Thursday, February 20, 2014
I was shocked to learn that there were some paleo (meat and veggie) eaters who were getting cured with resistant starch. I didn’t know that some were sick and, as I said in a previous post, I would not have guessed that starch was good for anything, but spikes in blood sugar. I was rudely awakened by the shouts of Richard Nikoley on Free the Animal, though I suspect the sanity behind the argument came from Tim and Dr. BG (She is always right.) He presented a kind of Second Coming of Paleo with resistant starch to feed the gut flora as soluble fiber. How could I question food for flora? (How could I question Nikoley without my karate gi?)
Paleo is not Paleo
It took me a while to realize that paleo is not the same for everyone. I thought my Anti-Inflammatory Diet (meat/fish/eggs/dairy and veggies, without vegetable oils or sugars or grains) was paleo. The way that I used this AID, it was high in saturated fat, low in polyunsaturated fat, high in protein, low in high glycemic carbs and ample in soluble fiber. Some would say it is low carb. Judging from comments on Free the Animal, I think I would be cast out by some of the more carnivorous (LC and VLC) in the paleo community for including soluble fiber. Some people don’t want to feed their flora. It is a kind of “Let them eat meat,” mentality.
Gut Flora are Friends
I think of my gut flora as fellow travelers on my life journey and what’s good for them is good for me. I don’t intentionally abuse them, but I also forget that they might not enjoy bourbon or the phytoalexins in herbs and spices. I don’t begrudge them the soluble fiber that they need, and I think that they are a little happier with each apple (pectin) I feed them. I simply forget that most people haven’t taught micro, DNA sequencing and the biochemistry of plant cell wall polysaccharides. My wife starts to roll her eyes at any sentence containing “flora”, “antioxidant”, “inflam-“, “omega-“, “carb”, “paleo”, or even “microbiome.” And the list gets longer. I think that I'm out of touch, until I read Nikoley.
Paleo Diet without Soluble Fiber is Hard on Gut Flora
People get sick on paleo, because they don't feed their flora. Gut flora are needed to supply vitamins, short chain fatty acids and immune system stimulants. If you don’t feed your flora you get vitamin deficiencies, gut inflammation and autoimmune diseases (Treg deficiency). It is very important to remember that feeding your flora means matching the soluble fiber with the existing flora. Most people make the mistake of assuming that if they change their diet, then their flora will also change. Their flora will adapt with each of their hundred different species of gut bacteria increasing or decreasing in numbers, but no new genes will be present to digest new soluble fiber. Eating a meat diet will eventually eliminate gut bacteria needed to digest some plant materials and produce intolerances. The missing bacteria will not be regained upon return to eating plants again.
Changing Diet Does Not Repair Gut Flora
Many people lose species of gut flora as they change from diet to diet, eat processed foods lacking soluble fiber or use antibiotics. The loss may be permanent, but need not be. Food intolerance and most “allergies” merely reflect missing species of bacteria, and introducing new bacteria fix the problem. Lactose intolerance, for example, can be cured by eating live yogurt. Similarly, many immunological problems, such as autoimmune diseases, result from species of gut bacteria that are needed for the development of the immune system, which takes place in the lining of the gut in response to gut bacteria. New bacteria need to be introduced to fix the deficiency and diet alone is not enough. Just to be clear; meat-exclusive paleo can lead to autoimmune diseases, because of deficiencies in gut flora diversity/species and adding back soluble fiber can only cure the diseases, if the bacteria needed to digest the fiber polysaccharides are still present or are reintroduced. Also note that there is soluble fiber polysaccharide sufficient in a carnivorous diet to support properly adapted gut flora.
Dairy Probiotics Do Not Repair Gut Flora Destroyed by Antibiotics
Don’t expect dairy probiotics to cure diseases caused by deficient gut flora. Bacteria that grow on dairy cannot survive in the gut. I know that physicians, including Dr. Oz, recommend that patients treated with antibiotics eat yogurt to repair their gut flora. It ain’t gonna happen. That treatment is just for the doctor’s benefit (and provide some temporary functionality), to make her feel like she is addressing the problem responsibly. I suggest that the antibiotic-damaged gut flora will screw up the immune system and bring the patient back to the doctor’s office even sicker. Antibiotics are very good for business.
Health in a Crock
So, here comes the part that was missing from Nikolay’s Paleo plus RS. He left out the missing gut flora. RS is a panacea for those with some gut bacteria that can digest RS, but for those with profoundly crippled gut flora, e.g. some of those with autoimmune symptoms, RS is just inert fiber, not flora food.
New bacteria must be eaten, and I think that the cure, short of the real deal fecal transplant, is still available in the original, paleo form of naturally fermented, live foods. The answer (and please forgive the fervor, because I think health can be this simple) is Fermented Vegetables, by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. Their book, right, is coming out in September, and I think that the most important part of this cure is that it looks and tastes fantastic. This is not canned, dead sauerkraut. These are culinary delights from simple recipes in which the natural bacteria do all the work. Since they are long time friends of mine, I have coerced Kirsten into giving me some advance access to some of her recipes. She has also tentatively agreed to share on my blog some of her personal fermentations on happy bellies. So check back for future posts.
Pay close attention, because some of these recipes may cure what ails you. They have the potential to repair your gut and are the healthful fix for a sickening faux “paleo” diet. Note that homemade, live fermented veggies contain 1) fermenting bacteria responsible for acidifying the brined veggies for storage, 2) additional bacteria of the species missing from your gut flora and are just along for the ride, and 3) veggies that have their soluble fiber intact and ready to feed your gut flora. Cooking, pasteurizing or otherwise harming the live, working bacteria in fermented vegetables destroys their benefit in contributing to your gut flora. It only takes a few of the bacteria that do survive passage through your acid stomach to fix your gut flora.
Major Points of a Healthy Paleo Diet
- Meat/fish/eggs and veggies, without dairy, grains, vegetable oils and processed foods.
- Nikoley and others pointed out that a healthy paleo diet has soluble fiber, e.g. RS, to feed gut flora.
- Resistant starch is a unique category of soluble fiber with health benefits. (Other types of soluble fiber may also be needed.)
- Diet alone is not enough for health, add gut flora.
- Diet and gut flora need to match.
- The natural paleo source of gut flora bacteria is homemade fermented vegetables