9 Steps to Perfect Health - #1: Don't Eat Toxins | Chris Kresser

9 Steps to Perfect Health – #1: Don’t Eat Toxins

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This content is part of an article series.

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Imagine a world where:

  • diabetes, heart diseases, autoimmunity and other modern diseases are rare or don’t exist at all
  • we are naturally lean and fit
  • we are fertile throughout our childbearing years
  • we sleep peacefully and deeply
  • we age gracefully without degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis

While this might sound like pure fantasy today, anthropological evidence suggests that this is exactly how human beings lived for the vast majority of our evolutionary history.

Today, most people accept diseases like obesity, diabetes, infertility and Alzheimer’s as “normal”. But while these diseases may now be common, they’re anything but normal. Humans evolved roughly 2.5 million years ago, and for roughly 84,000 generations we were naturally free of the modern diseases which kill millions of people each year and make countless others miserable. In fact, the world I asked you to imagine above – which may seem preposterous and unattainable today – was the natural human state for our entire history on this planet up until a couple hundred years ago.

What was responsible for the change? What transformed us from naturally healthy and vital people free of degenerative disease into a world of sick, fat, infertile and unhappy people?

In a word? The modern lifestyle. And though there are several aspects of our current lifestyle that contribute to disease, the widespread consumption of food toxins is by far the greatest offender. Specifically, the following four dietary toxins are to blame:

  • Cereal grains (especially refined flour)
  • Omega-6 industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, etc.)
  • Sugar (especially high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Processed soy (soy milk, soy protein, soy flour, etc.)

What is a toxin?

At the simplest level, a toxin is something capable of causing disease or damaging tissue when it enters the body.

When most people hear the word “toxin”, they think of chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals or other industrial pollutants. But even beneficial nutrients like water, which are necessary to sustain life, are toxic at high doses.

In their book The Perfect Health Diet, Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet apply the economic principle of declining marginal benefits to toxins:

It implies that the first bit eaten of any toxin has low toxicity. Each additional bit is slightly more toxic than the bit before. At higher doses, the toxicity of each bit continues to increase, so that the toxin is increasingly poisonous.

This is important to understand as we discuss the role of dietary toxins in contributing to modern disease. Most of us won’t get sick from eating a small amount of sugar, cereal grain, soy and industrial seed oil. But if we eat those nutrients (or rather anti-nutrients) in excessive quantities, our risk of developing modern diseases rises significantly.

That’s exactly what’s happening today. These four food toxins – refined cereal grains, industrial seed oils, sugar and processed soy – comprise the bulk of the modern diet. Bread, pastries, muffins, crackers, cookies, soda, fruit juice, fast food and other convenience foods are all loaded with these toxins. And when the majority of what most people eat on a daily basis is toxic, it’s not hard to understand why our health is failing.

Let’s look at each of these food toxins in more detail.

Cereal grains: the unhealthiest “health food” on the planet?

The major cereal grains – wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, oats, rye and millet – have become the staple crops of the modern human diet. They’ve also become the “poster children” of the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet promoted by organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you say the phrase “whole grains” to most people, the first word that probably comes to their mind is “healthy”.

But the fact is that most animals, including our closest relative (the chimpanzee) aren’t adapted to eating cereal grains and don’t eat them in large quantities. And humans have only been eating them for the past 10,000 years (a tiny blip of time on the scale of evolution). Why?

Because plants like cereal grains are always competing against predators (like us) for survival. Unlike animals, plants can’t run away from us when we decide to eat them. They had to evolve other mechanisms for protecting themselves. These include:

  • producing toxins that damage the lining of the gut;
  • producing toxins that bind essential minerals, making them unavailable to the body; and,
  • producing toxins that inhibit digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients, including protein.

One of these toxic compounds is the protein gluten, which is present in wheat and many of the other most commonly eaten cereal grains.

In short, gluten damages the intestine and makes it leaky. And researchers now believe that a leaky gut is one of the major predisposing factors for conditions like obesity, diabetes and autoimmune disease.

Celiac disease (CD) – a condition of severe gluten intolerance – has been well known for decades. Celiacs have a dramatic and, in some cases, potentially fatal immune response to even the smallest amounts of gluten.

But celiac disease is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to intolerance to wheat and other gluten containing grains. Celiac disease is characterized by antibodies to two components of the gluten compound: alpha-gliadin, and transglutaminase. But we now know that people can and do react to several other components of wheat and gluten. The diagram below shows how wheat and gluten are broken down in the body:

diagram of components of wheat

Current laboratory testing for gluten intolerance only tests for alpha-gliadin and transglutaminase, the two components of gluten implicated in celiac disease (highlighted in red in the diagram). But as you can see, wheat contains several other components including lectins like wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), other epitopes of the gliadin protein like beta-gliadin, gamma-gliadin and omega-gliadin, another protein called glutenin, an opioid peptide called gluteomorphin, and a compound called deamidated gliadin produced by the industrial processing or digestion of gluten.

So here’s the thing. Studies now clearly show that people can react negatively to all of these components of wheat – not just the alpha-gliadin and transglutaminase that celiacs react to. And the worst part of this is that up until about 2 weeks ago, no commercial labs were testing for sensitivity to these other subfractions of wheat.

This means, of course, that it’s extremely likely that far more people are intolerant to wheat and gluten than conventional wisdom would tell us. In fact, that’s exactly what the latest research shows.

Dr. Kenneth Fine, a pioneer in gluten intolerance research, has demonstrated that 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant, and that 8 in 10 have the genes that predispose them to developing gluten intolerance.

This is nothing short of a public health catastrophe in a nation where the #1 source of calories is refined flour. But while most are at least aware of the dangers of sugar, trans-fat and other unhealthy foods, fewer than 1 in 8 people with celiac disease are aware of their condition. A 1999 paper in the British Medical Journal illustrated this well:

Graphic depicting incidence of undiagnosed celiac disease

Patients with clinically obvious celiac disease (observable inflammation and destruction of the gut tissue) comprise only 12.5% of the total population of people with CD. 87.5% of those with celiac have no obvious gut symptoms. For every symptomatic patient with CD, there are 8 patients with CD and no gastrointestinal symptoms.

But does that mean patients with CD without gut symptoms are healthy? Not at all. It was long believed that the pathological manifestations of CD were limited to the gastrointestinal tract. But research over the past few decades has revealed that gluten intolerance can affect almost every other tissue and system in the body, including:

  • brain;
  • endocrine system;
  • stomach and liver;
  • nucleus of cells;
  • blood vessels; and,
  • smooth muscle,

just to name a few!

This explains why CD and gluten intolerance are associated with several different diseases, including type 1 diabetes, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia, psychiatric illness, ADHD, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, obesity and more. The table below from the same 1999 BMJ paper depicts the increased incidence of other diseases in patients with CD:

table showing associations of other diseases with celiac disease

As you can see, up to 17% of people with CD have an “undefined neurological disorder”. But even that alarmingly high statistic only accounts for people with diagnosed CD. We know that only 1 in 8 people with CD are diagnosed. We also know that those with CD represent only a small fraction of the population of people with gluten intolerance. With this in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that the number of people with gluten intolerance that have “undefined neurological disorders” (and other associated conditions on the list above) could be significantly higher than current research suggests.

Finally, we also now know that when you are gluten intolerant – which 33% (if not more) of you are – you will also “cross-react” with other foods that have a similar “molecular signature” to gluten and its components. Unfortunately, the list of these foods (shown below) contains all grains, which is why some medical practitioners (myself included) recommend not just a gluten-free diet, but an entirely grain-free diet. As you can see, it also contains other foods like dairy (alpha & beta casein, casomorphin, milk butyrophilin) and coffee (which is a very common cross-reactant).

  • alpha-caesin
  • beta-caesin
  • casomorphin
  • milk butyrophilin
  • cow’s milk
  • american cheese
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • all cereal grains
  • quinoa
  • amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • tapioca
  • rice
  • potato
  • corn
  • sesame

Industrial seed oils: unnatural and unfit for human consumption

Industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower, etc.) have not been a part of the human diet up until relatively recently, when misguided groups like the AHA and the ADA started promoting them as “heart-healthy” alternatives to saturated fat.

The graph below shows how dramatically seed oil consumption has risen over the past several decades:

pufaconsumption

Throughout 4-5 million years of hominid evolution, diets were abundant in seafood and other sources of omega-3 long chain fatty acids (EPA & DHA), but relatively low in omega-6 seed oils.

Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. It also indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, that are the primary causes of death and morbidity today.

At the onset of the industrial revolution (about 140 years ago), there was a marked shift in the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of n-6 fats increased at the expense of n-3 fats. This change was due to both the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of cereal grains as feed for domestic livestock (which in turn altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consumed).

The following chart lists the omega-6 and omega-3 content of various vegetable oils and foods:

efa content of oils

Vegetable oil consumption rose dramatically between the beginning and end of the 20th century, and this had an entirely predictable effect on the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the American diet. Between 1935 and 1939, the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was reported to be 8.4:1. From 1935 to 1985, this ratio increased to 10.3:1 (a 23% increase). Other calculations put the ratio as high as 12.4:1 in 1985. Today, estimates of the ratio range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals.

In fact, Americans now get almost 20% of their calories from a single food source – soybean oil – with almost 9% of all calories from the omega-6 fat linoleic acid (LA) alone! (PDF)

This reveals that our average intake of n-6 fatty acids is between 10 and 25 times higher than evolutionary norms. The consequences of this dramatic shift cannot be underestimated.

So what are the consequences to human health of an n-6:n-3 ratio that is up to 25 times higher than it should be?

The short answer is that elevated n-6 intakes are associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • macular degeneration
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

The relationship between intake n-6 fats and cardiovascular mortality is particularly striking. The following chart, from an article entitled Eicosanoids and Ischemic Heart Disease by Stephan Guyenet, clearly illustrates the correlation between a rising intake of n-6 and increased mortality from heart disease:

landis graph of hufa and mortality

As you can see, the USA is right up there at the top with the highest intake of n-6 fat and the greatest risk of death from heart disease.

On the other hand, several clinical studies have shown that decreasing the n-6:n-3 ratio protects against chronic, degenerative diseases. One study showed that replacing corn oil with olive oil and canola oil to reach an n-6:n-3 ratio of 4:1 led to a 70% decrease in total mortality. That is no small difference.

Joseph Hibbeln, a researcher at the National Institute of Health (NIH) who has published several papers on n-3 and n-6 intakes, didn’t mince words when he commented on the rising intake of n-6 in a recent paper:

The increases in world LA consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression and cardiovascular mortality.

And those are just the conditions we have the strongest evidence for. It’s likely that the increase in n-6 consumption has played an equally significant role in the rise of nearly every inflammatory disease. Since it is now known that inflammation is involved in nearly all diseases, including obesity and metabolic syndrome, it’s hard to overstate the negative effects of too much omega-6 fat.

Sugar: the sweetest way to wreck your health

About 20 years ago, Nancy Appleton, PhD, began researching all of the ways in which sugar destroys our health. Over the years the list has continuously expanded, and now includes 141 points. Here’s just a small sampling (the entire list can be found on her blog).

  • Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder and stomach.
  • Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.
  • Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract, including an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.
  • Sugar can cause food allergies.
  • Sugar contributes to obesity.
But not all sugar is created alike. White table sugar (sucrose) is composed of two sugars: glucose and fructose. Glucose is an important nutrient in our bodies and is healthy, as long as it’s consumed in moderation. Fructose is a different story.

Fructose is found primarily in fruits and vegetables, and sweeteners like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). A recent USDA report found that the average American eats 152 pounds of sugar each year, including almost 64 pounds of HFCS.

Unlike glucose, which is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and taken up by the cells, fructose is shunted directly to the liver where it is converted to fat. Excess fructose consumption causes a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is directly linked to both diabetes and obesity.

A 2009 study showed that shifting 25% of dietary calories from glucose to fructose caused a 4-fold increase in abdominal fat. Abdominal fat is an independent predictor of insulin sensitivity, impaired glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and several other metabolic diseases.

In a widely popular talk on YouTube, Dr. Robert H. Lustig explains that fructose has all of the qualities of a poison. It causes damage, provides no benefit and is sent directly to the liver to be detoxified so that it doesn’t harm the body.

For more on the toxic effects of fructose, see The Perfect Health Diet and Robert Lustig’s YouTube talk: Sugar, The Bitter Truth.

Soy: another toxin promoted as a health food

Like cereal grains, soy is another toxin often promoted as a health food. It’s now ubiquitous in the modern diet, present in just about every packaged and processed food in the form of soy protein isolate, soy flour, soy lecithin and soybean oil.

For this reason, most people are unaware of how much soy they consume. You don’t have to be a tofu-loving hippie to eat a lot of soy. In fact, the average American – who is most definitely not a tofu-loving hippie – gets up to 9% of total calories from soybean oil alone.

Whenever I mention the dangers of soy in my public talks, someone always protests that soy can’t be unhealthy because it’s been consumed safely in Asia for thousands of years. There are several reasons why this isn’t a valid argument.

First, the soy products consumed traditionally in Asia were typically fermented and unprocessed – including tempeh, miso, natto and tamari. This is important because the fermentation process partially neutralizes the toxins in soybeans.

Second, Asians consumed soy foods as a condiment, not as a replacement for animal foods. The average consumption of soy foods in China is 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) per day and is 30 to 60 grams in Japan. These are not large amounts of soy.

Contrast this with the U.S. and other western countries, where almost all of the soy consumed is highly processed and unfermented, and eaten in much larger amounts than in Asia.

How does soy impact our health? The following is just a partial list:

  • Soy contains trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function;
  • Soy contains phytic acid, which reduces absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc;
  • Soy increases our requirement for vitamin D, which 50% of American are already deficient in;
  • Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.
  • Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12;
  • Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines;
  • Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods to mask soy’s unpleasant taste; and,
  • Soy can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems, especially in women.

Perhaps most alarmingly, a study at the Harvard Public School of Health in 2008 found that men who consumed the equivalent of one cup of soy milk per day had a 50% lower sperm count than men who didn’t eat soy.

In 1992, the Swiss Health Service estimated that women consuming the equivalent of two cups of soy milk per day provides the estrogenic equivalent of one birth control pill. That means women eating cereal with soy milk and drinking a soy latte each day are effectively getting the same estrogen effect as if they were taking a birth control pill.

This effect is even more dramatic in infants fed soy formula. Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula. Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day.

Click here for a complete list of studies demonstrating the harmful effects of soy products.

400 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. Hi,

    I see potato listed in the list of cross-reactant foods for CD. Is this list ordered from most to least reactive? I’m enjoying my peeled potatoes mixed with sweet potatoes! (200cals per day per Perfect Health Diet) 🙂

  2. Thanks Chris. A great article and I actually like your extension of the word “toxin” to include what has heretofore been known as food. Its somewhat debatable whether its a good idea, but at least you were first to do it for these 4 “food” groups.

    Also, thanks for carefully handling the wording in the “Industrial Seed Oils” section. I feel this is so important. The problem is the “industrial” and the “excessive consumption”, and not the Lenoleic Acid, or omega-6. So many writers act as if there is something toxic about omega-6, because they have an ax to grind: either they are selling fish oil, or, like the Weston A. Price Foundation, they are promoting animal fats.

    One point that I’d like to make, to clarify the “vegetable oil” issue is to point out the insidious ways the “oils” enter our bodies, lest the reader think that the only way they intake “vegetable oil” is by buying if in a bottle off the shelf of their grocer. Your graph is great at showing the expanding use of the oils, but I believe the reader should know that the chart doesn’t represent their use of the liquid oil, alone, but is heavily influenced by how much we now depend on commercial foods, from crackers (and all boxed bakery items), to potato and corn chips, to restaurant foods, to fast foods. Even the healthy looking hummus I buy occasionally has “canola oil” on the label.

    My personal rules are to just not buy anything with ingredients on the label if I can help it, and if I do, to avoid the item if it mentions any kind of grain/nut oils (and of course sugar and soy per your other “toxics”).

    I would offer that absolutely no tests have been done to prove that a gross imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 is unhealthy, if those ingested fatty acids were themselves healthy. And that is why I like to keep the “industrial seed oils” as the toxic substance that you define, so you can safely be accurate in this assessment of the situation. Its probably the adulteration of the oils, by excessive heat processing, by oxidation on the shelf before use, or by intentional hydrogenation that seems to be causing the problem.

    That being said, there is also no reason, considering our diet since our origin as a species, to WANT to consume much greater than twice the omega-6 as omega-3. And the only way I see of doing this is the same way as avoiding all the toxins you have identified here: read labels and know what the different terms on them mean, and then totally AVOID ALL commercial vegetable oils. If one wants to eat vegetable oils, as in preparing their own salad dressings or mayonnaise, they can buy organic, cold pressed vegetable oils and keep them and the resultant dressings refrigerated, and not suffer at all from the omega-6 that is contained in moderate amounts of these dressings. And if one wants to have a balance of essential oils in the dressings, they can chose (from your chart) canola, walnut, and/or flax seed oils and get a dressing holding both omega-6 and omega-3 oils. Not on your chart, but with a ratio similar to canola oil is hemp seed oil, which I use often because it is available refrigerated from most health food stores.

    I love your long list of diseases that are definitely caused by the heavy current use of industrially produced omega-6 oils, and can’t fault a single item on that list. I just wish you would have not introduced it as “caused by elevated n-6”, but had identified the link as PROBABLY the increased use of adulterated seed oils. As I said, no one has ever increased the use of healthy, omega-6 oils to where they outweigh the omega-3 oils by even 10 to 1 and then tested to see if the same modern diseases occur. I would ask that you continue to be careful in the terms you use so that people do not start blaming omega-6 for their health problems. That is exactly what certain industries, including the drug industry, want. “Omega-6” is a nebulous term. No one now realizes that it means “salad oil” or “that oil in all the commercial pastries I eat that used to be just butter or lard”. But supplement providers and healthy salad oil producers have a hard time printing the “omega-6” amounts on their labels right now, thanks to the bashing that this essential oils has gotten from the press.

    Our bodies need healthy omega-6 oils. The whole, omega-6, or Lenoleic Acid (not its components) in each of the 100 trillion cell walls of our bodies is what provides oxygen to each cell for metabolism. As I understand the problem, once you ingest a lot of commercial, adulterated omega-6 though, it replaces the healthy omega-6 in the cell walls and retards the oxygen entry. Once this progresses past a 35% reduction for a period of time, the cell always turns cancerous. Likewise, it is the esterified cholesterol, carrying adulterated omega-6, that damages arterial walls. Cholesterol has always been a part of a healthy body before introduction of industrial seed oils. Its in every cell, and 25% of it is functioning in the human brain. It is not the problem. The adulterated oil is.

    For more on these issues, I can only direct interested parties to:

    http://www.brianpeskin.com/BP.com/reports/CAMB-Fish-Oil-Fallacies-Report.pdf

    Best of health to all.

      • How is that hard to understand? Food should 1-2 ingredients. Broccoli. Beef. Coconut oil. Butter. Put them together and you have real food. A box with 50 ingredients on it? Not food.

        • I understood you Craig! Many people do better with simple foods, some thrive if they are careful with what foods they eat together. It’s certainly obvious that western style diets with highly refined foods, lots of sugar and fructose lead to so called “civilized” diseases. Study after study show
          that a country that replaces their native diet, with western style diet have skyrocteding obesity, and health declines.

        • I think you’re getting at something that hasn’t been mentioned yet, and that’s food additives being toxic in their own right. Dyes, sulfites and nitrites, for example, may not kill a lab rat in six months, but enough of them over enough years could be toxic. Grocery stores have to be concerned about shelf life and manufacturers want their products to be visually appealing, factors which may be at odds with my body’s machinery.

      • Seriously, Thomas? Is that your takeaway from all that Glenn said? Obviously he meant additional ingredients, not NO ingredients.

    • I’m interested to read this post because I have been avoiding all seeds nuts grains and legumes for over a year and so not consuming any Omega 6. I know it’s considered an EFA and I’m having trouble with eczema which has recurred from childhood during menopause. I have systemic lupus so all the arguments about Omega 6 grains and seeds etc makes sense to me but I am also wondering if I should have *some* Omega 6 in order to support my skin and my whole system. It’s a complicated thing trying to navigate one’s health via nutrition. Especially when you have such a serious condition.

      • Penelope,

        I’m not sure whether omega-6 shortage (if you have it) contributes to eczema, but for sure, you need a certain amount of omega-6 (very small compared to other oils except omega-3) to have a healthy body, and especially to have healthy skin.

        However, just because you’ve eliminated those seeds/nuts you mentioned doesn’t mean you’ve eliminated all intake of omega-6, if that’s even what you meant. You may have eliminated all refined sources of omega-6, which is a good thing, but it’s impossible to eat whole foods and not get omega-6 in almost every food you eat.

        Just because seeds and nuts are mentioned as primary sources for polyunsaturated oils such as omega-6 doesn’t mean you don’t get traces of o-6 in most foods, and you get heavy amounts in fresh meats, eggs, etc.

        Check the nutrients in beef liver:

        http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beef-products/3468/2

        Tons of omega-6. Way out of “balance” with what is recommended by people pushing for a balance between omega-6 and omega-3. Yet liver is considered a health food (if you can get it raised free-range and organic.)

        If you want to balance things the other way, eat brains. There you have about a 30:1 imbalance towards omega-3.

        Notice how spinach provides over 5 times the omega-3 as omega-6 though, in case you are worried about balance:

        http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2

        The 2 omega’s are closer to equally balanced in collard greens, but there’s still more omega-3 than omega-6:

        http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2410/2

        Most foods though are higher in omega-6. Not to worry. If it’s natural whole food, that’s how we’ve eaten for thousands of years. Eating meat “nose-to-tail” you get about a 4:1 ratio of the omega’s, overall, if the meat is wild game, or a little higher if it’s “free range domestic species. That tells me that is an acceptable ratio. Eat more skin, you get more omega-6. Skin of any animal has hardly any omega-3.

        Best of luck in finding your cure for eczema. My mother once had lupus and I got her completely cured by having her fast several times. Paavo Airola has written extensively on fasting to cure disease. Check out his books, especially on arthritis.

  3. smgj: as I pointed out in the article, there are many components of wheat/gluten that people can be sensitive to. If someone reacts to lectins or gluteomorphins, I don’t think fermentation will prevent that reaction (even though it does seem to help in cases of intolerance to gliadin).

  4. Dave: have some meat! Liver is especially nutrient rich, with pretty much nothing in it that can hurt you. If you’re concerned about the omega-6 content of grain-fed meat, you can eat grass-fed meat.

    One thing Chris did not mention is that foods with a high saturated fat content tend to have less omega-6 just because they have less total polyunsaturated fat. That means even grain-fed beef is much lower in omega-6 than vegetable oil.

  5. Very interesting – for me, especially the part on grain. I’ve read some articles that claim that slow-rising sourdough (typically 24hours with older sourdough culture as starter) may neutralize the harmfull gluten for many of us. Even to such a degree that some diagnosed celiacs are able to eat such bread. Do you have any thoughts/comments to that claim?

    • i’ve read that fermentation breaks down some of the gluten, either due to metabolization or simply the acidification. the trade-off is a less-sweet, more sour and potentially lower-rising bread. it’s an art to make a long-fermenting sourdough with a balanced flavor profile; sometimes the acidity is too much and it turns bitter.

    • It’s true that properly prepared gluten flours are digestible for some people and for some people who cannot digest contemporary bread products. However there is no evidence that someone who has celiac can consume gluten or gliadin grains.

  6. Shelley: you don’t need to worry about the fructose in fruits and vegetables when consumed in moderation. 2-3 servings/day of fruit are fine for most people (unless they have serious metabolic disease).

    • Your use of the word moderation is important. Just a comment on natural fruit. Years ago, in an attempt to eat really healthy, I began to have problems with bloating and weight gain despite eating whole grains and no sugar. I went to a dietician and she had me keep a food diary for a week.
      She spotted I was eating too much fruit for my metabolism ( not extreme amounts ) and told me I was eating too much fruit. She recommended I eat low glycemic fruit and only 2 servings a day: am with 1 oz of protein from nuts, and again 1 serving at night. Limiting the kind and amount of fruit and I thrived, lost 25 pounds without effort, and became the healthiest I ever have been for years.

      • you are in full agreement with Chris, you are describing a metabolic problem. Moderation = 2-3 servings a day if you do not have problems with sugar.

  7. “Humans evolved roughly 2.5 million years ago, and for roughly 84,000 generations we were naturally free of the modern diseases” – why are you so sure about it?

  8. I must say that I found this to be a very impressive and well written article. Through my own research I have come to many of the same conclusions yet when I have posed these sorts of conclusions to others (many of whom suffer from Celiac Disease) I am met with a great deal of disbelief.

    The only correction I would make here is that current archaeological evidence shows that human were consuming and processing a grass similar to wheat for the past 30k years. Here is a link that quotes the research:

    http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-10-prehistoric-ate-flatbread-years.html

    Keep up the good work.

    Kimberly

  9. Hi Chris

    Thanks for your amazing article. I agree with most of your arguments in this post. We should avoid toxins to avoid modern diseases.

    Can you explain why excess linoleic acid is bad for us? Is it because linoleic acid is the metabolic precursor of arachidonic acid and inflammatory eicosanoids are derived from arachidonic acid?

  10. In reading about the glucose/fructose, i see you mention that the fructose is also coming straight from fruits and veggies… So are we not to eat those or are there certain ones best for consumption? I have just recently diagnosed myself with celiac disease. I am going next week to start the process of being tested for it, so Ia m trying very hard to really be informed and take control of my health! I am soooo tired of feeling poorly when I thought I was eating well before hand.. I have been off of gluten for about three weeks now, and I cannot believe the difference in the way I feel!! I am beyond excited and want ALL the info I can get my hands on now!! Thanks so much for what you do! Without people like you, we would have only the “publicized” crap of info that they CLaim is healthy living!!!

    • My wife was diagnosed with celiac and her health has improved dramtically since she started avoiding flours. Her weight has dropped a whole lot and she doesn’t look swollen all of the time.

      So you have told us what to avoid. How about a menu of things we can eat?

    • In reference to Sally Stroud’s January post about fructose from natural sources-fruit. Yes, it is possible to eat too much fruit. Some people’s metabolism doesn’t do well processing
      a lot of fruit especially high glycemic fruits. A nutritionist had me keep a food diary for a week, since I was having weight problems, yet eating natural and “healthy.” She quickly discerned from my food diary that I was getting too much fructose from fruit. She recommended I limit myself to two pieces of medium size fruit a day: an orange mid morning eaten with one once of protein ( 7 nuts such as walnuts, pecans or almonds ) and an apple or other low gylcemic fruit at bed time, also with an ounce of protein. I was given recommendations of how much quality protein from meat or fish per meal, amount of veggies or salad and fat from butter or olive oil to keep blood sugar stable to prevent cravings. I lost 25 #s in 6 weeks, was never hungry.

    • Good luck and best wishes on your journey. I think you will find that by eliminating ALL gluten from your diet you will have dramatic improvement. Then if you are still having problems you can look into the other things like fruit but at the beginning, as long as you are eating whole foods (not manufactured products like the seed oils mentioned above) you may not need to restrict anything more than gluten grains. read more of Chris Kressers work (the book) and also look at The Perfect Health Diet (jaminet and Jaminet), if you are interested in evidence based, fad free Paleo.

  11. Interesting article with lots of good information, but you need references…LOTS of them…and please don’t refer me to an article on someone’s BLOG (the above reference to lifespan) for additional information! That’s almost worse than my undergrads handing in work from Wikipedia!

  12. Life expectancy is an average, Olivier. It’s not an absolute number for how long every single person in the population lived. All a life expectancy of 40 tells us is that a lot of babies died and a lot of adults had accidents.

    Traditional cultures teach respect of elders for a reason: elders existed in traditional cultures. (Still do. Not all traditional cultures have died out.)

    You want to talk about poor life expectancy, check out how much ours dropped in the West (and here I include the Fertile Crescent since that’s where we started, for all intents and purposes) after the introduction of grain agriculture. Only in the 20th century had we returned to anything like a pre-agricultural life expectancy, not to mention pre-agricultural *average height.* In Greece and Turkey, they still haven’t recovered the latter.

    It’s amazing what the field of paleopathology will teach you.

  13. You’re right, Chris, I read my facts too quickly. This link is interesting and makes sense.
    I still believe that some of the perception of the generality of age-related diseases is also bound to the fact that our age pyramid is fast inverting and generally, we are pushing the boundaries of ageing. I am looking forward to seeing more evidence that support your speculations, but ultimately, seeing more awareness about how the quality of our diet impacts our health… And there a long way to undo what those last 40 years have done to us…

  14. Great article!
    So what should be eaten? It seems like an impossible task trying to find foods that don’t contain these toxins.

    • I would like to second this request–after reading this list, determining a healthy diet seems nearly impossible. Any suggestions?

      • Unless you have specific dietary issues such as allergies, I’d say go with Michael Pollan’s general advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

    • One thing I do at grocery stores is only shop around the outside and not in the aisles. This way you focus on meats, fruits and vegetables, and dairy items and don’t get taunted by pasta, etc. Since many of these items are more perishable, I find that getting in the habit of going to the store more often and purchasing a smaller amount of items helps.

    • If you buy food, not food products, its really simple to find. Vegetables, meat, dairy (if you are tolerant) nuts, fruit (in moderation if you are tolerant) … there is a world of food out there outside the supermarkets.

      • Your body can do just fine without grains, and in fact can do much better than with grains! I’ve been off of them for quite a while and have noticed better health and improved weight loss. It takes learning a new lifestyle, but it’s totally worth it. For more information, try reading “The Paleo Diet,” “The Primal Blueprint,” and “Wheat Belly.” Replace grains with vegetables, and you’re halfway there.

  15. If you remove infant mortality and deaths from injury and trauma from the life expectancy equation, Paleolithic people reached ages comparable to civilized people up until very recently, but they did so without any of the modern, degenerative diseases that plague us today.

    Infant mortality and death from injury and trauma haven’t gone down because of positive changes in our diet. They’ve gone down because of improvements in sanitation and emergency medical care.

    Read this article for more: http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2010/02/paleo-life-expectancy.html#_jmp0_

  16. Hi Chris,

    In the grains section I am not seeing the list referenced by this sentence…

    “Unfortunately, the list of these foods (shown below)”

    Is it just me (typically, yes), or is the list missing?

    Nice summary! I look forward to the rest of the series.

  17. I think the ideal world you’re mentioning is a bit intellectually dishonest: you’re certainly right to say that until recently it was very rare to find people with osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and other age related diseases. You may also add cancer to the list. Yes, those ancient people lived healthily until they died.
    But, maybe, just maybe, that’s because the life expectancy was hovering around 30. It’s only at the beginning of the 20th century that the modern world pushed the life expectancy beyond 40.The only thing that evolution gave us is the ability to reproduce and support the next generation(s) sufficiently so that they can in turn reproduce. Not the ability to live beyond that point.
    I’m an avid reader of your column, I find your insights interesting, and I also intend to live healthily beyond my “purely genetic” time, but the “good old times” aren’t what you depict.

    • A common misconception. Average lifespan includes infant mortality, accidents, and infections. It doesn’t mean that a lot of people didn’t live to old age. Look at primitive people today – there are lots of elderly.

        • My maternal grandparents and my paternal grandfather lived well into their 80s, and they were born in the late 19th century. They probably always had access to clean water, but in the early days at least, lived in relative poverty and certainly didn’t have any of the conveniences of modern life, lived through the depression, and wartime (and 9 postwar years in this country) rationing. However, I suppose they had the benefit of living in the country and ate mostly “real food” (what there was of it), with the distressing exception of margarine (which was truly awful in those days, by all accounts, so my 88-year-old mother tells me). They didn’t benefit from modern medical developments simply because they were never ill, until their last days. They also worked very hard all their lives.

          True, some people did die young (2 deaths from TB that I know of in my extended family, both before WWII).

          But, as a visit to an English country churchyard will tell you, some people certainly lived to their 70s, 80s, occasionally 90s. Not seen many centenarian graves, I have to admit.

          So it’s a case of the misleading average I think. IF you made it past childhood, and managed to avoid major Flu epidemics and TB, and avoided being killed in the wars, then you had a reasonably good chance of making it at least to your 70s.

          I see in the obituaries a distressing number of 40, 50, 60-year olds dying today of diseases like cancer (actually, it’s mostly cancer). So, I’m not so sure the modern world has contributed that much to health really, although it does offer us more choices, for good and ill.

          • Quite true hey. You can’t exactly compare the average lifespan of a population that endured 2 World wars with one that has Mr Delivery to drop their food off every night. :/

            [You would need to compare the average lifestyle of only ppl who lived past 13 and didn’t die from pox or flu epedemics (+ all the other 500 diseases that modern people get vaccinated against these days) and also exclude anybody who died in combat/ from starvation due to war/ concentration camps)

            Another major difference between populations of modern times and “the good ol’ days” = that during the wars most people affected by the stress of war could feel as if they were actively doing something about it. These days executives stress about all sorts of market/economic crashes that are entirely out of their control. You stress a lot more if you are confined to your desk and have to watch the world fall apart around you in stead of actively fighting in the field… so they might as well just stop comparing paw-paws to apples.

            [ Even comparing different cultural populations eg Chinese vs Americans would not be entirely accurate as there are many cultural differences, which would impact the person’s reasoning/feelings toward economic uncertainty or war and life/death scenarios]. Stress is a MAJOR contributor to health/illness. Any study that does not include that aspect in the interpretation of health data (or have + and – controls for it) is entirely flawed.

          • Along with technology, came an increase in convenient ways to produce more food, thus, the poisons also.. Most food is poisoned and we don’t usually see the results of that until decades later, when it’s very difficult to find the connection, BUT THERE IS ONE. If it kills small living things, THEN IT KILLS, PERIOD. Maybe for humans, only a little bit at a time, which is probably why it takes so long. Our food is NOT what is used to be.

      • Wow, could the tone and brevity of “A common misconception” be more condescending? Perhaps but, what follows is generalized garbage that proves the author is no intellectual mountain, or even anthill, to condescend from in the first place. Using the argument of observing today’s primitive people sounds good. But name one “primitive” people today who face an environment comparable to the peoples’ of 10,000 years ago? This argument has a radical amount of holes in it.

        • C’mon R, it IS a common misconception. That doesn’t give you the right to go all ad hom on jeff. Forget the primitive people. Instead, focus on life expectancy at age 20 (or even 10) instead of life expectancy at age 0. Once infant mortality is taken out of the equation, The modern world hasn’t come all that far compared to the pre-industrial world. Particularly when you consider that we have largely dealt with the infectious diseases that most people used to die of. Modern medicine has given us a lot of extra years, and our modern diet and lifestyle (mostly our diet) has taken a lot of years away.

        • I have a copy of an issue of National Geographic published in 1971. The feature article was an in-depth look at the lives of men and women who were 110’s, 120’s, and even 130’s years in age in 1971. The oldest living man we knew about on the planet in 1971, according to the author, was 163. The majority of the people mentioned lived out their lives in rural villages, and I do believe there weren’t any if but one American.

    • The flip side of this argument is to look for the negative consequences in today’s “younger than previous generations’ mortality age” eaters. Do we now see a greater incidence of diabetes, asthma, obesity, food allergies, cancer and other symptomatic illnesses in those who would not have died during during the good old times … children and teens? Without any data on hand to substantiate, I would say yes, and most of us would be able to say yes. Granted, some of this is due to a more sedentary 21st century lifestyle. But food is still half of the equation (ala Super Size Me).

    • It’s possible to read the first section as journalistic creative narrative and all the rest as evidence based clinically informed useful information. That’s how I read it.

    • I am 57. When I was a baby, I was allergic to wheat. When I was older my mother gave it to me thinking it was okay. I have been ‘sick’ with IBS, lethergy, depression, and finally panic attacks. A good doctor finally listened to me and had me tested. I have Hashitmoto’s thyroiditis from eating wheat when I was allergic! My digestive tract is in a terrible state and I only hope that diet changes and nutrician will heal me. Good grief!! Listen to this information! I wish I had known this in my 40s before I ruined my health!

      • Cynthia,

        OMG! I can relate, though my allergens were and is dairy and yeast. My mother, bless her was an early proponent of healthy diet, read Prevention Magazine and Adele Davis’ books; but latched on to a recipe called “Tiger’s Milk”, full of B vitamins, calcium….and decided I would have a healthy puberty. The health drink consisted of milk, brewers yeast and black strap molasses! I went from a slender, well muscled kid to a fat, bloated, pasty and sickly teen. Sounds a lot like your mom’s good intentions, with getting you back to eating wheat. Arrgghhh. One night I had a vivid dream that told me to stop drinking/eating all dairy. That ended the Tiger Milk “Healthy” Shake. I declined all dairy and within 3 months, was slender, fit and feeling good again. I wish it were so easy now, as my body’s got more allergies, Histamine and food intolerance(s), and hypothyroidism with all it’s complications.

    • I am wondering why rice cereal is prohibited. What is positive to eat for carbohydrates besides yams and sweet potatoes? A special diet get so restrictive in terms of food combining and avoidance that I feel like I’m starving. I need a recovery diet plan with recipes to follow.

      • Pam,
        Squash is a great grain replacer in meals, as are sweet potatoes as you mentioned. Look into the Weston A Price Foundation, they explain how to sprout, soak, and ferment (think sourdough) grains in the traditional preparation, which supposedly removes the anti-nutrients and prevents them from causing the nutrient absorption problems improperly prepared while grains can cause. If you don’t have a gluten intolerance, it is still very beneficial to eat the grains properly prepared, but then your diet isn’t so restrictive. If you did want to eliminate grains altogether, there are tons of Paleo recipes out there that are also quite delicious.
        -Ashley

      • I am glad you have eliminated the cause of your problem and are feeling better. Did you not know about gluten and grain sensitivity before going to the doctor? I ask because I have met so many people who tell me I think I might be gluten intolerant so Im going to get my doctor to test me. In my opinion that is a waste of time and money and can even lead you astray. The only definative test is a biopsy of your intestinal tissue which is invasive, and expensive and painful and could lead to complications. So most people do other tests which have a high inaccuracy rate. I dont for the life of me understand peoples trust and dependency on doctors. It is real easy to figure out if gluten or grains or foods that crossreact with them are your problem. You eliminate the categories one at a time and see if you improve. Or you can eliminate all and test each one after you symptoms have abated. Actually you might improve your insurance situation if you cured yourself and didnt end up with a negative diagnosis forever on your record. I did this myself and I know of others who very possibly would have ended up with a uc or crohns diagnosis based on symptoms. Dont get me wrong if I had not been able to find ways to check diarrhea, etc. I would have taken meds temporarily to safeguard from serious immediate threat to my life, but my goal was to avoid and take care of myself if at all possible and I was able to with diet and natural medicines. What perplexes me is the utter helplessness and dependency on mainstream medicine and docs of many people. I guess some just havent yet experienced how ineffective and even worsening of health problems they are most of the time. They havent been burned enough yet so that they are extremely wary and stay out of harms way as much as possible.

        • Lisa, I totally agree with you. Doctors have a very narrow view of how to fix health problems. I was just diagnosed with early Crohn’s disease, but am not planning on the drug therapy. Instead, I am going to learn what my body can and cannot digest well and tailor my diet. I just hope I can figure it out before the inflammation gets worse.

          • You should read and follow the diet in Gloria Gottschall’s book, “Breaking the Vicious Cycle”. My son’s Crohn’s symptoms abated almost immediately after starting the diet. He was essentially cured after 3 years on the diet and is still symptom free 5 years later.

      • Brown rice, is a good carb usually, wild rice. I use brown rice flower to make crepes with almond milk occasionally.

        • Many of us actually avoid brown rice. The “brown” of the rice, the bran contains the oils that Chris is talking about and the bran can be irritating and inflammatory for people like me who have autoimmune disease and for others as well. that’s why the Paleo people who talk about “safe starch” eg Jaminet and Jaminet, recommend starchy vegetables and white rice for carbohydrate needs, not the brown or other grains. I have been doing this for 28 years.

      • Pam, great question. One I’ve explored a lot lately.

        So here’s a list of “safe” starches:

        Plantain/banana
        Squash
        Rutabaga
        Parsnip
        Potato
        Sweet Potato
        Taro

        Semi-starches are:

        Carrot
        Beet
        Turnip

        These are not complete lists but still may be helpful.

        🙂

      • replace grains with GREENS lol
        eat lots of greens EACH meal.
        spaghetti squash is a good plate filler-upper as are mushrooms. those squash strands are nice to put meat and veggies on or yummy sauces.
        i use salad alot for a bed instead of grains…put taco filling on, spaghetti sauce on, chicken alfredo on, chicken salad or tuna salad on, rest a salmon fillet on, etc.
        carrots, jícama and beets arent rly that carb-y but are higher carb. sweet pot, winter squash, turnips and rutabagas, even parsnips are all delicious with meat fats on them or EVO or butter or sour cream and SALT. real, quality, salt not that mortons salt kind of crap.

    • Everything that we eat is toxic at some level. Water is a poison if we drink too much in too short a time. In fact, it is not unreasonable to think about gross morbid obesity as equivalent to “carbon poisoning,” since our foods are carbon-based.

      We are all accustomed to hearing that heavy metals are poisons, and they are, at high enough levels. Some of the most poisonous elements, like selenium, are biologically necessary at extremely low levels for normal bodily functions.

      There is a concept called “hormesis” that food faddists should familiarize themselves with. It is the idea that there is always some extremely low level of what is considered a poison — a low level where poisonous effects do not appear. This is analogous to humans making antivenin to combat snakebite poisoning by exposing horses to tiny amounts of snake venom in their blood. The horses build antibodies to the poison. Their blood is later separated from the antivenin that destroys the poison and is used to save human lives. People who are protected from all manner of things that might be judged as poisons at high enough levels are going to have a hard time finding something to eat! Tiny amounts of things that are harmful at high levels are actually good for you. Google the word “hormesis” and see the research stories about this. You can not live a life without risk.

      How many of you know that gluten is required to make good yeast-leavened bread? Gluten levels have been so reduced in flour lately that people who make homemade yeast breads are having to buy gluten separately to add it to bread flour to get the yeast to do its lovely work?

      The “food industry” people eat their own products. They are not trying to poison any of us. You can overdo anything, especially conspiracy theories.

      • Read the book “Wheat Belly”. You’ll realize how wheat is no longer the same wheat anymore. It’s been so hybridized and genetically engineered to have MORE gluten today. Human guts also have not evolved over thousands of yr to handle the toxins, which these grains naturally have to keep predators like bugs from over eating them. http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/

        • This is a common manifestation of a conspiracy theory, that modern plants are not as good as the old wild types. The reason more gluten is wanted by some buyers is that gluten is essential to good yeast-raised baked goods. My wife is a bread maker and has to buy extra gluten to add to today’s bread flours because so much gluten has been taken out of modern flours at the urgings of food faddists. At least your convictions are putting a lot of gluten on the market and helping with the cost of supplementing it to make good bread. The elasticity of gluten is essential to good bread rising.

          • I think the cafeteria at Monsanto is organic. So no the food industry is not eating what they are producing.

            • @Michelle I think you’re wrong. And you should look into what the regulatory definition of “organic” is.

          • This is absolutely untrue. Modern wheat has multiple times the amount of gluten…intentionally bred that way for the reason you stated…to make bread rise better. Ancient wheat has a fraction of the gluten that modern wheat has. Einkorn wheat is an example. Look it up. And all that gluten is not doing us any good. Fluffy bread is hardly worth my health. I haven’t had gluten-filled bread in over 2 years and I don’t miss it at all.

          • One of the reasons your wife must buy gluten to add to her bread is that most of the flour sold in stores is winter wheat not spring wheat. Most of the spring wheat is bought up by bread companies before small bread makers like your wife can get their hands on it.
            However, regardless I of how bread turns out (fluffy or hard), it still makes me bloated. Having well leavened bread is not a good argument for eating more gluten for a health standpoint.

          • You seem to be under the misconception that yeast raised baked items are ‘good’ for us. They are not. REAL bread made the old fashioned way doesn’t even use yeast. Yeast just speeds up the process and makes things cheaper and ultimately less nutritious.
            And it is absolutely not a conspiracy that ancestral plants are more nutritious than the modern junk we have. This has been proven through tons of research Mr. PhD. You need to look into the field of medical anthropology and read up on how our diet is different from what it should be and how suboptimal it really is.

            • @Craig Please cite one or more instances of the “tons of research” you rely on to make your point (and does being snarky really add anything?)

            • I don’t want to descend to “snarkiness,” so I will resist some temptations here and just ask why you found it offensive for me to mention an obvious qualification to speak on the present subject. See my reply to Craig below.

              Shall I take on a false character like “Joe the Plumber” to win your respect?

            • @Craig Old fasioned breads most certainly did use yeast. The old world European breads have a starter that sits around collecting wild air-born yeasts, that’s why they take longer to rise. That is one of the reasons for different bread types developing in different areas, different types of wild yeasts. See how much you don’t know.

            • To the respondent who called “Mr. Ph.D,” I will always be “Dr. Ph.D.” to you.

          • And some of us are gluten intolerant! My doctor feels many with hypothyroid issues are best without gluten. I’ve learned to trust my body, rather than the latest fad. Only by elimination diet, have I concluded I am better off with little wheat bread. Not everyone needs to be as restrictive. But then I also have a number of food allergies
            ( real ones) and some food intolerance. I once had a very wise MD tell me, always trust your own body, even lab tests have inaccuracies.

          • just becuz gluten is needed in breadmaking is not a reason to eat said bread.
            if u want to eat modern bastardized wheat, go for it.

      • Dr. Ledford, I appreciate your input here. Unfortunately your condescending tone made it difficult for me to focus on the points you make. I think this concept “hormesis” (thank you for brining up the proper term) is essential to be keeping in mind while reading this article. I think this is why Chris Kresser brings up the definition of a toxin early in the article (“But even beneficial nutrients like water, which are necessary to sustain life, are toxic at high doses.”).

        • Josiah, I cannot imagine how you read condescension in my statements when all I did was to explain some technical facts.

          I did not use the word “ignorance” in my statement, but what it means is one who is uninformed about something. It is not a badge of dishonor, until the person being discussed begins to become proud of his ignorance and clings to a belief in things that just “ain’t so.”

          I was in a dilemma about whether to put my PhD after my name, because a lot of people think of that as a mark of arrogance, but I finally did it out of a conviction that it must mean something other than mere endurance. There is enough prestige, honor, and good will floating around in the world to allow all of us to have some of them. Nobody has to be so thin-skinned. Please accept my apology for admitting to any qualifications to speak on this subject. Obviously, it upset you. Just call me Tom, like everybody else does.

      • A good analysis. While I understand that my gut problems have evolved over years, I also know I need to be careful to get too rabid in my effort to correct them. I am glad I have read all the articles – and, having gotten a good cross section of information, I will be smart and, as the Bible says, be moderate in all things. Moderation is usually the cure for most illnesses as long as what I consume is not obviously poisonous. I’ve learned to always use my own herbs and spices rather than prepared foods and cut back on fat producing carbs within moderation, there’s that word again. No MSG, I finally found out after numerous doctor visits that my headaches were caused by MSG. No doctor ever mentioned it. I have been studying how my liver and gut work and am trying to be kind to them. With God’s help, my body will repair itself as it was designed to do.

      • I think if you have made a loaf of bread at home; you will realize that what you make and what you buy at most stores is not the same thing! Buy some wonderbread and wonder how it’s even called bread! Everything is a poison in large quantities; but let’s be realistic… Eating too much broccoli isn’t something any of us really worry about. I sit down in front of the TV and munch on cucumbers. Is there such a thing as too much cucumbers? I’m sure there is! But I am not even going to put a single brain cell towards worrying about it. Living in Taiwan; MSG is the norm not the exception. Are they trying to poison me? Yes. Do they eat it themselves? Yes. One is not mutually exclusive to the other. Phillip Morris staff smokes; doesn’t mean the cigarettes are good for you. Your body was never designed to deal with as much crap as we throw at it nowadays. I heard a doctor speak; someone asked how much we see more and more allergies. He replied by saying, you now eat on average; 435 different food chemicals that didn’t exist when your grandma was your age. So the potential for wrong interactions and allergic reactions is quite high.

        • Albert, regarding eating too much broccoli, I always say that, “Broccoli is not just for breakfast any more.”

      • Like the horses you mention, my body makes antibodies to just about everything. This is called autoimmune disease. The antibody protein complexes are what cause the disease, by gut permeability and then systemic disease.

        Your theories are not applicable to my body. This page is for people who are promoting and regaining their health through nutrition. That’s why we are interested in Chris Kresser’s knowledge gained through clinical experience and serious study.

    • Many people say that dark chocolate has health benefits. However, it’s almost impossible to find chocolate that is free of soy lecithin…should I avoid chocolate that contains soy lecithin and ignore the health benefits I might obtain from dark chocolate consumption?

      • Try Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, found in most markets. I use it in smoothies and things like that, and even eat it straight sometimes. Once you get used to not having all that ridiculous sweet taste of regular chocolate, it’s not bad.

      • I believe that most if not all of the “Equal Exchange” brand of chocolate bars are free of soy lecithin.

        • Thanks for the above suggestions. I’ve discovered that Green & Black 85% chocolate bars have no added soy lecithin too, however they may contain ‘trace’ amounts

          • Try “Pascha” Organic Dark Chocolate. Found in some health food stores, Amazon, and elsewhere online. Delicious, and “completely free from the 8 major allergens” as posted on the package. Also, it only has 5 ingredients and is minimally processed. Chocolate is too good to give up.

      • Mark, your response reminds me of the potassium dilemma. All living creatures require at least some amount of potassium to stay alive, so that is an important nutrient that is checked when we have a “metabolic panel” blood test, but there are two dangers to too much potassium. Like everything else, it is possible to get too much of it. Too much potassium will stop your heart. In fact it is “too much” potassium that is usually used to stop the heart in death by lethal injection. The second danger is that all potassium on earth contains a little bit of potassium-40, an isotope of the element that cannot reasonably be removed from it, so all of us who eat the foods we need (to get our daily potassium) are eating a radioactive element that is unavoidable.

        • Funny that you would mention potassium, because I need to take two big pills of it everyday. Every time a different pharmacist fills the prescription he/she gets all excited.

          My dose becomes lethal to the normal person. Too much of that good thing, that essential element.

          None of my doctors, so far, can tell me why I do not retain potassium, and don’t seem much interested in finding out. It is strange that the potassium levels were fine until during a most chaotic time in my life when I developed a Diet Soda addiction and then later ended up on lithium.

          I believe n moderation, but I try to not become too obsessed about it.

          Still searching for an acceptably moderate level of obsession about obsessing.

      • Lindt Dark chocolate (in all the supermarkets) has no soy even though all the Lindt flavoured dark ones do. It’s less common but if you read labels, you can find chocolate that it soy free. Its also worth buying Fair Trade (not Lindt) so that child slavery is not contaminating your chocolate.

    • umm by the early 70s a lot of research had been done on soy because it was extensively used as an animal feed. Toxins were identified and eliminated from the feeds. Readily available information. Also WHO used to do lots of good nutritional research identifying issues with soy products for humans. May be it’s speculation to you, but that may be you are ignorant (unwilling to look certain places for information) and think, or maybe have vested interests of some form. Criticizing something as being an opinion with an opinion is rather amusing for its blatant tautology. Anyways, I do grow tired of people saying what you should not eat, because ultimately it’s what you do eat that matters.

    • Soy BLOWS OUT MY BELLY HUGE!
      I Go into a Coma, very Weak & Must Go to Bed!
      Then I Get Terrible I.B.S. ISSUES + GAS!
      ALSO
      Wheat & FIGS Cause High Systolics & Pulse!

    • lol..speculation until you get a chronic illness, then you have your proof. Enjoy your donuts and sugar coffee!

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