This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
Now and then I get an email asking about using Betaine HCL to heal from GERD. I first heard about this supplement through Robb Wolf's podcast. By the time I heard of it, I already did not have GERD. I bought a bottle to use as a digestive enzyme after large meals like Thanksgiving, but it didn't do very much for me and I kind of forgot about it.
The use of acidic products to treat GERD is a common folk remedy. Back when I had GERD, I based my own treatment on both preliminary scientific research such as these studies on supplements and low-carb. But I also drew on some internet folk remedies that utilized harmless foods. At the time that was all that was out there, and the side effects of the Nexium I was on were so intolerable that I felt I didn't have much to lose. At the time one of the top Google results for heartburn remedies was this site advocating apple cider vinegar tonics. I started taking them after every meal. It was initially uncomfortable, but eventually I found relief. And a weird permanent craving from acidic foods that remains to this day and seems to drive my love for kombucha and sour beer.
There aren't any studies at all on acid supplementation and GERD. The folk remedy sites had two theories about it:
1. That GERD was actually caused by LOW stomach acid (I hear this a lot in the alternative health community and there are no studies that show this- consistently studies of people with GERD show high acidity, buts it seems to be more a disease of acidity at inappropriate times, inflammation, and of esophageal sphincter dysfunction). Taking acidic thing X is supposed to fix that somehow.
2. That introducing acidic things into the stomach causes a buffering action and lowers acidity after a meal.
In the instance of apple cider vinegar, because it is a cultured food, there are all kinds of confounders like the phytochemicals from apples and the live bacteria and associated byproducts. Same thing goes for kombucha. There is some evidence that fermented foods can increase gastric acid secretion in the form of a nice glass of wine. Beer may have similar effects, and also stimulates GI motility. But sorry- not whiskey and other distilled beverages. Other things that are known to increase acidity include high-protein meals.
Maybe HCL does something similar? I don't know. I just know that some bloggers like Robb Wolf and SCDlifestyle promote a test for taking it which was to pop the capsules until you feel a warming sensation in the stomach. I've seen it lead to some pretty sad people taking dozens and dozens of these capsules with no effect and thinking they have low stomach acid because of it. It is even possible they are doing real harm to their stomach lining with these pseudoscientific tests- the burning/warming senasation might indicate irritation of the stomach lining, which means that the integrity of that lining is an issue, not necessarily the acidity of the stomach.
- Start with one 400 mg capsule of AdaptaGest Flex in the early part of each meal. You should begin to feel better digestive response following meals.
- After two or three days, increase the dose to two capsules at the beginning of meals. Then after another two days increase to three capsules. Increase the dose gradually in this stepwise fashion until you feel a mild warming sensation.
- When you feel this sensation, reduce the dosage to the previous number of capsules you were taking before you experienced it and stay at that dosage. This is your maintenance dose. You should notice significant improvement in digestion: less gas and bloating, better absorption, more regular and better-formed stools.
- If you start feel a warming sensation at that dose, reduce again. Over time you may find that you can continue to reduce the dosage, or you may also find that you may need to increase the dosage.
- After 90 days on your maintenance dose, try to gradually reduce the dose to zero. For some people, this will be possible. Others may need to take HCL indefinitely (this is especially true if you have a history of PPI or other acid-suppressing drug use).
I guess we'll have to take their word for it. Dr. Art Ayers, a laboratory scientist who sadly hasn't blogged in ages, has questioned Betaine-HCL:
The HCl in betaine-HCl, just means that HCl was used to neutralize the betaine. There is no HCl in betaine-HCl. Using betaine as a supplement will buffer your stomach and have no impact other than perhaps lowering acidity. Betaine is very bizarre stuff, so it may incidentally increase the production of stomach acid, but I know nothing about that.
In most cases, stomach acidity is not the problem. Typically the problem is with gut bacteria...
The confusion comes from the fact that betaine has two ionizable groups, like amino acids in water. The N, bonded to four carbons has a positive charge and the carboxylic acid loses its proton to have a negative charge. When HCl is added, the H+ reprotonates the carboxyl group and the Cl- forms an ionic bond with the positively charged quaternary amine to yield a salt.
There is no HCl in NaCl and no HCl in ammonium chloride and no HCl in betaine-HCl. All of those are salts.
Betaine-HCl cannot be claimed to increase stomach acid in over the counter medications, because there is no evidence to support the claim.
Thanks for the questions.
Whose word to take though? I'm going with Art because at the end of the day there simply is "no evidence to support the claim." Furthermore, think about his explanation- if you looked at the label of Zantac, which is an ANTI-ACID I used to take, it says Ranitidine-HCL.
Now regardless of whether it works, why would someone who is transitioning to a "paleo" diet need something like this? My own impression is that many such diets are excessively high in added fats and this is often a very sudden change for people, not giving their digestive system time to adjust to them. Very high fat meals may also lead to slowed gastric emptying for people who are not used to such foods (this might not be a bad thing always as it increases satiation, but you might feel bloated and have reflux if it's too pronounced). I remember low-carb coconut milk (common additives like guar gum might play a role here)-based meals that felt like they were a brick in my stomach. I wonder a bit if the Dr. Kruse fever that briefly swept "paleos" was a product of his suggestion that people eat a nice high-protein breakfast, which may have stimulated a more favorable gastric environment than the mostly fat breakfasts I often see, though it also included a lot of added fat and some people on forums noted they were bloated or had to force themselves to finish it.
But honestly when you are doing a bunch of different things, it's hard to tell what is responsible for making you better. That's why when people say that Expert X knows that Something works because of "clinical experience," I don't take much stock in that. Few clinicians are recommending just one thing. And the placebo effect is a powerful thing.
Also a lot of Betaine HCL formulations are gelatin capsules- people might benefit from the gelatin rather than the stuff inside the capsule. I did not have any luck with betaine HCL, but I've added a lot of gelatin to my diet with great results. Also the betaine itself, though it's hard to comment on that because there doesn't seem to be much information on the type in the supplement, but studies on betaine have shown it can possibly affect digestion and gut integrity (mostly animal studies), as well as homocysteine metabolism. Like Ayers said, it's weird stuff. That GERD supplementation study I mentioned up thread used betaine (not betaine HCL, but if Ayers is right is should be about the same thing although this supplement publication suggests it will not work as well as betaine, but this livestock publication suggests they should work identically), melatonin, tryptophan, methionine, B12, B6, and folic acid. Most betaine-HCL is also bundled with the enzyme pepsin, which could also improve digestion though there are not many studies out there on supplementing it. So maybe it does work, but for not the reasons people think it does.
Overall though I think the most promising approach to issues like GERD is a
This has worked for me, members of my family, and people who have corresponded with me. Maybe this surprises people because it's quite obvious I eat a higher-carbohydrate diet now, but I've always said low-carb diets can be therapeutic, I just never bought into the idea that you should eat them forever or that they were the optimal human diet.
I would not recommend the "test" of acid levels that involves taking more and more Betaine-HCL, I suspect people getting "acid damage" from that just are upsetting their stomachs.
What do you think? Have you had any interesting experiences with supplements for improving digestion?
It's funny because GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) is one of the main reasons I changed my diet, but I don't blog about it much. I guess it's because I don't have it anymore. Neither do my sister or father. I think my case was the toughest because I had been on the evil proton pump inhibitors the longest. It probably took me six months to really feel better. I haven't had it since, except once when I was coming out of a long backpacking trip through Eastern Europe that involved a lot of bad sleep, alcohol, and cake. I'd also gotten strep throat in Hungary and had taken ibuprofen as much as I could get away with in order to prevent my trip from being ruined. But my stomach felt ruined when I got back to homebase in Uppsala. I had some GERD symptoms and had to eat a careful diet again to get rid of them.
I feel bad for the people who don't opt for a more holistic approach and instead cling to the notion that it's "acid" or "spice" in food that causes GERD, which has never been proven. Some studies show that they can make symptoms worse, but there is no evidence they cause GERD.
And I knew I could NEVER live a life without meyer lemons or Thai curries.
Through the years I've mused on what could have caused my GERD. I have a list in a .txt file with my main candidates.
- dysfunctional levels of prostaglandins: either too low from NSAID use (which compromises stomach integrity) or too high from excessive consumption of omega-6 (inflammation)
- poor nutrition which prevents the stomach from repairing itself
- allergens that cause or exacerbate inflammation
- poor digestive system integrity
- imbalanced bacteria
- stress from bad sleep quality or other factors
*added this one: improper levels of acid, too high or too low, and often at the wrong time
I mention inflammation a lot and I think it's a big factor and why I've never found that GERD was tied to specific foods. I also think it's why GERD is more common in overweight people, not because they are overweight, but because people who are overweight tend to have more inflammation.
Unfortunately inflammation has many many causes. I think a multi-pronged approach to GERD:
- corrects fatty acid imbalance by lowering omega-6 consumption and increasing omega-3 consumption (but be careful with fish oil since it can irritate the stomach in the same way NSAIDs can, so lowering omega-6 can be more powerful)
- improves nutritional quality with things like offal, bone marrow, roe, and other nutrient-dense foods
- balances bacteria through probiotics and carbohydrate restriction (SCD theory)
- avoids potentially allergenic foods like gluten while recovering, which can be tricky since some of these allergenic foods are "paleo" such as eggs, so a proper elimination diet is important
- avoids NSAIDS
- corrects sleep problems by sleeping regular 7-8 hours in nice dark room
-* restores normal acid production with proper protein/nutrient consumption and restoring integrity of stomach lining
While I was doing research on variations in gastric acidity, I came across an interesting paper: Diet, reflux and the development of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus in Africa. It's interesting that a lot of conventional dietary advice on digestion is based on studies done in Africa that found that African agrarian cultures eating low-fat high-fiber diets had low rates of common Western digestive issues like hemorrhoids and colon cancer. Unfortunately they forgot to mention that there are a host of similarly bad digestive issues that are MORE common in such cultures, such as sigmoid volvulus and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the esophagus. The latter they have tried to blame on everything from pickled vegetables to malnutrition to alcohol, with none of those hypotheses holding up very well.
A promising villain is linoleic acid, AKA omega-6 fatty acids, well known for their harmful effects in the ancestral health/paleo/primal communities. The epidemic of SCC tracks the widespread adoption of linoleic acid-rich corn as a staple, not just in Africa, but in regions of Europe as well.
I bet you are wondering why Americans don't have SCC. I think there are two factors, one is that higher levels of fat in the diet are protective, but I think another is that it's possible that a precursor to it is heartburn, which is widely treated in the US with proton-pump inhibitors. Those have some seriously bad effects, but they might prevent some types of cancer. I think it's better to remove the cause, but if you are going to continue to eat garbage, a PPI might save your life.
Linoleic acid may be causing heartburn by increasing levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). In animal models, high levels of linoleic acid, particularly in combination with low levels of other fatty acids, lead to elevated PGE2. Other micronutrient deficiencies, such as riboflavin deficiency, might make it worse. PGE2 then inhibits gastric acid production and reduces the tone of reduces of the pyloric and lower esophageal sphincters, causing heartburn. If you thought heartburn was a Western disease, consider that 60% of people in Transkei, South Africa suffer from it. Untreated heartburn exposes the esophagus to damage from the acid, in the long-term this can lead to the development of abnormal cancerous cells. Trypsin can possibly squelch the growth of such cells, but the paper notes that the South African diet is also rich in vegetables that are trypsin inhibitors, such as beans and pumpkin. They also eat the very very bad for you vegetable known as Black Nightshade, which is a pepsin inhibitor. And a lot of people smoke. A bad combination leading to a cancer epidemic.
Since I have gotten rid of my GERD, I've wondered and wondered how I did it. I started eating a high-fat nutrient-dense diet, which was low in grains and free of vegetable oils, but not completely gluten or grain free. So that ruled out a gluten allergy as a major culprit. Wheat tracks as a cause of SCC too, but rather than an allergy as work, it seems like a complex inflammatory process is at play. We need to look at omega-6 as one of the true causes of GERD. It's also a possible connection between omega-6 and skin issues via the gut-brain-skin axis.
Mark Sisson posted a link to a sad essay called IBS Is Why I'm Still Single. Every day I'm able to eat and live normally, I am so grateful. You see, most of my life I had painful stomach problems. When I was four I remember crying in the bathroom. I remember at sleep away camp being too embarrassed to use the communal bathrooms and sneaking out in the middle of the night to the isolated outhouse. It wasn't until I was 15 or so that I was diagnosed with IBS. When I was a freshman in college it became so disruptive to my life that I was finally given Librax. At that point I was also on quite a bit of asthma medication. Then I started having serious heartburn. I went on proton pump inhibitors. At my low point I was on Allergra, Advair, Singulair, Albuterol, Librax, Nexium (Prilosec stopped working at some point), and continuously on and off antibiotics for various ailments ranging from yeast to sinus infections. I was miserable. I missed most of my classes.
The single part of that essay hit home because I remember my first Valentine's day with my first boyfriend. We had a delicious meal, but soon after I was bent double with incredible pain and spent most of the night in the bathroom. I didn't think I'd be able to do anything.
I honestly thought that my condition was caused by eating fat, tomatoes, and peppers. The handouts my doctor gave me insinuated as much. I really didn't like all the side effects of the medications I was on, but when I complained to one of my doctors he said I'd on them for the rest of my life. I tried all kinds of high-fiber low-fat veg*n diets to no avail.
I didn't want to live like this. But all the sudden my condition took a turn for the worst. I felt like my whole body was falling apart. One day I collapsed in the hallway of the dorm. I was diagnosed at the hospital with chronic salmonella. That's not something a 19 year old should have. Afterwards I had trouble with constant burping.
I vowed to do more research and found a small study on GERD and low carbohydrate diets. I also discovered Evolutionary Nutrition on Art De Vany's site through the blog Marginal Revolution. I learned about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and wondered if my symptoms were caused by bacterial overgrowth. My first attempts to get off my medicines didn't work. I tried to eat low-carb in the dining hall, but I guess the foods had too much crap on them. Luckily, I took summer school and lived dining-hall free in graduate student housing, though my "kitchen" had only a microwave. Looking back, my diet wasn't all that great. I didn't know that much about cooking and nothing about meat. The first meat I bought was some sausage, which I tried to cook in the microwave only to get a massive bowl of exploding grease. Gross. I had to eat out a lot, but stayed mostly paleo and very low carb. I tried lots of remedies like probiotics and drinking apple cider vinegar after each meal. I started drinking kombucha. I read everything I could get my hands on about traditional nutrition. It seemed clear my illness was a modern disease.
I had a goal in mind: as a freshman I had tried spicy food for the first time and learned to love it, but I had thought it was causing all my problems. When it was clear that this was a secondary problem to the inflammation and dysbiosis, I decided to make eating it without pain a goal. I didn't reach that goal until six months into the regimen, but I've been eating delicious curries without incident ever since.
I've also been able to travel extensively without incident, something I thought I'd never do.
Unfortunately I still had some residual IBS issues. I realized a year ago that I was going to have to let go of beer and gluten-containing cheat meals. The IBS has been gone ever since, but I really do miss some of those foods.
So basically the principals I went on were that bacteria was at the root of most of my problems. Being born by C-section, a low-nutrient diet, and constant antibiotic use had put my gut ecology into an imbalanced state. Probably some of my medications made it worse, like Prilosec/Nexium, which is known to allow bacterial overgrowth. My principles were to first starve out the bad bacteria, which was inspired a bit by Hyperlipid, and then gradually try to balance the gut through gentle traditional probiotic and nutrient-rich foods. I suspect I had both hypochlorhydria and small-bacterial overgrowth, which was why I was so excited by the paper I just blogged about.
I'm still quite fiber-intolerant. I can't really do brown rice, quinoa, or many other fiber-rich grains. But I am able to eat a fair amount of carbs, which I'm happy with. As an aside, even some in the alternative health community are very wrong about IBS. Giving up simple sugar will do nothing, as they are digested in the small intestine, which is a point made by the SCD diet. It's the complex sugars that cause the problems in the lower intestine.
As for romance, duh it's easier when you aren't a miserable gas-filled bloated cramped up woman who alternates between diarrhea and constipation (with hemorrhoids) every two days...
So when people say paleo or traditional foods are trivial, I'm just happy I can live a relatively normal life thanks to them. So I thank these things for my good health
And now for some reader questions:
Q: Dru from Idaho asks "Is this paleo?" sending along this attached picture:
A: No. You got Dim Sum and got a bunch of bread? Dude, where are the writhing sea creatures drenched in various rich possibly-alcoholic sauces? Do they even have Dim Sum in Idaho anyway?
Whew, thanks for sending along easy questions! Remember that if you want to ask a question, please use the contact form and not comments. If it takes me five gazillion years to answer your question, I'm totally sorry. Let's just say that my inbox is in quite a state these days.
I think we've "virtually met" via PaleoHacks but I'm in the process of starting a Paleo meetup in the San Francisco bay area ala what you and John have got going for NYC. I was wondering if you'd have any advice for a dude just starting out with this whole meetup thing. I've emailed John as well but was hoping if I could get your input. Would really appreciate any direction you could give.
A: Running a meetup is hard work and I can't say we do it perfectly. I guess our strategy is a
1. Diversity: We have many types of meetups from fitness to parties to eating out. I think this allows us to attract a wide variety of people. Also, if you do meetups that cost money, also do some that are free. I don't know about SF, but in NYC another major challnege is "provincialism". People in upper Manhattan and reluctant to go to events in Brooklyn, so we try to have Meetups in many different places.
2. Have co-organizers and draw on members to help. It's tough work planning events. I used to plan events full time and I'm happy I don't do *that* anyore. When members propose meetups we encourage them to be involved in the planning process.
3. If a meetup costs money, any money at all, require FULL payment to RSVP. We've tried being nice and doing deposits, but it just leaves up calculating stuff grumpily at the end of the meetup.
hey completely off topic but i just read your post on GERD on MDA and had a question for ya. i've been paleo for 6 months and have been under a lot of pressure at work/home (selling house, moving etc) when i started to notice a dull ache causing me pain in my stomach that subsided when i ate...except i never felt hungry :( so i went to the dr and she gave me nexium. i only took it for 3 days and had to stop because the side effects were worse than the pain! i've started drinking an ounce of aloe juice 2x daily and have been drinking 1/2c kefir once daily and doing zero fruit (except figs since they are highly alkaline). after you began your diet healing process, how long until you noticed some relief? i know every individual is different but i just can't see the answer in taking a PPI for 30 days...stopping a natural body process entirely seems...well wrong to me! any advice? thanks!
A: It made big news when scientists found out ulcers were caused by h.pylori. The problem was that they completely threw out the past proposed cause: stress. Stress might not tear a hole in your stomach itself, but it can definitely contribute to things do this. I definitely wouldn't take nexium, since it does not address the root cause of the problem. The proof is in the fact that the number of patients who are healed by the 30 day cycle the box advertises is virtually zero. Peter at Hyperlipid has written extensively about the dietary causes of bacterial overgrowth and recommends a very high fat nearly zero carb diet, which is the protocal I followed for several months. It's also very important not to take NSAIDs (AKA aspirin and ibuprofen) because they can contribute to ulcers. I don't really think kefir is as effective as a good commercial probiotic supplement since there is little evidence that bacteria in fermented milk can survive the journey to the gut, but it probably won't hurt anything. I personally take Jarrodophilus, which is expensive, but worth it. I would also recommend taking the NOW Foods Super Enzymes Robb Wolf recommends.
I would also recommend eating more than you want in the morning to get the gastric juices stimulated. My own routine in the morning, which I completely hate, but it's helped me through plenty of stress, is to do some intense exercise for 30 minutes or so and then eat a big meal. There is evidence that exercise can blunt the effects of stress.
How long does it take to get rid of stomach problems with paleo? It can take anywhere from 1 week to a six months. I think it's important to stay completely gluten-free and to eat enough calories in order to speed up the process. I would do very low carb for 2 weeks to a month until stomach pain subsides and then follow the Cooling Inflammation protocol which recommends some vegetal fiber in order to support a better GI flora.
In news from stupid-land: The FDA cautions against high dosages or prolonged use of acid inhibitors.
It's kind of criminal that these medicines are still in use, given that the latest studies published in journals show that the cause of GERD is not too much acid. So while proton pump inhibitors might mask the symptoms, they get rid of stomach acid, which we kind of evolved for a reason- to help digest food and to protect against pathogens.
The agency said it would order revised labeling on packages of the drugs to reflect the fact that they have been associated with an increased risk of fractures of the hip, wrist and spine…The drugs have previously been linked to an increased risk of contracting pneumonia and the troublesome bacterium Clostridium difficile, as well as to an increased risk of dementia. A recent study found that the drugs increase the risk of bone fractures by about a quarter. It is not clear what the mechanism of the increased fractures is. Most researchers believe it is due to decreased absorption of calcium from the diet because of the reduced stomach acid, but it is possible that the drugs interfere with bone maintenance.
I am particularly incensed because last year my younger sister started having problems with GERD. She is only 19 and the doctor's recommended Prilosec. Instead she is now paleo and her symptoms have resolved. It's lucky that she knew that the paleo diet could treat GERD and she didn't get on the PPI wagon of dooooom like I did. Here is what I can remember:
It started when I was 18 or so. I was overweight and had terrible stomach problems. My internist gave me Zantec but my mom thought it was unnecessary and I never took it. Over the next two years I lost some weight on a vegetarian and then vegan diet, but the heartburn just got worse and worse. I couldn't sleep or concentrate on my school work. My school doctor finally convinced me to get on Prilosec. The spiel for these pills is that you take them for a month and it helps heal your esophagus, but of course it never works. I try to go off them after a month and the heartburn returns with a vengeance.
So I stay on them, but my IBS just gets worse. My allergist, who is treating me for severe asthma gives me an anti-spasmodic for my IBS and tells me not to worry about the PPIs. He says I'll probably be on them for the rest of my life, but not to worry since they are mostly harmless. At least I can eat pizza as much as I want now...
At some point I get really really sick. My doctor at school thinks it's just my IBS, but when I collapse and end up in the E.R. I finally get diagnosed with chronic salmonella. What should have been a one day bout of food poisoning decided to settle down in my weak digestive system. I take heavy antibiotics and recover...sort of. Now pretty much EVERYTHING upsets my stomach and even worse....I get chronic burping "attacks" all the time. I'm sickly in general- I get yeast, urinary tract, and sinus infections constantly. I get tested for all sorts of things like celiac and Crohns, but no dice. I do some research and find that PPIs might be causing some of my problems. Through looking at Pubmed I find out about a small study that effectively treated GERD with a low-carb diet. I try that for awhile, but using foods at the dorm cafeteria. I just end up feeling crappy... and no wonder with the factory farmed meat and gluten-laced sauces.
When I encounter Art De Vany's site through Marginal Revolution, I am intrigued by a more vegetable-heavy version of low-carb. I try it and it helps my IBS, but I'm still on the PPIs. When I try to go off I feel really terrible. I find a site where people tout apple cider vinegar as a cure. I start eating mostly paleo and taking apple cider vinegar diluted in water after every meal. I start eating a wide variety of vegetables and trying fish for the first time. It's not perfect, but I'm finally at the point where I can at least function without PPIs. I do an egg fast for a week. It takes about six months, mostly very low carb, but eventually I find myself...not taking any medicines at all.
A journey to get rid of heartburn fixed much more than that. At my worst I was on thirteen different medications and dependent on antibiotics every month. I haven't taken antibiotics in two years now...nor had to go to the doctor for IBS, GERD, or asthma. PPIs are hard to kick, but it was worth it.
My sister and my father have been sucessful with this approach as well, though they were lucky that they never took PPIs. PPIs alter your digestive system and it can be hard to get it in working order again.
Some people wondered about the chemical-free part of Sarah's diet. Of course all foods are made up of chemicals, but Sarah means added isolated chemicals. Her recipes featured flavors from fresh herbs and fruit rather than from dried spices or oils.
My own principle I would relate to people suffering from problems linked to increased gut permeability (leaky gut, though that term has been so dragged down with woo that I hesitate to use it) such as IBS the principle I would relate is: fresh. Personally, I did a zero carb week to minimize the populations of methane-producing bacteria in my gut (which was inspired by Hyperlipid's writings on the subject), but once you do that, you still have to heal. A diet based on fresh foods can minimize things a sensitive gut can react to. These things might surprise you- mold in dried spices/herbs or nuts, histamines and amines in preserved meats, and oxidized fats in oils for example.
A fresh diet works its magic by being as gentle as possible. I would say the principles are
I have to emphasize this is a diet that can be temporary for most people, but everyone can benefit from including more fresh foods into their diet. I recently had some off seafood (not even raw...just normal cooked mussels that I was either allegic to or weren't kept properly) and right now I feel like doing this recovery diet to get things back to normal.
This week I will be featuring several fresh recipes and a fresh map featuring places in NY with amazing fresh ingredients!
Two years back I started sending my dad a paleo article or two every once in awhile. My dad was really into exercise, but despite exercising every day he was having a tough time with his weight. It's no wonder. Growing up I remember he would take us out to the infamous Cici's All You Can Eat Pizza where well...we would eat amounts of sugar and junk that I shudder to look back on.
With exercise not working, he decided to read up on Art De Vany and Gary Taubes He found it was a simple diet that made sense to him logically. I write lots on this blog that is about adding in neglected foods or tweaking nutrient ratios, but my father is testament to the simple formula of meat, seafoods, vegetables, and fruit. He said he didn't do anything fancy, because he was already used to cooking and eating meat. Giving up sugar was hard, but the hardest part was giving up foods that are seen as healthy like fruit juice. Primal Body Primal Mind, which I gave to him after I read it, helped him realize the problems with fructose.
So far he has lost 50 lbs, his athletic performance is better, and he doesn't have GERD anymore. I think Art De Vany in particular is a great role model. In an age when older men are portrayed as overweight and bumbling (a la Family Guy or The Simpsons), Art has aged gracefully and retained his masculinity.
It's interesting because he started the diet after I left home, so many of our eating habits are different, but either way we are both testaments to the importance of eating nutrient dense HUMAN food and ditching sugar.
Another consideration for GERD via Whole Health Source: fermentable carbs, specifically fructooligosaccharides (FOS) might make it worse. It makes sense- colonic fermentation seems to play a huge role in digestive disorders. A low fermentative diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, has long been used for inflammatory bowl disease. It's funny because fiber-rich vegetables and grains are often suggested for GERD patients, but this study shows they just make everything worse. Foods high in FOS include bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, barley, wheat, jícama, tomatoes, and leeks. Most of those foods I never eat- it's interesting that most weren't encountered by humans until the neolithic, except the alliums, but wild alliums are very small. Others, like garlic, I find are OK as long as they are cooked very well. FOS is sometimes added to foods like kefir to make them "prebiotic," which is unforunate because it's clear they can feed both good and bad bacteria. This article sums up the concerns:
6. Since Inulin/FOS is found in natural foods it must be okay, right?
Wrong. Sucrose (table sugar) is naturally found in beets, sugar cane, oranges, and other plants. Humans have perverted this naturally occurring substance into a refined chemical. Sucrose is arguably one of the most unhealthy food additives in human history. We should learn from our experiences with sucrose and apply them to Inulin/FOS. Instead of adding refined, super concentrated Inulin/FOS to your food, eat the foods that naturally contain Inulin/FOS.
The body is genetically adapted to certain foods and if we continue to mess with our food chain then our health will suffer the consequences. Of the nutritional fibers, cellulose was the most likely to be included in a traditional hunter-gatherer diet. Cellulose is an insoluble fiber that is slowly fermented by the microbial population in the human colon. Inulin/FOS is a soluble fiber that is quickly and easily fermented. The difference between cellulose (a food we are adapted to) and Inulin/FOS (a food we are not adapted to) is like the difference between a slow burning ember and a raging fire. Who likes playing with fire?
To help clear my GERD, I followed a very low carb diet. I wonder if that diet stopped feeding the bad bacteria and allowed my bacteria to normalize. There is really no way of knowing, but it's clear the fiber isn't a great solution for GERD.
Foods that are already fermented, like kimchi and pickles, may be less of a problem because most what can be fermented has probably already been consumed by bacteria. Furthermore, they provide beneficial bacteria. You shouldn't have to risk feeling baddies to heal your gut.
What's also true is that E. coli only showed up so prolifically in the guts of cows since they've been fed corn in the last 50 years or so. A starchy food the grass-eaters didn't evolve to consume, corn produces an acidic mess in their stomachs that E. coli bacteria apparently loves.
I just realized today that you could totally rewrite that sentence and it would still be true.
What's also true is that E. coli only showed up so prolifically in the guts of human since they've been fed so much corn in the last 50 years or so. A starchy food the meat and vegetable eaters didn't evolve to consume, corn produces an acidicmess in their stomachs that E. coli bacteria apparently loves.
It's not just acidic stomachs of cattle that E. Coli love, it's acidic stomachs of humans too. The amount of food poisoning cases attributed to pathogens that aren't big fans of acid, like salmonella, has dropped. Well, except for in the other extreme end up acidity, which is the growing population treated with drugs like Proton Pump Inhibitors that reduce acid too much, thus leaving them susceptible to other nasty types of food poisoning.
All that is clear is that in the US our stomachs are a mess. We should make an effort to get them back to normal by elimating both grains and acid-reducing drugs.