When the ancient Greek father of medicine, Hippocrates, said “All disease begins in the gut,” he was probably right. Poor gut health has been linked to a broad range of diseases and health conditions, from depression to diabetes, cancer to obesity, and autism to autoimmune disease. Researchers are exploring connection between prevotella, a species of gut bacteria, and severity of COVID-19. Search the medical literature and you’ll probably find links between the gut and any illness you can imagine.
So—all the world’s health issues solved, right? Not exactly.
Gut health is one of those topics that gets more complicated the deeper you go. The more you read about gut bacteria, the less you realize you know and the less you realize anyone knows, even the researchers. It’s infinite onions, all the way down. The layers never stop, and exposing them eventually makes you want to cry. (Speaking of which, onions are actually a very good food for gut health).
While some keto or low-carb proponents claim fiber is useless at best and actively harmful at worst, I come down on the side that says fiber is probably helpful for most people. Some folks have persistently better responses to low- or no-fiber keto diets, and I won’t argue with that—I’ve seen it happen and I’ve read the studies where de-emphasizing fiber can actually improve constipation, for example.
I’ll just say that I have an opposite reaction, and, most importantly, I love eating a variety of plant foods that also happen to contain a ton of great nutrients in addition to fiber.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First up, what can a person do to help their gut recover its barrier function after too many antibiotics? Are there any foods, supplements, or dietary strategies? Second, what can explain rapid fatigue during sprint sessions on a keto diet? Is this simply part of the deal, or are there modifications you can make? And finally, what do I do when I know I’m going to get a bad night’s sleep?
Because humans were hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, we evolved to use and favor the diverse plant and rich meat intake of our hunting and foraging history. Farming and its core crops (e.g. grains), by contrast, only came on the scene approximately 10,000 years ago and took at least 8000 of those years to spread across the world. Our evolutionary roots—and residual genetic expectations—favor the nutritional practices of our hunter-gatherer legacy. (For more on the history of the paleo diet, click here.)
The “paleo diet” today looks to the dietary model of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and translates those eating practices to the modern age for the purpose of optimum health.
The paleo diet favors nutrient-dense whole foods and eschews processed food products. Let’s look at the wide variety of flavorful (and healthy) choices within a paleo protocol as well as some basic principles for what to eat and what to avoid. For a PDF print-out of this list, click here.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering several questions drawn from the comment board of last week’s post on fasting vs carb restriction. First, how do I square my recommendations with the successful reports of potato dieters losing weight on a high-carb tuber diet? Second, is Leangains optimal for mass gain? Third, how do I use extra virgin olive oil, butter, and ghee? Fourth, could exogenous ketones help a man with dementia, MS, and seizures? Fifth, how should a woman with stalled weight loss integrate fasting?
The tricky thing about fiber is that it’s not a monolith. There are dozens of varieties. Some of them perform similar functions in the body, but others have extremely unique effects. Some rend your colonic lining to stimulate lubrication. Some turn into gelatinous slurries. But we can’t talk about fiber without understanding that the word describes a variety of compounds. As such, anyone making declarative statements about “fiber” without differentiating between the different types and their effects isn’t being accurate (except for me in that exact sentence).
This leads to a lot of confusion. People make blanket statements that might be true for some types of fibers and incorrect for others.