Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Tag: gluten

Top 8 Most Common Reactions to Your Grain-Free Diet (and How to Respond)

As I’m sure you’ve seen, eyes raise and questions arise when you order a burger wrapped in lettuce or discard a “wrap” and eat the contents. And then, when you answer with “Oh, I don’t eat grains,” minds boggle and mouths gape as they stumble to grasp the notion of someone who doesn’t eat bread or pasta. Eventually, though, they fire off responses, challenges, questions, and proclamations. This isn’t right, this isn’t possible, this doesn’t agree with their idea of how people should eat. It just isn’t normal. You’re not normal, and you should be ashamed of yourself for introducing a new paradigm. But not all are personally offended by your decision. Some are honestly curious and flabbergasted. Some just want to know why someone would give up grains and how they get along without them.

So, what kind of stuff do we hear out there in the wild?

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Dear Mark: Marcona Almonds, Olives, Grass-Fed Whey, and Carbquik

If you weren’t at UCLA this weekend for the Ancestral Health Symposium, you really missed out on the brainiest, brawniest, most physically and mentally impressive gathering I’ve been witness to. My hat’s off to the organizers (and my friends), Aaron Blaisdell and Brent Pottenger, and all the presenters and volunteers who made it happen. It went more smoothly than I’ve ever seen a conference of this magnitude go – and this was the inaugural one! I’m looking forward to the future and I’ve got a good feeling that this weekend will prove to be a powerful milestone in the story of the movement. All the presentations were filmed. I’ll alert you when they become available.

Let’s get to the questions. I field a Marcona almond query, discuss the unpalatability of raw olives, explain my stance on grass-fed whey protein, and lambast Carbquik.

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Are Traditionally Prepared Grains Healthy?

“People from Africa, Asia, and Latin America eat lots of grains and manage to stay skinny, so what’s the deal?”

You know this line of questioning. We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all pondered it. It may have even stumped a few of you, left you stuttering and stammering for a quick explanation. But by the time you think of a reply (if you even have one), the moment has passed and they have “won” the argument. A briefly open mind was now closed.

But let’s be honest: it’s a valid question, and a tough one at that. We can’t just avoid the tough questions. So let’s take this head on.

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A Tale of Two Gluten Studies

“It was the best of times,

it was the worst of times,

it was the age of wisdom,

it was the age of foolishness,

it was the epoch of belief,

it was the epoch of incredulity,

it was the season of Light,

it was the season of Darkness,

it was the spring of hope,

it was the winter of despair,

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

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Will Eating Whole Grains Help You Live Longer?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Friday Success Story to bring you a timely and critical look at this week’s Hottest Health Headline. And who better to tackle the research in question than expert study-dismantler Denise Minger? You may remember Denise from the recent article she wrote for MDA in which she went toe-to-toe with a study linking a high fat diet with breast cancer. Today she takes on our nemesis, our foe, our mortal enemy – the Whole Grain. And now, Denise…

A headline-grabbing study just hit the press, and on the surface, it looks like a home run for team Healthy Whole Grain. This chunk of research – officially titled “Dietary Fiber Intake and Mortality in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study” – followed a pool of over half a million adults and found that, across the board, the folks eating the most fiber had lower rates of death from almost every disease. But here’s the kicker: The only fiber that seemed to boost health was the kind from grains. Not veggie fiber. Not fruit fiber. Just grains, grains, grains.

Suspicious, eh?

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A Different Perspective on Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroid has been covered to death before. I’m particularly fond of The Healthy Skeptic’s coverage – check out Chris Kresser’s ongoing series (possibly before you read on) for some great information on the thyroid. Carnivorous Danny Roddy did a good piece on it last year as well. As such, I won’t be redoing or rehashing an “intro to thyroid.” Instead, I’ll give a brief overview and then discuss why I think some of us may be looking at thyroid “dysfunction” in the wrong light.

The thyroid is a complicated little bugger wielding a lot of influence over the metabolism, and it seems like just about anything has been fingered as a trigger of its dysfunction. Lack of carbs in the diet, too few calories, too much iodine, too little iodine, too many grains, intermittent fasting, excessive cortisol, and multiple other factors have gotten the blame. Unraveling the multiple potential triggers for its dysfunction can be tough. But is dysfunction always the right way to describe a slight reduction in thyroid hormones? I’m not so sure.

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How to Quit Grains

Yes, they’re inextricably woven into nearly every aspect of our society. Dietary staple, cultural icon, sentimental fodder, patriotic symbol: it’s impossible to get away from them. However, just because they’re ubiquitous in our social environment doesn’t mean they deserve a place on your dinner plate. You know the multitude of reasons to quit grains. How about some strategies for kicking them to the curb?

As much as I condone, cajole and attempt to convince people to give up grains for the sake of their health, I’m not oblivious to the fact that dumping grains can be a tough and sometimes lonely slog. It’s not just the cultural thing either. For most people, physiological and habitual forces are the most demanding aspects. You’ve likely heard the term “carboholic” (used mostly in magazines and Oprah confessions for humorous, normalizing purposes), but there’s genuine truth there. Although I’m not equating the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction with carb cravings, hard science has something to say about the physiological compulsion associated with dietary sugar and carbs (PDF).

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Dear Mark: Did Grok Eat Grains?

The Primal Blueprint, as our good readers know, is founded on the principle of evolutionary biology. This certainly applies to our view of what’s appropriate or not in terms of nutrition.  In short, what our long time ancestors ate during the course of 2 million+ years, we’re still designed to eat. Even the last 200,000 years of hunting and gathering, from a physiological standpoint, trumps the comparatively short 10,000 or so years since the Agricultural Revolution, when humans commenced widespread farming practices and prepared grains as a significant part of their diet.

An article published in this month’s Science Magazine presents archeological evidence that, according to its author, challenges this accepted timeline. A number of readers have written me about this story. Here’s one letter among the bunch….

Mark,

Please help me make some sense to this: Stone Age diet included processed grains

I’m a crossfitter in Colorado and most of the gym keeps a Grok diet and are confused about this article. Does this open the door to other minimally processed grains?

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Why Grains Are Unhealthy

I find that grain bashing makes for a tasty, but ultimately unsatisfying meal.

You all know how much I love doing it, though. But no matter how often I sit down to dine on the stuff (and I’ve done it with great gusto in the past), I always leave the table feeling like I left something behind. Like maybe I wasn’t harsh enough about the danger of gluten, or I failed to really convey just how much I hated lectins. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the mere mention of grains was eliciting a crazy insulin-esque response and throwing my satiety hormones all out of whack. I was filling up on anti-grain talk, but I just couldn’t fill that void for long.

Well, I’ve got the hunger today, and this time I aim to stuff myself to the point of perpetual sickness. I don’t ever want to have to look at another anti-grain argument again (yeah, right). If things get a little disjointed, or if I descend into bullet points and sentence fragments, it’s only because the hunger has taken over and I’ve decided to dispense with the pleasantries in order to lay it all out at once.

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Grain Pain

I’ve been grain-free for nearly three years now. Oh, every once in a while, I’ll have a bite or two of bread at a restaurant (it had better be really good bread though and even then I’ll still douse it with olive oil or real butter) or a couple of chips with guacamole – mostly just as a vehicle for delivering the precious emerald mixture to my mouth. I might even have a few sushi rolls with sticky white rice from time to time. But for the most part I stay far away from grains. No cereal ever, no pasta ever, no wheat, barley, rye, corn or anything of that sort. My exodus from grains was gradual, starting about five years ago, but it increased in fervor and resolve as I discovered more and more through my research how inappropriate grains were as a component of the human diet.

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