An Upbuilding Discourse

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Research on Being

What About the Liver?

I’ve done quite a few dietary experiments, supplemental regimens, and herbal remedies. Some of them have worked somewhat, some have not but overall, I have to say results have generally been mixed. Looking at other people’s experiences can often have the effect of producing wonder at how so many others respond so well while I feel so mixed still. What could be the problem?

Diet is important. Exercise is important. Stress reduction is important. However, I believe perhaps I have forgotten the importance of specific organs in all of this and optimizing their function. In some cases, changing diet, stress, or exercise is how you optimize that organ’s function. With the liver this is not necessarily the case and considering that the liver is the master toxin removal system of the body, it seems that its malfunction could have pretty large ramifications.

Thyroid and Liver

A large component of Peat’s approach has to do with optimizing thyroid function as much as possible via diet and supplement if necessary (usually T3), however, problems with the thyroid may be related to problems with the liver considering that the liver metabolizes many of the thyroid hormones. If someone is doing a pro-thyroid diet and having problems, I hypothesize that the liver may be involved as a secondary factor.

Primary factors that can hurt the liver appear to be iron overload, alcohol, and polyunsaturated fats over and above random toxins like pesticides and industrial chemicals. One component of the Peat protocol which I have neglected has been his recommendation to consume coffee to reduce iron absorption (mostly because I don’t like coffee and it makes me very jittery). However, the more I look into it, the more coffee appears as a liver protective compound. This mechanism may be through the inhibition of iron absorption. If this is the case then the most useful things one can do from a dietary perspective is manage iron intake and reduce PUFAs.

There is also the possibility of a doing a liver cleanse/gallbladder flush. Unfortunately, good data on the efficacy of doing this protocol is lacking though most people who do it (~75%) don’t regret having done so. This is why I am trying this out though not in its most extreme form. I’m implementing the gallbladder flush as described in John Pollard’s The Digestive Awareness Diet which consists of 3 days with 2 qts of apple juice a day (plus your regular diet) and then olive oil/grapefruit mixture on the 3rd night and 2 tablespoons of epsom salts the following day.

To put some of this in context, the white tongue that I have had at least since the GAPS diet has followed me through high starch, and now high simple sugars. Sometimes it retreats and sometimes it doesn’t. Some say that the white tongue is a marker of liver function so I shall put this to the test. Since I’ve started drinking the apple juice though, my tongue has been looking redder. We shall see. My working hypothesis is simply that with impaired liver function, the efficacy of supplements, herbs, and dietary changes will be impaired no matter what they are. Consequently, one must optimize liver function in order for everything else to take hold.

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Filed under: Cleanse, Coffee, Health, Iron, Liver, Nutrients, phytic acid

An Evolutionary Hypothesis on Protein

As you may have guessed by now; I have been reassessing some of my ideas in light of the experience of the Peat-a-tarians. I set out my general evolutionary hypothesis for what I believe underlies the possible efficacy of a Ray Peat style diet in this post but I wanted to go into a little more detail in regards to protein.

The fact that gelatin has the most anti-inflammatory amino acid composition of any protein according to Peat implies a few interesting things about what we are best adapted to. The non-gelatin proteins that most closely resemble the amino acid composition of gelatin are (big surprise) the gelatinous seafood proteins, namely the bivalves followed by the cephalopods. Other proteins with a relatively balanced ratio include the rest of the shellfish (mostly anthropods) and, finally, dairy and eggs. If we accept that dairy is useful as a approximation of many conditions of our early diet (high calcium:phosphorus ratio, low iron, anti-inflammatory protein) then I think it becomes clear that humans most likely began to steal eggs and shuck bivalves as their first exposure to animal protein, moving up the chain to creatures harder to capture and eat thus anthropods come next followed by fish and then larger land mammals. This is also consistent with the idea that we evolved in coastal equatorial forests thus being near trees and water meant availability of seafood, eggs, and small mammals in addition to fruit and greens. The only remaining puzzle from this is why iron would be low. Many bivalves are pretty high in iron. The only answers I have come up with is that we just didn’t eat too much animal protein and hence didn’t intake too much iron and that, because of our green consumption, we probably had a whole lot of different phytochemicals in our body inhibiting iron absorption.

Filed under: Diet, Health, Peat, phytic acid, protein

Towards a Hierarchy of Pseudo-Grains and Pulses

This is something that I’ve been wondering about ever since I decided that pulses and pseudo-grains should come back into my life. When it comes to plant foods there is always a balance that must be made between toxins and the value of the food. In the end, a lot of this nutrition stuff is about finding the highest value, lowest toxin food. Animal foods are virtually all value and no toxin since they have no need of producing endogenous chemicals to discourage consumption of their flesh, however, when it comes to plants we have to consider toxicity as this is how plants protect themselves. There is the issue of phytic acid, saponins, PUFAs, and so on which must be taken into account in addition to how much enzyme activity is available to break down these toxins and if the value of the food is high enough to negate whatever toxicity remains. This need for high value, low toxin plant foods is what has lead me towards the reintroduction of pseudo-grains and pulses as these are some of the highest value plant foods you can get with toxicity levels that are low or average, however, among them there are ones that are better and ones that are worse and that is what I shall now discuss.

Pulses

Among pulses, we have the common bean which is split into many varieties. All members of the common bean, however, contain the phytohaemagluttinin lectin but with varying degrees. White kidney beans (Cannellini) and red kidney beans contain the highest amount of this lectin. In fact, there is so much that you can get food poisoning from eating a few raw beans and there have been cases of this happening for people after having consumed improperly prepared kidney beans. It is for these reasons that I recommend avoiding red and white kidney beans, however, all other members of the common bean should be fine if properly soaked before cooking (black beans, navy beans, haricot beans, pinto beans, anasazi beans to name a few). Soy is well known for its high toxicity and consequently should ideally be eliminated from the diet except in fermented form (miso, tempeh, natto, soy sauce). Fava beans also have some toxins that you may or may not be reactive to and peanuts are widely contaminated with aflatoxin. Many pulses fare much better than these as far as toxicity goes and these are the ones I recommend you make the bulk of your pulse consumption from. These pulses are lentils, adzuki beans, mung beans, black eyed peas (cowpeas), split peas, lima beans, chickpeas, and urad.

To summarize:

Avoid: Red kidney beans, white kidney beans (cannellini), fava beans, soybeans (except when fermented), peanuts

Prefer (from least to most PUFAs): Black eyed peas (cowpeas), adzuki beans, lima beans, mung beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas (garbanzo)

Pseudo-Grains

Pseudo-grains are one of the few plant foods with a full amino acid complement making them very valuable. These foods have varying levels of toxicity, enzyme activity, and PUFA content. Unfortunately, there is also a lot less information on pseudo-grains than other foods so I could only come up with a ranking in terms of PUFA content. As far as toxicity is concerned, I know that millet is relatively low in phytic acid (but also in phytase) and that buckwheat is high in phytase. This makes buckwheat the best overall pseudo-grain due to high phytase content, high nutritional value, and low PUFA content.

From lowest to highest PUFA content:

Buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa

There are also some less common gluten free grains which may be viable as well.

From lowest to highest PUFA content these are:

Teff, sorghum, millet

Rice and Corn

Rice can also be eaten. If you want to eat brown rice, ensure that you soak it with something rich in phytase which means water from a buckwheat soak or ground buckwheat. White rice, though somewhat refined, is very low in toxicity thus making it allowable on the toxicity versus value spectrum. In general, white rice is preferred. Corn may be okay occasionally as long as it is properly prepared, however, much of the corn supply is also contaminated with aflatoxins and mycotoxins not to mention being of GM origin so corn is still best avoided.

Filed under: Diet, phytic acid, pseudo-grains, PUFA, pulses