One of the current most popular diets is the Paleo diet. I’ve written in my book, The Symbiont Factor, about how there is fossil evidence supporting the Paleo diet as the way ancient humans ate, and have some additional thoughts on this controversial subject. Like many diets, the Paleo diet has evolved as many individuals and organizations promote their own vision of what a Paleo diet would have been or should be. This is normal, but for someone trying to learn how and why to eat a certain way, it can be bewildering! On one extreme is a Paleo vision that seems really more like an Atkins diet with some vegetables, on the other more like a Vegetarian diet with a little seafood added in. So, with that in mind, why would someone choose a Paleo diet? The basic concept is that our species has spent the majority of its evolutionary trajectory consuming a diet that did not include simple carbohydrates, large percentages of grains or any processed foods. This part of Paleo seems to be univerally agreed on as the building blocks of the diet movement-but what about proteins? I’ve read a great deal about our ancestral origins, and I’m going to run it up the flagpole to see who salutes! I grew up spending much of my childhood in the woods hunting or picking food, fishing or catching things to eat along streams and ponds, and catching blue crabs in the Hudson River (and yes they were yummy). I’ve always followed the licensing and bag limit rules, but since being a child I’ve also somewhat kept tally of those times that I could have taken game if I were starving, yet didn’t because it was out of season in some way. Now I know that many people who follow a Paleo diet likely have an image of ancient hominids that is a bit more romantic or idealized than what I’m about to describe, but hang in there and consider it! First, if we had to survive by hunting and fishing, most of us would starve-some quite quickly. Even if there were no rules, as in ancient paleo societies, hunting and fishing as we think of it today would not work well at all. There is too much energy expenditure involved in an individual capturing an animal for meat. Ancient humans worked around this in a few ways: group cooperative hunts, trapping, and alternative sources of protein. Native Americans, for example, let their children hunt small game while the men either raided other camps and tribes or hunted larger prey in groups. This strategy raised the odds that somebody would catch something! There is evidence that ancient Man had similar divisions of labor, with men hunting game while women and children foraged for other sources of nutrition such as tubers, plants, and…insects. Plains Indians of course had different strategies for hunting Bison, including stalking under cover, chasing on horseback (technically not until they had horses after the Spanish brought horses to the Americas) and driving herds toward pit traps, ambushes or ledges. Fishing is a similar example, with fish being far easier to net or trap than to catch! Fossil remains suggest that any civilizations living near the ocean probably subsisted more on shellfish than anything else for protein. This is evidenced by huge fossilized piles of shells that have been discovered. Having moved to Downeast Maine recently, I can attest to the difference in energy expenditure involved. Any game animals I’ve seen are distant and fleeing, yet I can walk down to the shore and pick a bucket of mussels off the rocks in a few minutes, getting enough to feed several people. Ancient man almost certainly spent much time near or in the water foraging for food. Our bodies come equipped with a functional dive reflex that makes short underwater excursions easier than many would believe! With this in mind, where does it leave ancient people that lived further inland? If you were in the wilderness and had to survive, what would be the easiest and safest source of high-quality protein, fats and nutrients? No, it isn’t that deer that you may or may not ever get…it is insects. They are plentiful and nutritious, and rarely fight back much. I know this sounds “gross” and might not fit what most Paleo afficionados would like to think, but consider it for a moment. Other primates eat insects, survival experts have touted them as a food source, and it doesn’t take nearly as much energy to get enough to sustain life. Some modern businesses have emerged to supply a modern version that is more accessible and perhaps more presentable, in forms such as protein powders or flavored varieties. One of the criticisms of Paleo diets is the need for meat, and the environmental cost/footprint to produce meat. Readers of The Symbiont Factor will also know that commercial meat has a huge number of chemicals included, antibiotics and pesticides, hormones and other goodies, which wreak havoc on our microbiome and our health. Organically raised meat is the way to go, and yet from a global perspective, would it even be possible for many more people to raise and eat organically grown meat? Probably not, as the yield per-acre is lower (don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing compared to feedlot beef, but not necessarily possible on a global scale). While some of us are still hunters and occassionally can stock the freezer with the original organic, free-range meat, there is still a large part of the population that doesn’t hunt for ethical, geographical or practical reasons. In many families it may have been several generations since anybody hunted! Insects can produce more protein and nutrition with less global impact. I’m not ready to give up completely on meat, but when considering a true Paleo diet, an ento-diet (entomology is the study of insects) is worth study. We’ve been a bit spoiled by sanitized, clean, packaged, pretty foods that don’t resemble their original source in any way-and yet, several times each year there are outbreaks and recalls of such foods due to infectious organisms found in them. Is “sanitary” really an illusion after all? Is it even better for us? Again, in The Symbiont Factor, I reviewed something known as the “Hygiene Theory,” which is the observation that the human being requires a certain degree of bacterial and allergen exposure in order to develop a balanced immune system. When all food is sterile and has no contribution to our inner microbiome, and our children grow up in a sterile, Mr. Clean type of household, the risk of autoimmune diseases is far greater. These can be simple allergies or as severe as ALS, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis and other modern plagues that are largely the result of our attempts to isolate ourselves from the microbial world. Maybe it is time to consider what we would call “alternative” sources of protein, though they were probably a central source of nutrition for much of mankind’s life. I know, it feels like more of a Paleo thing to eat a Bison steak than chili-lime crickets, but…don’t let it bug you!
I’ve been working on rewriting my book description, as I’ve never liked the one I used. So, today’s post is all about updates on TSF. I’m working on the next book too, and it’s all about applying the information from TSF to everyday life! So, here’s the update so far, with a linky at the bottom:
What if many of the things you thought you knew about being human did not actually work the way you were taught?
What if scientific research into gut bacteria had revealed huge amounts of information about their role in human function, health, emotions and appetite and healthcare hadn’t caught up at all?
What if you could find out the key to controlling your weight without starving yourself or undergoing dangerous surgery?
What if the book you’re looking at could teach you about the explosion of scientific research on the microbiome, without you having to read a few thousand studies to understand it?
You’ve probably heard that our gut bacteria vastly outnumber our human cells, and our gut bacteria’s gene pool includes more than one hundred times the gene count as our human cells. What does that mean and how does it work?
If you’re interested in knowing more about “what makes us tick” physically and emotionally, how to hurt less and age more gracefully, then this book is for you!
If you’re tired of books that state the author’s opinion or make broad claims without scientific backing or support, this book includes about 1300 peer-reviewed research studies, and the e-book has links to those studies on the National Library of Health/National Library of Medicine.
One of the inspirations for this book was research published by the late Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob, a brilliant Israeli researcher. I was able to share this book with him before he passed away, and this is what he said about it:
“This excellent and long needed book presents in a clear and sound manner the recent dramatic findings about our gut bacteria. These thousands of trillions microorganisms living inside us play a crucial role in regulating our well-being throughout life. The new message is of great importance to the entire medical community, life sciences researchers, as well as the general public. Realizing the role of gut bacteria can help each of us to better understand the effect of nutrients, as mediated by the gut bacteria, on our body in health, in disease and in special times, such as pregnancy, nursing or periods of high stress. For example, we now understand that the massive use of antibiotics in children, adults and agriculture has endangered our vital microbiome and is liable to cause diseases such as Type 2 diabetes on a global scale. The gut microbiome is emerging as a vital part of humanity, without which health and happiness are severely compromised. The time has come for this knowledge to be widely understood!”
Professor Eshel Ben-Jacob, International member of the American Philosophical Society
Professor of Physics
The Maguy-Glass Professor
in Physics of Complex Systems
School of Physics and Astronomy
Tel Aviv University, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel
Well, I had some time between patients yesterday, and, having watched just enough cute cat videos and ignored enough political/religious arguments on Facebook-I decided to do something useful and create a video. This short video should help to make sense out of probiotics, gut bacteria, and how they affect us mentally/emotionally. Check out my new video about gut bacteria and probiotics! http://tinyurl.com/oyvvwt2
This morning’s synbiotic smoothie breakfast:
1 big handful of fresh organic spinach
1 organic carrot, peeled
1″ slice of fresh ginger, peeled
2″ piece of fresh turmeric root, peeled
1 organic apple, peeled/cored/sliced into quarters
1 tsp glutamine powder
1 tsp magnesium powder
juice of about 1/3 fresh lemon
1/2 cup fresh coconut kefir, homemade
1 tbsp inulin powder
Blended up in NutriBullet! this was very tasty, but the carrot had so much fiber there was a little fiber-foam left at the end that I couldn’t get through the straw. Still a super breakfast!
The lowly microbiome appears to be capturing an ever-increasing audience in the news these days. This explosion of new knowledge about our microscopic symbionts and how they contribute to who we are prompted me to write The Symbiont Factor. It has been exciting to see the continued flow of news stories that support and contribute to the concepts I wrote about in my book. This article is about one of those concepts and recent news that supports it.
There are many aspects to how the microbiome is crucial to human function, with one of the most significant involving the immune system. Our human immune system depends on the microbiome for its early development, as well as continued “target practice” to maintain its functional accuracy throughout life. This is one reason that the diversity and integrity of the human microbiome in the first few years of life is of such crucial significance. If the microbiome is lacking in diversity or imbalanced in some other way, the immune system will not develop normally. The result is often a lack of specificity, with many body tissues falling prey to friendly fire as the immune system begins to mutiny against the body and autoimmune disease manifests.
The newborn baby receives a huge dose of gut bacteria “starter culture” from the mother during normal childbirth. Children born via Caesarian section (“c-section”) do not receive this gift of microbiome, instead developing a microbiome characterized by the interior of the hospital room. Recent studies suggest that newborns are not born sterile and may receive some bacterial symbionts prior to birth, yet this is a small amount compared to that received from vaginal birth.
A large, long-term study was recently completed in Denmark to evaluate whether being born via c-section resulted in increased incidence of autoimmune disease. The study spanned 35 years and included 2 million individuals, providing substantial support for the different outcomes from birth methods. The researchers found an increased incidence of several autoimmune diseases in those who were born by c-section compared to those born via vaginal section. The researchers did not claim that the different outcomes were a result of differences in microbiome, yet the study does lend considerable weight to that argument! It is the largest, longest-running study yet published showing different health outcomes for the two birth methods. Other studies have already established the connection between altered infant/early life microbiome and a variety of chronic health conditions. Many of these are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and I’ve included some references below as well.
If you were about to have a baby and had to choose a hospital (with a safe outcome being your top concern) would you choose a hospital that provides free or low-cost care to an indigent or poor population? Surprise! that hospital might actually be safer. San Francisco General is just that hospital, and boasts a very low rate of c-section (and great outcomes). Why would that be? This article identified one major difference: SFG has its physicians on salaries, so they make no additional money if they perform a c-section than if they help a mother deliver naturally. In addition, they are not on a “time-table” to complete a delivery during their shift, as they lose no income if the next physician does the delivery instead! It has been estimated that many (potentially more than half) of all c-sections are not medically necessary and are instead performed for convenience. This is not necessarily the convenience of the mother, but often that of the physician as the example above illustrates. If you’re a physician, please don’t take that personally-just contemplate how it would be if your paycheck never changed regardless of how many procedures of any kind you performed. It might actually be less stressful!
Once again, the microbiome seems to be central to human function and health. If the microbiome is compromised, then problems result-making it extra critical for us to learn the signs of dysbiosis (imbalanced microbiome), what can be done to ensure its health, and how it affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. All of these concepts and more are discussed in The Symbiont Factor, and referenced with 1327 references-most of them from peer-reviewed professional journals. Now is the time to learn about symbionts and their powerful influence on our lives, so check it out!
The Problem with RoundUp and its health effects
Sometimes during a debate it becomes obvious that one side is simply not telling the truth. Such seems to be the case when considering RoundUp, currently still promoted as the safest herbicide ever produced. It is also the most commonly used, with a recorded 187 million pounds used by US farmers in 2007. More current usage is not known, but estimated at over 200 million pounds in the US. The maker of RoundUp, Monsanto, continues to maintain that it is nontoxic and completely safe. This belief permeates to those who use it, with readers offering comments at the end of the article defending its safety. Most homeowners use RoundUp to control weeds, and most farmers use it liberally on crops. This is possible because of genetic modification of crops to permit resistance to glyphosate, permitting the killing of weeds without killing the crop. Recently articles have been published online suggesting that the problem with wheat causing celiac disease or gluten sensitivity has more to do with residual levels of glyphosate than with gluten content. The suggestion that pre-harvest spraying of crops with glyphosate to reduce weed content, promote dessication and improve yield is typically met with a hailstorm of accusations of “pseudoscience” and “fearmongering.” There are usually some vehement denials that pre-harvest spraying is ever carried out. An example of one such article can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/n9rtzpn
With this in mind let us consider two questions: Is glyphosate toxic, and are crops really sprayed prior to harvest?
The reason that glyphosate is “considered safe” is that it inhibits a metabolic pathway in plants known as the Shikimate pathway. This inhibition interrupts the plant’s metabolism and kills it. Humans and other eukaryotic species do not have a Shikimate pathway, and so the claim of safety appears to be scientifically sound…or is it? All eukaryotic organisms including humans have cellular power-producing structures known as mitochondria. These structures are where energy is produced so that the cell and the organism have fuel. Mitochondria, however, are really not of human origin. Thought to be the end result of ancient indwelling symbionts (endosymbiont theory if you’d like to look that up) mitochondria are more similar to bacteria than human cells. Their DNA is circular, just as bacterial DNA is circular. This isn’t some new discovery as geneticists have been using this mitochondrial DNA to track the human family tree for years. You see, mitochondrial DNA is matrilineal-it is only inherited from the mother, not from the father. This provides a unique opportunity to track one side of the family tree more accurately than is possible with human DNA. It’s also the first clue to glyphosate’s toxicity, as bacteria have a Shikimate pathway! Predictably mitochondria also have a Shikimate pathway. There is already a research paper stating this (Mesnage, Seneff). There is also an effect in the microbiome, as glyphosate is more toxic to some microorganisms than to others, causing an imbalance in this critical ecosystem. Kruger found that glyphosate reduced the inhibition of Clostridium (a pathogen) by Enterococcus species, causing imbalance and disease. A differential toxic effect was found in chickens by Shehata, who showed the glyphosate inibited beneficial microbial species yet did not inhibit pathogenic ones. Changes in gut bacteria in humans can alter serotonin levels, affecting behavior, mood and susceptibility to brain trauma (Morley). The microbiome living in our intestines are critical to our health and are vulnerable to changes in intestinal function (Matthews). It has been found that at very dilute concentrations, far less than commercial farming uses, glyphosate reduces intestinal motility (Chlopecka). This would result in more constipation, dramatic shifts in population dynamics and an increased risk of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) due to reduced motility allowing contents of the colon to move into the small intestine. Glyphosate has been found to trigger pathways producing cellular apoptosis (think cell sepuku) and increased reactive oxygen species producing damaging oxidation (Chaufan).
There is always someone who, in the comments following an article critical of Roundup, offers to drink a glass of it to prove its safety. This is ill advised, as glyphosate is far from nontoxic. Instead, it has been found to produce respiratory depression, bradycardia (so, you can’t breathe and your heart slows), acidosis, hyperkalemia, cardiac block or arrythmia and death. Hemodialysis and intubation are required to help the patient survive, as there is no antidote to glyphosate poisoning (Garlich, Gress).
Okay, so Roundup is definitely toxic in many ways even at small doses. What about all of the people who argue that it is not recommended for use before harvest? Doing a basic search on the internet looking for pre-harvest advice as a farmer provides some insight into this! Monsanto itself provides a “Pre-Harvest Staging Guide” for using RoundUp: http://tinyurl.com/q2o8f96. North Dakota State University published “Glyphosate as a Pre-Harvest Aid in Small Grains” July 2014: http://tinyurl.com/ll98tfj. Michigan State University published something similar for soybeans: http://tinyurl.com/o6f5dqy. University of Arizona Extension also got in on the game, publishing a guide to pre-harvest spraying of wheat to kill broad-leaf weeds: http://tinyurl.com/ljs6547. Similar publishing can be found at http://tinyurl.com/l69bdzc, http://tinyurl.com/kbem9ht, http://tinyurl.com/k6o4lwf, and http://tinyurl.com/m7nxm6a.
You might notice that many of these organizations providing pre-harvest spraying guidelines are university agricultural programs. If you’re not familiar with ag programs, you might even wonder why they would recommend such a practice in light of the research information on glyphosate’s biologic effects (and there are many more articles showing its effects; I didn’t even scratch the surface really!). The old adage of “follow the money” could never be more accurate: http://tinyurl.com/mhyvwzy, http://tinyurl.com/ctw2aq7 as the codependent relationship that has evolved between Monsanto and institutes of higher education is both diabolically brilliant and nauseatingly common.
If you needed more reasons to shop for organically grown fruits and vegetables or use grains other than wheat, you now have them. If you think just avoiding wheat will solve the problem, consider that the same recommendations exist for barley, oats, flax, canola, peas, lentils, soybeans and dried beans (page 31 of http://tinyurl.com/q2o8f96 lists all of these as recommendations for pre-harvest spraying in Canada, and others list ‘small grains’ in the guidelines: http://tinyurl.com/o994mk2).
We have arrived at a time in history when the business interests of corporate entities often take precedence over the health needs of society’s human members. When we allow large corporations to control what is taught in schools and what guidelines are imposed by government, we can count on one thing-being counted out of the deal.
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After a year and a half of having a second job as a new author, my first book is finally available in print! A comprehensive, thoroughly referenced guide to how our gut bacteria influence physical and mental health: The Symbiont Factor is now available on Amazon as a paperback! If you ever wondered if and why probiotics are healthy you should read this book. Please share with your contacts 🙂 http://tinyurl.com/pe2g4xt