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Musings: Vegan babies, the “Evil Trifecta” & How your genes affect your jeans

Hi Folks!

Spring is getting closer!

So I fully intended on having a well written, long and informative article to post this week but I just haven’t managed to get around to it.  So today will be a smattering of link posts and thoughts about the happenings as of late.

As I previously posted about, the Robb Wolf seminar was a great refresher about paleo nutrition and the optimal approach to the dietary management of chronic disease.  Since then I have had the chance of speaking with some friends and family about the seminar and about diet in general and some questions/comments arose, as they usually do.

  • Vegan babies are occasionally not well taken care of and they die, usually due to malnutrition – As far as I’m concerned this is unacceptable, and these parents are knowingly starving their babies to death.  This is tragic and unnecessary.  The parents should know better, but if they’re mistaken enough to think that humans can thrive on a vegan diet, they are more than likely mistaken about most things related to human physiology.  I think it would be interesting to find out if the parents who were responsible for these babies had to rethink their logic and understanding of nutrition, seeing that this type of diet not only does not create optimal health, but doesn’t even create an environment where a human baby can survive.

o   Links here (1 old, 1 new):  http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.35c2caa5efa0e183b7b38a2d0e2b7f40.71&show_article=1

o   http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/21/opinion/21planck.html?_r=1

  • Far less intense is the “evil trifecta” proposed by Robb Wolf (and also explained at length by Dr. Kurt Harris, Dr. Emily Deans, and I’m sure many others) of gluten, linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated, n-6 fatty acid found in many vegetable oils), and fructose.  After having mentioned this to people I get a mixture of responses.

o   For those familiar with paleo nutrition, the next question is usually from the person shooting for perfection, “so should I stop eating fruit?” or the person who is already annoyed with having given up grains, “so you’re telling me I can’t have fruit anymore either?”

o   The answer is no, you don’t have to give up fruit.  They’re fruit.  Reminds me of a post by the folks at Whole9 (http://www.urbangetsdiesel.com/2009/06/carrot-train-to-crazytown.html).  While the main sugar in fruit IS fructose, there really isn’t THAT much that you need to worry about fatty liver disease or insulin resistance.  That is unless you’re crushing a LOT of fruit.  This tends to be the tendency to those new to paleo/primal eating.  They’re still sweet, and they generally taste better than vegetables.  But if you’re replacing all your vegetables with fruit, it might eventually become a sticking point for weight-loss and well-being.  Just saying.

o   The other answer is, “but I love grains!  WHOLE grains must be good right?  I don’t eat white wonder bread, I eat the stuff with lots of fibre!”  Sorry folks, but no bread is the best kind of bread.  If you want to lose weight, manage your auto-immune disease or just feel better in every way, you need to give up grains.  Am I telling you that you can NEVER have grains again?  No.  Try giving them up for 30 days, and then have some occasionally.  The bloated, gassy, headachy, hangover-y feeling you get (and to which degree you get it) will determine if enjoying it is worth it.  I’ll be honest, for me, sometimes it is.

o   Links worth checking out:

§  http://crossfitflood.typepad.com/nutrition/2009/03/damn-dirty-grains.html

§  http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/09/19/paleo-diet-solution/

o   Interesting to note is that no one really complains about the vegetable oil.  That could be because it all tastes terrible and that all our favourites that we gave up are SO much more delicious (butter, ghee, coconut oil, pork fat, beef fat, etc.)

  • Finally, I just want to speak about genetics.  Your genetics is your bodies’ recipe for health.  When myself and other speak about us “all having the same genes”, what we AREN’T saying (although I should only speak for myself here) is that we all have identical genes (as in identical twins, although even then there are some differences).  What I am saying, is that we all have the gene to create the cornea in our eye, the gene to up-regulate insulin receptors on our cells, the genes to induce the many steps to apoptosis to prevent cancer.  We all have these.  But what do we have that affects these genes?  Everything we eat, every way we move and everything we think.  These inputs are the reason our body activates and expresses genes and inhibits others.
  • In health care, we’re all around this paradigm without ever (almost) delving into it.  Bruce Lipton, James Chestnut and many others have figured this out.  It gives us a solid foundation to create questions and theories from.  It gives us a leg to stand on when we ask, “Why?”  My question to the general public and to the many areas of healthcare is, “why have we stopped asking why?”  It’s killing us!
  • This new report is about the differences we have between us.  Our epigenetics are responsible for the many differences in disease states and susceptibility to disease states and general adaptations to lifestyle inputs.  This person can eat whatever they want and not put on a lot of fat, this person cannot.  If studies from the agouti mouse tell us anything, it’s that the lifestyle of past generations DOES matter.  But what we don’t seem to make the connection to, is that it doesn’t mean that living in healthy ways still matters, and that it’s reversible!

o   Let’s say your grandma had type-2 diabetes, and your mom has type-2 diabetes, are you silly to think you might be “predisposed” to type-2 diabetes?  Not at all!  But can you make the connection that if you are diligent and live healthy and do not get type-2 diabetes, and your daughter does the same and also doesn’t get it, that that would “predispose” her daughter to NOT acquire type-2 diabetes?  Ahhhh, perfect.  Healthy living is healthy living.  There are degrees of health within your genetics ability to express it (whether you have predispositions or not).

o   Here is the link to the news article:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110323104737.htm

o   The other idea is that the input you create matters and affects the genes that are expressed.  This is easily demonstrated by putting someone suffering from glioma (a type of brain cancer) on a ketogenic diet.  Gene expression changes.  Interesting right?  It’s just proof that the way we eat, move and think matters.

o   Here’s the link to the journal article:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2949862/?tool=pubmed

So that’s all I have to say right now.  I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend, and if you’re competing in the Crossfit games open sectional, good luck & have fun!

Cheers!

Dr. Adam Ball

Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution Seminar

This past weekend I attended the Paleo Solution seminar put on by Robb Wolf.  It was well organized, timed and executed.  I will preface this “review” with the fact that I really dig everything Robb is doing with regards to the paleo “movement”.  Much like myself, Robb just wants to help people achieve and experience health.  He isn’t trying to accomplish it by making a magical ratio that can be achieved by eating molecularly-baked goods, by selling very well made, and delicious (but expensive) protein powder or by withholding information that is only available for purchase.  If you’ve been listening to the podcast and reading what Robb puts out on his website, then you’ve probably heard almost everything that is in the seminar at one point or another.  The seminar puts it all together into one presentation, which is difficult to do (otherwise others would be doing it).  Thanks Robb (and Nikki).

The Pro’s:

  • Robb’s example (himself) of how a set of beliefs can drive you into disease was a great start point for the seminar – if we are not changing people’s belief systems about food, then we will not be changing what people want to eat and therefore what people are eating.
  • While the seminar was essentially 7 hours of straight lecture with an hour long lunch break, the flow was great, and the small “breaks” for questions were enough of a mental de-load before continuing with the material
  • I’m glad there weren’t “pee breaks” or food breaks (aside from lunch and question periods) as there is usually a lot of time lost to trying to reign folks back into the lecture room, which happens at just about every other seminar I’ve been to
  • The basic science review was in depth enough for the sciencey folks and I believe simple enough for those new to some of the concepts (the intestinal mucosa, immune cells and their response, etc.)
  • Robb presents a compelling argument as to why grains, legumes and pseudo-grains are sub-optimal foods and how they contribute to chronic disease
  • Explaining how we can use the study of paleolithic peoples and their diet and lifestyle to ask the right questions was well explained and great examples are presented

o   Going from anthropological observations to clinical observations to clinical testing to mechanistic theory to mechanistic validation help to explain how to ask the right questions and a great path to create progress

  • Digestion, Gut permeability, auto-immunity, metabolic derangement, lifestyle and implementation were all touched upon and well explained
  • Robb took the time to provide case studies/anecdotes about people who have benefitted from different approaches to improving ones diet, but didn’t rely on it for his explanations and theories.
  • References were provided and explored – ideas and theories had good scientific backing
  • It all makes sense – I wasn’t left with “yeah, but…”

 

The Con’s:

  • It was only one day – Seriously this could be two or more days if we really wanted to geek out with the science/biochemistry involved with everything

o   It would be sweet to see a Robb Wolf, Mat Lalonde and Dr. Cordain 3 day seminar at some point – maybe even aimed at health care providers/those involved with educating clients/patients versus those interested in the information personally?

  • A little more time could be spent on the acute sepsis/injury effect on insulin resistance mechanisms and their explanation – it may be a combination of these concepts being towards the end of the day (being a little mentally fried) and that I think Robb may have been a little speedier with getting through this area of the seminar
  • Further effects of Palmitic acid could be explored (a la the explanation by Mat Lalonde in the recent podcast re: fasting/eating very low carb versus eating so many carbs that palmitic acid is abundant)
  • It could be nice to stay together for a lunch designed by Robb at the venue of the seminar – although I know this would require more planning and probably a more expensive price-tag for the seminar

All together it was one of the better seminars I’ve been to in regard to content, flow and guiding principles.  It drives home the fact that the answers we find are largely determined by the questions we ask.  And if we ask questions without some sort of base, guiding principles, we end up with the jumbling of answers that is the current state of health and nutritional science.

Thanks again, Robb.  Cheers Everyone!

Robb was nice enough to pose for a photo with me after the seminar

Dr. Adam Ball

Get out the Gout!

Spiked rods of uric acid crystals photographed...

Image via Wikipedia

So this post was brought on by a question from a friend who has the pleasure of being afflicted with Gout.  Must be terrible, thank my lifestyle choices for not exposing me to that sort of pain.  In case you know someone with this problem as well (and you very well might as Gout cases are increasing every year), we’re going to discuss why gout occurs and what you can do about it.

So first things first, What is Gout?  Gout is hyperuricemia.  Which means your body has too much uric acid in it.  How does this happen?  Well you’re either making/consuming too much uric acid (via the liver and from your diet) or you aren’t excreting enough (through the kidneys).  This can lead to uric acid exceeding its solubility in the body and materializing in places it shouldn’t be, most commonly in the joint where the big toe meets the foot.  Unfortunately it doesn’t materialize into nice spongy soft happiness, it materializes into sharp, crystal-needle shaped, pain-inducing sadness.  But why is this happening?

I’m going to let my chiropractic/logical side shine through here and ask you a question.  Do you think your body was designed to get gout, and that after X amount of time you were meant to get it ?  Or do you think that what you eat and how you live might matter?  Ok then.  Coming from the stance that we aren’t meant to get gout, and that we’re meant to experience radiant health, what are we doing wrong that is causing this problem then?

Without knowing what the patients current diet is like, I’m led to assume that the typical gout patient has heard, “don’t eat protein, because it has high levels of purines and therefore will lead to high levels of uric acid.” from the people currently managing their health.  It’s logical thinking, but ultimately it doesn’t work (otherwise you’d hear about people resolving their gout with this approach, right?).

The problem with not eating any meat out of fear of the purines, is that eating dense protein sources stimulates your kidneys to reduce the concentration of uric acid in your body.  The other problem with eliminating meats/dense sources of protein is that you’re then left with fat and carbs as your two sources of calories.  The gout guidelines of what is safe to eat also think that eating sweets, and other great sources of sugar is a good idea and “OK” for gout.  It isn’t.  Gout is often seen as an additional player in Metabolic Syndrome (AKA Syndrome X).  This comes to fruition by following the “Fat is the devil, eat more ‘complex carbs’ mentality”.  This is unfortunately one of the main reasons why there are more obese, overweight people and a greater incidence of autoimmune disorders in the world than ever before.  But that’s for another day.

Insulin resistance is a huge player as insulin is a potent inhibitor of uric acid excretion by the kidneys.  Most important in this resistance (especially in the case of fructose) is our ridiculous consumption of sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  Despite the commercials by the corn growers saying “it’s just as healthy as sugar!” (anyone else find that sounds odd?) HFCS is not healthy.  Full stop.  Fructose stimulates purine synthesis by lowering the inorganic phosphate levels which normally regulate uric acid production in the liver, which leads to higher uric acid synthesis.  And since fructose is selectively metabolized by the liver, eating a diet high in fructose sets the liver up for insulin resistance.  This resistance leads to more free-flowing insulin, and now we have fructose causing an increase in uric acid production, as well as a decrease in uric acid excretion.  Fructose’s metabolism in the liver also leads to lactic acid production, which eventually reaches the kidneys and competitively inhibits the excretion of uric acid.  Yay!  Fructose is quite the effective multitasker!

Finally the part that really might make you dislike having gout, is that alcohol is also implicated in inhibiting uric acid excretion via the production of  lactic acid.  Alcohol is also great at using up those inorganic phosphates in the liver that like to regulate the production of uric acid.  So alcohol isn’t quite the Deion Sanders of gout that Fructose is, but it hits you with a double whammy.

So, now what?

Well, now you eat the diet that you are meant to eat.  Being humans we seem to be the only species that eats what we shouldn’t be eating, without noticing the health effects.  So, if you want to be healthy, you’d eat what a healthy person eats right?  If you found a platypus in your backyard and needed to take care of it, you’d look up what healthy, wild platypus’ eat and feed it that, right?  Well, you’re my found platypus and I’m telling you to eat what the other, healthy platypus’ are eating.  Keep in mind if you have certain things that light you up and make you feel awful, well, avoid those things!  While we are all extremely similar genotypically, there is still some play phenotypically (which makes life fun!) that leads us to need to tinker and play with what we’re eating until we find what works for us.

What you should eat:

  • Meat.  Wild game, poultry, red meats, something that used to live a great life.  Preferably wild caught, organic, free range, etc.  Take it easy at first and work into it.  Don’t try the 72oz. steak challenge, our diet still provides 1/3 of our bodies uric acid, but we need the dense protein to stimulate the kidneys to excrete more uric acid.
  • Vegetables.  Eat them.  If you think “dang, I’m eating a LOT of veggies here”, you probably still aren’t eating enough.  Find which ones you like, try new ones.  Avoid corn and peas, as they aren’t veggies, they’re a grain and legume, respectively.  Don’t go TOO nuts with potatoes, sweet potatoes, or squash, they’re just a little higher in starch, and we’re trying to create some insulin sensitivity.
  • Fruit.  Don’t go overboard,  fruits main sugar is fructose.   But fruit are great for satisfying a sweet tooth, and avoiding crushing a Coke, or other crappy food that is super high in HFCS or sucrose.  Try to incorporate more avocado and coconut products in your diet.  They’re high in healthy fats and they’re delicious and filling.
  • Nuts & Seeds.  They’ve got lots of fat in them so can be a little calorie heavy as people can generally put away a lot of nuts and seeds.  They also tend to skew the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio in an unfavourable direction.  But as a garnish, the fats are satisfying and they taste pretty good.

Drink:

  • Water.  Tea.  That’s about it.

DO NOT CONSUME:

  • CRAP – i.e. candy, soda/pop, fruit juices, straight sugar
  • Alcohol – Just stay away from it for a while.  Try to eliminate it for 30 days at least, and then go light (if you must).  Avoid beer and drink something clear (tequila, vodka, rum).
  • Grains – they’re poison (lectins, phytates) tainted, nutrient-sparse and carb HEAVY.  They’re like fructose in that they’re great at multitasking; they destroy your digestive system while robbing you of minerals AND they spike your insulin.  The only things the grains are better than is the stuff in the “crap” category.
  • Legumes – they’re full of phytic acid and they’re a crappy source of incomplete protein.  If you absolutely MUST eat them, soak them overnight and then slow cook them.
  • Rice & Pasta – they’re also nutrient poor and carbohydrate dense.  Pasta and rice have their own lectins, and will wreak havoc on your digestive system.

In addition to the dietary recommendations, get some regular activity (walks, light hike, whatever you like to do that involves moving) and workout intensely once or twice a week.  Try to stay warm (to avoid uric acid crystal formation), and get some good sleep (8-9 hours in a BLACKED OUT room).  And I want to mention one last time, ease into this, find what works for you and what doesn’t (within the allowed parameters) and give it some time.  Like anything in life worth having, this will take time and effort.

All the best,

Dr. Ball

p.s. I have to give credit to Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Tim Ferris and Gary Taubes for providing a lot of this information through blog posts, podcasts, newsletters and books!  All four of them have great books and I highly recommend them for everyone!

Organic doesn’t equal healthy

Carrot cake

Image via Wikipedia

Hey Folks!

First off, I’d like to give a shout out to my friend Danielle, who is running the scotiabank marathon in Toronto today while I sit in a starbucks sipping a coffee with some heavy whipping cream and cinnamon.  Strong work Dee, you’re awesome.

Now onto todays topic, organic foods.  I checked out the Whole Foods in Oakville yesterday.   It’s a pretty awesome spot, but like most “health” related situations it sparked my curious side.  As an aside they’ve got some seriously awesome stuff at this place and if you’re mindful of what you buy, you can get some really quality food without breaking the bank.  The problem I have with places like Whole Foods is that I think they trick people into making the same dietary mistakes, but with organic or exotic ingredients.

Organic, gluten free carrot cake tastes amazing, but it’s STILL cake. People seem to forget that.

There is a huge benefit to buying local, buying grass-fed/pastured and buying organic.  But buying organic pasta to put organic spaghetti sauce and organic parmasan cheese on top of it is just gives you an expensive plate of sugar.  It isn’t the lack of organic ingredients that is making you fat/inflammed/in pain, it’s the types of ingredients you’re eating in the first place.

Goji berries, while having a cool name, and packing some nutrients, are no better than blueberries. And we don’t have to go to Nepal to get wild, locally grown blueberries (that seems redundant doesn’t it?). If you’re shopping at health food stores to help the environment, purchasing exotic foods from across the world is not helping.  Things like goji berries, acai berries or the like, involve someone picking them lots of miles away, and shipping them around the world so that you can feel cool eating a “superfood”.  Don’t be that guy.  Eat the berries, fruits and vegetables local to our area, that are picked fresh, and allowed to ripen properly.  Concentrate on locally grown fruits and veggies. Kohlrabi, apples, figs, plums, peaches, beets, turnips, kale, brussel sprouts, the list goes on, are all good, locally grown, nutrient dense foods. Try to lean towards veggies, but fruit will satisfy a sweet tooth.

Organic cookies are still off limits people. Whole grain is not “ok”. Anything that resembles or seems like a grain is not ok. Get off the grains. these foods are still mostly sugar with some lectins, phytates and other wonderful ingredients mixed in. If you’re buying organic foods to be more “healthy”, you’re undermining yourself by eating these foods.

If you’re shopping at a health foods store to be cool, well, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, and those of us who are doing it properly hope you enjoy your zumba/insanity/ab rocket workout and hope that it works out well.

Aside from the above recommendations, here are some more:

  • Try to find a CSA (community sustained agriculture) in your area and support it, it’s worth it.  You receive a good number of fruit and veggies.  Get ready to eat some mystery vegetables.
  • Look into contacting a farm for pastured meat.   Many times you can request your cow be grass finished (I.e. It never gets fattened up with grain).   You’ll pay more, but it’s worth it.  Also, ask for the fat rendered from the beef, most people don’t, but you’re paying for it and it’s great for cooking.  And, since you chose the grass finished beef, the fat profile is amazingly good FOR you.
  • Go to a farmers market in your area.   It’s the market of local stuff (fruit, veggies, meat, etc.).   Prices will be a bit higher than the previous two options, but you’re paying for the convenience.

That’s all for now! If you have any ideas or suggestions I missed, post ’em to comments!