Today’s Monday Dear Mark question and answer post is a fun one. I look into whether a claim about fenugreek and human growth hormone by the great Dr. Mehmet Oz pans out (hint: he’s off, but not by much). Then, I discuss how to strength train as a marathon runner (hint: short and intense), after which I explore the nutritional content of edible insects. And finally, in light of my recent posts on inflammation, I cover the connection between eczema and gluten.
How was the weekend for you? Mine was kinda tough. Great weather beckoned all weekend, and my paddleboard and I shared mournful glances full of longing, but I was stuck inside working on my talk for the upcoming Ancestral Health Symposium at UCLA. I think it’s going to be a good one, though, so hopefully the work pays off. Okay, enough complaining. It’s Monday, which means another round of questions and answers. This week, we’ve got a pair of scary studies that seem to condemn fat and red meat as the nutritional factors ultimately responsible for all that ails us as a society (what else is new?). I also field a question on teff, a grain used in traditional Ethiopian cooking, from a reader who plans on moving there.
Every week I attempt to field at least one reader question in my Dear Mark series of blog posts. Some of the inquiries that are submitted are outside my scope of knowledge or experience, or are questions that are addressed to my wife, Carrie, specifically. While I could (and have been known to) dig into the research on such topics as cellulite, menopause, nursing, giving birth and the like, I think it’s valuable to offer a woman’s perspective on these and related topics of interest. And so, enter Carrie…
Hi, everyone! It’s good to be back on MDA. I so appreciate the emails I regularly get from everyone. Thanks for all your questions and kind messages. I love this community and always enjoy contributing. I get a lot of questions about family and the female perspective in living Primal. One common topic is menopause. I know how intricate a life transition menopause can be, being I’m navigating it myself now. There are a million questions I think women have about menopause, and I know they’ll be more relevant posts coming up. For today, I thought I’d take up one reader’s forum post about hot flashes and sleep. (Do I already see some heads nodding out there?)
Everyone ready for the holiday weekend yet? It’s a good time, I think, to cover a relaxing, if not inspiring, topic I’ve been meaning to get to. In all seriousness, I get a couple emails every week from folks who are wondering about their waxing or waning sexual drive and how it relates to their lifestyle. Some are folks celebrating the return of their mojo after losing weight and and gaining energy on the Primal Blueprint. Others are from readers concerned about their partners’ unhealthy habits and what they see as the coital repercussions. Still more are from folks transitioning to Primal living and going through a period of energy “adjustment” as they find the right balance in their workout regimens, calorie intakes, and overall lifestyle picture. In all, the questions revolve around a central point: what lifestyle measures support optimum sexual drive?
What can you smell around you right now? Food? Coffee? Copier ink? Soil? Cleaners or chemicals? An office mate’s cologne from twenty feet away? It’s true we apprehend the world primarily through pictures and sound unlike, say, our canine friends. If we lose our sense of sight or hearing, we embark upon a physically, emotionally, and socially challenging journey of adaptation. If we lose our sense of smell, it’s strange and unfortunate, but life goes on pretty much the same as it always did. Nonetheless, smell still pervades our interaction with the world (and each other) in ways we don’t appreciate or even fully understand.
Ah, sleep. Nothing like a good dose of the stuff, right? Losing even a single wink of your usual forty (or an hour, as the case may be) is enough to throw off an entire day.
But do you know who might love sleep more than anyone or anything? Our livers.
Yes, livers. Those fleshy multivitamins with an apparent propensity for fat accumulation function best on a good night’s sleep. New research is revealing exactly why shift workers and other chronically sleep deprived members of mankind tend to have problems with obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, and all the other popular features of metabolic syndrome: their livers aren’t processing fat efficiently, instead allowing fat to accumulate.
Last week, my post on the “Myriad Benefits of Intermittent Fasting” opened up a can of worms. In it I discussed how fasting can have a positive impact on human longevity, blood lipids, diet compliance and neurological health to name just a few of the potential health benefits. Naturally, many readers wondered if they’ve been missing the boat on IFing, and whether they should start skipping breakfast, lunch and dinner ASAP. In fact, who needs food anymore when you have IF! Not so fast.
Fasting can be an effective lifestyle hack, but is it right for everyone?
Not exactly. Not always. In other words, no. Let’s take a closer look.
As promised in last week’s Hunter-Gatherer Fitness post, I’m stirring up the (apparently much awaited) subject of sex – specifically the benefits for physical and mental well-being. Uh, you mean coitus? Yup. Thanks to everyone who responded to the announcement with rousing enthusiasm as well as comments and questions.
What could be more Primal than sex, many of you have suggested. Absolutely right. It was probably one of Grok’s most valued pleasures. (Are people today much different?) For our part, however, we have new freedoms in a manner of speaking. Although we might honor the evolutionary imperative behind our primal appetites with eventual procreation, we’re not beholden to the natural odds with every tryst. As I’ve said many a time, I love studying and learning from the example of Grok and his kin. Nonetheless, I’m a happily modern man in this instance as much as any.
Insulin is an old, old hormone. Evolution has preserved its structure across hundreds of millions of years and hundreds of thousands of species. Fish, insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals all secrete insulin with fairly similar amino acid arrangements (insulin from certain species of fish has even been clinically effective in humans), so, clearly, it is a vital hormone. But insulin gets a bad rap in our circles. Why? With metabolic syndrome laying waste to the citizenry and with insulin playing an undeniable role, it’s difficult not to be soured on this hormone.
And yet we need insulin to shuttle all sorts of nutrients into cells, like protein and glycogen into muscles. It’s there for a reason, so to demonize it is misguided. It’s chronically elevated insulin and insulin resistance – you know, the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome – that are the problem. You might have noticed a softening stance on carbohydrates around the paleo and Primal blogosphere. I think it’s simply an acknowledgment that in healthy people with healthy glucose control and healthy insulin responses who engage in glycolytic activity, starch is fine in measured amounts. And if insulin increases to shuttle that starch and protein into the insulin sensitive muscle cells, so be it. That’s why it’s there.
But not everyone (anyone?) lives a perfect Primal existence. And even if you did an understanding of how insulin works and what foods and behaviors affect it’s production should be high priority. Especially for the millions of people immersed in the modern, industrial lifestyle, with deranged metabolisms from years of poor eating habits (i.e. most of us).
Which brings us to dairy and its effect on insulin.
Yesterday, I showed how environmental, behavioral, and social cues act as zeitgebers to human circadian rhythms, and I tried to be as thorough as possible (without outstaying my welcome). I left out one very important environmental cue with the promise of more information today – sound.
I can’t recall exactly where I heard about it, but it was someone’s offhand reference to the notion of the calls of songbirds affecting our circadian rhythms that convinced me I should do a follow-up to the blue light piece from earlier this year. The notion of bird calls affecting us on a deeper level than a regular sound makes some intuitive sense to me, so I did some searching to see if there was anything to it.