kessler’s breakdown and thorough explanation of macronutrients. It’s readable, supported by additional documentation, and nowhere close to what your doctor will recommend!

If you are at all confused about what fats, carbohydrates and proteins you should be eating, this will help you a lot. Give it a bookmark already!

Beyond Paleo: Nourish Your Body

Need a teaser to get you to click on the link? Well how about this…

  • Chicken skin: good or bad?
  • Saturated fat: in or out? Is there a limit to how much we should eat?
  • Coconut oil: my doctor said it was a saturated fat and I should avoid it? What gives?
  • Nuts: healthy snack, or rancid treat? Are walnuts and flax really a good source of Omega 3?

Right? These are compelling questions keeping you up at night. The answers are just a link away. You’re welcome.

* I do not have any information about, experience with or ties to Chris Kessler’s program, The Paleo Code. I just think his information is well-written and helpful.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

How To Eat More Butter

butter

Our whole lives (or at least mine, born in the ’70s) we have been taught to be sparing with our butter, or even to substitute it with something else like lemon juice or soy sauce. But now all of a sudden I am trying out LCHF (Low Carbohydrate High Fat diet) and searching for ways to increase my butter intake. This is a weird turn of events.

Of course it’s easy enough to load butter onto cooked green beans, asparagus, peas, fiddleheads, broccoli and the like. But let’s face it, these vegetables are all a little slippery and just don’t hold a lot of butter.

Unfortunately the things I most strongly associate with butter eating – bread, potatoes and popcorn – are now out of my diet due to their high level of carbohydrates. Technically summer corn on the cob should be out of my diet too, but come on! Summer corn? That’s like the best thing in the world. So I’m still going to enjoy summer corn when the time comes, and I’m going to load it up with grass-fed butter and sea salt.

There have always been a few vegetables where using scant butter seemed to ruin them. In particular, I am talking about boiled artichokes and mushrooms.

When I used to boil artichokes, I would serve them with a sauce of butter cut with lemon juice, and then I would just barely dip each leaf in the sauce. It was an agonizing exercise in restraint. Well now it’s a different story. Now I am really slopping the artichoke leaves around in the butter to intentionally absorb as much as I can. Last night my daughter and I managed to eat 1 TBS melted butter each on our artichokes. Wow, right?

morelsDon’t you find when you cook mushrooms that they get incredibly dry? And that adding water or broth just makes them taste, well, watery? Well literally the only thing that can fix this problem is adding more butter. But until discovering LCHF, I wouldn’t dare. Now I am sautéeing 2 cups of mushrooms (about 5g carbohydrate) with at least 2 TBS grass-fed butter. If the mushrooms get dry, I just ADD MORE BUTTER! This works especially well with morel mushrooms, which are a wonderful treat in spring.

Cauliflower (about 5g carbohydrate per cup) is such a versatile vegetable because it can be roasted whole, it can be boiled, it can be “riced” with a ricer, grater or food processor, or it can be mashed. If you mash it, you can add crazy amounts of butter and also cream cheese, whipping cream or sour cream.

LET’S TALK ABOUT BUTTER SOME MORE

To be clear, I am talking about using grass-fed butter. I don’t really care if it is certified organic, because the process of pasture-raising cattle usually indicates that a different standard of farming is at play. Of course, organic is preferred. However I approve of Kerrygold butter from Ireland, which is not organic – nor is Smjör from Iceland. Incidentally, on the Smjör website they claim that the Icelandic people used to consume about 1700g of butter per person per week – which is about 3 3/4 pounds of butter. Let’s keep breaking that down. That’s just over 2 “sticks” of butter per person EACH DAY, or half a pound.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED?

I don’t think I could stomach it.

2 sticks of butter is equivalent to 16 TBS (that’s 1760 calories and 192g of fat!) . On a good day, I can have 2 TBS in my coffee or other hot beverage, another 2 TBS on 2 cups of vegetables, and then possibly another TBS or so in some grain-free baking or melted into a sauce. And that’s only 6 TBS of butter, still 2 TBS short of a stick! (I don’t think I’ve ever actually been able to eat that much in a day, and incidentally, that’s 660 calories and 72g of fat). There really isn’t a limit to how much butter you can consume for health – it will be how much you can stand. Butter and fat are really going to stimulate your bowels, possibly make you feel nauseous at high levels, and generally take some adjusting to. It is really, really hard to eat “too much” butter accidentally.

If you want to do these same fantastic butter conversions, use this online butter calculator and knock yourself out!

BUT SERIOUSLY, WHY BUTTER?

There are so many fats to choose from if you are attempting LCHF. I think coconut oil or Medium Chain Triglyceride oil would be the most important fat because those oils tend to coax your metabolism into ketosis or fat-burning more than any other fat. However butter is important for so many other reasons.

The best reason to eat grass-fed butter is that it contains the magic trifecta of Vitamins A, D and K2 in perfect harmony. Vitamin K2 is going to help you move calcium from your soft tissues into your bones, and reverse plaque-related heart disease. Vitamin D helps the calcium to take orders from the K2, and Vitamin A again helps with the absorption of calcium. I mean, this trifecta does so much more – protects against osteoporosis, fights tooth decay, helps control cell division and gene expression, nourishes the mucous membranes, protects against cancers – but trying to figure it out in supplement form will always mean that one is out-dosing another. The best way to get your fat-soluble vitamins is from a natural, traditional food like grass-fed butter that contains all three in a golden proportion.

The next best reason is that grass-fed butter is full of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). We initially get it in breast milk and we make a little bit of CLA in our gut, but the best source is kangaroo meat and pastured animal products like butter. Grass-fed ruminants can have as much as 5 times more CLA in their end products as grain-fed ruminants. CLA is concentrated in the fats of animals, so butter is especially potent. CLA has anti-tumor properties that fight all three stages of cancer – initiation, promotion and progression, in addition to being able to dampen the effects of carcinogens on cell mutations. CLA also boosts your immunity, lowers insulin resistance, builds muscle mass and reduces body fat. I would hate to skip out on butter and miss all that.

Butter is also a great source of antioxidants from Vitamins A and E, and structurally insulating cholesterol which nourishes the brain.

There are a million other reasons. Just google it. If you don’t want to smuggle grass-fed butter over the border into Canada, you can do everybody a favor and buy a share in a small local dairy farm. That way you can access your own grass-fed milk, cream and butter to your heart’s content, and simultaneously support local independent farmers. Go to the website realmilk.com and search around until you find your country and city. I would recommend a small farm with less than 20 Jersey or Guernsey cows because they are more likely to carry the beneficial A2 gene. Avoid Holsteins. Make some phone calls, visit the farm, take responsibility and ownership of your food supply. If you aren’t ready to trust raw milk per se, you can always buy it and boil it yourself.

My point here is not to waste your time with conventional butter and dairy. Not when real food is so close at hand.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

LCHF: Forking it Swedish Style

LCHF: Forking it Swedish Style

LCHF stands for “Low Carbohydrate High Fat” diet, something that 25% of Swedes are into. There are at least four LCHF print magazines in Sweden (printed in Swedish, of course) and literally hundreds of websites and blogs in Swedish about this phenomenon. Here is one edition translated into English. These Swedish sites are a great resource for recipes if you are looking for a way to increase your fat and decrease your carbohydrates.

What makes the Swedish LCHF different from Paleo and Primal diets is that LCHF promotes even higher fat, and even lower carbohydrate – but includes full fat dairy. The Swedes love whole fat raw dairy and so do I. They have had a long time to evolve with it; you may or may not be as lucky as the Swedes.

What do I love about the Kingdom of Sweden? The Economist calls Sweden the best governed country in the world. Income equality is incredibly fair (though actual wealth distribution is much less fair – thanks Ikea!). Sweden has given us Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking author!), hotties Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, the Nobel Prize and the superior Celcius temperature system, Acne clothing, ABBA, Ace of Base, Avicii and Stieg Larsson. I’m sure they’ve done some other things, but honestly, isn’t that enough?

Let’s just say these people are smart and tough, they endure some of the highest taxes in the world, they enjoy socialized health care and yet 1 in 4 citizens of the Kingdom of Sweden have still taken the responsibility of their own health into their own hands – by embracing LCHF.

 BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN EXACTLY?

  1. Eat the recommended amount of protein for your body size. See this post on protein ceilings for a reminder of how to calculate yours. I should be eating between 40-50g of protein a day.
  2. Limit your carbohydrates to 10g per 100g of food consumed. If it is too complicated to weigh out your food, try using a calorie counter app like MyNetDiary and keep your carbohydrates under 10% of calories. I try to eat less than 20g of carbohydrates every day. But I’m still not getting it. I usually end up at around 60g and scratch my head. (The culprit is usually dairy: yoghurt, kefir or milk in a latte. Or chocolate. Or wine. Or who’s kidding who, my dad left an open bag of chips on the counter and stuff happened).
  3.  Eat some green vegetables, or vegetables that grow above the ground. You don’t need to eat your whole crisper drawer – better to eat a smaller amount of nutritionally dense foods than huge salads. When you can opt for “wild” type plants like fiddleheads, wild leeks, scallions, arugula – go for it. Small, bitter greens and herbs have more nutrition than modern vegetables, which have largely had the nutrition bred out of them in exchange for bigger size, cosmetics and durability. Always add butter or olive oil or some kind of fat to your greens to optimize your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients (avocado would also work).
  4. The rest of your calories or grams need to come from fat. We’re talking a lot of fat. It’s not LCMediumFat, it’s LCHighFat. Using that same calorie counter app, at least 50% of your calories should come from fat at first, and as soon as you can handle it, try for 70%. For me this looks like a TBS of butter and a TBS of coconut oil in my morning coffee. Then the same amount in a mid-morning Crazy Hot Chocolate Drink. Then if I have a salad at lunch, I include half an avocado and a lot of olive oil. I might also have an oily fish at lunch, like 4oz of wild salmon or some sardines. For dinner I might have a small portion of lamb chops and will eat all the fat off of them, and some asparagus with lots of butter melted on top.

A sample day like this gives me 50g of protein, over 100g of fat and about 25g of carbohydrates. And I haven’t even made room for a cup of kefir (13g carbs), a single Lindt chocolate ball (5g carbs), let alone a butter tart (45g carbs). So you can see how difficult this is. For me in this sample, I am already at my protein ceiling, so I can’t snack on protein. (Remember once you hit your protein ceiling, the excess protein will probably convert to glucose, which if unused will get converted to fat storage – so it’s the same as eating sugar). I am already beyond the classic LCHF 10% of calories from carbohydrates or 10g carbohydrates per 100g food. So if I’m still hungry…

THE ONLY THING LEFT TO SNACK ON IS FAT

Which is a problem because it’s not really a normal thing, and certainly not an acceptable thing, to just snack on straight fat.

The most basic option is to have a tablespoon of coconut oil, fresh from the jar. This honestly isn’t so bad. I mean, I sort of like it a lot. But everybody is not like me. This repulses both of my sisters and literally makes them gag.

Some people just eat butter straight. That’s not for me; not yet anyway. However one great option is to find hot drinks to emulsify fat into, like a hot chai tea (unsweetened, from a teabag) blended with grass-fed ghee, butter or coconut oil. I also enjoy melting some coconut cream into a matcha tea as if it’s a latté.

At the very least, you’ve got to tell me that you’re intrigued. I mean, the Swedes are jumping all over this!

What is even more interesting is that there is a small group of American fertility doctors who are counseling their patients to adopt a strict LCHF or even a NoCarbHighFat diet, and finding that while 50-60% of their patients used to need to go on to IVF and further procedures – now only 5% need that next step. The LCHF protocol is literally ramping up their fertility within a matter of months.

The craziest part of all is that this can have profound health benefits – on fertility, diabetes, Alzheimer’s (type 3 diabetes), dementia, Parkinson’s, cancer, metabolic syndromes etc. – and yet it doesn’t cost a thing in medicines or treatments, lasts a lifetime and has no negative side effects.

Just a warning – obviously you need to eat the “right” fats if you are going to do LCHF. Here is a list of great fats to choose from:

  • virgin cold-pressed coconut oil
  • grass-fed butter (raw and organic if possible)
  • fats from pastured, grass-fed ruminants (including tallow)
  • fats from wild, cold-water small fish like salmon and sardines
  • egg yolks (but go ahead and eat the whole egg, one has less than 0.5g carbs)
  • olive oil (only for cold applications)
  • avocado (one whole has 15g carbohydrates)
  • walnuts (1/2 cup has 8g carbohydrates)
  • fats from organic, traditionally raised pigs and chickens in moderation (including lard)
  • duck fat in moderation
  • other nuts in moderation (always preferably soaked to remove anti-nutrients)

Go ahead and research how these appropriate fats are actually nourishing for the brain, the heart and all your organs and your system as a whole. The research is trickling in against the wave of opposite and conventional advice. In the meantime, you can enjoy insanely hydrated skin, stronger hair and nails, an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in stored fat (without exercise).

Your jaw is going to freaking drop when you see how easily this works.

_____________________

FURTHER READING

Read my post on How to Eat More Butter

Learn how to make a Big Fat Coffee with butter and coconut oil, and why to drink it

Read about the implications of the LCHF diet on tumor regression

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Fiber: So Over It

Fiber: So Over It

That’s right, I’m going against the trusted medical advice of every frigging doctor, research hospital and medical treatment center out there. I’m standing out here alone to deliver this important message to you: Fiber is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact fiber is addictive, harmful to your intestines, and destructive to the microflora in your gut. Fiber is a short-term remedy that leads to long-term dependence and chronic illness.

I started going down this path when several of my acquaintances were complaining about constipation after switching abruptly to what they considered a no/low grains diet. In each case, the acquaintance told me they would have it under control as soon as they started taking fiber supplements. For some reason this didn’t sit right with me at all, and I needed to find out why.

The conventional dietary advice is eat a low fat, high fiber diet from “healthy whole grains” and plenty of fruit and vegetables. It is a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. And if you are going to eat a low fat diet, you will notice your bowel movements grind to a halt without fiber. Why? Because fat is the key factor that induces the peristaltic reflex and actually makes your bowels move. Not protein, not carbohydrates, not fiber. So if you are on a fat restricted diet, you are unknowingly limiting your intestinal efficiency. Which means that you are going to need to come up with a substitute for fat in order to get your feces out of your damn colon.

Everyone is going to tell you to either increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables (soluble fiber with carbohydrates), increase your consumption of whole grains (insoluble fiber loaded with carbohydrates) or else tell you to take a fiber supplement (insoluble fiber in the form of powders and pills).

I’m going to tell you why all of these ideas are flat out crazy, but in order to do that I’m going to have to talk about feces.

ARE YOU READY TO TALK ABOUT FECES?

By dry weight, feces is supposed to be made up of about 50% bacteria. Bacteria is the bulking agent, which also holds the water content. So bacteria gives feces substance and moisture. Fat is the motility agent. The remaining weight is pure waste products, undigested carbohydrates and fiber, and denatured proteins.

Chances are high that YOUR feces is NOT made up of 50% bacteria, because either you were a C-Section baby, you have had a lot of antibiotics and medicines in your life, you’re addicted to hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps, you live under unusually stressful conditions or you eat a lot of carbohydrates. As I know at least one of these five conditions is true for you, I can guarantee that your intestinal flora is not up to the job. You need to fix this and I’m talking about right now!

So the conventional advice would be to start taking a probiotic. I’m going to go one further and tell you to take it at night on an empty stomach so that it can really get in there and do its job.

But unfortunately this is just not going to work – not if you are still hellbent on eating all those carbohydrates and sugar and fructose. Because those carbohydrates are going to feed the sugar-loving “bad” bacteria in your large intestine, which will kill off all that good bacteria you were trying to grow from the probiotic supplements. So don’t waste your time and money on probiotics if you are still a sugar junkie. Hurry up and deal with that issue and then get back to me.

GREAT.

So since the previous paragraph you’ve removed simple sugars from your life like juice, candy, baked goods and pasteurized milk. Then you even removed complex carbohydrates like fruit, bread, pasta, grains, beans, lentils, legumes, pulses and root vegetables. Wow, you are serious. Thanks for getting on board so quickly so that I can continue with this post.

If you need help remembering what to eat, I don’t blame you. Go here.

Now that you are officially on a Low Carb diet (less than 50g carbs/day or even way less), that probiotic is finally going to start working! You should try everything you can think of at this time to increase your microflora: kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables and condiments, kombucha, gardening, hanging out with pets and farm animals, spending time in a nursery school during the winter months, infesting yourself with parasites, worms or other helminths. Do whatever it takes. Yes, I’m talking fecotherapy people. Google it!

Now let’s get back to the conventional advice to either increase your fruits and vegetables (increase your soluble fiber with carbohydrates), increase your whole grains (increase soluble fiber with serious carbohydrates) or else to take a fiber supplement (increase your insoluble fiber with powders and pills).

If you go backwards and increase your soluble fiber with fruits, first of all you are going to have a whole insulin reaction to deal with – not to mention that fructose is going to ferment in the colon creating bloating, gas and an overly acidic state that will kill off your beneficial bacteria. Now, vegetables are not so bad – they are low in carbohydrates and contain soluble fiber that the intestinal bacteria will ferment into helpful short-chain fatty acids like butyrate (remember it from grass-fed butter?) and proprionate. Butyrate mitigates colonic inflammatory response and harmful metabolic effects, detoxes ammonia and other neurotoxins, and can cause cancer cells to mature into normal cells, while proprionate lowers lipogenesis, serum cholesterol levels and carcinogenesis in other tissues. So while I’m not telling you to gorge on insoluble fiber, I am saying that the soluble fiber from low-GI vegetables can be a very good thing. But you just need a regular amount, and by regular I mean go easy people.

Now if you choose to increase your insoluble fiber with whole grains, the huge carbohydrate load will also actively feed the wrong, harmful bacteria in your intestines that love sugar. You will create a profound imbalance that will just kill off all that healthy intestinal flora you worked so hard on propagating. You are heading down the road to Candida, my friend.

So what if you try the more measured approach of simply taking a fiber supplement like Metamucil, Benefil or just plain old psyllium seed husks? I mean, the old people on TV sure think it’s a great idea. Well these insoluble fibers by nature cannot be digested, that’s the point. So they will travel through your stomach and small intestine, absorbing water and bulking and eventually creating an initially useful plunger effect in your large intestine. You will probably be able to push out any plugged material. But here’s the catch. You are pushing it out with another, even bulkier plug. Now you will need even more fiber to push out that plug. And so on. Eventually the comical bulkiness of your feces is going to distend and distort your large intestine so that it looks like this:

Colon Problems

GROSS

And your colon will have pinched bits where feces is permanently impacted. Trust me, it’s going to suck.

And yes, I am trying to scare the bulky, dry, fibrous crap out of you.

As if this isn’t bad enough, fiber supplements are rough and abrasive. Somehow this is marketed as a good thing, like our intestines are made of copper piping that need to be scoured with a wire brush. But our intestines are less like copper piping and more like wet tissue. They just tear and leak when abraded, which leads to undigested food particles getting into the bloodstream and causing all sorts of “leaky gut” and “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” issues. In other words, if you have ANY sort of auto-immune issue, you want to be as gentle on your intestines as possible.

To add insult to injury, insoluble fiber finally ends up still undigested in the large intestine as a plug, and the bacteria in the large intestine attempts to ferment and digest it. This creates an environment of unusually high acidity which kills off the beneficial bacteria. So if you were getting close to 50% bacteria in your feces, you are now killing it off again and will need to use fiber to bulk up instead.

USING FIBER LEADS TO USING MORE FIBER

So why does everyone tell us we need so much fiber? Because everyone assumes that we are eating a low fat, high carbohydrate diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains), which will kill our good bacteria with both an overgrowth of bad bacteria and with an overly acidic state. And if you don’t have beneficial bacteria in your gut, your feces is missing 50% of its volume by dry weight. And without the bacteria, your feces can’t stay moist. So you need to replace the bacteria with something that can sort of do both those jobs.

I think the most logical replacement for lost bacteria would be more bacteria. But that would require cutting down on your sugar and carbohydrates and then beefing up your probiotics/kefir/gardening/outside time. Too many steps for most people!

That’s why everyone tells you to use fiber as the replacement. And it will work for a while, which will be good enough to convince you they were right. But in the medium and long term, fiber is going to distend your bowels, bind to essential minerals and prevent their absorption into your body, abrade the lining of your intestines, inhibit pancreatic enzyme activity and protein digestion in the gut, and create a profound dependence on ever more fiber.

I GET IT, YOU JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT TO DO

  1. Switch to a low carb diet, as described above.
  2. Increase your probiotics from supplements, kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables and condiments, and access to bacteria (gardening, the outdoors and animals).
  3. Increase your fat intake, as it will trigger the peristaltic reflex and start moving your bowels along again. You will not “get fat” from eating a high fat diet so long as you are also eating low carbohydrates.
  4. Make sure you are not drinking too much water, which will wash away important minerals like potassium which directly control moisture in feces. Drinking water won’t make your stool moist, it will dry it out. Try to only drink when thirsty.

HELP ME THIS STILL ISN’T WORKING

Okay you might have made your adjustments too quickly. I should have mentioned that the body needs time to adapt.

There’s nothing worse than having something stuck inside you. If you are already dependent on fiber and fiber supplements and need an easy way off, you could try using apple pectin supplements. While this is a fiber supplement and I have just trashed the whole idea of fiber supplements – at least apple pectin is an insoluble fiber that will feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, which in turn will bulk up the volume and moisture of your feces. It’s not easy to come off of fiber supplements, so this might help so long as you know it is just a transitional step.

If you are just having a bad bout of constipation that can be explained by stress or travel, for example, you can try the age old method of Milk of Magnesia. This is safe on the body and works by concentrating salts in your large intestine, which then pull water from your body by osmosis and flush everything out like a waterfall.

If you are too lazy to go to the store and buy Milk of Magnesia, you can try a Salt Water Flush which will have a similar effect. Just put 2 TBS of good sea salt in a liter of water and drink it all down. Stay near a bathroom for about two hours, because the tide is going to turn and you need to be ready.

Obviously don’t use either the Salt Water Flush or the Milk of Magnesia all the time. It will seriously deplete your potassium and lead to drier, harder stools in the future. But if you have a difficult case once a month, this would be an okay remedy. If you start using it all the time you are going to flush out all your minerals and basically become malnourished. What’s the point in that.

fiber menaceONCE A DAY

Adult humans should be able to have a bowel movement at least once a day, probably in the morning. If this isn’t true for you, reexamine your diet. Maybe you have started eating more carbohydrates than you thought you were. Maybe you forgot about fermented vegetables for a while. Maybe you stopped eating so much fat. Maybe you are going crazy on the water.

You have the ability to fix this with your own eating and drinking habits. So don’t get fooled again by the fiber con.

If you want to read more about this, good luck. You can try ordering this out of print Russian book called “Fiber Menace: The Truth About The Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Colon Cancer” by Konstantin Monastyrsky. It probably doesn’t get more extreme than this. He is super mad at fiber.

But more than likely all the headlines and all the research you come across from very established and accredited organizations are going to tell you the opposite advice: eat more fiber, eat more carbohydrates, get into the medical system and stay there.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

What About Scurvy???

What About Scurvy???

We all know the story, or at least we think we know it. Some early sailors got scurvy – showing up as spongy gums, loose teeth, skin lesions, bone pain and lethargy – which then led to some two million sailor deaths between 1500 and 1800. Who knew there were even two million people sailing around back then? Luckily Admiral Sir Richard Dawkins discovered that drinking orange and lemon juice prevented the disease. Subsequently British sailors became known around the world as Limeys because they were always eating limes (which were cheaper but less effective than oranges and lemons) to ward off the dreaded scurvy.

This account is generally correct and has been translated into a rigid belief that if citrus fruits and specifically vitamin C can cure scurvy, then the cause of scurvy must be a lack of vitamin C. This is essentially true, but it is not the whole story.

You may have even wondered to yourself, if you are from a Northern latitude, how on earth your forebears managed to get enough Vitamin C from fresh vegetables and fruits during the long winter, when they didn’t have daily deliveries from California and Florida?  Considering our Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is from 40mg/day (UK) to 90mg/day (Canada), how were we possibly getting enough back then? One easy answer is that 2 cups of traditionally lacto-fermented sauerkraut contain about 80% of the daily RDI. So possibly our northern ancestors knew to eat an awful lot of preserved cabbage and other winter vegetables. Possibly they did as the Indians did and made themselves pine needle or cedar tips tea, or they harvested the dry red flower of the sumach bush and made “Indian lemonade”, which is similarly high in Vitamin C.  We’ve also heard the story about settlers being saved from scurvy by rose hip tea.

I’ll come back to a defining dietary similarity between the sailors and the settlers in a moment. First I want to return to a culture that never had access to fruits and vegetables and yet did not develop scurvy.

THE TRADITIONAL INUIT: NO SCURVY IN SIGHT

It would be too easy to just say that the Inuit peoples of the Arctic only ate fat and meat and didn’t get scurvy. The fact is, they ate most of their meat and seafood raw, and in their raw forms, these foods are relatively high in Vitamin C. They also ate a staple of muktuk, which is the high Vitamin C skin of the Beluga whale.  In addition, it has been suggested that the Inuit enjoyed eating the fermented vegetal contents of caribou stomachs, which were similarly high in Vitamin C. The fatty adrenal glands of animals are also usually full of Vitamin C. We’re not talking thousands of milligrams, but nearly enough to make the suggested RDI.  They probably also made teas out of herbs that were full of ascorbic acid. Simple enough explanation.

But that doesn’t explain Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Karsen Anderson’s 1928 year-long experiment at New York’s Bellevue Hospital where they consumed only fatty meat and organs (like brains, liver, kidneys) and yet did not develop scurvy. They did not consume muktuk, fermented caribou stomachs or herbal teas. The whole point of their experiment was that they exclusively ate meat and fat. And furthermore, they ate all of their meat and fat cooked; they did not follow the Inuit protocol of consuming most of it raw. This is not a magic trick, but it does illuminate the key limiting factor in the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin C.

COMPETING FOR CELL RECEPTORS

The scoop is: both Vitamin C and glucose compete for the same receptors to enter the cell membrane, and those receptors favor glucose. The GLUT-1 receptor is activated by insulin, and pairs with the similarly structured Vitamin C and glucose molecules to allow them to enter the cell. But what that means plainly is that if you have a lot of glucose in your diet in the form of carbohydrates, the glucose is going to enter your cell membranes instead of the Vitamin C. So most of your ingested Vitamin C is going to be wasted, and you are going to have to supplement with quite a lot in order to get any past the GLUT-1 receptor gates and into your cells. However if you just keep on, keep on supplementing with Vitamin C, eventually some will get through to those receptors, and you will not get scurvy.

This fact leads to the belief that not only does Vitamin C prevent scurvy, but that a lack of Vitamin C causes scurvy. The first statement is true, the second statement is merely correlated.

A more correct way of looking at scurvy is that it is a deficiency disease caused by excessive carbohydrates.

SCURVY IS CAUSED BY EXCESSIVE CARBOHYDRATES

I really had to make that a heading, to let it sink in.

So it’s a win if you happen to be in the business of selling Vitamin C, because people on a high carbohydrate diet are going to need to buy a lot of it for basic functioning and also to prevent scurvy.

Now I want to return to the defining dietary similarity between sailors and early settlers. What unites them is that they largely lived on rations that were heavy in carbohydrates. In the sailors’ case, their diet consisted of salted preserved meat and hardtack, which is also known as a “sea biscuit”. This was an inexpensive and long-lasting flat brick of flour, water and sometimes salt. The large ratio of hardtack (and sugary rum for that matter) in the sailors’ diets meant that glucose from carbohydrates were getting to their cell receptors before any scarce Vitamin C from their salted meat rations could get close. Hence: scurvy. Similarly settlers used flour and bread as their energy staple, which inhibited Vitamin C absorption. Take away the hardtack, rum, flour and bread – and you take away the scurvy.

SO HOW MUCH VITAMIN C DO WE NEED?

Here’s the rub. On a fat and meat diet, you only need about 10mg of Vitamin C/day. But that kind of diet is not really affordable, necessary, or in any way sustainable these days. However the fact remains that if you restrict your carbohydrates, you do not need the huge amounts of Vitamin C that are recommended by the governments of the world.

However, the governments of the world would generally like to support not only their farmers (yeah, right) but their commodities markets of sugar, wheat, soy and grains. So in order to recommend a high carbohydrate diet to the people, it is absolutely necessary to simultaneously recommend a high Vitamin C supplementation.

I just need to say this one more time: Vitamin C is not the cure for scurvy, it is the cure for a diet high in carbohydrates.

This is the reason why the supplement section doesn’t even carry Vitamin C pills lower than 500mg/pill – and that most of them are at least 1000mg/pill. Why would we need ten times our RDI of Vitamin C? Maybe because our carbohydrate consumption tends to be ten times higher than our bodies have evolved to manage.

STILL THERE?

Why not read Stefansson’s first-hand account that he wrote up for Harper’s magazine in 1935?

Or read a 316-page pdf of Stefansson’s 1946 book “Not By Bread Alone”, renamed “The Fat of the Land“. You will really learn a lot about pemmican!

Maybe you also want more details about the relationship between Vitamin C, glucose and insulin receptors.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Protein Ceiling: More to the Story

In my last post I explained a pretty simple way to estimate your protein ceiling, as if it was a totally fixed concept. Now let’s make this a little less cut and dry, as that was just too straightforward. The protein ceiling concept is still going to work for most people and most situations to keep them out of trouble (read: protein excess).

But maybe you are not most people. There is a way to eat more protein and not end up with kidney damage or stones or protein starvation. But it is slightly more complicated in that it involves ratios. And also slightly less complicated in that it replicates the hundreds of thousands of years of human hunter/gatherer evolution of consuming and digesting food.

THE ARCTIC EXPLORERS FIGURED IT OUT

Protein Ceiling: More to the StoryIf you’re still interested, I’ll tell you the story of Harvard anthropologist-turned-Arctic-explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. In the early 1900s, he went up to northern Canada and Alaska to live among various native tribes and out of necessity, adopted their food cultures. All of their diets were made up of about 50% caribou meat, 30% fish, 10% seal and the last 5 or 10% made up of polar bear, rabbits, birds and eggs. They did not consider fruits and vegetables to be “proper human food”, though they gathered medicinal herbs and also sometimes ate partially digested vegetal contents of animals’ stomachs.

Stefansson was blown away by the level of health of the native tribespeople, their high levels of energy and also the surprising lack of deleterious effects by ignoring such staples as vegetables, fruits, starches and fiber. Instead of leading to deficiencies, these absences appeared to make them flourish. And while Stefansson was on the same diet, he flourished in all the same ways. Back in New York in 1928, he and a fellow explorer Karsten Anderson enrolled in a year-long study through Bellevue Hospital where they would prove they could thrive eating nothing but meat. Partly this was to show that the Inuit were not just exclusively adapted to a high fat, “high” protein diet – that it was the same for everybody.

FIRST MISTAKE

For a short 3 day period, the doctors monitoring Stefansson and Anderson wanted to experiment with an all protein and no fat diet. Stefansson was to be on the no fat diet, Anderson was to be the control on the fat and meat diet. After only two days, Stefansson became ill with diarrhea and an overwhelming feeling of “baffling discomfort”.

HIGH FAT FOR THE FIX

As soon as fat was returned to the meat diet, the symptoms disappeared. In order to mimic the Inuit diet, it was necessary to eat an average of TWO POUNDS OF MEAT per day, an average of 2600 calories, and to copy the macronutrient profile of 79% of calories from fat, 19% from protein and roughly 2% from carbohydrate (which is from the glycogen contained in muscle meat). The amount of carbohydrates was strictly limited to 50 calories/day, or about 12g.

So even though they were eating an all-meat diet, it was technically not a high protein diet. It was quite clearly an ultra-high fat diet, with an average amount of protein (by ratio of calories) and a very restricted amount of carbohydrates. But in no way was it a high protein diet, as protein only made up 19% of the calories (even though it was 123.5g protein).

The year-long experiment was a success. The explorers did not develop kidney damage, kidney fatigue by reduced function, or stones. They did not develop vitamin or mineral deficiencies, even though logic tells us that an acidic meat-rich diet should leach calcium from the bones. It should also be noted that even at 2600 calories, the meat diet contained only a quarter of the calcium we are supposed to require. Stefansson remained strong and lean and his blood pressure remained low at 105/70, though he lost 6 pounds over the year. Anderson lost 3 pounds and his blood pressure fell from 140/80 to 120/80.

So in the previous simplified calculation of protein ceilings, a tall, fit 200 pound explorer would probably have a limit of about 90g protein.

However Stefansson and Anderson proved that they could eat about 40% more than that – HOWEVER, their high protein consumption was mitigated by an ultra high fat consumption. What I am saying is that if you are a tall, strong 200 pound explorer, you can probably eat 125g of protein/day or so, so long as you are also eating 230g fat. See if you can wrap your head around that much fat!

If you do not think you can handle quite so much fat, you could always eat less protein. Which sort of takes us back to the original protein ceiling concept.

I just wanted to be clear that there is a way to eat more protein safely, and it requires carbohydrate restriction and ultra high fat consumption. You probably don’t need to be as intense as Stefansson and Anderson at 70% fat to 19% protein to 2% carbohydrates, but you wouldn’t want to veer to much below 55% fat or above 25% protein and 20% carbohydrate.

So good luck with that.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Protein Ceiling: Not As High As You Think

Okay so let’s say you’ve made an effort to reduce or eliminate your grain and sugar consumption. Let’s look at what kind of a calorie deficit that might have created for you:

REMOVE:

  • 1 cup oatmeal (250 calories)
  • coffee with 1 tsp sugar (16 cal) – keep the coffee, eliminate the sugar!
  • 2 slices of sandwich bread (200 cal)
  • 7 crackers (65 cal)
  • 1 cup brown rice (210 cal)
  • 2 cookies (100 cal)

= 841 calorie “deficit” by eliminating those foods.

I don’t really rely on calorie requirements, but calories are at least a useful tool. We can probably agree that you are not getting enough food if you eat less than 1000 calories a day, and that you are getting too much if you are eating more than 3000 unless you are doing manual labor or serious physical training. (The early Canadian loggers were said to eat between 5000-8000 calories/day).

But what happens in between those brackets doesn’t necessarily depend entirely on your level of exercise, but also largely on what the calories are from – carbohydrates, fats or proteins (and then it will also depend on the quality of each).  To really delve into this topic, read the authority Gary Taubes’s epic Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. 

The point I’m getting to is that if you suddenly have a calorie deficit of over 800 calories (or more) from cutting out grains and sugar, you will probably feel compelled to replace those calories with something. In simplest terms: you’re going to be HUNGRY. VERY, VERY HUNGRY. And in general, most people initially fill that void with protein.

I WANT TO EXPLAIN WHY THAT MIGHT BE A MISTAKE

protein platter

Humans actually have a protein ceiling, a maximum amount of protein that can be effectively utilized before the excess protein is oxidized and excreted through the urine. First of all, generally the body can’t process more than 50g of protein at a time – so definitely space out your consumption. Secondly, the body cannot store extra protein, so the kidneys get overworked and fatigued dealing with getting rid of all the excess. This is manageable in the short term, but fatal if you already have kidney disease.

Although protein is acid-forming, it actually increases the body’s ability to excrete acid. The acids in proteins are not buffered by bone loss (which is the incorrect assumption behind the Alkaline or pH diet), they are buffered by bicarbonate ions in the blood and kept at a very stable pH around 7.4. (You can change the pH of your urine by changing your diet, but you can’t change the pH of your blood. And if you make your urine too alkaline you open yourself up to bladder infections.) This bicarbonate reaction produces carbon dioxide, which we exhale, and salts, which get excreted by the kidneys. Healthy kidneys have their own sustainable cycle whereby they create new bicarbonate ions as they excrete excess salts. But when someone already has kidney disease or previous stones, this cycle is compromised – these people should go really easy on protein and acidic foods. They should also go really easy on green vegetables that are high in oxalates though – so an “alkaline diet” could do more harm than good for kidney stones.

When most people start reducing their carbohydrates by eliminating grain and sugar (and then legumes, beans, starchy vegetables and tropical fruits), they assume the most logical replacement would be protein because people have a misplaced bias against and fear of fat – especially saturated fat. The problem is that if you replace your carbohydrates with protein without increasing your fat consumption, you can end up with “protein poisoning” or rabbit starvation which just means your body starts to literally starve on protein without fat.

CALCULATE THE PROTEIN CEILING

An average person needs about 1g of protein per kg of lean body mass.

So let’s say you are a 125 pound woman. Divide that by 2.2 to get your weight in kg = 56.8kg.

Now let’s estimate your lean body mass, maybe 80% if you are a pretty lean woman but not ripped exactly. See these photos for a quick visual guide to body fat percentages. Google for more photos because people love posting this stuff. Multiply your weight in kg by 80% = 45.5 kg. You need 1 g of protein for every kg of lean body mass.

This is generally how much protein an 125 pound moderately active woman will need every day – about 45g. Now if you are pregnant, nursing, or really into exercise, manual labor or training you will obviously need more. If you are really into sitting, Netflix and knitting you might need a tiny bit less.

But you will never need drastically less. Too little protein leads to malnutrition, mental retardation, fatty liver, flaky skin, edema of the belly and legs so that you look like those hungry African kids.

You can get 45g protein by eating 2 eggs, 2 cups of kale, and a 4-oz piece of salmon.

So you don’t need to also eat a bowl of cottage cheese and a cup of walnuts or whatever. You don’t need to stress about protein shakes. Those are for vegans to worry about! But you? You’re already there.

But then what to replace your calorie deficit with? Hopefully you’re already eating lots of vegetables, so we don’t want to gorge; preparing even more vegetables in new ways gets pretty tiring, expensive and labor intensive quite quickly. Mainlining vegetables is great in-season and when you have the time or a chef, but it’s probably not sustainable – or even necessary. The answer (unfortunately for people who are afraid of fat) is that you must replace your carbohydrate deficit with calories from fat. Obviously I mean non-industrial, traditional fats. Pay attention or something.

HOW ABOUT ADDING ANOTHER 500 CALORIES A DAY FROM FAT?

You could get 500 calories JUST from adding 2 TBS grass-fed butter and 2 TBS coconut oil to your life every day. Go ahead and add the whole 841 calories from fat if you feel like it – all it will take is another few TBS of fat, maybe olive oil this time. But when you eat so much healthy fat, you just won’t feel hungry enough for the extra calories. You’ll see.

You’re still reading? Maybe you should also read this interesting article from Discover Magazine about the Inuit Paradox: How Can People Who Gorge on Fat and Rarely See A Vegetable Be Healthier Than We Are?

Indeed!

BUT BUT BUT WILL IT MAKE ME FAT?

Didn’t you read the Gary Taubes book yet that I recommended 15 paragraphs ago? You need to keep up. He explains it quite simply in under 600 pages.

Obviously I’m not going to recommend something that is going to make you fat! Coconut and pure MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oils actually increase the metabolism and love to burn fat. Adding them to your diet induces your body to burn it as energy, and then to delve into the body’s stores of fat as well. Everyone who switches their calorie ratio percentages from the recommended 10% from fat daily to 50% from fat daily – loses weight (unless they are also eating sugar – then all bets are off and the fat accumulates as fat and the energy burned is only from the sugar and carbohydrates).

Another problem with eating “too much” protein is that excess protein essentially acts as glucose. That’s not to say that it is converted to glucose, because it isn’t. However excess protein will stop fat-burning the same way that consuming carbohydrates will (say more than 50 – 100g of carbohydrates/day will arrest fat-burning potential). Excess protein is converted into metabolites that will enter the KREBS cycle and displace ketones. More on this later.

I consider it a really lean day if I am only eating 50% of my calories from fat. That usually indicates to me that I’ve been hitting the bottle, or else got a little crazy with the fruit and dairy, and also found my way to the dessert trolley. I prefer to keep my calories from fat at about 65% – 80%. Am I breaking your brain?

So just go ahead and absorb this and then change absolutely everything you’ve been doing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,