Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Jun

The Definitive Guide to Grains

Wheat

Amber Waves of Pain

Order up! Yes, folks, it’s definitive guide time again. I’ve read your requests and am happy (as always) to oblige. Grab your coffee (or tea), and pull up a seat. Glad you’re with us.

Insulin, cholesterol, fats… They’re only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had a few “definitive” topics up my sleeve for a while now, and grains are it for today. Yes, grains. I know we’ve given them a bad rap before, and it’s safe to say I’ll do it again here. Sometimes the truth hurts, but you know what they say about the messenger, right? Without further ado…

Grains. Every day we’re bombarded with them and their myriad of associations in American (and much of Western) culture: Wilford Brimley, Uncle Ben, the Sunbeam girl, the latest Wheaties athlete, a pastrami on rye, spaghetti dinners, buns for barbeque, corn on the cob, donuts, birthday cake, apple pie, amber waves of grain…. Gee, am I missing anything? Of course. So much, in fact, that it could – and usually does – take up the majority of supermarket square footage. (Not to mention those government farm subsidies, but that’s another post.) Yes, grains are solidly etched into our modern Western psyche – just not so much into our physiology.

Grain Truck

Those of you who have been with us a while now know the evolutionary backdrop I mean here. We humans had the pleasure and occasional scourge of evolving within a hunter gatherer existence. We’re talking some 150,000 plus years of hunting and foraging. On the daily scavenge menu: meats, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, some tubers and roots, the occasional berries or seasonal fruits and seeds that other animals hadn’t decimated. (Ever seen a dog at an apple picking?) We ate what nature (in our respective locales) served up. The more filling, the better. And then around 10,000 years ago, the tide turned. Our forefathers and mothers were on the brink of ye olde Agricultural Revolution. And, over time, grains became king. But, as countless archaeological findings suggest, people became smaller and frailer as a result of this new agrarian, grain-fed existence.

Corn

Ten thousand years seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Think of all the house projects you could get done, the advanced degrees you could earn, the dinner party recipes you could try out, the books you could read. Almost oppressive, isn’t it? But our personal vantage point on the span of 10,000 years doesn’t mean much of anything when the context is evolution. It takes a lot to drastically change a major system in the human body. We’re talking a way bigger change than trying out the latest flavor of Malt-O-Meal. Grains were certainly not any substantial part of the human diet prior to the Agricultural Revolution. And even after grains became a large part of human existence, those who were deathly allergic to them or had zero capacity to take in their modest nutrient value were, in all likelihood, selected against. And pretty quickly at that. Those whose health was so compromised by grains that they were rendered infertile early in life were also washed out of the gene pool. That’s how it works. But if you can limp along long enough to procreate (which was considerably earlier then than it typically is now), that new fangled diet of grains got you through. No matter how stunted your growth was, how awful your teeth were, how prone you were to infection.

When I say humans didn’t evolve eating grains, I mean our digestive processes didn’t evolve to maximize the effectiveness of grain consumption. Just because you can tolerate grains to a certain degree, as just about all of us can (thanks to those earlier folks hitting the end of the genetic line), doesn’t mean your body was designed for them or that they’re truly healthy for you or – especially – that you can achieve optimum health through them. We’re not talking about what will allow you to hobble along. We’re talking about the foods that offer effective and efficient digestion and nutrient absorption in the body. And that’s all about evolutionary design. If you’re not after optimal health, you’re probably reading the wrong blog. But if you want to work with your body instead of unnecessarily tax it, if you want to focus your diet on the best foods with the most positive impact, you most definitely are reading the right blog. Now let’s continue.

Bread, Pasta

Among my many beefs with grain, the first and foremost is the havoc it plays with insulin and other hormonal responses in the body. For the full picture, visit the previous Definitive Guide to Insulin from some months ago. Guess what? The same principles still hold. We developed the insulin response to help store excess nutrients and to take surplus (and potentially toxic) glucose out of the bloodstream. This was an adaptive trait. But it didn’t evolve to handle the massive amounts of carbs we throw at it now. And, yes, we’re talking mostly about grains. Unless you have a compulsive penchant for turnips, the average American’s majority of carb intake comes from grains.

The gist is this (as many of you know): Whatever the carbohydrate, it will eventually be broken down into glucose, either in the gut or the liver. But now it’s all dressed up with likely no place to go. Unless you just did a major workout or are finishing tying your running shoes as we speak (which would allow those grain-based carbs to be used in the restocking of depleted glycogen stores or burned as secondary fuel, respectively), that French baguette will more likely get stored as fat.

Why? Because carbohydrates elicit a physiological response that favors fat storage. That blasted baguette has already set off a strategic chain of hormonal events akin to a physiological-style Tom Clancy plot: the ambush of baguette glucose, the defensive maneuver of insulin, (if you ate the whole baguette, in particular) the entering reinforcements of adrenaline and cortisol. Why the drama? Because, remember, this was not the standard mode of nutrition in our body’s evolution. And every time it happens, the body is a little worse for the wear. This whole hormonal production taxes the adrenal system, the pancreas, the immune system, and results in a tiny amount of inflammation. We all know what we say about inflammation, right? (Hint: the blight of modern existence.)

And as for the nutritional value of grains? First off, they aren’t the complete nutritional sources they’re made out to be. Quite the contrary, grains have been associated with minerals deficiencies, perhaps because of high phytate levels. A diet high in grains may also reduce the body’s ability to process vitamin D.

Whole Wheat Pasta

Why not get the same nutrients from sources that don’t come back and bite you in the backside? If you have the choice between getting, say, B-vitamins from chicken or some “whole wheat” pasta, I’m going to say go with the chicken every time. Is pasta cheaper? Yes. Is it healthier? No. The B6 in chicken is more bioavailable, for one. The fact is, you pay too high a physiological price for the pasta source. Let’s get this point on the dinner table as well: whatever nutrients you can get from whole grains you can get in equal to greater amounts in other food. In terms of nutrient density, grains can’t hold a candle to a diverse diet of veggies and meats. (And if the label says otherwise, look closely because the product is fortified. Save your money and buy a good supplement instead.

But, wait, there’s more. Enter the lurker substances in grains that cause a lot of people a whole lot of obvious problems (and probably all of us some kind of damage over time). Grains, new evolutionarily-speaking, are frankly hard on the digestive system. (You say fiber, I say unnecessary roughage, but that’s only the half of it.) Enter gluten and lectins, both initiators of digestive mayhem, you might say. Gluten, the large, water-soluble protein that creates the sludge, err, elasticity in dough, is found in most common grains like wheat, rye and barley (and it’s the primary glue in wallpaper paste). Researchers now believe that a third of us are likely gluten intolerant/sensitive. That third of us (and I would suspect many more on some level) “react” to gluten with a perceptible inflammatory response. Over time, those who are gluten intolerant can develop a dismal array of medical conditions: dermatitis, joint pain, reproductive problems, acid reflux and other digestive conditions, autoimmune disorders, and Celiac disease. And that still doesn’t mean that the rest of us aren’t experiencing some milder negative effect that simply doesn’t manifest itself so obviously.

Gluten

Now for lectins. Lectins are mild, natural toxins that aren’t limited to just grains but seem to be found in especially high levels in most common grain varieties. They serve as one more reason grains just aren’t worth all the trouble that comes with them. Lectins, researchers have found, inhibit the natural repair system of the GI tract, potentially leaving the rest of the body open to the impact of errant, wandering (i.e. unwanted) material from the digestive system, especially when these lectins “unlock” barriers to entry and allow larger undigested protein molecules into the bloodstream. This breach can initiate all kinds of immune-related havoc and is thought to be related to the development of autoimmune disorders. Some people are more sensitive to the damage of lectins than others, as in the case with gluten. Nonetheless, I’d say, over time we all pay the piper.

The bottom line is this: grains = carbs. Unnecessary at best, but flat out unhealthy at worst, they’re not the wholesome staples they’re made out to be. Talk about double taxation: Our bodies pay for what our trusty government subsidizes Big Agra for. The best – really the only way – to achieve a low carb, whole foods diet is to ditch the grains. (Your body will be better off without inflammation, the insulin roller coaster, not to mention the constant onslaught of creepy gluten and lectins.) A diet very low or entirely without grains (low-carb) has been shown to decrease risk for problems associated with diabetes, to lower blood pressure, alleviate heartburn symptoms, and shed abdominal fat. Finally, low carb diets have been associated with significant “reductions in a number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”

The idea here is not to demonize grains. Well, O.K., it is. (But only because our society and medical establishment spends so much time exalting them.) Just as I choose to steer clear of grains as a regular part of my diet, I do occasionally indulge a bit. A tiny bit. And that’s where the Primal Blueprint enters: it’s about informed, not dictated choices. That French bread at an anniversary dinner, a sample of the pasta salad at your Uncle Billy’s steak fry, the saffron rice your daughter cooks for you when you visit her first apartment – they’re thoughtful, purposeful compromises. (And they’re perhaps very worth it for reasons that have nothing to do with the food itself.) The point of the Primal Blueprint if this: When you understand the metabolic effects of eating grains, you’re empowered to make informed decisions about the role grains will have in your diet. You’re free to enjoy good health and self-selected compromises with a clear conscience and full epicurean gusto!

Thanks for tuning in. It’s been a pleasure, as always.

Fitness Black Book Photo and Natmandu, Bern@t, Slack13, atomicshark, yarnivore Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

What Happens to Your Body When… You CARB BINGE?

The Definitive Guide Series

What About Beans and Legumes?

Jack LaLanne on Sugarholics

Sensible Vices Round 1 and 2

Yet Another Half-Baked Grain Study

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. How do you deal with the evidence that shows people on unrefined carb diets actually lower insulin levels significantly?

    And the evidence that high saturated fat foods actually can increase insulin?

    bongoman wrote on July 30th, 2009
  2. Bongoman, all carbs raise insulin to some degree, so I’m not sure exactly what “evidence” are you referring to? Can you point me to your specific studies that compare diets high in complex carb with low carb diets, for instance?

    Mark Sisson wrote on July 31st, 2009
  3. Just a quick update, I’m down TWENTY pounds since ditching grains. And my afternoon nap or coffee (depending on my schedule) is virtually eliminated. I was “primal with heavy grains” for about 2 months while I read, researched and decided whether or not to eliminate grains. I could NOT drop weight that way. And I went into a massive food-coma after every chicken-and-rice type meal I had. Just like I would with pasta, or pizza or something I ate in my pre-primal life. You really want to know whether you should drop grains or not?? Try it for 1 week. You won’t be able to argue with how great you FEEL. Horray for even energy all day!! No more 3 o’clock sleepy’s.

    Fixed Gear wrote on August 1st, 2009
  4. Fixed Gear, as a Christian, I find you were more ontrack with your original post… God did give us this Earth to use (wisely, hopefully). He gave us our darn big brains for reason…to become more human and less animal. Just because wild animals lack the ability to cook, doesn’t mean we are wrong for making the inedible edible. I am way in agreement with Barlow in that we don’t eat just for fuel…we share meals for pleasure as well.
    I can’t disagree with your weight loss…that’s why I’m attempting to eat this way…but I think you could have done the same just by eating far fewer carbs.(rather than elimination) I think if we all just ditch the simple carbs (Doritos really just don’t add to anyone’s life) and savor the occasional treat (that artisan bread he was talking about)we’ll be on the right path.
    p.s.
    Barlow spoke of Communion…for me,I always think of God feeding the Israelites in the desert…he gave them manna…not a side of beef.

    Marie wrote on October 2nd, 2009
  5. Yeah well if we’re using that big brain, then we should realize that if you HAVE TO cook something just to make it edible, it’s probably not good for you. By using that brain and realizing grains are NOT meant for human consumption I AM becoming more human, less animal. I’d argue people “going primal” are using a superior intellect than the masses following conventional wisdom!

    By cooking beans, or rice or oats, you can stomach them without getting sick. But that doesn’t mean it’s optimal fuel. I would argue they ARE making you sick, even cooked, just not as sick as they do raw. Raw beans off the vine = you’ll throw up. Cooked beans = lots of flatulance, and insulin spike/crash. That’s not the same as throwing up, but it’s certainly not positive. I’d call that low-grade sickness.

    I’m not advocating that we don’t cook because Grok didn’t cook, anymore than I’d say men shouldn’t shave or cut their hair because Grok didn’t. I LIKE our modern world. I’m simply saying if you HAVE TO cook a food just to make it edible…. then that’s a very compelling argument that it’s UNNATURAL for you to eat that food. The same way I don’t eat tree leaves or grass just because they occur in nature.

    Your argument that I “could have lost the weight anyway” by including the VERY THINGS that were impeding my weight loss…. just doesn’t make logical sense. I figured it out, it was the grains! That was the problem. I took them out and the weight came off. Going primal WITH grains, in 2 solid months I could only mange to drop 3 pounds. Once I ditched the grains, it was 1-2 pounds a week. I’m now down 38 pounds! That’s 18 more since my last post here. And I’m STRONGER in all my lifts in the gym.

    Go ahead and eat grains if you want to; I don’t need any more convincing. Honestly the weight loss, is secondary. I FEEL so much better without grains. You never really get off the insulin spike/crash rollercoaster if you eat lots of brown rice or oatmeal.. Replace those things with veggies and you’ll be much happier.

    Fixed Gear wrote on October 2nd, 2009
  6. Fixed Gear,first of all, congratulations on your weight loss… well done!
    But…I’m not understanding why all the shouting in your post…?? I wasn’t trying to be in your face.
    Let me just try to rephrase: I too am starting to limit grains and am starting to eat some meat. I do believe it will help me lose weight. I just think food is more than simply the sum of it’s nutritional parts, and that life is a gift… and too short to not enjoy a piece of good bread on occasion. I didn’t believe Ornish when he insisted on “no nuts” (fat content) and I don’t believe eliminating all grains is necessary…and cannot accept that agriculture was a purposeless fluke.
    It’s all just my humble opinion/perception/philosophy…I’m not trying to tell you how to eat.
    BTW, how much more do you want to lose?

    Marie wrote on October 2nd, 2009
  7. please tell me how civilization can continue without grains

    Alex wrote on December 2nd, 2009
    • Current and projected levels of population cannot exist on this planet without grains. That’s a big issue, and Mark as well as Loren Cordain acknowledge this. Therefore most people sadly will never have the choice to eliminate grains.

      However, if you have the choice and you do accept the premise that you can help your health, consider yourself lucky.

      VO wrote on April 16th, 2010
  8. 1) I don’t believe in evolution. I believe in creation. We did not evolve from apes.

    2) MODERATION.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Wendy wrote on December 6th, 2009
    • Are you f***ing serious? I love your site Mark, but the comments section appears to attract its fair share of whackjobs.

      Shayne wrote on February 22nd, 2010
      • Unfortunately, anything that challenges the general belief system out there is going to attract its fair share of crackpots and whackjobs, as well as the occasionall tr*ll.

        Griff wrote on April 29th, 2010
    • You are right, we didn’t evolve from apes. We evolved from a common ancestor.

      Moderation is important. Intelligent, science and evidence based decision making is better.

      enough said.

      Raleighwood wrote on April 1st, 2010
  9. What about the grains that don’t have gluten? Quinoa, Amaranth, rice, etc.? I thought these were supposed to be good for consupmption?

    E wrote on December 9th, 2009
  10. Interesting article. I’ve been battling eczema for the past few years and have always felt lethargic after meals, I wonder if cutting pasta and bread would help?

    One thing I was unsure about though was re. the Carbs… I thought potatoes / sweet potatoes and other spuds have equally high GI index to brown rice or wholewheat pasta? In that case wouldn’t potatoes cause equal amount of havoc to insulin spikes, etc? How can you recommend spuds in the same breath then?

    And as a seed does Quinoa have phytates?

    Joey wrote on January 1st, 2010
  11. A friend of mine recommended this website which he loves with a passion. Cutting carbs completely from ones diet is reminiscent of the Atkins diet which i ABHOR. im currently following the Glycemic Load system of eating by a british nutrionist called Holford. I do eat carbs in the form of Oats,Quinoa,nd Pumpernickel rye bread. I have been losing a kg a week which is great. Im really interested in Primal way of eating, does that mean i have to eliminate all of the above? i weigh my carbs and i dont consume more than 150gm a day + i love quinoa (is this a nasty grain?)dunno what to do really??
    As an added note i think ppl should look up the Codex Alimentarius which is unrelated to this diet but very much to vitamins and supplements Dr. Rima Laibow in Youtube. Peace

    Bsam wrote on January 8th, 2010
  12. All this creationist and christian bibble babble is making my head hurt.

    This is a HEALTH, NUTRITION and FITNESS blog. Not religion. Religion should be like your genitals… Kept covered in public, but you can play with it as much as you want in the privacy of your own home.

    It is a FACT, supported by EVIDENCE, that the earth is over 4 billion years old. Evolution does occur DAILY. Explain to me how bacteria adapting and evolving to become resistant to antibiotics is not evolution. Do some research about salamanders and how recent, NEW, species have evolved from separation and environmental changes.

    Biology only makes sense in the light of evolution. To completely dismiss it based upon your “faith” is ignorant and troublesome.

    With all that being said, and back to the original topic. The days (Wednesdays and Sundays) that I completely cut out grains (and carbs) are the days that I feel my best and most balanced energy wise. This is anecdotal at best, but what works for me is what works for me.

    In closing, please STFU about your religion and how it disproves evolution, science, practical reasoning and the such. Save it for another website that was actually created and designed for that audience.

    Thanks.

    Raleighwood wrote on April 1st, 2010
    • What exactly is the problem with someone posing a religion-related question to the author of the post/website? It probably wasn’t written to target specifically you, it was probably written to see what any other interested people thought about it… You don’t have to read it, you don’t have to response to it… Also, where on this site does it insist that all discussion generated is to be within the health/nutrition/fitness limits? It seems as though the entire goal, aside from the obvious selling-supplements part, is the education and back-and-forth with readers about a particular lifestyle. That doesn’t exlude a topic just cuz you don’t like it..

      Also, just as an admittedly off-topic sidenote… the belief that the earth and people were created is not mutually exlusive to the idea of evolution. As far as the “we did not come from apes” comment, that doesn’t exlude the possibility of evolution altogether… I personally make a distinction between macroevolution and microevolution. I have yet to see proof that macroevolution is possible.

      Maria wrote on April 16th, 2010
    • Raleighwood, evolution is a theory, there is no possible way of proving a “millions of years” theory when modern science has been around for just a few hundred years. The majority of scientists will agree to this.

      “Explain to me how bacteria adapting and evolving to become resistant to antibiotics is not evolution.” The bacteria remains bacteria, it therefore has nothing to do with proving or disproving macro-evolution (the millions of years theories).

      Ultimately evolution is world view that a lot of scientists have when they look at scientific evidence. People like to be able to disprove texts like the Bible as it means they can live however they want to live (no moral absolutes etc). Of course Creationist scientists are no different, they too have a world view through which they apply to their science.

      In the end it’s a faith question, not a science question.

      Also, I believe this discussion is very relevant to this article as Mark holds up evolution as one of the main reasons why humans should avoid excess carbohydrates. Yet evolution contradicts the beliefs of Christians, Jews and Muslims (a huge proportion of the world’s population).

      Will wrote on April 16th, 2010
  13. Thanks for this information, Mark. I’ve been following a primal diet and lifestyle for a few months and the results are obvious – obviously good. It’s hard to argue with results. It is in my nature, however, to fully explore new ideas, and not take them at face value. With that being said…

    As we will (should) all agree that evolution is occurring constantly, is it not possible that humans are slowly adapting to a diet high in grains? Evolutionary Theory and the “survival of the fittest” principal is based on the idea that those members of a species best adapted to changes in thier environment will pass along those adaptive traits to thier offspring. In this case, one environmental change is the superpopulation of the human species resulting in a lack of nutrient rich foods appropriate to feed the increasing population. I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but I’d be willing to bet that the entire human population as it stands today could not survive on a strict primal diet without grains. Should you grant me that assumption, then next logical progression is a human species that will adapt (or is adapting) to ingesting grains as a major source of nutrition. The inability to digest gluten will continue to weed itself out. The sheer availability of grains will continue to encourage a growing population of humans until we have adapted to dependancy. (We are probably not too far off of that.) Is it better to resist these inevitable changes or to encourage them? Who knows?

    As for me, I won’t live in the future. I can control my diet, and don’t have a dependancy on grains. I enjoy my (semi-) primal lifestyle and look forward to passing my genes on to my children.

    T-Stake wrote on April 2nd, 2010
  14. Inevitably, a question came up while reading this… According to numerous sources, including several medical types, in order to continue lactating properly and producing the necessary amount of milk, carbs (most specifically whole grains, and even more specifically oatmeal) are a must… Do you happen to have an explanation for why this might not be the case? Also, any idea why the whole-grain idea is pushed by nearly 100% of nutritional experts? Just wondering what the motivation would be to tell so many people that it’s vital to their well-being if it is in fact not.. Thanks in advance!

    Maria wrote on April 7th, 2010
    • As for why almost all CW health experts recommend hearthealthywholegrains I think because they saw on CNN that they were good for you. And besides, eating meat is sinful and we should all be vegetarian. I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek here but not too far off, many ‘experts’ just regurgitate what they hear 2nd or 3rd hand. We’ve all played telephone as kids and similar stuff happens in news sources/science reporting. Few people actually take the time to read the studies first hand(the whole thing not just the ABSTRACT, which is often misleading) and even fewer will read them if they are in a different language. I’ve read many, many studies where the abstract and the actual result of the study are in conflict or the researchers doctored the results so that they fit in w/ CW. Make the data fit the hypothesis so they can still get grant $$.

      Ann wrote on April 16th, 2010
  15. …I’ll add a bit to my question, as your explanation above somewhat answers what it sounds like I was asking… I wanted to know if the same explanation is valid in the case of lactation AND, if so, what is the best way of ensuring proper milk supply? (If you know..)

    Maria wrote on April 8th, 2010
    • Nurse more frequently is the best, most reliable way to up milk production. I’ve heard rumors that nettle / milk thistle tea will also work but haven’t tried it.

      Ann wrote on April 16th, 2010
  16. Ah yes, of course. Since we all know that before there was oatmeal, no woman ever breastfed a baby. Of course not. How could they? They didn’t have oatmeal! Makes perfect sense!

    Ian Wendt wrote on April 8th, 2010
    • Well, that was an incredibly useful response. Good on ya!

      Disregarding the idiot above, my question still remains, to anyone who may care to answer it… Just wondering what the magical quality of grains is that supposedly facilitates proper lactation (atleast in the opinion of the med. specialists to whom I’ve talked about this) and in which other replacement-type foods this would be found.

      Maria wrote on April 16th, 2010
      • I don’t know about the medical ‘experts’ that you’ve spoken to about this but I’ve been nursing my 17 month old since birth just fine on a diet that has been extremely low in grains. I do cheat occasionally on really, really good bread. But no more than once/twice a month (excluding a recent trip to France). I know this is just anecdotal, and therefore not strictly science, but as long as you get enough calories you should do just fine. I would be interested to know what the fat content of the milk is when you go high fat/lo carb. Perhaps the volume does decrease but the calories/fat content of the milk goes up? Perhaps women just have a harder time getting in enough calories to lactate properly w/o loads of carbs/sugar, I dunno. I would also tend to think that the increase in milk supply would be based on the amount of carbs (plus insulin spike) and not on some kind of micronutrient in the grains themselves since they are a pitiful source of nutrition.

        But I do agree with Ian’s statement above. Even HGs now bf just fine w/o grains. Babies do start out eating meat much earlier in HG/traditional societies also which lessens the amount of milk required after the first 4-8 months of life. See Sally Fallon’s work on this for more information.

        Personally, I feel so much better without grains that I don’t think I will be adding them back (n=1 rules). I don’t really miss them at all either.

        Ann wrote on April 16th, 2010
        • Gotcha, good to hear… I hadn’t yet come across anyone who had changed their diet to [mostly] eliminate grains etc yet was breastfeeding… Just wondering if it’d cause unnecessary complications. As far as the nursing more often thing, I don’t have any problems at present with milk, just didn’t want them to develop… As far as Ian’s “statement”, if you categorize it as such, I’m aware that it has happened, that part was clear to me before asking the question, the difference is the way they ate was/is second nature, whereas I’d be switching to it and not necessarily have the expertise to sub in the right food for the particular demands of breastfeeding… Either way, so far everything seems to be going fine, just was wondering if there’d be a large difference or some kinda special action that needed to be taken, what with the way it’s insisted that carbs are necessary or milk production will go out the window… At any rate, thanks for your comments/experience! Reassuring :)

          Maria wrote on April 16th, 2010
        • How long have you been eating this way? Has it been throughout nursing or somewhat recently?

          Maria wrote on April 16th, 2010
      • Maria, I don’t know if this is what you are looking for, but the body makes saturated fat out of carbs, and I believe at one point that was the logic behind saying ‘You MUST eat grains or you won’t be able to nurse’, though I know for a fact that’s bunk.

        IF you should start to see an issue-fenugreek worked very well for me when I started to see a bit of a shrink in my supply. You have to take enough of it to smell a bit ‘fennel-y’-your sweat, breath and urine will take on the scent, but it’s by no means bothersome or unpleasant.

        I don’t think there ‘is’ a component in grains that is necessary for lactation; The lipid profile of your milk will resemble that of your diet, so high vitamin CLO, coconut oil, and plenty of saturated fat are good things to get plenty of.

        I suspect that the recommendation for ‘whole grains’ is a lot like the ‘avoid raw milk’ and the ‘don’t eat liver or any vitamin A’ mandates you get when pregnant. Conventional wisdom and crummy even at that.

        That said, I did notice a measurable increase in my milk supply when I had oatmeal for breakfast (soaked overnight in buttermilk/kefir) than when I had something else (eg rawmilk eggnog, etc) so for me, at least, oats are a definite galactagogue.

        Laurel wrote on April 27th, 2010
        • Interesting… thanks! I wonder why the oats were helpful… that was what I was eating daily for breakfast (cooked in water, “served” with a halfish cup of apple juice cuz I can’t eat them raw 😉 ) Now I’ve been eating several (3-4) eggs scrambled with some kinda of meat (ham/salmon/whatever) and some vegetables (spinach/bell peppers/etc) and a little cheddar cheese… So far milk’s okay, maybe a little down, but I just got back from a week long TDY (“business trip” in normal speak) and that probably had an impact. ANYWAYS! Thanks!

          Maria wrote on April 29th, 2010
      • If it were true that whole grains and oatmeal and milk are necessary for lactating, then the Inuit could not have existed. Until the relatively recent contact with “civilization”, they ate mostly whale meat and other animals, and their source of carbs was the stomach contents of the animals. They would not have been able to breastfeed and their infants would have starved.

        I knew that I was hypoglycemic before I had children, so I was eating a low-carb diet when I was nursing and had great amounts of milk with lots of cream. My babies looked well-nurished! So don’t be afraid to eliminate grains from your diet.

        Maxine wrote on June 16th, 2010
  17. Mark (or other helpful friends): I think I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m currently reading through Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM)by Tom Venuto, and he recommends whole grains and oatmeal but not white flour. Since carbohydrates are the most efficient way to produce glucose for the body’s production of ATP, and since grain is a great source of carbohydrates, I’m at a loss. I want to combine the Primal Blueprint and BFFM for optimal health.

    With so many conflicting ideas regarding grains, part of me wonders if the only way for me to solve this issue is to cut to low grains and see how I feel after a month or two and then go back on a higher amount of grains and see if I feel better or worse.

    As you talk about how grains are damaging to the digestive system, I can’t help but wonder why evidence of this isn’t in great excess.

    I want to change my diet from processed to organic (straight from the earth, grass fed beef, etc). I think that would do a great deal for energy levels and overall health.

    -Benjamin

    Benjamin McLane wrote on April 19th, 2010

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