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.
Insulin does a lot of important things for us. It pulls glucose from the blood and fritters it away into our cells to be burned for energy or stored as glycogen. It prevents hyperglycemic toxicity to neurons, pancreatic cells, the arterial walls and the generation of excessive levels of reactive oxygen species. It even promotes muscle protein synthesis and helps augment muscular hypertrophy, especially following resistance training. Clearly, we need insulin. Without it, we’d die, as type 1 diabetics readily do without an exogenous source.
But this process goes off the rails when our cells become resistant to the effect of insulin over time. We secrete too much. Our levels remain elevated. It becomes harder to burn body fat. In fact, we end up in even more efficient fat storage mode.
I’ve shared about nutritional means to enhance insulin sensitivity in the past. What about other non-dietary strategies?
I get more questions these days about lymphatic health—particularly lymphedema. Sometimes it’s an issue related to a reader’s cancer recovery or a co-occurring symptom seen with a loved one’s other health concerns. While I might take up specific conditions in future posts (let me know if you have suggestions there), I thought I’d spend today taking apart the basics of lymphatic health. As with many of the body’s core operating functions, the real story often gets camouflaged within vague, consumer-based terms that end up being only medically tangential. Consider today’s post a trip into the weeds and (maybe) the beginning of an ongoing conversation on the topic.
Valter Longo is a leading fasting researcher. Since the early 2000s, he’s been one of the top guys running legitimate fasting studies in cancer patients, regular people, and, of course, rodents. He’s gotten great results, elucidating the idea that fasting causes human cells and tissues to enter “survival mode” which allowed them to survive the withering effects of cancer treatment. I’ve cited many of his studies in previous posts.
Several years ago, he came up with an “easier” way to induce the fasting effect in people: the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD). Instead of having people skip food altogether—which may not sound crazy to readers of this blog, but probably does to most people—he designed a low-calorie 5-day diet for people to follow at periodic points throughout the year. Longo thinks the FMD is the best way for people to reduce their risk of aging-related diseases, extend lifespan, and live healthier, longer lives. It’s designed to give cancer patients and other people access to the benefits without the mental deprivation that often accompanies true fasting.
The main objective of following the Primal Blueprint is to extract the healthiest, happiest, longest and most productive life possible from our bodies – and to look and feel good in the process.
Our 10,000-year-old Primal genes expect us to emulate the way our ancestors ate and moved; and the Primal Blueprint says we should do exactly as they expect. While there are many things we can do (or eat) today that very closely approximate what Grok did to trigger positive gene expression, there are also a number of obstacles that can thwart our attempts to be as Primal as possible. Artificial light prompts us to stay up too late and sleep too little. Electronic entertainment competes for our time when we should be out walking and basking in sunlight. We don’t always have access to ideal foods. We shower too much in water that’s too hot. We use medicines to mask our symptoms instead of allowing our bodies to deal directly with the problem. You get my point. You can’t go back to the paleolithic.
One of my tasks is to find the shortcuts—the easy ways to get the same genetic expression benefits Grok got—but by using 21st century technology or just plain old common sense. Working out in Vibram Fivefingers to simulate going barefoot is an example. Or learning how to spend time in the sun without sunscreen AND without burning. Getting more from a 20-minute full-body exercise routine than from a 3-hour cardio workout is yet another example. And given the lack of certain critical nutrients in even the healthiest diets, finding the best supplements is another.
Here are a few of the best categories of supplements I can recommend to just about everyone:
Greetings readers, as you know, gut health has become the hottest of topics in ancestral health circles, and is also getting increased attention in mainstream medicine. More and more science is validating how a healthy gut microbiome has wide-reaching impact on general health, and that a damaged gut can set you up for all kinds of downstream health challenges. There are several helpful primers on gut health published here (1, 2, 3).
Today’s message, however, is something a little different and more personal. It comes from a dynamic young health expert from Australia named Kale Brock. We are pleased to bring his wildly popular grassroots gut health book, The Gut Healing Protocol: An 8-Week, Holistic Program to Rebalance Your Microbiome, to the U.S. market. Kale became an expert on gut health not from formal medical training, but rather the hard way. Like many thought leaders in the ancestral health community, Kale’s obsession with gut health was triggered by a serious health setback that was poorly addressed by traditional medicine.
It almost goes without saying: Stress is at an all-time high. Not the kind of major traumatic stress we see elsewhere, sure. At least in the Western world, there aren’t any horrific sectarian conflicts scouring the landscape and generations to come. Our infrastructure is built to withstand most natural disasters. Our world is safe and predictable and sterile. But we’re stressed out just the same, afflicted with the kind of pernicious, low-level, unending stress that drives people into substance abuse, that promotes depression and suicide and broken relationships. The type that never quits. The kind you just want to drown out with Netflix and Facebook and anything at all to take your mind off the churning within.
I’m of two minds when it comes to blood testing. For myself, I’m not a huge fan of obsessive, frequent testing and optimization. I have a good idea about how to optimize my health through the actions I take and the foods I eat, and by monitoring how I’m feeling, looking, and performing in response. It’s worked well for me. Whenever I do get a checkup or have blood drawn, my numbers are great.
But many people are the opposite. They like to quantify what’s happening under the hood. That’s great, and often necessary. The problem is that there are big problems with many of the most common blood tests.
Today’s edition of Dear Mark is a relatively brief two-parter, but it’s a good one. First, I answer a question about HDL. Is higher good? Is higher (sometimes) bad? How does a person make sense of all the seemingly conflicting information? Then I explain how two statements about exercise and weight loss can be simultaneously correct and apparently contradictory. Is weight loss effective or useless for weight loss, or what?
Several years ago, I gave my take on the “personalized care” movement: the broad push to use a person’s genetic data to design optimal therapies, treatments, interventions, and pharmaceuticals. I was supportive and hesitantly optimistic, but I also acknowledged the limitations and drawbacks. Yes, genetics do determine how we respond to different therapies, and we can optimize medical care using the information—if we understand what our genes are saying and how they interact with the environment.
It’s only picked up steam. In last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, pledging renewed efforts and funding to develop treatments tailored for an individual’s genetics, lifestyle, and environment. Businesses have sprung up promising to analyze your genetic data and create personalized workout routines, meal plans, and daily habits.
We’ve made big strides in personalized medicine.