NaturalHealth365) Today, we reveal the true nature of amyloid plaque and its connection to Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – with millions more suffering from some form of dementia or cognitive impairment. With so many losing their memories, and their minds, to this cruel and insidious disease, researchers are scrambling to identify the true cause or causes – in order to better understand how to treat the condition.
Now, a leading expert has come forward to question a central hypothesis regarding the development of the disease – and to assert that, when it comes to ascertaining the cause of Alzheimer’s, mainstream medicine may be on the wrong track.
Have researchers and big pharma been chasing a ‘red herring?’
According to Thomas J. Lewis, PhD – the CEO and founder of RealHealth Clinics, and developer of cutting-edge therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease – the “biggest myth” surrounding Alzheimer’s disease is that it is caused by amyloid plaque buildup in the brain.
According to accepted medical wisdom on Alzheimer’s disease, a protein fragment known as beta-amyloid strongly contributes to the condition by clumping into deposits of plaque, which lead to destroyed synapses and nerve cell death – and a parallel deterioration of brain function.
Although this “amyloid cascade” hypothesis is the central tenet of studies on the development of the disease – and the subject of virtually all research on Alzheimer’s – Dr. Lewis remains unconvinced.
Speaking at the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Summit, Dr. Lewis noted that autopsies have shown that some Alzheimer’s disease patients have virtually no amyloid plaque in their brains. If amyloid plaque were causative, challenges Dr. Lewis, wouldn’t it be present?
Conversely, autopsies of some individuals who were free of completely free of Alzheimer’s disease when they died show the undeniable presence of the plaque.
A study conducted at Harvard Medical School showed that beta amyloid is part of a normal immune response, notes Dr. Lewis. And, it is entirely possible that – rather than causing Alzheimer’s disease – amyloid deposits may actually play a beneficial and protective role.
Alzheimer’s myth exposed: Listen now to these remarkable facts presented by Dr. Lewis – in an exclusive interview done by Jonathan Landsman, host of NaturalHealth365
Why does medical research continue to focus on amyloid plaque?
The answer is simple – and financial – says Dr. Lewis. Big pharma funds the research on the amyloid hypothesis, and they are “driving the bus.” The National Institutes of Health has funded $100 million for Alzheimer’s research – mainly focused on the role of beta-amyloid proteins in the disease.
As for researchers who question the conventional view of the role of amyloid plaque in Alzheimer’s disease? They may see an abrupt end to their funding, Dr. Lewis states.
This, in spite of the fact that several pharmaceutical companies – GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson and Johnson, to name two – have already performed trials with anti-amyloid drugs, and met with ‘complete failure.’
Studies on the use of anti-amyloid drugs for patients with milder forms of dementia and cognitive impairment also failed resoundingly, reports Dr. Lewis – who maintains that, in a desperate bid to make it appear that the medications work, drug companies are now recruiting healthy volunteers for studies.
Alzheimer’s disease is actually multi-factorial
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex condition that can be triggered by many different factors. Yet inflammation, says Dr. Lewis, is always present. To understand more about why people develop Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Lewis recommends looking to the various causes of inflammation, which can include environmental toxins, stress, poor nutrition, lack of sleep and bacterial and viral infections.
After all, even patients living with milder forms of dementia and cognitive impairment rarely inhabit robust, healthy bodies. Most have overlapping conditions – such as cardiovascular disease, obesity or diabetes. To combat Alzheimer’s disease, it is necessary to develop an understanding of what the underlying causes of these diseases are.
You can prevent, treat and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease naturally
The good news: compelling scientific evidence shows that with proper lifestyle changes, Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented, stopped, slowed and even reversed.
The groundbreaking Framingham Heart Study – first undertaken in 1948 – showed that nearly 50 percent of cases of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia could be prevented with simple lifestyle and dietary changes. For instance, researchers found that improvements in indicators of cardiovascular health – such as lowering blood pressure – were reflected by a lower incidence of dementia.
And, the prestigious Harvard Medical School recently reported that improving immune system health can slow down – and even stop – the progression of brain disorders.
More natural help for Alzheimer’s disease awaits
Researchers have found that apigenin, a flavonoid found in many vegetables and herbs, has a positive impact on memory and learning. Not only that, it improves neuron formation and function, while strengthening the connections among brain cells. You can increase your intake of apigenin by eating parsley, thyme, chamomile, celery, carrots and citrus fruits.
There is strong scientific evidence that coconut oil, rich in medium-chain triglycerides, can improve memory and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil is particularly beneficial because it is metabolized in the liver and turned into ketones, which are then used as an alternative fuel source for the brain – rather than being stored as fat in the body.
In addition, fresh (organic) blueberries contain beneficial anthocyanins that can help restore cognitive function by enhancing signaling and increasing the sensitivity of receptors in brain cells.
Finally, healthy levels of vitamin D may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. In a study by the University of Exeter Medical School, participants 65 and older who were severely deficient in vitamin D were a whopping 125 times more likely to suffer from some form of dementia. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty cold-water fish or fish oil, grass-fed dairy products, mushrooms and egg yolks.
Slowly but surely, scientists are increasingly starting to focus on the influence of nutrition on cancer. Mounting evidence supports the notion that a diet high in healthy fats and low in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber, i.e. non-fiber carbs) may significantly lower your risk by improving mitochondrial and metabolic function.
Fermented foods are also gaining recognition as an important anti-cancer adjunct. The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods have been shown particularly effective for suppressing colon cancer, but may also inhibit cancers of the breast, liver, small intestine and other organs.
For example, butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid created when microbes ferment dietary fiber in your gut, has been shown to induce programmed cell death of colon cancer cells,1 and cultured milk products may reduce your risk of bladder cancer by about 29 percent.2
Cultured Raw Milk Does Your Body Good
In the case of cultured dairy, lactobcillus and bifidobacterium are primary sources of probiotics in cultured milk products, and these beneficial bacteria have been shown to induce changes reflecting an increase in carbohydrate metabolism.
Both of these bacteria also facilitate excretion of toxins such as Bisphenol A (BPA), and lactobacillus strains in particular may help prevent heavy metal toxicity by binding and excreting these metals.
They’ve even been shown to reduce the toxicity of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HCA) — cancer causing compounds found in charred meats.3
Kimchi (a Korean fermented cabbage dish) contains probiotics shown to help with the detoxification of organophosphorus pesticides. It also breaks down sodium nitrate, a food preservative associated with increased cancer risk.4
Microbial Metabolism Can Influence Your Cancer Risk
Research by Johanna Lampe, Ph.D., at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center suggests microbial metabolism may affect your cancer risk for better or worse in many different ways, by influencing:5,6
Carcinogen metabolism / detoxification
Apoptosis (programmed cell death)
Moreover, your gut microbiome — which contains 100 times as many genes as your body’s total genome — is involved in important chemical reactions that your gut enzymes cannot perform, including fermentation and sulfate reduction.
Importantly, your gut microbiome helps generate new compounds (bacterial metabolites) that can have either a beneficial or detrimental impact on your health.
On the upside, some of these compounds act as sources of energy and/or help regulate your metabolism and reduce inflammation. Others can cause oxidative stress.7
Food components known to produce beneficial bacterial metabolites include dietary fiber, plant lignans, anthocyanins and linoleic acid, just to name a few.
As noted by Lampe, “availability of nutrients or bioactive substances important for health can be influenced by gut microbiota,” and “understanding the impact of the bacterial metabolites on regulatory pathways may help guide future diet and cancer prevention strategies.”8
Chronic Inflammation Raises Your Risk for Cancer
Reducing inflammation is one important anti-cancer feature of fermented foods. As explained by Stephanie Maxson, senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center, “Prolonged inflammation can damage your body’s healthy cells and tissue, and weaken your immune system.”
And, since your immune system is the first line of defense, a weakened immune system is what allows for diseases such as cancer to get a foothold in the first place; hence, reducing inflammation is a foundational aspect of cancer prevention.
One group of microbes that appear important for maintaining healthy immune function is the clostridial group of microbes. Ironically enough, this group is related to clostridium difficile, which can cause severe and life-threatening intestinal infections.
But whereas C. difficile prompts chronic inflammation, the clostridial clusters actually help maintain a healthy and well-functioning gut barrier, preventing inflammatory agents from entering your bloodstream.9 Factors that promote chronic inflammation in your body include but are not limited to:
Lack of exercise
Poor dietary choices
Inflammation and Microbiome Also Play a Role in Type 1 Diabetes
The connection between your microbiome and inflammation has also become evident in type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes) which, contrary to type 2 diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder.
The root cause of type 1 diabetes has been a medical mystery, but more recent research suggests the disease may be rooted in gut dysfunction. As reported by Medical News Today:10
“[I]ndividuals with type 1 diabetes show increased intestinal permeability and changes in the microvilli, which are microscopic, finger-like projections from the gut lining. Although the reasons behind these modifications are unclear, errant gut bacteria are currently the prime suspects.”
To investigate the impact gut bacteria may have on the development of type 1 diabetes, Italian researchers examined the gut flora and inflammation levels in 54 type 1 diabetics.
All had endoscopies and biopsies taken from their duodenum, the early section of the intestinal tract, and all were on a similar diet at the time of the procedures. The results revealed they had significantly more inflammation than healthy controls and even patients diagnosed with celiac disease.
Their gut flora was also significantly different, with fewer proteobacteria (a group of organisms that includes escherichia, which help produce vitamin K, and salmonella, which is associated with food poisoning) and higher levels of firmicutes (a group of bacteria that include bacilli and streptococcus). According to the featured article:11
“The next step will be to understand whether the changes in the gut are caused by type 1 diabetes or vice versa. Either way, the study marks a step forward in our understanding of this condition.
As Piemonti notes: ‘We don’t know if type 1 diabetes’ signature effect on the gut is caused by or the result of the body’s own attacks on the pancreas.
By exploring this, we may be able to find new ways to treat the disease by targeting the unique gastrointestinal characteristics of individuals with type 1 diabetes.'”
Key Features of an Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Cancer Diet
Many cancer experts, including MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) now promote anti-inflammatory diets, placing focus on:12
Organic plant foods and traditionally fermented and cultured foods. AICR recommends making sure at least two-thirds of your plate are plant foods, and to eat at least one small serving of fermented food each day.
Limiting processed foods and eating a diet of whole, fresh foods cooked from scratch instead.
Avoiding sodas, sport drinks and other sugary beverages, including fruit juices.
Balancing your omega-3 and omega-6 ratios. For most, this means increasing your intake of animal-based omega-3 from fatty fish low in mercury and other contaminants, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, anchovies and sardines, and reducing consumption of omega-6 fats, abundant in refined vegetable oils (fried foods and processed foods).
Limiting red meat and avoiding processed meats (such as deli meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and pepperoni). To lower your protein consumption — which can be an important factor in everything from premature aging to cancer — consider replacing some of the red meat you eat with fish instead, which is lower in protein.
Gut Bacteria Mediate Your Risk for Certain Types of Colon Cancer
Eating a plant-based, fiber-rich diet is key for preventing colon cancer in particular, and the reason for this is directly related to the way fiber affects your gut microbiome. As recently reported by Medical News Today:13
“Studies have shown that a diet high in red and processed meats may increase the risk of colorectal cancer, while a high-fiber diet — rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains — has been associated with a lower risk of the disease. Previous research has suggested that one way by which diet influences the risk of colorectal cancer is through the changes it makes to the gut microbiome (the population of microorganisms that live in the intestine).
The new study from Dr. Ogino and team supports this association, after finding that individuals who followed a high-fiber diet were at a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer tumors containing the bacterium F. nucleatum.”
F. nucleatum has been shown to be prevalent in the stool of people who eat a Western-style, low-fiber diet, and these people also have a higher risk of colon cancer. “We theorized that the link between a prudent diet and reduced colorectal cancer risk would be more evident for tumors enriched with F. nucleatum than for those without it,” Ogino says.
To test this theory, the team analyzed health and nutritional data from more than 137,200 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They then analyzed tumor samples obtained from participants who developed colorectal cancer during the study, to ascertain whether F. nucleatum was present.
Food frequency questionnaires, which participants filled out at two- to four-year intervals, were used to calculate nutrient and fiber intake. Participants who ate a “prudent” diet, defined as being high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, had a significantly reduced risk of colorectal cancer containing F. nucleatum, compared to those who ate a Western-style, low-fiber diet.
That said, the prudent diet did not affect the risk of developing colorectal cancer that was free of F. nucleatum. According to Ogino, these findings “point to a much broader phenomenon — that intestinal bacteria can act in concert with diet to reduce or increase the risk of certain types of colorectal cancer.”14
Which Fermented Foods Have the Greatest Impact on Your Microbiome?
In a recent episode of the BBC “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” program, 30 volunteers agreed to eat a certain type of fermented food for one month, to see how it would affect their gut microbiome. The volunteers were split into three groups, receiving either a commercial probiotic drink, traditionally fermented kefir, or inulin-rich foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, onions, garlic and leek. (Inulin is a prebiotic fiber.) As reported by the BBC:15
“What we found at the end of our study was fascinating. The group consuming the probiotic drink saw a small change in one bacteria type known to be good for weight management, bacteria called lachnospiraceae. However, this change wasn’t statistically significant. But our other two groups did see significant changes. The group eating foods rich in prebiotic fiber saw a rise in a type of bacteria known to be good for general gut health — something that is in line with other studies.
Our biggest change, however, was in the kefir group. These volunteers saw a rise in a family of bacteria called lactobacillales. We know that some of these bacteria are good for our overall gut health and that they can help conditions such as traveler’s diarrhea and lactose intolerance.”
Store-Bought Versus Homemade
Next, the BBC team sent out a variety of homemade and store-bought fermented foods and beverages for laboratory testing, which revealed “striking differences” in microbial composition. Not surprisingly, the store-bought versions contained very minute levels of beneficial bacteria, while the homemade versions were rich in a wide array of probiotics.
One of the primary reasons for this difference has to do with the fact that commercial products are pasteurized to prolong shelf-life and ensure safety, and pasteurization kills the very bacteria the products are supposed to supply.
This is precisely why I strongly recommend making sure you’re buying traditionally fermented, unpasteurized products or, better yet, make them yourself. It’s far easier than you might think, and can save you a lot of money to boot. For basic instructions, see my previous article, “How to Make Your Own Fermented Vegetables,” or watch the video demonstration below.
Nourish Your Microbiome to Optimize Your Health
Mounting research suggests that your microbiome — colonies of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes living in your gut — may be one of the preeminent factors determining your health and longevity.
Hence, feeding beneficial gut bacteria with a healthy, fiber-rich diet and fermented foods, and boycotting processed foods and animal foods raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) — both of which tend to have an adverse effect on your microbiome — may be keystone strategies for optimal health and disease prevention, including cancer.
Source By Dr. Mercola When it comes to improving your health, some of the simplest strategies can have a tremendous impact. Sweating in a sauna, for example, has many great health benefits, including expelling of toxins, improving blood circulation, killing … Continue reading →
In 2002, researchers discovered a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical called acrylamide is created when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, fried, roasted, grilled or toasted.
Acrylamide is the byproduct of a chemical reaction between sugars and the amino acid asparagine, which occurs at high temperatures. While the chemical can form in many foods cooked or processed at temperatures above 250 degrees F (120 degrees C), carbohydrate-rich foods are by far the most vulnerable.
As a general rule, acrylamide forms when plant-based foods are heated enough to produce a fairly dry and “browned” or charred surface,1,2 hence, it’s most readily found in:3
Potatoes: chips, French fries and other roasted or fried potato foods
Grains: bread crust, toast, crisp bread, roasted breakfast cereals and various processed snacks such as crackers and cookies
Coffee; roasted coffee beans and ground coffee powder. Surprisingly, coffee substitutes based on chicory actually contains two to three times more acrylamide than real coffee
Acrylamide Is Common in Standard American Diet
In November 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer update4,5 advising people to reduce consumption of foods in which acrylamide is plentiful, noting this toxic byproduct is found in 40 percent of calories consumed by the average American.
To cut acrylamide from your diet, the agency recommends avoiding fried foods, and toasting or cooking items such as bread and potatoes to a light golden color rather than dark brown or blackened. Also, don’t store potatoes in your fridge, as the chilling actually increases acrylamide levels during cooking.6
This effect is due to starch turning into sugar faster when the potato is exposed to lower temperatures. The taste of the potato can also be adversely affected for the same reason. (Frozen foods, on the other hand, do not carry this risk as sugars are not broken down at freezing temperatures.)
Store potatoes in a dark, dry closet or pantry instead. You can further reduce acrylamide formation by soaking the potatoes in water for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.
While the FDA makes no mention of avoiding processed foods containing potatoes and grains in general, that’s another no-brainer, as many are processed at high temperatures and therefore may contain acrylamide.
Acrylamide Linked to Cancer in Animals
Animal studies have shown that acrylamide increases the risk of several types of cancer, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considers acrylamide a “probable human carcinogen.” According to a 1988 study:7
“The data show that acrylamide is capable of inducing genotoxic, carcinogenic, developmental and reproductive effects in tested organisms. Thus, acrylamide may pose more than a neurotoxic health hazard to exposed humans.
Acrylamide is a small organic molecule with very high water solubility. These properties probably facilitate its rapid absorption and distribution throughout the body.
After absorption, acrylamide is rapidly metabolized, primarily by glutathione conjugation, and the majority of applied material is excreted within 24 hours … Acrylamide can bind to DNA … which has implications for its genotoxic and carcinogenic potential.”
Human Cancer Studies Show Mixed Results
In humans, the results appear more mixed. A study8 published in 2007 linked higher dietary acrylamide intake with an increased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women, particularly among non-smokers.
A 2009 study9 also found that higher acrylamide intakes were associated with a higher risk of certain types of breast cancer compared to lower intakes — specifically breast cancers that are estrogen and progesterone receptor positive.
However, the association was minor, and no association was found for overall breast cancer risk or receptor-negative breast cancer. Acrylamide has also been linked to nerve damage and other neurotoxic effects, including neurological problems in workers handling the substance.
On the other hand, a 2015 review10 concluded dietary acrylamide is unrelated to cancer risk for most common cancers, with the exception of kidney cancer, for which they found a “modest association.”
They also noted that among non-smokers, “dietary acrylamide appeared to slightly increase risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer as well.” Still, concern about acrylamide in the diet appears to be growing, not settling.
The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) recently launched a “Go for Gold” campaign11,12 aimed at reducing dietary acrylamide exposure, noting that “the scientific consensus is that acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans.”
And, as noted by George Alexeeff, Ph.D., deputy director for scientific affairs at the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which oversees implementation of California’s Proposition 65:
“We definitely believe acrylamide is a chemical to be concerned about. Our general presumption is that unless there’s some other evidence, we assume that if something causes cancer in animals, it causes cancer in humans.”
Acrylamide Levels in Food Often Surpass Legal Limits for Water
The federal limit for acrylamide in drinking water is 0.5 parts per billion (ppb), or about 0.12 micrograms (mcg) in an 8-ounce glass of water. Meanwhile, a 6-ounce serving of French fries can contain 60 mcg acrylamide.
That’s about 500 times the allowable limit for drinking water. It seems a bit odd that something that would be toxic in drinking water would suddenly be harmless in food.
Unfortunately, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates acrylamide in drinking water and the FDA regulates the amount of acrylamide residue in materials that may come in contact with food, they do not currently have any guidelines limiting the chemical in food itself, though they should.
A 2002 food analysis published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry13found moderate levels of acrylamide (5 to 50 mcg/kg) in heated protein-rich foods and higher levels (150 to 4,000 mcg/kg) in carbohydrate-rich foods.
Unheated or boiled foods showed undetectable levels (<5 mcg/kg) of acrylamide, leading the researchers to conclude that: “Consumption habits indicate that the acrylamide levels in the studied heated foods could lead to a daily intake of a few tens of micrograms.”
Whether or not such levels are safe is still largely unknown, but I would vote for taking a precautionary approach and limiting your exposure as much as possible. It’s really not a good idea to consume known toxins, even in minute amounts.
Worst Offender: Potato Chips
Potato chips are among the worst offenders, by far.14 So much so that in 2005 the state of California sued potato chip makers for failing to warn California consumers about the health risks of acrylamide in their products. The 2005 report15 “How Potato Chips Stack Up: Levels of Cancer-Causing Acrylamide in Popular Brands of Potato Chips,” issued by the California-based Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), spelled out the dangers of this popular snack.
According to their analysis, ALL potato chip products tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times, and as much as 910 times! Interestingly, FDA data reveals that baked chips, which are often touted as a healthier chip, can contain more than three times the level of acrylamide in regular chips.16
A settlement between California and the potato chip makers was reached in 200817 when Frito-Lay and several others agreed to reduce the acrylamide levels in their chips to 275 ppb by 2011, which is low enough to avoid needing a Prop. 65 cancer warning label.
How to Make a Safer Potato Dish
While French fries tend to be among the most popular potato dishes, this is perhaps one of the worst ways to eat your potatoes. Not only do you have acrylamide to contend with, but unless you’re frying them in coconut oil or lard, you’re also getting a hefty dose of harmful vegetable oil. This doesn’t mean you have to forgo potatoes altogether though. By storing and preparing them correctly, potatoes can still be a healthy addition to your diet.
The key is to prepare them in such a way that you increase the digestive-resistant starch in the potatoes. (As mentioned earlier, be sure to store them in a cool, dry place, such as your pantry, rather than your refrigerator. When potatoes are stored cold, greater amounts of acrylamide are produced during cooking.)
Digestive-resistant starches — found in unripe fruits such as bananas, papayas and mangoes, as well as white beans, lentils, seeds, tapioca starch, brown rice flour, chilled cooked potatoes and even chilled cooked pasta18 — are fibers that resist digestion in the small intestine and slowly ferment in your large intestine, where they act as prebiotics that feed healthy bacteria.19,20
Importantly, since they’re not digestible, resistant starches do not result in blood sugar spikes. In fact, research suggests resistant starches help improve insulin regulation, reducing your risk of insulin resistance.21,22,23,24 Resistant starch may also facilitate weight loss and is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.25
One of the most obvious dishes that come to mind here is potato salad.26,27 But bean salad, pasta salad and quinoa salad will also contain resistant starch. The total amount of resistant starch in the final dish depends on a number of factors, including the amount of resistant starch found in the raw food and the way it was prepared.
For example, roasted and cooled potatoes contain 19 grams of resistant starch per 100 grams, whereas steamed and cooled potatoes contain 6 grams and boiled, cooled potatoes contain a mere 0.8 grams.28,29
While you can also use sweet potatoes, regular potatoes have more resistant starch to begin with, and create more retrograde starch — the resistant starch created when the potatoes are cooled after cooking. Potatoes that have been cooked and chilled, and then reheated again contain 1.07 grams of resistant starch per 100 grams; hot potatoes (that have not been chilled) contain just under 0.6 grams, whereas sweet potatoes contain a mere 0.08 grams of resistant starch.30
One root vegetable that may offer the best of both worlds is the lesser yam. It has both a superior nutritional value overall,31 and produces more retrograde starch when cooked and cooled than sweet potato and regular potato.32 Food.com offers a simple yam salad recipe.33 To reduce net carbs, I’d leave out the sweet relish. I also recommend swapping the vegetable oil for avocado oil.
How to Minimize Your Acrylamide Exposure
Acrylamide has so far only been found in foods heated above 250 degrees F/120 degrees C, which includes most processed foods. Basing your diet on whole foods, with a significant portion eaten raw or only lightly cooked or steamed is therefore one of the best ways to avoid this cancer-causing byproduct.
Eating plenty of raw food is also recommended for good health in general, as it helps optimize your nutrition. For a step-by-step guide to make the transition to a healthier diet as simple and smooth as possible, simply follow the advice in my optimized nutrition plan. For the times when you do cook your food, keep the following tips in mind:
Frying, baking and broiling appear to be the worst offenders, while boiling or steaming appear to be safer
Longer cooking times increase acrylamide, so the shorter the duration of cooking, the better
Soaking raw potatoes in water for 15 to 30 minutes prior to roasting may help reduce acrylamide formation during cooking. Chilling the potatoes (and other starch-rich foods such as rice and pasta) will make it healthier by turning much of that starch into digestive-resistant starch that helps optimize your gut health. Potato salad is perhaps one of the healthiest ways to eat your potatoes
The darker brown or blackened the food, the more acrylamide it contains, so avoid overcooking your food
Acrylamide is found primarily in plant-based carb-rich foods such as potatoes and grain products (not typically in meat, dairy or seafood)
For more in-depth information about acrylamide, I recommend reading the online report: “Heat-generated Food Toxicants, Identification, Characterization and Risk Minimization.”34
Marijuana is easily one of the world’s most controversial plants and, in the U.S., has endured a particularly rocky history.
While smoking marijuana was once viewed as an act of political dissidence against the Vietnam War, today the plant is recognized as an invaluable medicine and smoking-hot commodity that’s generated billions of dollars in revenue in states where it is now fully legalized.
Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level and is considered by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroine, LSD and ecstasy.
Yet, a total of 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia now have some form of legalized marijuana; while eight more states — three of which adopted the measure in November, 2016, and include California, Nevada and Massachusetts — allow recreational use of the plant.
Regardless of whether or not you support cannabis, there’s no ignoring the fact that it’s currently undergoing a revolution in the U.S. and is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.
Our Founding Fathers and the American History of Cannabis
The above documentary, “The Marijuana Revolution (2016),” details the fascinating journey of marijuana and the various challenges faced by its proponents throughout history. As the film notes, marijuana was once regarded as a harmful and addictive drug used mainly among black jazz musicians and Mexican migrant workers.
A 2013 survey found a majority of physicians — 76 percent — approve of the use of medical marijuana.1 CNN’s chief medical correspondent and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta also made a highly publicized reversal on his marijuana stance after the production of his two-part series “Weed,” which aired in 2014.2
So how did this plant, which has been around for centuries, overcome its bad reputation? Perhaps a better question is how did marijuana earn such a bad rap in the first place?
In order to understand the American history of cannabis and its transformation, it’s important to start with our Founding Fathers, who cultivated the plant for industrial purposes.
George Washington, for example, is said to have grown more than 100 hemp plants at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Cannabis is called hemp when it’s being used for its fibers, which are extracted from the stem and constructed into rope, clothing and paper.
Hemp plants are low in tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) levels and therefore do not get you high.
During the 18th century, hemp was viewed as an important cash crop. It was used for rope by navies around the world, and as a thick durable linen ideal for clothing and packaging heavy materials. Additionally, hemp seed oil was used in soaps, paints and varnishes.
Marijuana Transforms From Being Viewed as a Useful Medicine to Addictive Zombie Drug
Modern research has only expanded on these health benefits, now recognizing marijuana as an effective treatment for cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome, as well as a host of other diseases.
However, the concept of cannabis as a medicine quickly began to fade when people started using the plant as a recreational drug in the 20th century. Those frightened of marijuana began to demonize it, using provocative terms like “devil weed” and “drug addicted zombies” to deter people from smoking it.
Harry J. Anslinger, a former railroad cop and prohibition agent, was one of the first powerful voices to come out against the plant. He used fear mongering and racism to sway public opinion on cannabis, targeting minorities including African Americans, Hispanics and Filipinos.
Anslinger described the average marijuana user as being a minority entertainer who relied on the drug to create “[s]atanic music, jazz, and swing.” He said the plant caused “white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
In 1963, the U.S. government funded the propaganda film “Reefer Madness,” which warned that using marijuana just once could turn you into a drug-addicted zombie.
The authorities also changed the plant’s name and began using the Spanish word “marijuana” in an effort to give it a negative connotation associated with Mexican migrant workers and other minorities. Shortly thereafter, the sale and use of cannabis in the U.S. was made illegal through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
An Act of Political Dissent
Anslinger may have started the war on weed, but President Richard Nixon continued it. While his wife spoke convincingly against marijuana, Nixon persuaded Congress to pass the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, classifying the plant as a Schedule 1 drug.
Divided over the nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War, some Americans began smoking weed as an act of political dissent. Subsequently, Nixon retaliated by arresting “pot-smoking Vietnam protesters.”
Slowly but surely, the public once again began changing its views toward marijuana. By the mid- to late ’90s, California, Oregon and Maine approved medical cannabis, with Nevada and Colorado following close behind.
Marijuana’s Projected Growth Rate Outpaces the Smartphone
In 2012, Colorado became the first U.S. state to fully legalize cannabis, opening the doorway to a realm of unimaginable possibilities in terms of innovation and revenue, ultimately leading to a new pastime embraced by an emerging culture.
Colorado’s legal marijuana market quickly flourished, generating up to $100 million a month in revenue just three years after the state approved recreational use, according to the film. The state of Washington saw similar numbers and in 2015 reported earnings of an estimated $1.4 million a day.
That same year, the legal marijuana market was valued at roughly $3 billion, and is predicted to reach $10 billion over the next five years, outpacing the growth rate of smartphones. While the Obama administration promised to stop allocating resources to fight marijuana legalized at the state level, it’s illegal classification under federal law carries both pros and cons for the burgeoning pot market.
A positive is that small mom-and-pop shops have been allowed to thrive, leading the way in product innovation. Legal pot markets are producing a vast array of products including weed-infused coffee, tea, breath mints, candies, cookies, pie and many other edibles.
Some innovators are even trying to create a global pot brand called “Marley Natural,” while others have established Yelp-like sites such as Leafly,3 which review and rate dispensaries, as well as various strains of marijuana.
Pot’s Illegal Status at the Federal Level Keeps Big Business at Bay
Because cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level, it cannot legally be transported across state lines. As a result, the development of centralized growing and processing plants aimed at achieving nationwide distribution have been stalled.
This has deterred Big Business including Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, and Big Agriculture from entering the lucrative marijuana market. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it. Legal marijuana is proving to be more valuable than several of our nation’s most widely produced crops. For example, one acre of marijuana is worth 2,000 times more than tobacco, 13,000 times more than corn, and nearly 43,000 times more than soybeans, reveals the film.
A Cash-Only Business
One of the biggest cons of marijuana being illegal at the federal level is the fact that it forces pot operations into an all-cash business. Banks are federally regulated, which means marijuana businesses are prohibited from depositing their money into banks. They cannot perform credit card transactions either.
Having to manage and store significant amounts of money in cash is not only a headache, but incredibly risky, as it makes marijuana businesses more susceptible to theft.
Another major con is that pot companies in Colorado must maintain around-the-clock surveillance. Whether they’re watering plants or packaging product, employees in the marijuana business are always on camera — a requirement some describe as intrusive.
In the documentary, cannabis entrepreneur Daniel Curylo, owner of Cascade Crops, says that the surveillance makes him feel like a second-class citizen. “We’re a bunch of regular guys who work like 10,11 or 12 hours a day, every day. We pay our taxes. We’re good people,” he said.
Pot’s status as a Schedule 1 drug means that state marijuana operations are regulated like an illegal enterprise. However, despite the obstacles, legal marijuana has still managed to go mainstream, transforming the way Americans view and use cannabis.
Legalizing Medical Marijuana Could Help Control Opioid Epidemic
The worst effect marijuana can have on us is a hazy or slightly catatonic feeling, according to current research noted in the film. But the plant remains far less addictive than alcohol, cocaine, heroin and cigarettes, and may even be useful in curbing America’s growing opioid epidemic.
In fact, recent research found that medical marijuana lowers prescription drug use. The video below features W. David Bradford, Ph.D., whose study was published in the journal Health Affairs earlier this month.4 As reported by The Washington Post:5
“[R]esearchers at the University of Georgia scoured the database of all prescription drugs paid for under Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. They found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law.
The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.”
According to Bradford, the Medicare program could save $468 million per year if marijuana were legalized in all U.S. states.6,7 Already, $165 million was saved in 2013 in the 18 states where medical marijuana was legal that year. To find out the legal status of marijuana in your state, see governing.com’s marijuana state law map.8
Do you know what beverage comes from fruit seeds and in just small amounts has been shown to make incredibly positive impacts on human health? I’m talking about pomegranate juice, that naturally sweet, ruby red liquid that comes from pomegranate seeds and is loaded with impressive pomegranate health benefits just like its source.
Pomegranates have been shown to prevent and naturally treat everything from inflammation and high cholesterol to high blood pressure and hyperglycemia. Pomegranate juice is an antioxidant powerhouse that’s said to even trump red wine and green tea. With proven anticancer fighting abilities as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, it’s no wonder this fruit juice has such a great reputation. (1)
Whenever I talk about pomegranate juice, I’m always referencing the 100 percent pure variety since it’s very common to find juice blends that only contain a small amount of pomegranate. Let’s look at how pure and potent pomegranate juice in small amounts might be much more than a tasty fruit-sourced beverage — it actually can be medicinal.
7 Major Pomegranate Juice Benefits
1. Helps Fight Cancer
The extracts of pomegranate fruit contain polyphenols and other compounds that have been shown in scientific studies to have antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory effects in prostate, lung, breast and other cancers. (2) In simpler terms, this means that pomegranate has been shown to inhibit the spread of cancer cells, encourage the death of cancer cells and discourage inflammation, three major and vital aspects of successfully fighting against any cancer in the body. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Albany demonstrated how pomegranate extract can specifically inhibit the spread of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. (3)
Pomegranate juice has also shown itself to be especially helpful for prostate cancer. The results of the first clinical trial of pomegranate juice in patients with prostate cancer was published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research in 2006. The subjects of this trial were men with prostate cancer who had already undergone surgery or radiation to treat their prostate cancer. These subjects were given eight ounces (one cup) of pomegranate juice daily until there was cancer progression. The researchers found that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) doubling time was significantly prolonged in the subjects taking the treatment. (4)
This is significant since PSA is a blood marker for prostate cancerand PSA doubling time is used to determine the life expectancy of a prostate cancer patient. So the lower the PSA doubling time, the better the outlook. (5) In 2012, another study found that pomegranate extract weakened human prostate cell proliferation in vitro. (6) Combined, all this research shows pomegranate’s abilities as a cancer-fighting food.
2. Decreases Hypertension
Pomegranate juice has a high antioxidant capacity, and scientific research has demonstrated that it can help lower high blood pressure. A meta-analysis published in 2016 reviewed numerous studies of pomegranate juice and its effect on blood pressure. Overall, this meta-analysis concludes that there appears to be “consistent benefits of pomegranate juice consumption on blood pressure.” The researchers also add, “This evidence suggests it may be prudent to include this fruit juice in a heart-healthy diet.” (7)
3. Boosts Heart Health
Since pomegranate juice is so good for blood pressure, it’s not surprising that this delicious beverage is also excellent for heart health. It contains antioxidants at higher levels than many other fruit juices, which is why it can be so helpful to the heart.
Research published in Clinical Nutrition studied pomegranate juice consumption by patients with carotid artery stenosis, which is a narrowing of either of the two key arteries located in the front of the neck, through which blood from the heart goes to the brain. Participants who consumed pomegranate juice lowered their blood pressure by more than 12 percent and had a 30 percent reduction in atherosclerotic plaque. Participants who did not drink the juice actually saw their atherosclerotic plaque increase by 9 percent. Overall, the study found that pomegranate juice consumption reduced plaque in the carotid artery as well as lowered blood pressure and LDL oxidation. (8)
4. Relieves Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is among the most prevalent forms of musculoskeletal disorders that lead to joint degeneration. Studies have suggested that pomegranate juice may play a protective role by decreasing cartilage inflammation. This protective ability has been attributed to the juice’s high antioxidant content.
A 2016 study looked at the effects of pomegranate juice on 38 patients with osteoarthritis in their knees. Some of the patients drank pomegranate juice for six weeks while the other patients drank a control substance. The researchers found that the consumption of pomegranate juice not only improved physical function and stiffness, but it also increased antioxidant status while decreasing breakdown cartilage enzymes. (9)
5. Improves Memory
Studies have shown that pomegranate juice can be helpful when it comes to improving memory. The polyphenols found in the juice have been shown to be neuroprotective.
One 2013 study randomly assigned subjects to drink eight ounces of either pomegranate juice or a flavor-matched placebo drink for a total of four weeks. The subjects were older with age-associated memory complaints. The researchers found that the 28 subjects with memory complaints who drank eight ounces (one cup) of pomegranate juice per day significantly improved markers of both verbal and visual memory. The researchers conclude that pomegranate juice appears to increase memory function through task-related increases in functional brain activity. (10)
Pomegranate juice is loaded with health-promoting and disease-fighting antioxidants, and pomegranates are some of the top high-antioxidant foods. The juice of pomegranates contains a tannin called punicalagin as well as polyphenols, anthocyanins, ellagic acid derivatives and hydrolyzable tannins. These are all very powerful antioxidants.
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry actually found that commercial pomegranate juices showed an antioxidant activity three times higher than red wine and green tea. The antioxidants were actually higher in commercial juice made from the whole pomegranate than in juice from the seeds alone. This is most likely due to the fact the rind of the pomegranate also gets processed in the commercial pomegranate juices, which adds additional antioxidants, specifically tannins. (12)
7. Fights Inflammation
Inflammation has been found to be associated with just about every health condition. Pomegranates and pomegranate juice are known to have potent anti-inflammatory abilities. A 2013 in vivo study published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine demonstrated pomegranate juice’s significant anti-inflammatory activity in the gut. In vivo studies performed on the whole fruit, juice, peel and flowers of pomegranate also revealed ant- ulcer effects in a variety of animal models. (13)
Another study conducted with type II diabetics also showed pomegranate juice’s ability to lower inflammation. Researchers found that 250 milliliters of pomegranate juice per day for 12 weeks lowered the inflammatory markers in the diabetic subjects. Specifically, the intake of juice lowered hs-CRP by 32 percent and interleukin-6 by 30 percent. (14)
Is Pomegranate Juice the Healthiest Juice?
Pomegranate or pom juice comes from pomegranates. The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-producing deciduous shrub or small tree in the Lythraceae family. Pomegranates are native to southeastern Europe and Asia. After being cultured in Spain, it’s believed that pomegranates were brought to Mexico and California in the 16th century by missionaries.
One large pomegranate typically makes somewhere between one-fourth and one-half cup of juice. Just like the seeds of the fruit itself, the pomegranate juice made from the seeds is impressively nutritious.
Just one cup (249 grams) of pomegranate juice contains about: (15)
32.7 grams carbohydrates
0.4 gram protein
0.7 gram fat
0.2 gram fiber
25.9 micrograms vitamin K (32 percent DV)
59.8 micrograms folate (15 percent DV)
533 milligrams potassium (15 percent DV)
0.2 milligram manganese (12 percent DV)
0.9 milligram vitamin E (5 percent DV)
0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (5 percent DV)
17.4 milligrams magnesium (4 percent DV)
0.6 milligram niacin (3 percent DV)
27.4 milligrams calcium (3 percent DV)
27.4 milligrams phosphorus (3 percent DV)
0.1 milligram copper (3 percent DV)
Pomegranate Juice vs. Other Juices
There are a lot of fruit juices that come from fruits that are easy to eat. I’m thinking of fruits like oranges or grapes. But pomegranates are unfortunately not so easy to eat at all. People are always wondering how to eat a pomegranate, how to cut a pomegranate and how to open a pomegranate. I highly encourage taking the time and effort to eat fresh pomegranates, but it’s also nice that pomegranate juice eliminates all that questioning and work. The juice definitely makes it easy to get the benefits of pomegranate on a more regular basis.
A UCLA study recently ranked the top 10 healthiest juices and other beverages. Guess who the winner was… Yes, it was pomegranate juice. All of the fruit juices studied were rich in polyphenols, but pomegranate came out on top. The researchers ranked the antioxidant content of the juices (and other beverages) according to the following criteria: antioxidant potency, ability to inhibit LDL oxidation and total polyphenol content. (16)
The juices were ranked in the following order:
Concord grape juice
Black cherry juice
Additionally, when it comes to antioxidant capacity, pomegranate juice was found to be at least 20 percent greater than any of the other beverages tested.
How Much Pomegranate Juice Is Healthy?
For adults, there is no standard recommended does for pomegranate juice, but generally speaking, having eight to 12 ounces of pomegranate juice each day is a safe and healthy amount for most people. Just always make sure you’re drinking 100 percent pure pomegranate juice with zero grams of added sugar.
For other conditions, the following amounts of pomegranate juice have been used: (17)
Atherosclerosis: 1.7 ounces per day
Prostate cancer: 8 ounces per day
Fresh pomegranate seeds or juice usually keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days. If you can’t finish the juice within five days, you can freeze it so it retains its flavor and color.
Pomegranate Juice Precautions and Drug Interactions
Most people don’t experience negative side effects when they consume pomegranate juice. However, it’s possible to be allergic to pomegranates. It’s important for everyone not to overdo it on any juice, including pomegranate, because of the sugar content, but diabetics should be especially cautious. Speak with your doctor before making pomegranate juice a part of your diet if you’re diabetic.
If you tend to have low blood pressure, it’s important to know that drinking pomegranate juice may lower blood pressure a small amount. Since pomegranate can affect blood pressure, it’s best to avoid pomegranate products at least two weeks before any surgery. (18)
Pomegranate juice may also interact with medications similarly to grapefruit juice, making some medications less effective. Speak with your doctor before consuming pomegranate juice if you any ongoing health issues or take any of the following medications:
ACE inhibitors, including Benazepril (Lotensin), Captopril (Capoten), Enalapril (Vasotec), Fosinopril (Monopril), Lisinopril (Zestril) and Ramipril (Altace)
Blood pressure medications
Statins used to lower cholesterol, including Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Fluvastatin (Lescol), Lovastatin (Mevacor), Pravastatin (Pravachol), Rosuvastatin (Crestor) and Simvastatin (Zocor)
Blood thinners (anticoagulant medication) like Warfarin (Coumadin)
Final Thoughts on Pomegranate Juice
It’s true that pomegranate seeds provide you with all the benefits of pomegranate juice but with less sugar and more fiber. I definitely encourage you to put in the effort to eat fresh pomegranate seeds when you can. However, I know that realistically there is a lot of work that goes into getting at those little ruby red morsels — that’s when pomegranate juice comes in.
Pomegranate juice makes it so easy to get the benefits of pomegranate quickly and regularly. Just make sure you always stick with 100 percent pure pomegranate juice in small amounts. That way you won’t overdo it when it comes to the natural sugar found in the juice, but you will get a great dose of key nutrients like vitamin K, potassium and folate. Science confirms that pomegranate juice really is quite magical when it comes to our health. For instance, it’s been shown to help fight cancer, decrease hypertension, boost heart health, relieve osteoarthritis, improve memory and fight inflammation, in large part to its antioxidant content.
It also beats out a lot of other fruit juices (and common beverages) for the title of “healthiest fruit juice.”
It’s time for Part II of my special series on eight life-changing truths about autoimmune disease!
I created this special series for you based on everything I’ve learned over the years as an autoimmune patient and a functional medicine physician. It’s built on years of experience helping my patients, and tens of thousands of people around the world, reverse their autoimmunity.
In this post, I dive into the truths about the prescription medications conventional doctors use to “treat” autoimmune conditions.
Truth #3. You CAN banish your symptoms WITHOUT harsh medications.
It’s sad to say, but most doctors dismiss the importance of nutrition as a major factor in your health. Most are also unaware of the researched, and documented link between gluten and chronic illness, and the powerful effect of removing it from your diet. Conventional doctors also tend to dismiss the harmful power of the toxins that lurk in your food, air, water, and body products, and the tremendous benefit of reducing this toxic burden in those with autoimmunity.
As a result, when it comes to reversing autoimmune conditions, conventional medicine really only has one weapon in its arsenal: drugs.
One especially dangerous class of drug used to treat autoimmunity is known as “immunosuppressants” – medications that suppress your immune system. The reasoning is that if an overactive immune system causes the problem, then suppressing your immune system should fix it.
However, you need your immune system to cope with the bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other threats that you encounter every day. And, you can’t disable a major system in the body without expecting significant repercussions. As a result, this type of treatment has a lot of unwanted side effects including suppressing your immune system too much, leaving you open to infections, inhibiting your normal daily life, and even possibly leading to some types of cancers.
Yet, day after day, those of us with autoimmunity are being told by our doctors that these drugs, along with their harsh side effects, are our only hope of keeping our disease under control and possibly having a normal life again.
But, I am here to tell you that is absolutely not true! I see it time and time again in my functional medicine clinic and in those around the world who have followed The Myers Way®, that you can use real whole foods and supportive supplements to strengthen your immune system, rather than harsh drugs to suppress it. When you eat real nutrient dense food, focus on healing your gut (which is where 80% of your immune system lives) and easing your toxic burden, healing your infections and relieving your stress, you can heal your immune system and get your body back in balance. All without the use of immunosuppressive drugs.
The best part is that it’s not hard, there are no bad side effects, and it does not potentially lead to cancer – quite the opposite, you will be protecting yourself more now than ever!
Truth #4. You SHOULD be concerned about the side effects of harsh medications.
I wish this wasn’t true – but it is. Conventional medicine doctors who are trying to bring aid and comfort to their patients are likely to reassure you that your medications won’t cause side effects and that the side effects they do cause are minor. As a former “conventional medicine patient and doctor” I know this all too well.
In fact, the side effects of these medications are common, frequent, and disruptive across all of the drug types most often used to treat autoimmune disorders, including immunosuppressants, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs), and biologics.
There are some exceptions, such as Hashimoto’s and Type I Diabetes. These patients are prescribed the supplemental, life-saving hormones (thyroid hormone and insulin respectively) that their thyroid or pancreas is simply unable to adequately produce. Most people with autoimmune conditions, however, are not so lucky.
Here’s a list of just some of the side effects commonly seen with the standard prescribed drugs:
Steroids/Immunosuppressants – including Prednisone
nausea or vomiting
muscle pain or cramps
depression, mood swings, agitation
NSAIDS – including Advil, Aleve, Motrin
nausea or vomiting
DMARDS – including Cellcept, Enbrel, Imuran, Trexall Plaquenil
easy bruising or bleeding
anxiety or depression
Biologics – including Humira, Kineret
upper respiratory infections
The great news is that you CAN eliminate autoimmune symptoms and reverse your condition without harsh medications! By addressing the root causes of their autoimmune disease, most patients are able to reduce and often come entirely off of their harsh medications.
I hope Part II of this series made you think twice about your medicine cabinet, and that you’re fired up for Part III! If you haven’t already, sign up for my free weekly newsletter to get the next truths about autoimmunity delivered straight to your inbox!
Did you miss Part I of the series? You can find it here!
Do you know someone who is struggling with an autoimmune disease and needs to know these life-changing truths? Share this post on social media or email it to a friend!
As a physician and former autoimmune patient, I know all too well how much misinformation there is surrounding autoimmune disease. I was trained in conventional medicine and dealt with a very broken system during my own autoimmune thyroid disease. Fortunately, I went on to discover the functional medicine approach to reversing my condition, and have used those same principals to help thousands of my patients reverse their own autoimmune disease.
In fact, it was my own incredibly difficult journey with autoimmune disease that inspired my life’s mission to not let conventional medicine fail you too. As part of that mission, I’m so excited to kick off a special series on my blog where I’ll cover eight important truths you need to know about autoimmunity.
This information is truly life-changing, and I really wish I would have known about it when I was struggling with my Graves’ disease. Instead, I experienced panic attacks, dramatic weight loss, tremors, a racing heart, and a slew of other frightening symptoms. So if you’re dealing with these same symptoms, or those of Hashimoto’s or another autoimmune condition such as fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, joint pain, or muscle weakness – this series is for you. I don’t want YOU to feel the hopelessness and frustration that I experienced while going through my autoimmune journey. It is my hope that sharing these eight important truths will show you that there IS another way, and empower you to take your health into your own hands.
So let’s dig in!
Truth #1. Autoimmune disorders CAN be reversed.
If you’re like most autoimmune patients, this is what you’re likely to hear when you sit down at the doctor’s office (I know it’s what I was told, and has been the experience of most of my patients until they come to my office too):
“I’m so sorry. You have an autoimmune disease. Once the genes that produce this condition have been turned on, they can’t be turned off. We can’t cure the disease. The only thing we can do now is to manage your symptoms- and the only way to do that is with drugs.”
Like many aspects of conventional medicine, there is some truth to those remarks. But they are also very much misguided.
Yes, there’s a genetic component to autoimmune disorders. But, as we have learned from the brand new field of epigenetics, genetic expression can be modified. For you to develop an autoimmune disease, something in your environment, diet, or personal circumstances has to turn on the group of your genes that causes autoimmune disorders. Once those genes are turned on, you CAN turn them off, or at least turn them down.
Through optimizing your diet, healing your gut, reducing your toxic burden, healing infections, and relieving your stress, you can instruct your problematic genes to turn off again, thereby restoring your immune system to health.
I’ve seen it in myself and in the thousands of patients I have treated. And, I’ve heard it from hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have implemented The Myers Way® and followed the plans in my books, The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection.
Truth #2. You can regain an EXCELLENT quality of life after an autoimmune diagnosis.
“My doctor said that, over time, I could expect to get weaker and weaker.”
“I’ve had to tell my son not to bring the grandkids over — I can’t take a chance on getting sick.”
“Sometimes the pain gets so bad, I can’t even take a walk with my husband.”
These are the kinds of problems that someone with an autoimmune disease can frequently expect — but they are by no means inevitable. Although conventional medicine would counsel you to accept a poor quality of life as the likely outcome of your condition, I’m here to tell you that it is not at all inevitable. If you take the steps to remove the environmental causes of your autoimmunity and restore your immune system’s balance, you CAN expect to be symptom-free, pain-free, and full of vitality.
Getting your autoimmune illness under control takes some people longer than others, and everyone’s journey is different. But ultimately, if you commit to the lifestyle changes that are proven to reverse your condition, you can look forward to an excellent quality of life.
If you’ve just started a ketogenic diet, then you’ll know that it can be really tough to figure out if you’re doing keto right.
Am I eating too many carbs? Too much protein? Should I still be feeling tired? When is the fat burning supposed to start?
It’s confusing, and one of the most confusing aspects is what your optimal ketone levels are supposed to be.
Unlike most other diets, the ketogenic diet is designed to put your body into a state of ketosis in order to get your body to start burning ketones instead of the glucose that it usually burns when you eat a high carb standard American diet (SAD).
But to know whether you’re in ketosis and whether your body has enough ketones circulating for you to use as energy instead of glucose, you have to measure your actual ketone levels and then determine whether they’re high enough for you to be reaping the benefits of the ketogenic diet.
If you’ve tried searching for this information already, then you’ll know that there’s some controversy depending on which expert you follow. So in this article, we’ll tell you exactly what the different experts are suggesting are the optimal ketone levels as well as give you recommendations for what ketone levels you should be aiming for depending on your goals with a ketogenic diet.
A Few Quick Notes Before We Start…
If you’re looking for signs other than testing your actual body ketone levels as to whether you’re in ketosis or not, then please check out this article instead that provides you with 7 signs you’re in ketosis.
If you’re a type 1 diabetic, then this article is not for you and the optimal ketone levels suggested below are not applicable to you. Please check out the tons of other ketone level articles on the web to ensure your ketone levels do not reach dangerous levels.
And lastly, while the levels of ketones in your body is important, it’s not all that you should be thinking or worrying about. For example, while you may be able to raise your ketone levels by taking exogenous ketone supplements like KETO//OS®, this artificially induced higher ketone levels may not offer the same benefits as when you produce your own ketones. As Marty Kendall put it:
“The real ketone magic…[occurs when] we deplete glucose [and] we train our body to produce ketones.”
Table of Contents for What Are The Optimal Ketone Levels For A Ketogenic Diet?
This is a comprehensive article but if you want to jump to a specific section, just use the table of contents below to do so.
You’ve probably already figured out that on the ketogenic diet you burn fat in the form of ketones. But what are these magical ketones that your body can use for fuel while helping you lose weight, think clearer, and reduce inflammation?
Technically, ketones are a group of water-soluble organic molecules with a very specific chemical structure. However, when people talk about ketones for nutritional ketosis purposes on the ketogenic diet, they’re usually referring to a few specific ketones produced by our body as fuel (and these are technically called ketone bodies).
Our body produces 3 different ketone bodies (and for ease we’ll just call them ketones):
Acetoacetate (AcAc) – found mostly in your urine
Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) – found mostly in your blood (it’s technically not a ketone because it has a different chemical structure, but it’s commonly referred to as a ketone)
Acetone – found mostly in your breath
And when we talk about measuring ketone levels, we’re typically talking about measuring levels of one of these three. That’s why there are 3 types of ketone meters you can purchase – one for measuring ketones in your urine, one for measuring ketones in your body, and one for measuring ketones in your breath.
Another definition that’s really helpful to know about these ketones is the difference between endogenous and exogenous ketones…
The ketones that are produced naturally by your body are called “Endogenous” ketones. However, you can also take ketone supplements to raise your body’s ketone levels artificially and those ketones supplements are called “Exogenous” ketones.
There’s a lot of debate as to the health and weight-loss benefits of these exogenousketone supplements right now, so for purposes of this article, the optimal ketone levels suggested are for endogenous ketones – i.e., you got to produce the ketones yourself rather than relying on supplements.
How to measure ketones (and do you need to measure them)?
Your blood ketone levels are generally considered to provide the most accurate reading of your body’s ketone levels and therefore the best indicator of ketosis (but measuring blood ketone levels is also the most expensive method). That’s why many people measure their urine and breath ketone levels instead.
Here are the 3 methods of measuring your ketone levels:
1. Urine Strips (Ketostix). You basically pee on these or dip them into some of your urine that you collect. The strip will change color in proportion to levels of Acetoacetate (AcAc) in your urine. If you’re just getting started on a ketogenic diet, then these reasonably cheap strips can offer you a quick and easy indicator of if your ketogenic diet is going in the right direction.
2. Blood Ketone Meters (along with ketone measuring strips). This is very similar to the blood glucose meters (and in fact, they also work as a blood glucose meter if you buy the glucose measuring strips) – you prick your finger with a lancet and then use the ketone measuring strips connected to the blood ketone meter to soak up a small drop of blood. The blood ketone meter will then do its thing and give you a blood ketone level reading. The main problem with these is that the ketone measuring strips are super expensive (around $3-4 per strip).
3. Breath Ketone Meter (Ketonix). This is a reusable meter that measures ketones in your breath. There’s no prick to draw blood, it charges through a USB plug, and no strips are required. You warm up the meter for a few minutes, blow into the meter for 6-15 seconds, and then it gives you a reading.
Additional Method of Determining Your Ketone Levels without Ketone Meters
As Marty Kendall has pointed out, there is a clear link between your blood glucose levels and blood ketone levels. As your blood glucose levels decrease, your blood ketone levels will increase. However, the exact relationship between these two varies from person to person so you won’t be able to have an exact ketone measurement based on your glucose measurement. But by taking your blood glucose measurements, you can get a good indicator of what your ketone levels might be.
Do you really need to measure your ketone levels on a ketogenic diet?
We know all that all this testing equipment is expensive as well as a hassle to use. So, do you really need it?
The simple answer is no, you definitely don’t need to know your exact ketone levels in order to enjoy the benefits of a ketogenic diet. And some people like Luis from Ketogains suggests not bothering to measure at all except in a few specific circumstances.
However, others raise the importance of measuring ketones especially when you first start the diet – different people will require different levels of carbohydrates and proteins in order to get into nutritional ketosis and knowing how your ketone levels change over time will give you a good idea of whether you’re on the right track or if you need to tweak what you’re eating.
Tracking your ketone levels can also be important for troubleshooting your keto diet – e.g., if your weight-loss stalls.
But regardless, don’t obsess about your ketone levels – knowing your ketone levels is supposed to help you tweak your keto diet, not stress you out!
How to interpret your ketone results?
All 3 methods of measuring ketones are pretty easy to use and come with instructions as to what your results may mean and in the next section, we’ve found what the experts consider to be “optimal” ketone levels. However, 2 problems typically arise when you measure your ketone levels:
What units are my ketone results in?
The first issue is that different meters/sticks from different countries will sometimes provide your results in different units. It’s sort of like someone telling you the temperature in degrees Celsius (C) when you only know temperatures in degree Fahrenheit (F).
For ketone levels, most people measure using millimol per liter (mmol/L) as the unit of measurement but on some meters and ketone strips, you might see milligram per deciliter (mg/dL) instead. All you need to know is that if your results are in mg/dL then you can convert them to the typical mmol/L by dividing by 18.
How accurate is my ketone meter or stick?
Your blood ketone meter will give you more precise readings than a rough color change on your Ketostix.
But, what people mean when they say measuring ketone in your urine (or using Ketostix) is inaccurate is that knowing how much ketones you have in your urine doesn’t tell you much. Your Ketostix could be pink even if you’re in deep ketosis.
Also, the ketone urine sticks (like Ketostix) only measure acetoacetate levels and those found in your urine are the excess acetoacetate that’s excreted. So, it’s not a good indicator of how much there is in your cells ready to be used for energy.
Again, the advice here is simply to not obsess about your ketone levels.
What’s the optimal ketone level for your ketogenic diet?
As you might have suspected, there isn’t a one-size fits all answer to this question. Part of the answer depends on what your goals are.
The optimal ketone levels you’ll want to achieve will likely be different depending on whether you’re looking to lose weight, get improved mental clarity, improve your athletics performance, or to cure/prevent illnesses like cancer. And the numbers may also vary depending on your body’s current insulin resistance (e.g., if you have type 2 diabetes or if you’re pre-diabetic then your optimal levels at the beginning may also differ from someone who has healthy levels of blood glucose).
Bearing all of those different factors in mind, below are some ranges proposed by different ketogenic diet experts and below that you’ll see a table of our suggestions based on those expert’s opinions.
NOTE – again, these ketone levels are for optimal nutritional ketosis and should not be used if you’re a type 1 diabetic!
Dr. Thomas Seyfried, a professor of biology at Boston College who researches cancer and the uses of a ketogenic diet in curing and preventing cancer, states in the The Complete Guide to Fasting book: “The key to therapy is prolonged therapeutic ketosis (blood ketones in the range of 3–6mM), together with reduced blood glucose levels (3–4 mM).”
Luis from Ketogains.com who helps many bodybuilders on a ketogenic diet has repeatedly suggested that search for high ketone levels is not always beneficial. He regularly tells people: “don’t chase ketones; chase results.”
Marty, an engineer who runs the website and Facebook group, Optimising Nutrition, states that: “If your aim is exercise performance or fat loss then ketones between 0.5mmol/L and 1.3mmol/L might be all you need to aim for. I also think loading up on dietary fat at the expense of getting adequate protein, vitamins and minerals may be counterproductive in the long term.”
Marty also points out that not everyone on a ketogenic diet will get high ketone levels – for example, Sami Inkenen only had around 0.6mmol/L when he was rowing from the US to Hawaii on an 80% fat diet.
We asked Tommy Wood, the chief medical director at Nourish Balance Thrive, for his thoughts as he co-hosted the Keto Summit with us. This is what he wrote:
“If you’re looking for therapeutic ketosis for cancer (especially) or a neurological disease, I would go towards Seyfried’s target range. Plus a target GKI of 1, or at least <2. For anybody looking for weight loss or athletic performance, I think Marty’s last point and Luis Villasenor’s view are what I’d side with. You want a healthy ketone-based metabolism, but the absolute numbers don’t really matter that much, in my opinion. Your absolute ketone levels tell you nothing about how well you are a) making ketones b) using ketones, or c) retaining ketones (i.e. preventing wasting via the urine). The number you measure is just a balance of all three. So you could be running purely on ketones but using everything you make, and end up with “low” levels – Sami Inkenen is a good example. There’s no such thing as an optimal recommendation for everyone because we just don’t know how to measure or understand all those processes as much as we’d like to think we do!”
Conclusion – Table of Optimal Ketone Levels
Based on the current expert opinions, below is a table of what you might want to see your ketone levels at depending on what your goals are.
Weight-loss: above 0.5mmol/L
Improved athletic performance: above 0.5mmol/L
Improved mental performance: 1.5-3mmol/L
Therapeutic (e.g., to prevent or cure certain illnesses): 3-6mmol/L
Again, these are general ranges and if yours doesn’t fall within the range, it’s not a definitive indicator that you’re doing something wrong, but it is a helpful guide to ensure you think about tweaking and testing your keto diet to see if something can be improved.
By now, you’re probably aware of how important a balanced gut microbiome is to your overall health, but how do you go about optimizing your gut flora? And what steps can you take to protect and nourish your baby’s microbiome, even before and during birth?
Chutkan finished medical school in 1991. Like most conventionally trained doctors, she whole-heartedly endorsed pharmaceutical intervention “whenever possible, as frequently as possible.” Over the course of several years, however, she began to investigate alternative routes to health.
“My area of expertise is inflammatory bowel disease,” she says. “I trained in New York, at Columbia for medical school and residency, and then at Mount Sinai Hospital …
Never once during my training did the idea that you could treat this set of diseases with food as opposed to pharmaceutical intervention, ever come up …
But when I arrived at Georgetown to join the faculty in 1997 … I started seeing a lot of patients, a lot of them women. Many wanted to know, ‘What can I do? What can I eat? How can I change what I’m doing to feel better?’ Of course, I had no answers at all for these questions.
I just had a lot of fancy drugs that I knew a lot about. Over the course of time, I started to experiment a little bit, mostly on myself, playing around with different ways of eating …”
Approaching Food as Medicine
She also conducted a study, in which she asked patients about their use of alternative and complementary practices to treat their Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
She was surprised to discover that 70 percent of them were using some kind of complementary or alternative technique, sometimes in addition to conventional medicine.
“It was a sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy,” she says. “I started to get interested and I wanted to know what people were doing and if it was helping …
This was the time when the specific-carbohydrate diet, which is very similar to the Paleo diet, had been popularized … I clearly remember the first patient I sat down with who … had had severe Crohn’s disease. She came back and was feeling great …
She was eating lean protein, lots of vegetables, and some nuts and seeds … I remember doing her colonoscopy and seeing her very severe Crohn’s healed. I could not believe it. I said ‘I’ve got to find out more about this.’
I think it really was the patients who caused me to question what we were doing. I started looking at the drugs we were using and the side effects. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for judicious use of conventional drugs when you don’t have lots of other options.
But to be strongly recommending drugs that we know can cause cancer and severe infection and other problems, and not having any conversation about this concept of foodist medicine, which is so well-proven, particularly in the gastroenterology world, I think that’s medical negligence.”
How C-Section Can Set a Child on the Path Toward Autoimmune Disease
Another incentive driving Chutkan’s growing interest in alternative treatments was her daughter. She was delivered via C-section, and because Chutkan had contracted influenza right before the delivery, her newborn daughter was given antibiotics as a precaution.
This was the beginning of a long series of illnesses, where she’d get sick, receive another round of antibiotics, only to get sick again and receive more medication. By the age of 2, her daughter had received 16 rounds of antibiotics.
According to Chutkan, this pattern is very common among patients who are subsequently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Many are C-section babies who were then bottle fed and received multiple rounds of antibiotics.
“I saw her heading down that road and I said ‘I really have to do something. If we don’t stop this cycle, this is what’s going to happen.’
I’m proud to be a doctor, but it’s sometimes hard to hold your head up these days because in my office, most of what I spend my time doing is trying to undo medical mischief.
Well-meaning physicians who either are not well-informed or just have tunnel vision; dermatologists putting young people on years of potent antibiotics, when you consider the fact that five days of a broad-spectrum antibiotic … can remove a third of your gut bacteria … We are creating disease.”
Avoid Antibiotics Unless Your Life Hangs in the Balance
Indeed, one of the worst things you can do during pregnancy is to take an antibiotic. Young children also need to be shielded from antibiotics, as they devastate the microbiome. Perhaps the single most important take-home point is to avoid antibiotics unless your life hangs in the balance.
Don’t take them frivolously, and certainly not as a precautionary measure. Other medications best avoided, due to their devastating impact on your microbiome include:
•Hormone treatments, including birth control pills
•Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). According to Chutkan, recent research shows 20 percent of the bacteria in the microbiome are changed from long-term use of acid suppressing drugs.
In fact, the authors concluded that PPI use was just as dangerous as antibiotic use in the long term. Despite that, gastroenterologists routinely put patients on long-term acid suppression without giving it a second thought
Should you have an infection, there are a number of alternatives to antibiotics you can try. For example, D-mannose is very effective against urinary tract infections. “We use a topical form of probiotics mixed with coconut oil for bacterial vaginosis for women. It works great,” Chutkan says.
Beware of Hidden Antibiotics
Chutkan also addresses the issue of hidden antibiotics. Eighty percent of all the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are actually used in the food industry. Animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are routinely given low-dose antibiotics to prevent disease associated with factory farming. So while you may be really judicious about medical antibiotics, you may still ingest antibiotics through factory-farmed food, especially animal products.
“I think this is an area where it’s really important to buy organic and to know not just what you’re eating, but what the food you’re eating has eaten, tracing it all the way back, because 80 percent, that’s an astounding number; we already have the highest per capita consumption of antibiotics in the world …
From infancy, the average American child will take somewhere around 18 to 20 courses of antibiotics by their 18th birthday. Then you add to that, how many courses of antibiotics they’re probably ingesting with food. It’s really astounding. It’s almost like the myth of Sisyphus.
We’re on this treadmill. From the minute we’re born — one could argue even before birth with the in-utero exposure — we are in this incredible downward spiral to destroy our microbiome. You have to be so vigilant about all of these things.”
Fecal Microbiota Transplant — a Potentially Life-Saving Procedure
Chutkan’s book, “The Microbiome Solution,” provides an excellent chapter on fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs). It even includes instructions on how to do it yourself, were you to choose that route. While most people are not candidates for a stool transplant, it can be a life-saving measure in extreme cases. That said, it’s important to understand that the stool transplant is only as good as a donor’s stool.
“I love my husband very much, but he grew up playing football and eating Burger King every day after practice. I don’t want his stool, because it’s probably not robust enough, growing up eating a standard American diet and taking the usual arsenal of medications.
I’ve always said, if I ever develop a severe autoimmune disease … and I am failing the typical options, I’m heading to Tanzania to get some stool from the Hadza tribe, or down to the Amazon. I want some high-octane stool,” Chutkan says. “When you contemplate donor stool, it’s not just a matter of excluding serious infectious diseases like HIV, syphilis or hepatitis. It’s really about evaluating how robust the microbiome of your donor is…”
Your Microbiome Is Constantly Changing and, With That, Your Health
While an FMT can be highly beneficial in extreme cases, the vast majority of people simply need to optimize their own microbiome through dietary and lifestyle changes. The good news is our microbiomes are constantly changing, based on diet and environmental exposures, so you have a great deal of personal control.
If you have a long history of antibiotic use, it may be more difficult for you to shift your gut flora and repair the cellular-microbial damage that has already occurred. But you can still improve a great deal.
“For most people who have eaten poorly [and] taken some drugs, there is incredible opportunity for recovery, but it really has to be meaningful change,” Chutkan says. “The idea that you can continue to eat potato chips and soda and not eat vegetables and just take a fancy probiotic and get better, is really magical thinking. I really try to stress in my practice that it’s not the microbes that you put in your body; it’s what you feed those microbes.”
Fiber-rich vegetables are massively important. Not only do they provide valuable nutrients your body needs, they also provide nutrition to the microbes in your gut, which feed on fiber. Another part of the equation is eating foods grown in healthy soils. Factory-farmed vegetables grown in nutrient-poor soils are not going to give you the same bang for your buck.
As noted by Chutkan and many other health experts, nutrition and human health really starts in the soil. To learn more, check out Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein’s book “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids With Food Straight from Soil.”
How to Optimize Your Baby’s Health If a C-Section Is Unavoidable
Since you’re bypassing the birth canal, children born via C-section are not “inoculated” with their mother’s bacteria. Sometimes a C-section is necessary. It can be lifesaving for the baby or the mother. But evidence suggests C-sections are vastly overused in the U.S., and most are not medically necessary.
In her book, Chutkan includes a complete birthing plan to optimize your and your baby’s microbiome, and it begins with the recommendation to avoid C-section at all cost, unless medically necessary.
“You really have to push because, again, your physician is very well-meaning, but they have been trained and indoctrinated to think that a C-section is fine. You might find yourself in the unusual position of having to educate your physician about the risks of C-section. There’s plenty of good information out there to do that. The first thing is to try and avoid it,” she says.
“If you have to have a C-section, I love the information Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello provides [on] vaginal seeding … [M]ake sure your doctor and their team know about this. Because if you start doing this and people don’t know what you’re doing, they’re going to call security and take the baby away.
The idea is to take a gauze pad and soak it in the perineal juices … Then when the baby is born via C-section, instead of essentially disinfecting them with antibacterial products like they do in the hospital, take this vaginal pad that’s soaked in all this wonderful flora from the mother and wipe the baby down, especially the head, the eyes, the mouth, all of that. Wipe them down so you’re sort of approximating a vaginal birth.”
According to Chutkan, studies show babies born vaginally are colonized with Bifidobacteria, lactobacillus and many other healthy bacteria from the mother’s microbiome. C-section babies are colonized mostly with hospital-acquired staph, and this microbial difference can follow the child for years to come.
Not surprisingly then, C-section babies tend to have higher rates of allergy, asthma, obesity and autoimmune diseases — all of which have been linked to poor microbial diversity and makeup. Being able to intervene with this vaginal seeding technique is quite brilliant, and could go a long way toward normalizing your baby’s microbiome if you have to have a C-section.
Other Dos and Don’ts for New Parents
Next comes breastfeeding. Not only is breast milk nutritionally superior to formula, it also has a direct impact on your baby’s microbiome. The third most common ingredient in breast milk is human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), a type of sugar that is completely indigestible. It provides no nutrition per se, rather it nourishes the beneficial bacteria in your baby’s digestive tract, which in turn helps repel staph and other potentially harmful microbes, including microbes that may linger on your nipples.
“It’s a great example of this synergy between what’s happening on the mother’s side and what’s going on in the baby’s side, and how it’s all supposed to work together. That’s another critical thing for people to know,” Chutkan says, adding:
“It’s amazing how much stuff gets done to you in the hospital that you don’t know about. Most women don’t know they get antibiotics for a C-section … I didn’t know that my daughter got not one but two potent antibiotics intravenously in the neonatal intensive care unit. You sign a general consent for treatment …
You know that doctors are well meaning. You know they’re vested in a good outcome for the health of your child, but you make the crucial mistake of thinking they know and completely understand the ramifications of what they’re doing. It’s clear that they don’t, and so you have to be very aware of that …
Your doctors, for the most part … are lovely, well-meaning people, but they are not well-informed. They are getting their medical information from sources that compel them to keep practicing [a certain] way.”
Vitamin D and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
As previously noted, Chutkan’s specialty is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a serious autoimmune disease that can be lethal. IBD is not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a functional disease — it can be painful and disabling, but it’s not going to kill you. IBD patients are frequently prescribed very toxic drugs and may even require surgery to remove a part of their colon.
If you have IBD, optimizing your vitamin D to a level between 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) is an important consideration. Crohn’s patients also need to pay attention to vitamin B12, because when your ileum — the end part of your small intestine — is inflamed or has been surgically removed, you cannot absorb B12 as efficiently. Malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, magnesium, iron and more, can also occur.
“Vitamin D has definitely been shown in many studies to be important for inflammation in general, certainly in patients with IBD,” Chutkan says. “It’s one of the first things we check and make sure that people are adequately supplemented … We have people we put on high-dose supplementation … if they’re down in the single digits … I recommend getting 20 minutes of sun exposure [on] upper body, arms and shoulders, without sunscreen, each day.”
On Treating IBD
When it comes to treating IBD, Chutkan focuses on using food as medicine, and in 77 percent of cases, her patients will no longer need immune modifying agents once they’ve properly adjusted their diet. She typically begins by assessing the level of inflammation. The most challenging situation is when you have “fibrostenotic disease,” where Crohn’s disease has caused severe scarring and narrowing of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In some cases, it can be severe enough to be irreversible.
People with colitis who have a lot of ulceration in the colon, and people who have Crohn’s who don’t have a lot of scarring but have active ulceration, are generally able to successfully treat their condition through diet. Next, she screens for nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin D, B12, ferritin and fat-soluble vitamins, and begins assessing the diet. Chutkan uses a combination diet that is part specific-carbohydrate diet, part paleo and part vegan.
Increasing Vegetable Intake Is Crucial
Three years ago, Chutkan and colleagues published a small pilot study consisting of 12 patients, nine with Crohn’s and three with ulcerative colitis.
“We looked retrospectively at the diet. We found some interesting things. We found that the average time for the diet to work was about 90 days. When I say to work, to really kick in to the point where people felt like they were in remission. But some people notice results in as quickly as two to three days. Other people take several months. Ninety days was kind of the sweet spot.
Two-thirds of patients were able to get off their medication or significantly reduce their medication. Again, the majority of people, when we looked endoscopically, had healing of the inflammation.
But this is the most important part of the study: everybody took out the processed carbohydrates. Everybody was off gluten, off refined sugar. Essentially grain-free for the most part. As people get better, we do add in some brown rice, some legumes and so on. For the most part, it was looking like a modified paleo diet. But there were two distinct groups: the group who got better and the group who didn’t, despite excluding all the not-so-great stuff. What was the difference?
The difference was the amount of vegetables people were consuming. The people who took out the gluten and the processed sugars … without increasing their vegetable intake, did not tend to do a lot better. The people who really ramped up their consumption of green leafy vegetables, and particularly the stringy vegetables like celery, asparagus and artichokes, which are high in inulin that really feed gut bacteria, did significantly better.”
So, a key take-home point here is that it’s not enough to simply remove certain foods, such as sugar and refined grains. You must also replace them with a significant amount of vegetables. In fact, there appears to be a critical threshold when it comes to vegetables, which you must meet in order to see meaningful changes in your health. Terry Wahls has noted that multiple sclerosis (MS) patients typically need six to nine servings of leafy greens each day in order to affect positive change.
Chutkan says the same applies to autoimmune patients with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Each morning, she makes herself a green smoothie with spinach, kale, celery, parsley, green apple, a peeled lemon, some fresh ginger and water. Each day, she’ll drink two to four glasses.
On Breaking the Mold
Chutkan is a perfect example of a conventional physician who, by listening to her patients and keeping an open mind, broke through the brainwashing — the carefully orchestrated propaganda created by the drug and medical industries. And she shares a great deal of priceless information in her book, “The Microbiome Solution.”
“[W]hen I saw the results of a meta-analysis out of Mount Sinai hospital … looking at over 7,000 patients with inflammatory bowel disease and identifying frequent antibiotic use, particularly in childhood, as one of the main risk factors for developing IBD, I said, ‘People have to know this’
… [A]s an author, it is an incredible privilege to be able to put your nickel down and say ‘This is what I think. This is what I believe in. I feel an obligation to share it with you.’ But it’s also scary. People come after you …
I had a lot of conversations with Penguin about what I could or couldn’t say, or should or shouldn’t say. It’s scary because you know there’s an incredible amount of money being made by some of these companies. When you say something that’s critical, their goal is to crush you. They’ve done it very effectively to a lot of people we know.
It’s scary but you get to the point where you feel like you cannot legitimately not share this information with people. As you know, books are not a way to get rich, right? Typically, books are probably, at best, a break-even proposition, or you lose money writing a book when you think about the amount of time it takes.
But it is an incredible way to take this information out of the office … and get it into the hands of millions of people. That’s a wonderful privilege … I do have to say that I am emboldened by practitioners like you who have been doing this for a very long time and play such an important role in this education of the public.
You’ve been criticized by conventional medicine and by pharmaceutical companies. It really emboldens those of us who have our eyes open to say ‘You know what? I’m going to speak the truth. I’m going to educate patients. I’m going to try to bring a few colleagues along. I’m going to be okay.’”
How Patients Can Help Their Doctors
As noted by Chutkan, many doctors still do not realize the wool has been pulled over their eyes. They don’t realize they are being used to market drugs for pharmaceutical companies — some of which are effective, others not so much, and virtually all of which have side effects.
However, all is not lost. Just like Chutkan came to see the light after being repeatedly prompted by her patients to provide answers other than drugs, you too can affect positive change by talking to and informing your doctor about strategies that are important to you.
“I think … it’s so important for patients to not just abandon their doctors,” she says. “If you have a doctor and you have a decent relationship with them, but they’re still hell bent on prescribing an antibiotic you don’t need, I think it’s so important to say to them ‘This is why I don’t want to take the antibiotic. Here is a book you should read.’
Because that’s what people did with me. People trusted me. They felt that I had their best interest at heart. They took the time to educate me and I’m so glad they did. I think we have to bring a colleague along. We have to bring our physicians along and not just abandon them entirely.”
One of the books you can bring your physician if he or she wants to prescribe antibiotics is “The Microbiome Solution.” It should really open their eyes. Chutkan is incredibly articulate, and her book is chock full of valuable information that can have a tremendously beneficial impact on your health.