Sustainable Agriculture Needs Your Support

Sustainable agriculture defines the ability of farms and ranches to produce food on an ongoing basis, using natural, pesticide-free methods to provide whole, clean foods. The perpetuation of the farm ecosystem is of paramount importance.

As listed on the Sustainable Table website, the major benefits are:

  • Conservation and preservation: What is taken out of the environment is put back in, so land and resources such as water, soil and air can be replenished and are available to future generations. The waste from sustainable farming stays within the farm’s ecosystem and cannot cause buildup or pollution. In addition, sustainable agriculture seeks to minimize transportation costs and fossil fuel use and is as locally-based as possible.
  • Biodiversity: Farms raise different types of plants and animals, which are rotated around the fields to enrich the soil and help prevent disease and pest outbreaks. Chemical pesticides are used minimally and only when necessary; many sustainable farms do not use any form of chemicals.
  • Animal welfare: Animals are treated humanely and with respect, and are well cared for. They are permitted to carry out their natural behaviors, such as grazing, rooting or pecking, and are fed a natural diet appropriate for their species.
  • Economically viable: Farmers are paid a fair wage and are not dependent on subsidies from the government. Sustainable farmers help strengthen rural communities.
  • Socially just: Workers are treated fairly and paid competitive wages and benefits. They work in a safe environment and are offered proper living conditions and food.

The Importance of Soil Health

One of the key issues in the methods of sustainable farming is the long-term effects on soil health, which translates into the quality of the food produced. In fact, soil health is critical for any kind of sustainable farming.

Crops depend on soil nutrients and the availability of water. Each season in which crops are grown and harvested, some of the nutrients in the soil are used. If these nutrients are not replenished, the soil eventually suffers from nutrient depletion and becomes either unusable or produces reduced yields. In addition, the crops produced are lower in nutritional value, since the soil is not providing those nutrients.

Sustainable agriculture uses the natural methods of nature to replenish the soil while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas, which in conventional agriculture is used in converting atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic fertilizer, or phosphate and other mineral ores.

Support Your Local Sustainable Farm

The proliferation and support of sustainable farms are the keys to clean food.

When you buy your produce and meat from farms and ranches which used sustainable methods, you are in effect, ensuring that you and your family have access to clean, whole foods. Foods produced with sustainable agriculture methods are free of pesticides and higher in nutrients because the soils in and on which they are grown are healthy.

In addition, you are taking back your control over your food rights!

When you refuse to buy commercial products from industrial agriculture and factory farms, you are minimizing your support of the processed food and industrial agribusinesses. You are helping to change the market forces which drive the proliferation of unsustainable and harmful agribusiness methods, including genetic engineering, factory farming, confined feedlots, pesticide use, and the environmental impacts of such methods.

So, buy local when you can, organic if possible, and find local sources of meat and dairy products. You’ll be glad you did in the long run. Check out the Local Harvest website and the Eat Wild websites to find sustainable farms in your area.

For a comprehensive list of the benefits of supporting sustainable agriculture and farming, read this list of the benefits on Sustainable Table’s website.

Choose Healthy Dairy Products

Dairy products are at the top of most people’s favorite foods list. Here are some tips on how to choose the right products and enhance your health in the process:

  • Choose full-fat dairy products. Avoid skim milk, 2% milk and the like. These products have unhealthy additives such as powdered milk and thickeners to help make them look like fresh milk.
  • Try to buy your dairy items from a source that uses pasture-fed cows. For good health, clean raw and/or fermented products, such as raw milk, whole yogurt, kefir, cultured butter, whole raw cheeses, and fresh and sour cream are best.
  • Find a local source for clean, raw milk, cream, and cheese from grass-fed dairy cattle.

    Raw milk and cream from grass-fed cows is one of nature’s finest health-supporting foods. If you don’t have access to clean, raw milk, at least buy organic milk from grass-fed cows. Both Organic Valley and Natural by Nature brand organic milk is from cows which have access to grass.

  • Avoid commercial milk from cows injected with rBGH. Some commercial milk comes from factory-farmed cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to boost milk production. The hormone works, but it also shortens the cow’s life by half and increases the incidence of disease by 40%, including infections of the udder. rBGH has been implicated in an increased risk of human breast cancer. I don’t know of any studies done, but there are many anecdotal reports of very young girls having breast pain and premature periods associated with drinking commercial milk tainted with rBGH. Fortunately, many grocery store chains have pledged not to sell milk from cows injected with rBGH. You can get a list of non-rBGH brands of milk on page 4 of this shopping guide.

Most people eat lots of dairy products, so choosing clean, organic products is important. Making the time and effort to add them to your diet pays off in better health.

Healthy Fats

Mainstream advice about healthy fats is based on the lie that cholesterol and saturated fat are killers because they “clog the arteries” and cause heart disease. The truth is completely the opposite.

The “heart-healthy” processed vegetable oils and “whole grains” are the true killers. Saturated fat gets blamed because it is usually consumed in the context of a high carbohydrate diet. It’s the high carbohydrate intake which is harmful, not the saturated fat.

Our ancestors ate lots of natural, saturated fats, and our genetic makeup is designed to thrive on high fat, low carb diet:

The Weston Price Foundation notes that “the total fat content of traditional diet plans varies from 30% to 80% with only 4% of calories come from the polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, pulses, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.”

Learning to love natural fats such as butter and organic virgin coconut oil not only tastes good but can improve your health.

Here are some tips on choosing truly healthy fats:

  • Let go of your fear of eating saturated fats, especially butter. These fats are beneficial to your health in many ways. Saturated fats supply cell membrane integrity, are needed for the absorption of calcium and other minerals, and they are essential for metabolizing fatty acids like EPA and DHA, which are incredibly beneficial to heart function and mood.

    Saturated fats are anti-viral and anti-microbial. They support the immune system, protect the liver and contribute to strong bones. Saturated fats are the preferred food for the heart and brain, and as such should be on any list of healthy foods.

    Consider this: before 1900, Americans ate mostly saturated fat from animal sources. Death from heart disease was rare. The first case wasn’t reported until 1912.

    In the early 1900s, vegetable-based margarine, hydrogenated shortening, and corn oil were introduced, and people began switching to these for various reasons. As the consumption of butter and other saturated animal fats fell, the rates of heart disease went up.

  • Avoid refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils, hydrogenated vegetable fats, and margarine. And most refined vegetable oils are made from genetically engineered organisms, which are implicated in a wide range of health issues. This would include refined soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and the like. In addition, the hydrogenation of oils into shortening and margarine relies on toxic chemicals and high heat and results in the introduction of trans fat and an oxidized, unstable product. Oxidized oils introduce large amounts of free radicals into your body, which results in an increase in inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to all sorts of disease processes.
  • Make a special effort to avoid oils that are rancid and any fat that has been hydrogenated. Hydrogenated fats contain trans fats, which are strongly associated with increased risks of cancer and heart disease.
  • Use traditional vegetable oils instead: cold-pressed, organic virgin olive oil, cold-pressed sesame oil, small amounts of cold-pressed flaxseed oil, and clean tropical oils: virgin coconut oil, and organic palm kernel oil.
  • Make sure your overall diet contains nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in a variety of foods including meat, walnuts, cod liver oil and fatty fish like salmon and halibut. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in poultry, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The modern diet contains much more Omega-6 oils because of the increased consumption of vegetable oils over animal fats. This imbalance toward Omega-6 has been implicated in raising rates of heart disease because of the inflammatory effects of vegetable oils.
  • Consume a mixture of healthy fats. Sources of fat should include real, unprocessed foods like grass-fed meat, free-range fowl, organic eggs, butter, nuts, natural oils and saturated tropical fats like coconut oil.
  • If you’ve been following a low-fat diet, ease into this change. Take a month or so to gradually add more healthy fats to your diet, while at the same time, reducing your carbohydrate intake. To feel good, and to keep my blood sugar and insulin levels stable and normal, I shoot for a 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbohydrate calorie distribution in my diet.

Learning to eat more natural healthy fats is a delicious and easy step toward better health. Enjoy!

American Dietetic Association: Shill for Big Food

The American Dietetic Association is the largest food and nutrition organization in the US.  They are supposed to be the premier source for accurate nutritional information. Current memberships exceed 70,000 people, so the ADA voice is loud, but it’s not a reliable, unbiased source of information on good nutrition.

The ADA and the Food Industry

The problems at the ADA stem from the fact that they receive funding from some of the biggest processed food and nutritional product corporations. Take a look at some of the companies that either fund the ADA or write Nutrition Facts sheets for them:

  • Hershey’s Corporation
  • Coca-cola
  • Pepsico
  • ConAgra Foods
  • Abbott Nutritionals
  • General Mills
  • Kellogg
  • Mars, Inc
  • SoyJoy
  • Corowise
  • Unilever
  • Monsanto Corporation
  • Nutrasweet, makers of Aspartame
  • National Association of Margarine Manufacturers
  • Nabisco

These are all companies that depend on the US agricultural industry to stay in business, which means they depend on sugar, wheat, soy, corn and canola subsidies, and market share for processed foods. And you can bet the ADA supports the US agricultural complex and market with every press release and position paper.

Despite the volumes of evidence implicating a high carbohydrate, whole grain diet in the growing problems of obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease in the United States, the American Dietetic Association continues to tout the “healthy whole grains” message, and to warn people away from saturated fats, even though there is no scientific basis for the hypothesis that saturated fats and cholesterol levels have anything to do with heart disease.

The American Dietetic Association is stuck on a 1970s nutritional program, handing out bad advice because they have joined hands with the processed food industry, and they can’t bite the corporate hands that feed them. In her book, Food Politics, Marion Nestle, a Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, wrote:

“The ADA’s stance on dietary advice is firmly pro-industry; one of its basic tenets is that there is no such thing as good or bad food. The Association is apparently willing to enter into partnerships with any food company or trade organization, regardless of the nutritional quality of its products.”

In a post she wrote for the Daily Green website, Ms. Nestle responded to criticism from a registered dietitian who took her to task for not promoting the ADA (a kind of “we should all just get along” plea) with this scathing note:

“Respected ADA colleagues: as long as your organization partners with makers of food and beverage products, its opinions about diet and health will never be believed independent (translation: based on science, not politics) and neither will yours. Consider the ADA’s Nutrition Fact Sheets, for example, each with its very own corporate sponsor (scroll down to the lower right-hand corner of the second page to see who paid for the Facts). Is the goal of ADA really the same as the goal of the sponsors – to sell the sponsor’s food products? Is this a good way to get important scientific messages to the public?

The ADA Zealots

The fact that I find most appalling about the American Dietetic Association is that they are zealots and take the position of demi-gods on the subject of nutrition.

They are determined to be the only voice speaking about nutrition, even if most of what they speak is tainted by corporate interests. They actively campaign against other nutritional organizations with different messages and do their best to change the laws in every state so that any nutrition professional who wants to teach a holistic, alternative view of nutrition won’t be able to practice nutrition counseling.

Just recently, the ADA has changed its name to the “Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics” which seems to be a calculated move to position themselves as “nutritionists” as well. See this article in Forbes Magazine for more information on the underhanded tactics the ADA/AND is using to shut out alternative views on nutrition.

Meanwhile, Americans are becoming sick and dying every day because they believe the lies that the ADA and USDA spout about healthy foods.

And if you want to study nutrition and become a Registered Dietitian, you had better follow the American Dietetic Association party line. There are NO accredited programs in the United States that teach an alternate view of what constitutes good nutrition. All dietitians are steeped in the “low fat, healthy whole grains, carbs are essential nutrients” dogma.

There are schools offering alternative views, but they can’t get accredited by the US Department of Education unless they follow the official USDA pyramid teachings, and The Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, which provides RD licensing won’t license you unless you studied a course accredited by the CADE. How convenient for the ADA.

Who wants to spend $30,000 dollars on a degree which won’t be counted to get you a license to practice nutrition counseling?

On their website, the ADA writes:

“Only graduates of CADE-accredited programs are eligible to take the exam to become a Registered Dietitian or Dietetic Technician, Registered. Individuals who only have degrees in nutrition, dietetics or other related areas from programs that are not CADE-accredited are NOT ELIGIBLE to take the exam to become a Registered Dietitian or Dietetic Technician, Registered. Several programs that are NOT accredited by CADE include:

  • American InterContinental University
  • Ashford University
  • Ashworth College
  • Capella University
  • Hawthorn University
  • Huntington College of Health Sciences
  • Jones International University
  • Kaplan University
  • National American University
  • University of Phoenix

These schools offer nutritional courses that teach different views on nutrition. So not only does the ADA lie to the American public, but it also tries to silence any other dissenting voices. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, especially given what their code of ethics states:

“The dietetic practitioner promotes or endorses products in a manner that is neither false or misleading. The dietetics practitioner provides full disclosure when a real or potential conflict of interest arises.”

Right, the American Dietetic Association doesn’t mislead the American public – think again.

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet has been the subject of great controversy, as its recommendations are the complete opposite of the USDA food pyramid recommendations and that of most other health agencies in the United States.

The diet was developed by Robert C. Atkins, M.D. in the late 1980s and contrary to its critic’s statements, it is NOT a high protein diet.  It is actually a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate way of eating. The basic premise of the diet is to lower your carbohydrate intake to a level that allows for weight loss and maintains eating that level of carb counting until you lose all the weight you want to lose. Then you add in more carbs to a level that stabilizes your weight loss. This maintenance level of carb intake per day allows you to stay at a lower weight for the rest of your life.

Carbohydrates are counted in “Net Carbs” which means that you count the carbohydrates in food but subtract the fiber count from the carb count. For instance:

  • 1 cup of broccoli = 6 carbs (but 4 of those carbs are fiber) so the net carb count would be 2 carbohydrates counted instead of 6.

There are 4 phases to the Atkins diet:

  • Phase 1: During this phase, called Induction, you drop your carbohydrate intake to below 20 grams of net carbs per day.   The goal of this level to cause a change in your body’s metabolism so that it begins to burn body fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates from food.   During this phase, you can eat all kinds of fresh meats, green leafy vegetables, and fats such as olive oil or butter.  The induction phase can sometimes be called Induction Flu, because, for the first 3-5 days of the plan, you may feel weak and shaky as if you had the flu.  This is a common reaction, as it takes time for your body to make the switch from burning carbohydrates for fuel to burning body fat.  It is recommended to drink lots of water, take a multivitamin, 400 mg magnesium, and 99mg potassium tablets 2-3 times a day to help with the transition.  Drinking a clear, salty broth will help as well.  After 3 days or so, these symptoms should lift, and you should begin to feel very good.  Don’t skip meals, eat until you are satisfied, and don’t limit your fat intake.  As you eat less carb, fat and protein intake will naturally increase.
  • Phase 2: During Phase 2, you start to gradually begin to increase your carb intake by 5 grams of net carb per week, by adding more vegetables and berries. As you add carbs back in, you monitor your weight loss. If you continue to lose weight, you can continue adding carbs back in at 5 grams of net carbs per week.  Once your weight loss stops for several days in a row, drop back 5 grams of carb and you should begin losing weight again.  This is known as your OWL or Ongoing Weight Loss carb limit.  You stay at this level until you are within 5-10 pounds of your goal weight.
  • Phase 3: This phase is called the Pre-Maintenance. You begin to add as much as 10 carbs more per week, and as long as you are losing very slowly, you can add back in more vegetables, fruits, starches, and whole grains. This phase allows you to ease back into a more varied, but permanently chosen way of eating. When you get to your goal weight and maintain for at least a month, you will know how many carbs you can eat without gaining weight. This is called the ACE (Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium). For some people, the ACE can be as high as 120 grams of carb per day. Others, who may be more sensitive to carbohydrates, may only be able to eat 40 grams of carbs per day without seeing weight gain.
  • Phase 4: Phase 4 is also called Lifetime Maintenance. During this phase, you just stay at your ACE level and maintain your weight. This level can be affected by exercise or hormone changes, so it may not be the same all the time.

If you are interested in learning more about the Atkins diet, I encourage you to read Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, New and Revised Edition or the newest book about the Atkins diet: New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great.

And here’s the scientific proof of the efficacy of Atkins. Check out the results of Stanford University’s A to Z diet study. The study compared the Atkins diet to 3 other popular diets and followed the study participants for over a year. The final results totally favored the Atkins approach. The authors wrote “In this study, premenopausal overweight and obese women assigned to follow the Atkins diet, which had the lowest carbohydrate intake, lost more weight and experienced more favorable overall metabolic effects at 12 months than women assigned to follow the Zone, Ornish, or LEARN diets.”

A Diabetic Diet for Controlling Blood Sugar

Following the correct diabetic diet is particularly important since many of the complications of diabetes are caused by high blood sugar levels. The correct diet for a diabetic is one that:

  • helps diabetics stabilize and control blood sugar instead of making blood sugar control worse.

In many cases, a type 2 diabetic diagnosis can be successfully overcome with a change in diet. In Type 1 diabetes, in which insulin must be injected, many of the complications of the blood sugar highs and lows can be minimized, and lower doses of insulin can be used if the proper diabetic diet is followed and blood sugar control is maintained.

Any serious research and study will point to the fact that a ketogenic diet or a similar low carb diet is extremely successful in lowering and stabilizing blood sugar values, and as such, is the most effective diabetic diet to follow.

Here are just a few of many studies which showcase the effect of low carb, ketogenic diet on blood sugar control:

  • In a 2004 study published in the Diabetes Journal, participants were given either the American Diabetes Association recommended a moderately high carb diet or a low carb diet. The mean 24-hour blood sugar reading at the end of the ADA high carb diet was 198 mg/dl. This is deep into diabetic diagnosis territory.

    The mean 24-hour blood sugar of the participants at the end of the low carb diet was 126 mg/dl. The low carb diet resulted in a drop of 36% in mean blood sugar readings when compared to the moderate carb diet over the course of the study.

  • Another gold standard metabolic ward study examined the effects of a low carb ketogenic (high fat) diet in obese persons with type 2 diabetes. Ten subjects were monitored while eating their usual diet for 7 days and then while on a very low carb diet for 14 days. Carbohydrate intake was reduced to 21 grams per day, but patients could eat as much protein and fat as they wanted and as often as they wanted. During the low carbohydrate-diet period, the subjects’ mean fasting glucose (blood sugar) decreased from 135 to 113 mg/dl, a 16% drop.

    Those numbers mean that these diabetic patients went from having a blood sugar in the diabetic range to one which was NOT in the diabetic range, and this was just over a short two week period. This reduction in blood sugar required a decrease in diabetes medication in 5 of the 10 patients.

  • In another study, eighty-three subjects were randomly allocated to one of 3 weight-loss diets for 8 weeks and on the same diets in energy balance for 4 weeks. Each diet provided identical amounts of calories but differed in the amount of carbohydrate, fat, protein and saturated fat included. This was expressed in a ratio (Carb: Fat: Protein; %SF). The diets included a:
    • Very Low Fat (VLF) (70:10:20; 3%)
    • High Unsaturated Fat (HUF) = (50:30:20; 6%)
    • Very Low Carb (VLCARB) (4:61:35; 20%)

    The results were telling. Those subjects on the very low carb diabetic diet lowered their fasting insulin by 33%, compared to a 19% fall on the HUF diet and no change on VLF (a lower fasting insulin means blood sugar was also lowered). The VLCARB meals also provoked significantly lower glucose and insulin responses at meal end. The authors concluded that very low carb diets were more effective in improving triglyceride levels, increasing HDL-Cholesterol, and improving fasting and post-meal glucose and insulin concentrations.

Real-Life Success Stories

Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, a Type 1 diabetic himself, has successfully treated thousands of type 1 and 2 diabetics with a low carb diabetic diet he developed over years of study.

He used himself as a test subject, rigorously testing his blood sugar after every meal, and deduced by trial and error what foods helped him control his blood sugar, and what foods made his blood sugar control worse.

He writes about his experiences and his diabetic diet treatment plans in two highly recommended books: The Diabetes Diet: Dr. Bernstein’s Low-Carbohydrate Solution and Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars.

Diana Schwarzbein has also successfully treated many diabetics with her low carb diabetic diet recommendations. She writes about her experiences in unlearning her medical school “low-fat” diet training and finding what really worked for her diabetic patients in her book titled: The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger.

A Warning About the American Diabetes Association

An analysis of the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) shows that it makes diabetic blood sugar control almost impossible. Because of this blood sugar roller coaster effect, the ADA diabetic diet actually makes diabetics sicker.

The ADA recommends a carbohydrate level of 60 grams PER MEAL, which is very high, and it causes blood sugar to increase significantly. As a result, the diabetic patient has to take more insulin and frequently experience dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) reactions and other complications of uncontrolled sugar highs and lows.

Dr. Bernstein believes that a diabetic should have no more than 30 grams of carbohydrate PER DAY: 6 at breakfast, 12 at lunch, and 12 at dinner. This amount stabilizes blood sugar and helps reduce the amount of insulin needed. In some cases, type 2 diabetics have completely eliminated the need for insulin when using a low carb diet to control blood sugar.

Recommended Reading

The Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is a diet in which most of the calories come from fats. The fats consumed may include cream, butter, vegetable oils, and coconut oil.

A moderate amount of protein is also consumed to support body maintenance, but the diet is very low in starches and sugars (carbohydrates).

The term “ketogenic” refers to the fact that high fat, very low carb diet creates a condition in the body known as “ketosis”.

Being in ketosis simply means that the body cells are burning fatty acids for fuel instead of the glucose that comes from carbohydrates. The products of this process of burning fats produce fragments of the fatty acids called “ketone bodies”.

Here’s a related factoid: although ketosis is viewed by doctors as somehow unsafe, it is well known that most people go into ketosis each night when they sleep, because they go without food for 7-9 hours, and the body burns stored fatty acids while in a fasted state.

The confusion may come from a misidentification of ketosis with diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition in which the normal rate of ketosis is hugely magnified due to a lack of insulin to control the process. The high level of ketones causes the blood to become too acidic, which causes multiple problems.

Atkins and Optimal Nutrition

The induction phase of the Atkins diet is the most famous version of a ketogenic regimen.  Carbohydrate intake is kept below 20 grams per day and then causes the body to switch to burning its own stored fat for fuel instead.

A Polish physician named Jan Kwasniewski has used a ketogenic program which he calls Optimal Nutrition to successfully treat his patients who were suffering from diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other health issues.

Health Effects

Ketogenic diet plans have very beneficial effects on blood lipids, on the symptoms of insulin resistance, and they are an essential tool for helping people with diabetes control their blood sugars.

In addition, there is a multitude of studies on using a ketogenic treat to treat certain cancers, autism, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit my website which gives more details on the use and effects of a ketogenic diet.

Gluten Free Diet

A gluten-free diet is one in which all products containing certain proteins called glutens are avoided. Gluten proteins are found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina) and close relatives such as spelt, kamut, einkorn, and faro. Other gluten grains such as rye, barley, and triticale are also restricted. Oats and millet may also be restricted, as they cause symptoms in many people.

The mainstream advice to eat 6-11 servings of grain-based foods each day has serious detrimental health effects for many people.

Gluten consumption is the main cause of Celiac disease, a digestive disorder characterized by villous atrophy, a change in the form and function of the intestinal wall, and other health issues including joint and bone pain, neurological problems and serious autoimmune reactions in the body.

It has been estimated that at least 10% of the American population is gluten intolerant. That’s 130 million Americans who are basically sick from eating grains.

Worse, they may not even know why they are sick. On average, it takes 10 years of suffering to finally uncover a diagnosis of gluten intolerance.

Patients suffer not only from gut problems such as gas, bloating and diarrhea, but also from a wide variety of other, seemingly disconnected health issues, such as migraines, nerve pain, osteoporosis, skin disorders or even simple chronic heartburn or GERD.

In addition, gluten intolerance or sensitivity exists in a range of degrees, but very little research has been done. Some people may not even have discernable symptoms, but the damage from grain may cause the development of a “leaky gut” and autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Most doctors only know about celiac disease in relation to gluten intolerance, and it is in relation to a celiac diagnosis that most people are advised to follow a diet free of gluten.

Grains and Cancer

After doing a lot of research in this area, I’ve come to believe that most people would benefit from following a gluten-free diet, and in general, if people avoided whole grains completely, we would spend a lot less time at home or the hospital sick, and a lot less money on health care and health research, especially cancer and autoimmune disease research.

You may be surprised to read that grain consumption is closely tied to the rates of cancer in a population. But consider this: in 1843, a physician name Stanislas Tanchou spoke at the Paris Medical Society conference. He claimed that he could predict the exact cancer rates in every major European city over the next 50 years. He based his predictions on the percentage of grain being consumed in each city.

His predictions were recorded, and in time, they were shown to be correct. In those cities where grain consumption was higher, cancer rates were higher. And in populations where grains were not consumed, cancer did not exist. This may be why some term cancer as a “disease of civilization”.

What to Eat and Not Eat on a Gluten-Free Diet

Foods to Avoid

The foods that those with gluten intolerance should avoid include all products which commonly contain any grain-based gluten. Grains which have high amounts of gluten include:

  • Wheat, all forms (durum, semolina)
  • Rye
  • Kamut
  • Spelt
  • Einkorn
  • Barley
  • Oats (for some)

A gluten-free diet means the avoidance of any starch-based products made with the flours from the above grains as well. This rules out:

  • all types of wheat and rye bread
  • the breading and batters used in fried foods
  • beers made with malt grain
  • cereals made from grain products
  • flour-based baking mixes
  • pastas
  • crackers
  • cookies
  • cakes and pies
  • thickening ingredients used in gravies and sauces
  • graham or matzo flour, which are made from wheat
  • blue cheese, which gets its mold from wheat bread sources
  • fiber products which use wheat germ

Processed foods are the worst products for those with gluten sensitivities. They contain unanticipated sources of gluten because they usually have thickeners, fillers, and stabilizing agents. Read ingredient labels and avoid products such as:

  • ingredient acronyms such as HPP, HVP, MSG, TPP or TVP (this would include most flavoring agents such as bouillon cubes
  • candy bars and energy bars
  • canned foods, especially soups and chilis
  • canned meats, processed meats, and deli-style lunch meats
  • ketchup and sauces
  • ice cream and frozen yogurt
  • instant coffee
  • mustards
  • sausages
  • sweetened yogurts
  • most “low fat” products

In addition, gluten is also commonly found in many vitamins and cosmetics, such as lipstick, and in the production of many medicinal capsules and tablets, where starch is a commonly used binding agent.

Safe Foods for the Gluten-Sensitive

The good news is that people on a gluten-free diet can eat mostly whole foods including:

  • fresh meats, fish, shellfish
  • fresh chicken, turkey, and other poultry products
  • fresh eggs
  • vegetables and fruit
  • whole dairy products, although some people are also sensitive to dairy products

There are also some grain and starch sources that are acceptable for those on a gluten-free diet. The most frequently used starch sources include:

  • corn and corn products such as corn starch, chips, and polenta
  • sorghum flour
  • potatoes
  • rice and rice flour products
  • tapioca flours (derived from cassava)
  • amaranth
  • arrowroot
  • Other lesser-known grains such as montina, lupin, quinoa, taro, teff, chia seed, and yam
  • Bean, soybean, and nut flours can also be used in place of gluten-containing products

Resources for Further Reading

Recommended Gluten-Free Cookbooks

Medical Knowledge: Is Your Doctor a Reliable Source?

Consider this:  The medical knowledge your doctor relies on to treat you is incomplete, and at times, inaccurate. The smart medical consumer will spend the time doing their own medical research, so they can accurately judge the quality of the care they receive from their physician.

So why don’t doctors have accurate information? To begin, as would be expected, doctors rely on the information they learned in medical school to treat patients. However, after years in practice, that information is often outdated. And what if the information they were taught in school was flawed?  The fact is that most physicians don’t rely on the latest, or most accurate information when treating patients on a daily basis.

Biased Research

Many doctors try to keep up their medical knowledge by reading the current research. But this source of information can be unreliable as well.  Dr. John Ioannidis, an expert on the medical bias, has written extensively about the flaws found in medical research.  He has estimated that as much as 90 percent of the medical research doctors rely on to treat patients is flawed. 

In an essay published in PLoS Medicine, he writes:

“There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false…Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”

Spinning the Data

But surely doctors can read the studies done and make conclusions?  Not necessarily. Many doctors don’t have enough free time to read every study on every topic. Instead, they rely on “abstracts”.

An abstract is a summary paragraph included with each medical study published. It’s supposed to give the reader a quick overview of the study results. The problem is that these abstracts may or may not reflect the actual results of the study.  In many cases, especially when expensive drugs are involved, the study abstract may give a summary that is the opposite of the actual results.

In addition, a drug company may not even publish a study that provides negative information about their product.

Compromised Medical Journals

As a trusted alternative to reading every study themselves, many doctors rely on and completely trust the medical journals which publish peer-written articles discussing the studies.

Unfortunately, in 2009 the New York Times reported that the articles in many of the top medical journals are often written by “ghostwriters” who work for pharmaceutical companies or other businesses with vested interests in spinning the data.  According to the study cited by the Times, “responding authors reported a 10.9 percent rate of ghostwriting in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, the highest rate among the journals.”

Physician Arrogance

In addition to flawed information sources, physician arrogance and boredom can affect the care you receive. For example, when a patient’s complaint is a “routine” problem, such as heartburn, the doctor has no reason to look at the causes closely.  Since they deal with this ailment frequently, the doctor develops an attitude that the cause and cure of a “simple” complaint like heartburn is a known medical fact.  They already have a written handout to give to the patient, and so they fall back on that course of action. There’s no motivation to find out if new research has been done in this area, and so any new information which might help the patient is lost. People with chronic heartburn can attest to the fact that the routine treatment they are given does little to help.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

At the end of the day, all of these influences point to the fact that the advice, care and medical knowledge you get from your physician might not be reflective of the latest research or the best for your health.

Since your health and physical well-being are so critical to a happy life, obtaining the proper medical knowledge is a critical component of your personal health care plan.

Here’s how to get the medical knowledge you need to get the best health care possible:

  • Do your own research on whatever health issue you are experiencing.  Go to Pubmed and look for the most current research on that particular topic.  New information is constantly being generated by research scientists, and it might be years before a study is written up in a medical journal, and even longer before your doctor sees that article.
  • Find out who in the medical world is the “expert” on your issue, and contact them. One way to do this is to look at who is publishing articles on your particular issue.  Pubmed would have this information.
  • Get a copy of the Physicians’ Desk Reference manual, or go to their website to find out the facts about drugs your doctor wants to prescribe.  You can also visit the FDA’s Medwatch to view or register complaints about medical devices and drugs.
  • Investigate the relationships between health agencies, physicians and pharmaceutical companies by visiting the ProPublica website.
  • Read books on your particular health issue, and search for other people discussing your issue on the internet.  These people may have already done research from which you can benefit.  There may even be forums on your health issue on which you can ask questions and find more information.
  • If your doctor disparages your knowledge or ignores your questions and concerns, find another doctor who will work with you to provide the care you want.

The bottom line is that it’s up to you to make sure that you have the medical knowledge you need to judge the quality of the care you receive.  When you speak to your doctor, you should know as much as he or she knows about your ailment, so that you can judge the quality of the information and care being given.  Only then will you know that you are receiving the best care possible.

Insulin Resistance Symptoms

Insulin resistance symptoms are very similar to the symptoms associated with pre-diabetes, and I believe the two conditions are strongly related, in that insulin resistance is often the beginning stage of pre-diabetes and can worsen into type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance is closely associated with obesity, high cholesterol brought on by inflammation, high blood triglycerides, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. These health conditions often show up at the same time in many patients, and doctors call the combination the Metabolic Syndrome.

Avoiding and Treating Insulin Resistance

Although there are many drugs on the market touted to treat insulin resistance, (most have serious side effects) most people with insulin resistance symptoms can reverse them by:

  • Following a low carbohydrate diet and
  • Adding a long term program of high-intensity interval training exercise. This would include lifting weights and aerobic interval training.

The combination of a low carb diet and high-intensity exercise is the best treatment for avoiding and reversing insulin resistance symptoms and the eventual progression to the pre-diabetes symptoms associated with a breakdown in insulin sensitivity.

For example, look at the results of this study designed to test low carb diets on the factors associated with metabolic syndrome:

Eighty-three subjects were randomly allocated to one of 3 weight-loss diets for 8 weeks and on the same diets in energy balance for 4 weeks. Each diet provided identical amounts of calories but differed in the amount of carbohydrate, fat, protein and saturated fat included. This was expressed in a ratio (Carb:Fat: Protein; %SF). The diets included a:

  • Very Low Fat (VLF) (70:10:20; 3%)
  • High Unsaturated Fat (HUF) = (50:30:20; 6%)
  • Very Low Carb (VLCARB) (4:61:35; 20%)

The results were telling. Those subjects on the VLCARB diet lowered their fasting insulin by 33%, compared to a 19% fall on the HUF diet and no change on VLF.

The authors concluded that very low carb diets resulted in similar fat loss to the HUF diets, (which were low in saturated fat), but the very low carb diet was more effective in improving triglyceride levels, increasing HDL-Cholesterol, and improving fasting and post-meal glucose and insulin concentrations. They noted that VLCARB diets may be useful in the short-term management of subjects with insulin resistance and high blood triglycerides.

Many other studies have repeated these results, even in people who have developed diabetes from years of chronically elevated insulin levels.

A Polish physician named Jan Kwasniewski has used very low carb diets (aka high fat or ketogenic diets) to effectively treat Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes.

Intense Exercise is the Best

In addition to a low carb diet, intense exercise has been shown in many studies to reverse most insulin resistance symptoms in humans. Exercise in any form or intensity will help reduce insulin resistance, but high-intensity interval training has been shown to be especially beneficial. For more information, see this study and this study, and read Body by Science: A Research-Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little. If you aren’t big on reading, here’s a talk was given by Dr. McGuff which covers the major points of his book.

Resources for Further Reading