ARE YOU NOURISHED?
In 2001 the book “Nourishing Traditions” written by Sally Fallon hit the stands and steadily grew into a simmering success. The book, based on the research done by dentist Weston. A. Price, called “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” reports how indigenous tribes exposed to a gradual increase in commercialized food experience a decline in their health that can be seen in their faces. These manifestations, noted as a change in the shape of their face, their mouths, their nostrils, and the presence of dental deformities and decay. According to Price, the advent of processed food introduces a parallel decline in oral health for which – begs the question, why?
According to the research of Price, replacing nutrient dense, whole grains with refined, milled flours presented an epidemic of “deficiency” of much needed nutrients to those consumers. These nutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin A, essential fats (EPA and DHA) also seemed sparse in the diet of a more refined human being. The seeming collaboration of lack of essential fats and fat soluble vitamins coupled with an overconsumption of refined/processed foods led to rampant tooth decay, cavities, and facial malformations. The observations noted in his book, was extrapolated by Sally Fallon to mean more “good” fats, more fat -soluble vitamins, unrefined grains and less processed foods. At face value, there is nothing inherently wrong with these suggestions – it is the subsequent extrapolation and interpretation of how we should then eat in the face of gastrointestinal despair that we should perhaps question.
Gut healing diets such as GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), SCD (Specific Carbohydrate diet), the SIBO Specific diet and the paleo diet were devised to bring us back to a “natural” diet and help reduce the symptoms of gastrointestinal distress such as bloating, excess gas, altered bowel movements, abdominal pain, etc and they usually do! Avoiding starch and high FODMAP foods to a gut under siege can bring immediate relief. But my question is this – what do we gain from following these diets in the long run? Thus, if we are eating meat for every meal, does that help us or hurt us in the long term?
What might you see on a lab report of someone eating a high meat diet for 3 months or longer? Well, for starters, the total cholesterol will most likely increased over 200 mg/dL – possibly even over 300 mg/dL. unless they have a genetic condition that would dictate otherwise. You might see low triglycerides (good), high LDL, high HDL, hyper-absorption and hyper-production of sterols, high fasting levels of insulin (or altered insulin), slightly elevated or borderline HgbA1c. You may even see increased liver function tests (AST/ALT) although it takes a fair amount of abuse before these numbers are elevated and if they are – you are headed into fatty liver (NAFLD) territory which is not good. The issue here is the liver. A liver that is beleaguered will raise red flags in increased cholesterol and altered blood sugar metabolism.
I followed the SCD/GAPS/Paleo regimens while battling severe gut issues for 4+ years and I get it! You eat tons of vegetables, you feel good, your weight may not be an issue – but the point I’m raising here as that it may not be a long term diet for longevity. In a nutshell, if you avoid tubers, beans, fruits (maybe you have some fruit), high FODMAP foods, you are not only depriving your good gut flora of valuable sustenance but your high meat diet is burdening your best friend – your liver. Your liver -which is one of the major housekeeping organs of your body and works so hard every day to detoxify all of the wild junk you come in contact with. Meat, even is labeled low fat or white breast meat, still has a significant amount of fat. Thus, to a liver that is already under siege secondary to an unhappy gut, that fat will continue to tax it. I’m not saying avoid meat, I am saying eat less of it.
Gut bacteria that are well fed produce compounds called short chain fatty acids that can help rehabilitate the architecture of the intestines. They can enhance motility and can prevent cancer. Short chain fatty acids can also modulate the T cells in our immune system -which play a role in antimicrobial activity and tissue inflammation (1).
I’m not advocating that everyone with gut issues start munching on onions, garlic and pasta – for sure not! However, there are some foods (carefully chosen) that if, provided at the right amounts within a schedule – can lead to more health benefits over time. This has to be commensurate with avoiding foods that will only worsen a person’s condition. To fully benefit from this approach, one has to work with an experienced counselor that can provide an array of support and resources.
No one said you should never enjoy a bowl of lentil soup again!
(1) Gut Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids, T Cells, and Inflammation