Category: Gut Health
Acne is a common problem that gives too many people too much grief. Many conventional acne (or acne vulgaris) treatments—antibiotics, oral steroids, hormonal birth control pills, and isotretinoin (sold with brand name Accutane)—have serious, sometimes downright scary, side effects. There may be cases when these nuclear options are necessary, but I know many folks would prefer to try diet, lifestyle, and more natural interventions first.
The good news is that as common as skin issues like acne are today, they are not an inevitable part of the human condition. Grandfather of the ancestral health movement Loren Cordain asserts that acne is basically unheard of in traditional-living societies. This strongly suggests that modern lifestyle factors underlie much of what we see today. And if that’s the case, then there are steps we can take to cut acne down at the source.
A while back, a friend was telling my wife Carrie and I about these apple cider vinegar gummies she started taking to deal with some persistent health issues. She wanted to know what I thought. You probably know that apple cider vinegar is rumored to have myriad health benefits. I’ve written before about how it’s likely to help people with diabetes control their blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. But it’s been a while since I poked around the scientific literature on this topic, so I decided to explore that today. Apple cider vinegar has a long history as a traditional remedy for everything from dandruff to cancer. (Spoiler: there’s no evidence it helps with cancer.) Proponents claim that its healing properties come from the high acid content—mostly acetic acid, but also lactic, malic, and citric acids—as well the polyphenols, probiotics, and small amount of nutrients it contains. Depending on your particular issue, you might dab it on your skin, soak in an apple cider vinegar bath, or drink it. Apple cider gummies have also become quite popular in recent years, as my friend can attest, in part because drinking apple cider vinegar can get old. It doesn’t taste great, and it burns on the way down. I’m not going to cover the question of whether gummies are more or less effective than other delivery methods today, but let me know in the comments if that’s something that interests you. For today, I’m going to revisit the evidence for some of the top purported health benefits and see if there is any reason to run out to the market for a bottle of apple cider vinegar. Let’s go. Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Apple cider vinegar for diabetes and insulin resistance Scientists have known for decades that there is something going on with vinegar and blood sugar. A study back in 1988 showed that when researchers had subjects consume a sucrose solution either with or without vinegar (strawberry vinegar in this case), the resulting rise in blood sugar was significantly blunted in the vinegar condition. In another, individuals with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance consumed a high-carb meal (white bagel, butter, orange juice) with or without an apple cider vinegar drink. With the addition of vinegar, participants experienced a smaller blood glucose spike, lower insulin response, and better whole-body insulin sensitivity, especially among the insulin resistant folks. A similar study with type 2 diabetics found that vinegar attenuated the insulin and glucose responses to a high-glycemic index meal but not a low-GI meal. Some longer-term studies also suggest that taking apple cider vinegar for 2 to 12 weeks reduces fasting blood glucose and lowers HbA1c. So there is something there, but the phenomenon is still not well understood. The studies in this area are mostly small with inconsistent methodologies. Of note, it’s not clear whether there’s anything special about apple cider vinegar per se. The observed effects are probably due mostly to the acetic acid, which you’ll find … Continue reading “Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits: Fact or Fiction?”
While it’s easy enough to pop down to the grocery store and buy butter, yogurt, or kefir, it can be very rewarding—and easier than you think—to make your own products at home. Making staple dairy foods at home allows you to control what goes into them, control the process, and reconnect to the traditional way of doing things.
Yogurt and kefir are also fermented foods that deliver those oh-so-important probiotics to feed the beneficial microbes in your gut. Rather than rely on store-bought products, which often contain sugar and other additives you wish to avoid, why not make your own at home? Being able to make your own butter, yogurt, and kefir gives you flexibility. It gives you power. Most importantly, it gives you agency: the ability to control what you feed yourself or your family.
For today’s Dear Mark, I’m answering a reader question about whether colostrum supplements are worth trying. Let’s get right into it.
A buddy of mine has been taking colostrum powder for a few months now. He swears it’s helping him bulk up in the gym. I’m training for a century ride this summer and he says I should start using colostrum for leg strength. Ever since he mentioned it I feel like I’m seeing more fitness types talking about it on social media too. I’d love to get your take before shelling out the money. Thanks Mark!
Ah yes, your phone heard you talking about colostrum. Now your social media feed is full of colostrum posts, and you want to know if it’s legit or just another empty promise.
Colostrum, as you might know, is the “first milk” that mammals produce in the two to three days after giving birth. Compared to regular milk, colostrum is particularly rich in antibodies, enzymes, growth factors, and other nutrients all designed to protect the newborn and kickstart their immune system and digestion. If you were breastfed at birth, you received colostrum from your mother. Colostrum that you buy as a supplement is almost always bovine (cow) colostrum, usually in powder or capsule form.
Well, does it?
We’re all going to be putting food in our bodies just about every day for the rest of our lives. Most of us will do it several times a day. We’ll chew it, send it down the esophagus into our stomach, and expose it to gastric juices and digestive enzymes. We’ll strip it of nutrients and send the excess down to the colon for dismissal, feeding resident gut bacteria along the way. The whole process should go smoothly. There shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort, bloating or constipation. Oh sure, nobody’s perfect, and there will be slow-downs or speed-ups from time to time, but in general a vital, fundamental process like digestion shouldn’t even register in our waking, conscious lives.
But sometimes it does.
Today we have a special guest author, Primal Kitchen® cofounder Morgan Zanotti. She’s sharing her experience trying a personalized microbiome program, which includes eating scientific muffins, pricking herself with needles, and tracking her lifestyle, all for the goal of an optimized gut. Take it away, Morgan! A few weeks ago, I had the chance to interview microbiome expert Dr. Tim Spector for the Primal Kitchen® Podcast. Dr. Tim founded Zoe, a microbiome program that personalizes an optimal eating pattern just for you using at-home testing, paired with information about your lifestyle and how you experience your day-to-day. The plan and app bring it all together to determine how your body responds to foods, and makes recommendations to help you live your best life. When I do these interviews, my intention is to learn more about the person sitting across from me. But the truth is, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about myself after talking to Dr. Tim and going through the Zoe process! As soon as Dr. Tim gave me the rundown of Zoe and what it does, I knew I had to give it a go. Here’s how it works. The Zoe Process First, I took a quiz, which covered the usual age range and gender questions, but also digs into details on how many plants I eat in a typical day, where my energy levels were, things like that. That information generates a rough idea of your inflammation profile, but that’s not enough to put you on a plan. From there, you get into testing your actual biology. With at-home kits, you do a gut microbiome test, a blood fat test, and you wear a blood sugar sensor to see blood sugar response to certain foods. No lab visits— you do it all yourself and it’s pretty goof-proof. I’ll admit, I was a little scared to apply the continuous blood sugar monitor on my arm, but it was easy to place, I barely felt it (seriously) and more importantly, it was easy to forget about once it was secured with medical tape. Meanwhile, you’re eating “standardized test meals,” which are essentially gluten-free fancy science muffins. These contain specific macronutrients that you eat at specific times so that you can test how your body responds to certain foods and eating patterns over time. The blood sugar data was especially interesting, because I could read it on my phone in real-time. And unlike pricking your finger, the continuous glucose monitor shows the full curve of your blood sugar response. If you rely on a finger prick you’re getting one piece of data at a specific time, but you really don’t get the full picture. Sometimes, my blood sugar responded before I was done eating! I’ve done a lot of self-experiments historically where I’ve gone full keto (total 20g carbs/day), I’ve gone pescetarian for a few months while I was getting my yoga teaching certification, but this felt way more precise, informative and awesomely geeky. How Did … Continue reading “Primal Kitchen Cofounder Morgan Tried Zoe and Here’s What Happened”