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Loving God more. Loving others more. Living obediently in Christ.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A review of "Wheat Belly"

I have read a few books which presented broad and convincing studies to support the efficacy of treating disease and obesity by eating "vegan" (free from animal and dairy, concentrated in whole and plant-based foods.)  So, why not broaden my understanding of some apparent dietary solutions to disease which come from a different slant (non-vegan)?  As I sat down at my dining room table with a couple pieces of my homemade, organic, whole wheat toast, I attempted to read a borrowed book - Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD.  It wasn't long, maybe half of the first chapter, before I thumbed to the back of the book to see what this author recommended for the daily diet.  The list began with  unlimited consumption of vegetables.  This pleased me.  After that (again without limit) raw nuts and seeds.  Again, pleased.  Next on the list - oils, meat, eggs, cheese, unsweetened condiments, flax seed and high-fat plant foods such as avocado, olive, coconut and cocoa.  He recommends to limit fruits and legumes; and he says to eliminate all wheat, dried fruits and sweetened foods/beverages.  My reaction to the author's recommendations for unlimited oils, meats, eggs and cheese is negative.  My mind is fairly well made regarding the plant-based diet, especially since it has brought restored health with my own digestive problems.  I started my journey with a gluten free diet (gained weight) but was able to consume all grains (including wheat) once I went plant-based (and then lost 30 lbs).  God and plant-based nutrition has also physically restored my husband who was sickened by cancer, radiation, chemo and surgery.  We aren't silent about this new way of eating. 

I made the  decision to keep notes with an open mind as I continued to read Wheat Belly.  I admit that there are many  lines drawn in the sand between experts in the diet world. The search to find someone who is 100% accurate could be endless.

No longer the "original" grain
The author's first line of defense about his diet plan is that wheat is no longer the same grain it was 50 years ago.  It has been hybridized and developed to the point that it is very different, genetically, from the original wheat grown around the world.  (I wish Davis' would have offered a more technical explanation of how wheat has changed from its ancestral variety.)  Wheat is in the  grass family; and it can, by nature, cross pollinate with other grasses.  Apparently, the wheat that is now globally grown has been manipulated by scientists to produce high yields and short stalks.  Heritage varieties of wheat had fourteen chromosomes whereas the current hybrid wheat has twenty-eight.  Also, what is grown today would not be able to sustain itself in the wild without the assistance of a farmer.  I'm pretty sure that most of my garden plants would not survive on their own in the wild, either.  Is the plant's dependence on the farmer cause to be concerned about the product?  Maybe.

AM concerned about the genetic modification of our food.  However, from the information that I have found, wheat is not yet marketed as a genetically modified food.  There are battles going on to keep GMO wheat off the market.  Transgenic wheat experimentation is ongoing - in an attempt to make wheat more "nutritious", disease resistant, pest resistant and have a lower glycemic index.  But it appears that GMO wheat is not in our food supply right now.  I read on.

Wheat addict
The next topic concerning wheat in Davis' book is its addictive property and   wheat's link to exacerbating mental or attention disorders.  Wheat contains polypeptides (coin named "exorphins") which bind to the brain's morphine receptors and provide a sort of "food high".  These polypeptides are also thought to be responsible for aggravating schizophrenic symptoms and ADHD.  The drug, naloxone, can be used to interrupt the binding of wheat's exorphins to the brain - proving that wheat is addictive.  I find it interesting that Dr. Neal Barnard has experimented with 
people who have food addictions in the same way.  The four foods that Barnard has found with the same addictive effect on the brain are chocolate, cheese, meat and sugar.  So it seems that Davis recommends people should replace their addiction to wheat with unlimited quantities of the equally addictive foods - meat, cheese and chocolate.  I can't help but wonder if the author just doesn't realize that these foods are also addictive.  Sadly, Davis is promoting a diet that will lead to plaque in the arteries and the organ diseases that follow from reduced blood supply. 

Davis sites wheat as the common contributing factor to many symptoms, diseases and conditions: night cravings, stimulated appetite, obesity and visceral fat, elevated blood glucose levels, gynecomastia (man "boobs"), and Celiac.  There are other foods and food additives that can accomplish the same symptoms.  Eating a slice of bread from the grocery store can contain enough hidden MSG, high fructose corn syrup and GMO soy products to trigger a number of the symptoms Davis mentions in his book.  With the exception of Celiac disease, every condition can be connected to a diet high in animal fat, processed foods and sugar leading to obesity and resulting in metabolic syndrome.  Celiac disease is an immune system response to wheat.  I am not going to make a conjecture whether the rise in the incidence of Celiac disease is due to the change in the genetic structure of the modern wheat crop, some human genetic problem or an imbalance of healthy gut flora.  It is my opinion, however, that wheat is only part of the big picture for Celiac disease.  

The author also presented  medical evidence that wheat is a trigger for schizophrenic episodes and ADHD.  I don't disagree that wheat can aggravate people with disorders, mental or digestive; but I am not convinced that wheat is the CAUSE of the disorders.  More than 80% of the body's neurotransmitters are manufactured in the gut.  If the gut is lacking healthy flora, an individual can experience weakened immunity, food allergies, depression, anxiety , ADD, ADHD and a myriad of very real diseases.  Just imagine schizophrenia or ADHD with added anxiety!  Dr. Russell Blaylock has found in his studies and research that vaccinations can damage the gut of young children, leading to many neurological diseases, some of which are listed above.  My point is that these disorders don't always point back to wheat alone.  Perhaps wheat is just a common denominator for people with diseases because wheat is commonly eaten in our American diet.  It is as common as, well, vaccinations, soda pop, artificial sweeteners, burgers and ice cream.  What should we blame?  I say we should blame the entire (high fat, high sugar, high salt, high protein, dairy rich, low fiber, over medicated) American lifestyle!

Davis pointed out that whole-wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than table sugar, thus creating the diabetic problem of insulin resistance. Obesity (and visceral fat) is clearly understood to be at the foundation of diabetes and widely considered the culprit of insulin resistance.  Therefore, it seems more reasonable to address the weight than to blame the wheat.  There are some varied opinions about the dietary approach needed to treat diabetes.  The ADA recommends restricting refined carbohydrates while including whole grains, starchy plant-based foods, low-fat dairy and lean meat.  Still, this diet can only manage the disease without helping the individual loose the weight.  What then, I ask, are the contributing factors of the obesity epidemic?  Dr. Neal Barnard has studied and proven that a low-fat, vegan diet can promote weight loss and reverse diabetes.  Every plant-based guru agrees that the high animal fat, protein and dairy diet of our culture is the key contributor to obesity.  The standard American diet, with daily doses of sugar, fructose, high fructose and fatsets the body up for insulin resistance.

As I am compiling this post, I have received my March McDougall newsletter by e-mail.  Ironically, this issue highlights the dangers of the gluten free diet and busts the Wheat Belly best-seller.  McDougall acknowledged that Davis misrepresented studies in order to  give the wheat-free diet some weight loss appeal.  Another interesting review - without surprise - pokes holes in his "hype" about wheat (this comes from the cereal grain industry); however, the response seems well sited with references and studies. 

I am concerned about the dietary recommendations in Wheat Belly.  The list starts with vegetables and I whole heartedly agree that we should all consume unlimited quantities of plant foods.  My concern is with the instruction to generously consume oils along with meats and dairy.  The oils that we consume are primarily omega 6 fats which contribute to inflammation, heart disease, bad gut flora leading to constipation, weak immune system and cancer.  Any fat in the diet, plant or animal, slows the blood flow which starts a dangerous chain reaction of physical problems.  Eating meat raises insulin like growth factor which feeds cancer cells.  Red meat is linked to colon cancer.  Dairy is more closely linked to prostate cancer than cigarette smoking is linked with lung cancer.  Davis's recommendations fall short of a healthy diet in my opinion.  Like Wheat Belly, the low-carb, gluten free or Paleo diet appears to be a repeat of the Atkins diet.  As far as weight loss is concerned, there is often some initial loss of weight but it cannot be maintained when the extra fat consumed in the diet causes insulin resistance which then leads to further weight gain.   
This video shows current low-carb promoters holding onto some extra weight.  Author William Davis is included in the Vegsource list of over-weight low carb gurus.  Perhaps the video is a little harsh to call him "fat"; but regarding the comparison between low carb and plant-based experts, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Low Carb vs. Plant-Based by Vegsource.com

Dr. Esselstyn gives a great lecture in the following video, discussing diet and health from a medical perspective.  He confirms, from his patient studies as Director of Cardiovascular Disease and Prevention at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, that the foods which Davis allows his patients to consume are very harmful to the cardiovascular system.  Dr. Esselstyn would have done a study on cancer in the same way, but conventional methods of cancer treatment have a monopoly in the medical profession.  Metabolic diseases can be reversed if we abandon the American idea of "health" food and eat a whole food, plant based diet.

TEDxCambridge - Caldwell Esselstyn on making heart attacks history

  • Animal fat contributes to higher estrogen levels which in turn cause hormone imbalance, acne, PMS, weight gain and will feed cancer.
  • Meat is an addictive food and can contribute to food cravings, cause constipation and elevated insulin like growth factor.  People who eat a lot of red meat are 300 % more likely to develop colon cancer.
  • Dairy and cheese is also addictive, high in fat and contributes to many diseases (arthritis, Chron's, autoimmune disease, heartburn, artery disease, obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer - just to name a few).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Do Vegan's need B-12 and Vitamin Supplements?

I have spent a fair share of my life gulping down giant vitamin pills and chewable vitamin C tabs in an attempt to micro-manage my health and prevent communicable illness.  When my children were young, they were also subject to my "pushing" of chewable vitamins in fun shapes and colors.  Even until just recently (this morning) I thought that I needed to take vitamin B-12 from a safe and trustworthy supplier.  Everything I have read and studied about the vegan diet has pointed me in the direction of supplementing B-12 as it is presumed to be absent in plant-based foods.  

Dr. Campbell states in the following excerpt:
1. Contrary to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines, B12 can be found in plants.
2. Organically grown plants contain higher levels of B12 than plants grown non-organically with chemical fertilizers.
3. Plant roots are able to absorb certain vitamins produced by soil microorganisms, thus suggesting that plants grown in healthy soil, full of microflora and microfauna, are more nutritious.
4. Vegans - and anyone else - should be able to obtain B12 by consuming organically grown produce.
5. Evidence that plants obtain vitamins from the soil has been available for several decades.

Colins continued to site an investigative research project by Dr. Mozafar who found that vegetables grown with organic matter contained more B vitamins than those grown with chemically fertilized soil.  B vitamins are taken up through the roots of vegetables where the soil's microflora manufacture B vitamins.  Wild herbs and fruits are thus higher in B vitamins than their commercially grown cousins.

Another good article, The Vitamin B12 Issue, sites several resources regarding B-12.  It is clear that people need to support healthy gut flora through diet and organic raw foods.  In defense of a vegan diet, the author points out that meat eaters have been known to be more likely to have vitamin B-12 deficiency - medically understood since 1959.  This is true because animal based foods (meat and dairy) contribute to a very acidic and toxic intestinal condition which kills off the beneficial bacteria in the gut.  Grains, junk food, sugar and artificial sweeteners also create an acidic environment in the GI tract.  On the contrary, fruits, vegetables beans and legumes promote a more alkaline pH promoting a healthy gut. 

The gut health is an interesting topic and, I feel, could be the very link to health that is being missed by conventional medical treatments.  Recommended daily values of vitamin needs have been established, but what type of diet is the person supposed to eat for the estimated values?  Could it be that a vegan would require far less Vitamin B-12 than a meat eater?  If the GI tract is very acidic, then B-12 cannot be adequately absorbed - requiring more B-12.  This is comparable to a car's engine with a vacuum leak.  The engine is meant to be closed in order to run most efficiently; but with a vacuum leak, it requires more fuel to keep it running.  Perhaps the Vitamin B-12 issue is more about the condition of our gut than it is about the "fuel" we eat.

For more information on gut health, see my posts on probiotics, vegetable-ferments-and-probioticssome-bugs-you-need-to-catchpre-biotics-and-gi-health-2nd-brain.html

Here are three videos by Dr. Pam Popper that include talks on vitamins and supplements.  Micro-managing nutrition with vitamins and supplements is ineffective, dangerous and really expensive.  The most efficient way to provide your body with the vitamins that it needs is to get your nutrition from fresh, organically grown, plant-based foods. 

Dr. Pam Popper: Throw Away Your Supplements

The following are two more video links which Dr. Popper addresses a supplement.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Adults are part of the childhood obesity problem!

Dr. Pam Popper's news post for today is a good one!  Adults, parents and school staff are "feeding" the childhood obesity problem.  As parents, we are challenged by our kids when we make dietary changes meant to benefit the health of the entire family.  I won't try to say anymore, here.  Just watch Dr. Pam's 9 minute video and hear for yourself how adults can perpetuation the growing obesity epidemic among children in America. 

Dr. Pam Popper: Kids are Unhealthy and Parents and Educators are Part of the Problem

My husband and I laughed at her final point, "Children don't need tall friends.  They need parents to tell them what to do and when to do it!"  It is funny - but very TRUE!  Imagine the life-long difference that you could make in your kids lives and the lives of those who come into your home and eat with you.  By preparing healthy, simple and nourishing meals, you could help someone else decide to take their current and future health into their own hands by changing their diet.  Get your kids involved in the kitchen as you prepare food.  As you prepare meals, talk to them and let them get excited about what the fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains will do for their bodies.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Toxic hunger and addictive foods

Have you ever considered that some foods, touted as being healthy "diet food", could be the cause of a vicious addictive cycle that makes you overeat, feel fatigue between meals and cause you to gain weight?  Many processed foods are labeled as "low in fat and calories" or packaged in tiny little portions so that a person can only eat 100 calories of that item.  When the package is eaten, or the serving size is consumed, only a short time passes before your tummy is growling or you experience a gnawing hunger pain that can't be relieved.  If that is your problem, there is good reason for it and there is a way to eliminate the viscous cycle of hunger, small portions and starvation.  It is possible to eat unlimited quantities of nutritious food and lose weight - no more calories to count!

A person can eat more food by volume (which is lower in calories than the standard 2000 calorie American diet) by eating mostly unprocessed vegetables, beans, whole grains and fruits.  Eating such foods that are high in plant nutrients, such as dark green vegetables and legumes, allows your digestion to be satisfied longer.  Nutritionally dense foods keep you feeling satisfied between meals and your body can go into the "burn", using stored energy during the catabolic stage of metabolism.  Dr. Fuhrman explains the two cycles in the body metabolism, anabolic (the building phase during digestion) and catabolic (detox and repair while living off stored glycogen) phases.  In this audio interview with Dr. Fuhrman, you can learn how nutrition density will help break the addictive hunger that comes from eating a poor diet. 

Why You're Addicted to Certain Foods, Joel Fuhrman

The following video presentation that Dr. Neal Barnard gives is especially informative with regard to food addictions.  He offers a great variety of information in this presentation, so if you don't have time to watch it now, be sure to come back and view it when you have some free time.  The foods that trigger an addictive or drug-like response in the brain are: Chocolate, Cheese, Meat and Sugar.

Dr. Neal Barnard:  Chocolate, Cheese, Meat and Sugar -- Physically Addictive

For more information and resources regarding food additives that cause illness and food addiction, see my blog post on Food Additive. . . and Bread tips and Hidden MSG

Friday, March 22, 2013

Prenatal and infant diet determines long term health

The foods that a pregnant mom consumes significantly influences the long term health of her child.  In fact, studies have shown great benefit to the child's life long health when the mother's diet has been nutritionally stable for at least 2 years prior to pregnancy.  
Eating a high sugar diet can influence the developing baby to lay down more fat cells in order to accommodate the elevated insulin in mother's blood.  This determines the baby's number of fat storage cells for his or her lifetime. 
Consumption of dairy, animal and high fat foods can leave gaps in the nutrition which is needed for the baby's development.  

Low consumption of vegetables and fruits prior to and during pregnancy has been linked to the most common childhood form of leukemia (ALL).  

Leafy green vegetables, essential to everyone's diet, are of particular importance to pregnant and nursing women in order to provide support to the baby's immune system.

Eating plenty of raw vegetables while breast feeding helps to inoculate the baby's digestive tract with good bacteria which support immune system function, prevent diseases and protect from development of food allergies. 

Click on the link below and watch the 3 minute video of Nick Delgado, PhD, talking about how the infant's diet can affect his or her health for a lifetime.  

Nick Delgado made a reference to Nathan Pritikin.  I have posted a link below to a private interview by Dr. McDougall with Nathan Pritikin in 1982.  Pritikin's wisdom was far beyond what standard medical doctors would recommend for dietary treatment or solution to common diseases.  He addresses a wide range of diseases (from heart disease to cancer) that can be corrected by changing the diet to whole grains, beans, peas, fruits, vegetables and potatoes while  omitting all animal protein and dairy foods.  He tells the story of one of his patients who had a rare form of stomach cancer that was completely reversed.  The patient lived beyond the cancer diagnosis.  His emphasis about dairy is clear, linking dairy to disease and stating that it is an unnatural food because humans lack the ability to digest it.  He also states that infants should not consume any food other than mother's milk up to age 6 months to prevent development of a food allergy.   This interview is VERY GOOD - don't miss it!  Nathan Pritikin: A Casual Conversation with Dr. McDougall

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lentil soup

Lentils are mild in flavor, protein rich, high fiber, filling and easy to digest.  For those who have trouble digesting beans, lentils are the best choice within the bean family.
We enjoyed a visit with "soon-to-be" family members over the weekend.  It was refreshing to be able to eat someone else's cooking and know that it was whole food and plant based to accommodate our dietary changes.  Some new recipes were put together for us and I now have a new menu item for our rotation of meals at home.  This lentil soup recipe, from www.allrecipes.com, has become a new favorite soup.   

The hostess who made the soup for us made a couple of additions that tweaked this recipe with fantastic flavor.  She added one teaspoon of ground cumin and the juice of one lemon. FANTASTIC!

Insulin like growth factor
One great health benefit from eating beans comes from the bean's ability to lower the insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in the blood.  Insulin like growth factor is a hormone, secreted by the liver, which inhibits the death of unhealthy cells - allowing flawed cells to grow and reproduce.   IGF, therefore, contributes to the growth of cancer cells and to advanced aging.  Eating animal protein elevates IGF-1.  Eating a plant based diet which includes beans helps to keep IGF-1 at normal levels and gives the body cancer fighting powers!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Oat burgers - oh my goodness!

They look like hamburger patties but they are meatless.  Made with simple ingredients, these "burgers" can make a filling meal in just 30 minutes.  Serve them up with a bun or on a bed of lettuce.  Add some sliced tomato, black olives, avocado, sweet onion, pickle, ketchup and mustard and you have a very affordable meal.  The best part is that these "burgers" contain zero artery clogging animal fat.  

The recipe comes from the Amazing Discoveries website.  There is a link below  that gives the recipe as well as a video to demonstrate how these burgers are made.  (I omit the nutritional yeast in this recipe.) 

No Nutritional Yeast!
I have stopped using nutritional yeast as well as Bragg's Liquid Aminos as these two flavorings have been the culprit of my brief episode (two weeks) of heartburn.  Nutritional yeast is naturally high in free glutamic acid - like MSG - which triggers heartburn for me.   I am suspicious that the Liquid Aminos may also contain free glutamic acid because I get the same reaction (heartburn) after eating foods that contain Liquid Aminos as those containing hidden MSG.  So those items are off my grocery list!

What is so great about Oats?

  • Good source of Manganese, selenium and essential minerals.
  • Contains antioxidant avenanthramides which protects against heart disease.
  • High in fiber which prevents colon cancer and heart disease.
  • Enhances immune response to infection.
  • Helps to stabilize blood sugar, lowering risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Contains plant lignans (along with other whole grains) which are converted by the intestinal flora into different types of mammalian lignans.  One important lignan, called enterolactone, is being studied for its protective benefits against breast and other estrogen dependent cancers.  This plant lignan is also present in cabbage and other leafy green vegetables.
  • Oats are very low in gluten - the protein found in wheat, barley and rye - which causes allergy problems in some immune deficient children or people with Celiac disease.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dates! Delicious and Nutritious!

My husband and I have recently started a love affair with dates - particularly Medjool dates.  These delightful dried fruits have become one of our favorite daily snacks.  They are soft, slightly chewy and very sweet, making us feel as though we have eaten something like candy (caramel candy).  However, dates have much more to offer than a piece of candy could ever provide in the nutritional realm.  Dates provide a source of potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin B-6 and fiber.  

Potassium  There are many benefits to increasing your potassium intake.  Just 4 dates a day can provide enough potassium to aid the kidneys in eliminating sodium, reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk of stroke by 40%.  Potassium is also essential for nerve and muscle cell action throughout the body. Because potassium is an electrolyte, it functions to conduct the electrical impulses that make muscles work - including the heart!  An inadequate level of potassium can result in muscle cramps and spasms or fatigue.  A dangerously low level of potassium can affect the heart's rhythm.

Energy boost  The natural sugar combined with the dietary fiber in a serving of dates provides a good energy boost.  I personally do not notice a blood sugar spike after eating a couple of dates.  My opinion is that the fiber in the dates allows the sugar to be digested more slowly than a refined sugar which goes to the blood stream too quickly.  

Fiber  Well now, we all know what fiber can do for a person.  The risk of colon cancer and heart disease goes down as fiber intake goes up.  A daily dose of dates is a very effective way to keep the digestive tract moving!  An efficient GI tract promotes better overall health, more energy, clear skin, and better mental function.