Monthly Archives: March 2014
Super size it! Give me a size large! I will take a Big Mac, or a Whooper! Just listen to some of the things that are stated as the norm in our society when it comes to food now. All of these statements suggest an increase in the portion size of the food consumed. The more there is the better, correct? Not likely. Along with this increase in food portion size has also been an increase in waist size. Needless to say, if we are going to talk about weight loss, we are not going to be talking about the standard American diet unless we are referring to what not to do.
The Problems with the Standard American Diet
There are so many problems with the standard American diet that it is almost difficult to find a starting point. Foremost, let’s take a look at what we call food. Food should have sufficient nutrient content and health promoting qualities. This makes sense. We consume food to nourish our bodies. Most of what the average American diet is made up of does not meet these criteria. Foods that are refined, boxed and packaged do not have life sustaining qualities about them. Rather, they have been stripped of these qualities. Therefore, if you are eating a substance that does not provide you with nutrients and health promoting qualities, how can you expect to promote health? You cannot. In short, this food is taking the life from you to help process and metabolize it. You are literally losing more nutrients to try to process this food in your body than you are deriving from it.
The Correlation between the Standard American Diet and Weight Gain
Weight gain does not happen without explanation. It is a culmination of things that collide to create a state of dysfunction in the body. Weight gain is the symptom. The dysfunction is the problem that needs to be addressed. To do so, means that you have to start with the standard American diet. If this is not the central focus, weight loss will not take place. The standard American diet promotes weight gain because we are literally starving ourselves of the nutrients that we need to create an optimal metabolism to burn fat. Fat burning does not happen with the standard American diet due to the fact that the foods included as a part of it create hormone dysfunction, highlighted by blood sugar problems, result in multiple nutrient deficiencies that often go uncorrected, and lead to a severe state of inflammation that is at the root of nearly every chronic disease.
How to Accelerate Weight Loss
Just as weight gain does not happen by accident, weight loss only takes place with the right actions. Most importantly this means dumping your dietary habits that are part of the standard American diet and following a primal caveman diet as part of the paleo lifestyle. The primal caveman diet, what many think of as the paleo diet, is almost the opposite of the average American diet. It is full of high quality nutrients that help charge our metabolism and reduce inflammation. This reduction in inflammation coupled with the inherent hormone balancing effects that the primal caveman diet offers makes it the optimal choice to promote weight loss.
The protocol to weight loss is simple. It begins and ends with abandoning the ideas that have become commonly accepted as to what makes up a reasonable diet (and I use the term reasonable very loosely here!) and transitioning into the paleo diet as the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, aka, the Paleo lifestyle.
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At first mention, you might think of cavemen and chasing animals with primitive weapons when someone mentions the paleo lifestyle. However, we live in a world far different than our predecessors. Vehicles and the ever-so-convenient grocery store have taken the place of walking and gathering or hunting our own sustenance. Yet what has not changed is the way that our bodies function. We are still the same creatures we were hundreds of years ago regardless of the technological changes around us.
Our Ancestors Environment
In more primitive years, we lived a slower paced life where we had only a few obligations, most of which revolved around survival. In fact, for most of the existence of mankind, this has been the case. Survival is probably best defined in this context by t
he action of gathering food and seeking shelter. Our ancestors’ day would have looked much like this. Start off with waking at the rise of the sun and the stimulation of sunlight. This would have likely been followed by a day of considering the most easily obtainable food sources with constant movement throughout the day. The conclusion of an active day would have been at the onset of darkness. No artificial light would have kept the primal human up. I ask you, how many of us live this paleo lifestyle?
The Modern Human’s Day
After considering the paleo lifestyle that man lived on for numerous years, it is a wonder any of us are healthy. Our world is much different today. Consider your own life and habits. Do you routinely wake up slowly and steadily as the sun rises? Not likely. If you do, you are among the few. Most of us wake up to the sound of an alarm clock chirping at us that we want to slap just to get it to shut up. And then there is nothing like starting the day off with a good rush of adrenaline from this style of waking to start you off down the wrong path. This is already followed by a day of activity and nourishing foods, right? Wrong! The commute to work and grind of sitting stationary for hours on end, only to feel the stress of the fast pace of our daily lives, leaves us reaching for quick and simple food options that are far short of being a nutritious selection. None of this screams paleo lifestyle. So what is the paleo lifestyle you might be asking?
The Paleo Lifestyle Defined
The paleo lifestyle is the mimicking of our ancestors lifestyle of diet, activity and rest. These are core elements to good health. Our ancestors applied them simply as a part of their lifestyle. Our world has changed, and now to apply this same ideology means that you have to make a conscious effort. The effort is worth the payoff however. Often the application of the term paleo is limited to the primal caveman diet that our predecessors consumed. However, this is merely one aspect of the lifestyle. The primal cavemen diet, while essential is not the only core element of good health. A good diet with limited rest and activity does not support health. If we truly want to live the paleo lifestyle, a proven pattern to promote health, we have to not only eat a primal caveman diet, but we also must consistently exercise and get adequate amounts of sleep at the right times.
Just the name, the standard American diet, sounds monotonous and boring. Think about it. The word standard used in this context implies uniformity. It suggests that everything is consistent and there is lack of variation. The underlying tone is that individuals are eating the same thing throughout the population. In this case, that is detrimental for the population. Let’s just talk bluntly for a moment. The standard American diet lacks a lot regarding supporting health. It is in need of a significant overhaul. The consistent way that the population is eating is putting us on a fast track to a society of chronic disease ridden individuals.
The Standard American diet is the Wrong Path
On the surface you might not consider the standard American diet inherently problematic to our health. This was likely the case 100 years ago. However, over the last century, we have come to consume food in a much different way than our ancestors did. They enjoyed a more primal diet that some today call the Paleo Diet or caveman diet. The difference between this pattern of eating and the style of food we consume today is drastically different. We no longer eat like our ancestors and we are paying the price for it. Instead, we eat foods that are adulterated and a combination of food-like products that should leave you wondering exactly what you are putting in your mouth.
Should we even call it food?
Take a walk through the grocery store. Walk down each aisle and look at what the standard American diet has become. It is a buffet of boxed and canned items that look drastically different from what they did prior to being refined and damaged by manufacturing. They have lost their inherent qualities that make them a food we should consume. It is hard to believe that we even call some of the things in the grocery stores food any more. The standard American diet, a different far different than the Paleo diet lends, is made up of foods that have only vague characteristics of the food that we should be consuming.
The Problem with the Standard American Diet
To understand what is wrong with the standard American diet, we need to compare it to the Paleo diet. This primal diet has some unique characteristics that are no longer seen with what is commonly consumed today. Let us start by looking at a few of the most pronounced differences.
The standard American diet is heavy in grains. Grains are high in carbohydrates and lack the balance and nutrients compared to other food groups. Add to this that most grains are among the highest dietary allergens and are linked to numerous ailments and you quickly realize they have some inherent problems. Moreover, if you are consuming grains, you are likely consuming a genetically modified food. I can say with confidence that none of our ancestor eating a Paleo diet with all of its primal characteristics was consuming genetically modified foods.
Our bodies need fat, but the right kind. Fats found in the standard American diet promote inflammation, a trait of almost every chronic disease. You actually have to seek out non-inflammatory fats in the grocery store and even when you do, you are not likely to find those that are most beneficial to suppressing inflammation in significant quantities.
There are many other problems with the standard American diet that I will detail in subsequent articles, but for now, knowing that this dietary pattern can destroy your health is the most important thing that you can take away. It is crucial for us to recognize that our ancestors had it right without even knowing it. They ate a Paleo diet that gave them the nutrition they needed.
Our bodies were not meant to eat the diet we are eating..
The more I learn about functional medicine and all of the toxic foods out there and what they can do to our health, the more difficult it is to not be paranoid. It’s like every corner I turn I find something else that offensive to my health.. And I know sometimes I’m right, but also some times I’m making it out to be worse than it is. But for once, I know I’m not being paranoid about one thing, our diet. The way we eat now is nothing like our ancestors ate. We are now eating foods that our bodies are not designed to process. And that is why compared the our forefathers, we have so many diseases and thats why we have so much dysfunction in our bodies.
The Standard American Diet (Aka The S.A.D. Diet)
So I’m sure you are wondering how this is possible? If it’s labeled food, and it’s edible, then it should be considered food right? Couldn’t be farther from the truth.. To be honest, what people are eating these days, when they are in a rush, I’d be hard pressed to call food. It carries almost no nutritional value. And with that said, there are many foods that we should not eat as they don’t promote long term health. In fact, many of them promote disease when consumed regularly.
Are you sure that your food is really food?
Do you know what is the in the food that you are consuming? Another good question is do you really know what you are consuming? Is it what you think it is? I bet you may be surprised to find the answers to some of these questions. So much of our food supply is contaminated with chemicals in ways we would not even expect. From growth hormones to pesticides and herbicides, the food we eat leaves our detoxification system begging for support. Add to this the stripping of valuable nutrients and fiber and you are left with . . . . Well I’m not totally sure what the best description should be, but it hardly resembles the food you would find in nature.
Our food supply has been altered
Food as we have come to accept it, is the byproduct of industrialization. We have let “big money” take over agriculture and control the food supply. We were duped into thinking that big agriculture was the best way to feed the population. This is problematic on a number of levels, but one of the many reasons is that you are getting food that is adulterated all the way down to the genetics. The rouge science of genetic modification has created foods, and I use that term very loosely, that are not tolerated by our bodies any longer. In fact, these are the foods that are likely most responsible for the rapid increase in autoimmune disease in such a short period of time.
The Paleo Movement
If you are beginning to feel a little anxious about the food you eat every day, you should. But before you become too uptight about this topic, know that there is an answer. There is an army of us out there that refuse to accept the fact that we should eat what we have been told by the government and FDA. Rather, we prefer to eat the Paleo Diet, the diet of our ancestors that kept them free of disease. The Paleo Diet is optimally implemented with the consumption of organic sources, but if you cannot afford organic, you can still derive great benefit. The longer I practice, the more I am convinced that for the average portion of the population, the greatest insults come for grains and dairy. These foods as they are produced now are different from what our forefathers had in numerous ways.
As we know the Paleo Diet mostly focuses on eating non grain plants and animals, and the results of that diet are very very different compared to the results from the typical diet we consume in this country. My main goal is to make sure you understand that you don’t have to eat that toxic mess that is called our food supply, you can choose to take a different path. Just because those lifeless foods are in front of you, or cheaper, or easy access, does not mean you have to eat them. You can choose to take the extra step or put in a little more effort, after this is your health we are talking about. Instead trust the Paleo Diet, follow it and you will see results. I should know, it’s the only way I eat now. The Paleo Diet is the foundation of all diets ever existing for mankind, it has literally been proven for thousands of years to be the best diet for humans. It will free you of this toxic burden, guaranteed.
Without a healthy gut, nothing will function properly
Change is inevitable, we all go through it sometimes on a larger scale sometimes on a smaller scale. Most changes are good, some are not. We have gone from living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, to agrarian, and eventually for too many of us have become a city dweller society, and with these changes we have undergone changes within our bodies that have had an adverse effect on our health in general. Considering that our GI system has a huge impact in all areas of our health, having a healthy GI tract is very necessary. The GI tract is the keystone for the health of the rest of the body. Without a healthy gut, no other system in our bodies can be expected to function normally. So you can see how very very important it is to keep the gut functioning the way it should, and if you are trying to improve your health your GI tract cannot be discounted.
The Standard American Diet
To really understand how the evolution of human foods have affected our gut, all we have to do is look at our diets. The negative affects of the Standard American Diet (or SAD diet) creates problems and dysfunction for every aspect of our health. For most people this is the very reason that causes the GI tract health to be so unhealthy and damaged. The SAD contains foods that are the very cause of the sluggish bowel movements, and all the refined meats, the sugars, bad fats, snacks and any refined foods really, with minimal fiber, causes the bowels to become acidic. When this happens the lining of your bowels become damaged and this is where the entire function of your gut is, in the mucus lining. When your lining is damaged, your colon cannot do their job. This includes acting as a primary barrier against microorganisms and undigested foods, absorption of vitamins, minerals and proteins and supporting the health of the immune system.
What is Leaky Gut?
Once the bowels begin to move less than 2-3 times each day, putrification of proteins begins to occur resulting in the production of acids. The resulting environment is one that is inhospitable to the resident beneficial bacteria known commonly as probiotics. It is these bacteria that act as part of the immune system and maintain the balance of “good” vs. “bad” microorganisms in the GI tract. With declining numbers of probiotics, the growth of harmful microorganisms increases, resulting in a greater production of acid. Additional acid further compromises the GI lining, compounding the situation and making the integrity of the lining worse. As a consequence, leaky gut develops.
Leaky Gut is more appropriately termed hyperpermeable gut, meaning that things are allowed to pass through more easily than they should. A primary characteristic of the GI tract is a process known as selective permeability. This means that various substances have to carried across the GI lining rather than just being able to filter directly across. Simply, they have to ask for permission. If the substance checks out okay, it is given permission to cross. If it does not check out okay because it is too large or looks foreign, it is denied. Hence, the GI lining is selecting what it wants to grant access. These are the events that take place under ideal circumstances.
It’s like pouring water through a pipe that has slits in it. It leaks.
Yet, we know that most individual’s GI tracts are not healthy because of things such as diet, antibiotics, high stress, and poor brain signaling, to name just a few. When this is the presentation, selective permeability is lost and for this reason we then label the GI tract as hyperpermeable. In this state, the cells of the cells that make up the GI lining are not longer touching each other and have gaps between them, whereas they should all be touching tightly. You can akin this to pouring water through a pipe that has several slits in it. Everywhere a slit is present, water will leak out and there is no way to stop it. This is the case in a leaky gut presentation. Foods, microorganisms, and anything else in the GI tract are leaking past a barrier that they should not.
Without a healthy gut, your immune system weakens.
While a leaky gut has many consequences, the most significant is the loss of regulation of the immune system and the resultant inflammation. From this, a very dire situation can result since on average 60-70% of the immune system is found in and around the GI tract. When the immune system becomes overactive, inflammation is the consequence. It is this scenario that is part of the cause, and at other times the sole cause, in many chronic disease states.
Leaky gut is just the beginning of your worries..
Many diseases states have been shown to be linked to GI dysfunction. The common thread is the inflammatory cascade that is secondary to the dysfunction. It would be easy to see a link in leaky gut and GI disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. However, the state of health does not have to be this grim to have an active leaky gut. More common day to day presentations would include skin disorders ranging from acne to psoriasis, a weakened immune system, brain fog and sinus congestion or infections. However, leaky gut has also been linked to conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. In fact, we now know that the cholesterol and blood fat model of cholesterol has become secondary to the inflammatory model with the GI tract being a likely source of the inflammation. Ironically, detoxification programs incorporating proper bowel function often show dramatic reductions in elevated cholesterol levels. The most complex category of conditions associated with leaky gut is autoimmunity. Loss of regulation of the immune system causes it to turn on itself leading to damage of the body’s own tissues by a system designed to protect it.
You can only heal your gut with the right nutrients
Identification of a hyperpermeable GI state is best done through specific testing. Ideal methods include stool and monitoring of antibodies to foods and human tissues. These antibodies should only be produced against what our immune system perceives as harmful, not against food and our own body. Diagnosis and treatment of a hyperpermeable gut often centers around bringing back balance through restoring the GI lining, replacing the necessary missing constituents such as digestive enzymes and acid and probiotics, and eradicating any infections when present. One cannot hope to resolve a chronic disease state and heal a leaky gut by not addressing the necessary components listed above. Often in this state, a reasonable degree of inflammation exists at the GI lining. To allow the cells of the GI tract to move closer together and seal the lining, it becomes necessary to add the nutrients in that this environment is dependent on as well as to soothe any areas of inflammation. Oddly enough, this is something that prescription anti-inflammatories are incapable of as many of them actually breakdown the lining of the GI tract further and have been shown to lead to bleeding in some instances.
But what leads to the leaky gut in the first place?
If this was driven by a poor diet, this must be remedied by dietary modification consisting of consumption of high foods rich in a variety of nutrients, high in fiber, low in sugar and rich in healthy fats. When infections are identified, these must be eliminated. Such infections may include bacterial, fungal, or parasitic. These can be elusive at times, but persistent treatment pays off and eventually results in their elimination. Common to find along with an infection is a decrease of the probiotics. Probiotics being bacteria are susceptible to the effects of antibiotics and sometimes other antimicrobial treatments, yet they can also proliferate themselves once enough of them are in the GI tract. Building up these colonies adds stability to the body by strengthening the immune system, producing nutrients such as vitamins, and inhibiting the growth of foreign microorganisms. One of the factors that can lead to the presence of an infection is lower levels of acid production. Acid has been made to be the villain in our society, yet it acts as our first line of immune defense in the GI tract and initiates the protein breakdown process. When combined with the enzymes produced in the mouth and pancreas, the digestive juices breakdown foods into their smallest possible components causing them to be non-reactive to the immune system.
Your brain, hormones and gut are all connected
Just as important for a healthy GI Tract is healthy brain and and stress functions. When you are experiencing a lot of stress, you are also weakening your immune system because the lining of your intestines, the protective mucus lining inside your gut, will start thinning which in turn lowers your immune cell count gradually. When that mucus lining is damaged, it also makes it difficult for the intestines to repair themselves. All these dysfunctions are connected, and when you are having this much dysfunction in your gut, your brain will be impaired as far as signaling to create the digestive juices needed. When you get to this point you need to look outside of the GI tract to correct the functions.
As you can see based on what I have been discussing here, all of our systems are connected to our GI Tract. The GI system is of utmost importance when it comes to delivering the nutrients each system needs to keep our immune systems functioning correctly. It is a portal that can accept and reject the things we need or don’t need. It is the gateway to our bodies. If you are setting out to address a condition you may be having, the GI tract has to be considered. Through a proper diagnosis, with the right testing to make sure all bodily functions are considered, a precise treatment plan can be created that can specifically start fixing the many aspects of your GI function inside and outside of your GI Tract.