Monthly Archives: August 2018
Monthly Archives: August 2018
Allan (0:48): Our guest today has been a personal trainer and health coach for over 10 years. In effort to maintain his own body fat percentage, he fell into intermittent fasting and he realized they didn’t have a journal or anything on the market to help someone with this process. So he wrote one. I introduce you to Brian Gryn. Brian, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Brian (1:10): Thanks so much, Allan.
Allan (1:12): I’ve got your Simple Intermittent Fasting Journal here. It’s a 21-day program that you run through folks with the journal opportunity to help them move from not really knowing what intermittent fasting is, to actually implementing it in their lives. I’m a big fan of simple things, and this really fits it because it just gives them the basic information that someone needs without overwhelming them, and then gives them the basic guidance. I really like how each day you left a little tip in there to help people along to learn more about this as they go.
Brian (1:47): Thank you. That was the whole idea behind coming out with that. I was looking to doing fasting myself, and there are books and information you can find online, but I really didn’t find a guide, something that could sort of take you step by step to get into it. So, that was my main reason for creating a journal was to, like you said, keep it simple. I think fasting can be intimidating. People need a guide for a lot of things, but fasting I thought would be a perfect way to help people. I picked 21 days. It can be different for everybody, but I thought three weeks was sort of a good time table to get you into it and see how you like the experience.
Allan (2:32): I had a job and it had me traveling to Malaysia, and Malaysia is a Muslim state. So when Ramadan comes along, they fast basically from sunrise to sunset. So they do intermittent fasting as a function of their religion. When I first realized they were doing it and watching them, realizing it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for them, particularly for the first couple of days. And then they sort of got more and more comfortable with it. In my story I basically started eating Paleo, and you sit down with a plate of real food – so I’ve got either a steak or a fish or whatnot there, and I’ve got some vegetables. If I’m going to leave something on my plate, it always tended to be the vegetables. I was going to eat that steak and I was going to eat that fish, because that was where I saw the value of the meal at that point in my life. And so I ended up falling into ketosis, because I was eating a lot more meats and fish and eggs, and I wasn’t eating a lot of vegetables. I ended up in ketosis; I didn’t know exactly what it was when it first started happening, I started doing research and understanding it. But another kind of side effect of getting into ketosis was that I was seldom hungry.
So I ended up getting into intermittent fasting just on the function of saying, “If I’m not really hungry, then my body must be doing okay with my body fat.” And I had plenty of body fat to feed my energy for a long, long time – Energizer Bunny kind of power. So I ended up doing intermittent fasting and I still do it today. It was interesting when I started talking to you because you’re like, “You do it like two days and then you don’t do it for another month or so, right?” No, no. Every day I wake up, I don’t think about breakfast. I cook breakfast for my wife, but I don’t feel like I need to eat then. So I go and I just don’t eat, and I’ll wait. And usually about sometime between 2:00 and 4:00, I’ll start to feel like maybe I could eat something. And that’s when I open up my window and start eating. And because I’m “early to bed, early to rise” kind of person, I won’t eat after 7:30. So my eating window is really, really restricted to basically 2:00 to 8:00, for the most part. And sometimes just 4:00 to 8:00. I do it because it just feels natural and I like it. I feel good when I’m fasting. But why would someone fast? What are some of the reasons why people choose to use fasting as a protocol?
Brian (5:16): There are a lot of reasons, but I think I would say the number one reason people come to me and I get them into fasting or they’re looking to get into fasting is pretty much to lose weight, lose body fat. But another reason that comes along with that is increased energy. And I don’t know, Allan, how you feel, but for me, yesterday I fasted almost pretty much the whole day, probably about 22 hours. And I always feel my most energy towards the end of the day, just because obviously we all know when we have a big lunch, after that we tend to crash a little bit, especially if it’s something unhealthy like refined carbs or some pizza, or whatever it is. We have those blood sugar swings and those insulin swings and we tend to get tired afterwards. But when you’re in a fasting state, the blood doesn’t have to rush to your digestive organs, it can go other places and you just feel that adrenaline minute and that energy throughout the day. I would say the big things would be the increase in energy, they want to lose body fat. And then there are other reasons – the rested digestive organs, the clear thinking. And there’ve been studies regarding growth hormone increase as well.
Allan (6:35): For me a big part of it has become the freedom aspect. I have a property near here. I’m now trying to sell it because I can’t deal with it anymore, but that’s a whole another story. It’s about seven acres, and it gets kind of soupy back there when it’s wet. And I was back there doing some work. I drove my little tractor up on my trailer and was pulling it out and my truck got stuck. So I had planned to go down there and do some work for about three or four hours in the morning before it got hot. And I did that work, fasted and then I was getting ready to leave and come home; it was around noon time. And I got stuck. So I’m calling AAA, asking them to pull me out of my own yard. The truck shows up an hour later. He hooks himself up and then his truck breaks down. So he has to call for a part, they deliver the part, he puts the part on his own truck, and then he’s got his truck working and he pulls me out.
So I’m driving home and it’s about 6:00 in the evening, and I’m realizing at this point I’ve gone probably 23 hours without eating. And I wasn’t famished, I wasn’t freaking out. There were no blood sugar issues. My body had acclimated to using fat as a fuel, so I was fine to be out there. Now I did spend the afternoon just lazy fishing, because that’s why I bought the property – to go do some fishing there. But I had done that hard work in the morning and there was never a lack of energy, a lack of clarity or a freak-out that I had to have food because I was starving. I think that’s a big part of it. You have a lot of tips in here as far as what you should eat during your window, and I want to talk about that, but I think what I have found is that when you’re looking to do this, you really do have to start focusing on the quality of your food, because you’ve still got to get that nutrition in there and you don’t want it to necessarily be refined carbs, because as soon as you finish your eating window and your body has burned through that rocket fuel of refined carbs and sugar, your body’s going to want you to refeed. So it’s going to be really, really hard if you’re doing the refined foods. So I’m sitting down now; I’ve gone through my fast and I’m coming off my fast. What are the types of foods that I need to get into my body during my feeding window to sustain intermittent fasting?
Brian (9:02): Yeah, you hit on a good point. Obviously, I think the whole fasting process becomes easier when you eat better during your eating window. I would say to someone that’s looking to get into fasting is maybe clean up your eating habits first, and then once you clean up your eating habits, then you can use guides per se, like my journal or any other guide or a coach to help guide you into fasting. I know in my guide, we talk about pushing back breakfast an hour every day, whatever it is. As far as basic guidelines for eating, I would just say eat real whole foods, foods that expire actually. So that’d be avoiding most packaged goods, and then avoiding things like refined carbs, sugars, grains, starches. Obviously you talk about the keto worlds – eating natural fats helps keep you full longer, so that will help make the fast easier, and it doesn’t raise insulin as well. So natural fats, avocado. I probably have an avocado every day in my salad that I make. Olive oil, coconut oil, butter, natural butter. And then obviously avoid artificial fats, like things that come from fried foods and things like that. I would say that would be a good place to start. You don’t have to eat perfect, but it will help.
Allan (10:27): I’m actually working on a book and I was writing a section for the book this last week. I was sitting there and I just had to stop myself because hearing I’m talking about high quality whole food, I’m thinking to myself, “Why do I even have to write the word ‘whole food’?” There are the things that come in boxes and bags that are not food, and there are things that basically you get from your butcher or from the produce section that are basically your food. It was just kind of sad to me that we do have to explain that a whole food is something that expires, it’s something that you recognize as an animal or a plant at some level, and it’s not processed, it doesn’t come from a factory. I’ll even go as far as to say when you start talking about where it’s coming from, that matters as well. If it’s not grown in a good, conducive soil, it’s not getting the minerals that you need. If it’s not a well-cared-for animal, if it’s a sick animal… Out in the wild, if there’s a sick animal, the other animals won’t eat it; they let it lay there. We don’t seem to have that instinct, and it’s kind of bad.
So, focus on the quality of your food. Like you said, you don’t have to put it all in there overnight, but this is a great opportunity for you to really take some time to think about your food, because that’s another cool thing about the eating window and the freedom that you get is, you’re not spending all day preparing or sitting down for meals. I get that extra half an hour or so in the morning that I would be eating my breakfast to do something else, to learn something else, to read something, to write something, to do the things that are adding value in my life. I love eating, don’t get me wrong. I take full advantage of my eating window with some really good foods. And I think that’s the whole point – if you’re getting the nutrition your body needs, intermittent fasting can be easier. It is easier and it’s not really so much the way of eating. Keto works well for me, but you may have reasons that you want to be a vegan, and you can easily do intermittent fasting with vegan. You just have to make sure, again, that you’re getting the nutrition that you need, you’re getting the volume of calories, because when we’re talking intermittent fasting we’re not talking eating less. I think a lot of people think that’s what it’s all about. It’s not actually that.
Brian (12:55): I agree with you. I will say this – you will find – at least this is what I find with a lot of my clients, is that when you start doing it and you have a smaller window to eat, you realize your body doesn’t really need as much as maybe you thought it needed when you were just eating normal and throughout the day and grazing six, seven meals a day. I know we might talk about tips, but if you’re starting to do this, do this on days where you’re busy – maybe at work, or you have something that is just going to take up time and your mind’s going to be busy. Yesterday I was busy, ended up just happening. I just fasted all day and at the end of the day I was like, “I’m just going to have dinner”, but I got full quick. I wasn’t going to overstuff, which is another tip. When you do feed in that feeding window, don’t overdo it. You might think, “I need to stuff three meals into this eating window.” Well, you’ll be surprised your body will not want that.
Allan (13:58): It’s a little bit of both, because I think if you’re getting adequate nutrition, your body’s going to do the things it’s supposed to do. Your leptin and ghrelin are going to play their roles to tell you, “Okay, that’s enough. Let’s stop this.” And you’re going to eat just the right amount of food. I think if people are not getting the nutrition, that’s where they’re going to start to run into trouble. And obviously, again, a lot of people are doing this for weight loss, for fat loss specifically. So you have to realize that a portion of the calories that your body is burning is coming from that fat. I’ve read somewhere – I can’t validate this – but your body can basically use about 700 calories of body fat in any given day for energy. So, if you’re getting at least 1,200 in that meal, you’re probably getting enough calories at that point to sustain whatever you’re doing. Unless you’re a heavy duty athlete or your work is very intense, a good 1,900 calories on a given day is probably enough to keep you where you need to be. So, let’s take a moment and go through some of those tips, because these were really good.
Brian (15:06): So like I said, obviously staying busy really helps. So if you know you have a busy day at work or a busy morning and you’re like, “This is a good morning where I’m just going to skip breakfast” – maybe just have some black coffee, obviously no sweeteners or anything in that coffee, or have some tea. So just staying busy, keeping your mind active, and then drinking plenty of water too. I always have water on me throughout the day, whether I’m fasting or in my eating stage. And another one too that I think doesn’t get talked about a lot is, when you’re starting to do this, don’t tell someone that might not be supportive of it, because I think there are people who initially think you’re starving yourself and they might even be worried about you, because we’re so programmed by mainstream media, and I say this all the time – no one makes money when you fast, right?
Allan (15:58): But the other side of it is, they are actually coming from a very real paradigm. If you’re eating crap food, if you’re eating carbs, if you’re eating sugars, if you’re drinking regular sodas, or even diet sodas for that matter – if that’s your food, if that’s what you are eating today, you can’t go more than four hours without eating, or your blood sugar is going to plummet and your body’s going to scream, “Feed me!” So really narrowing that down and saying other people won’t necessarily understand what you’re doing. You’re following a protocol – get into it, understand it, and then it’ll be a little easier to talk about when they realize that you’ve dropped more than five pounds during these 21 days. At least that’s what I would expect for most people that get into it, they’re going to lose something like that, or can expect to lose something like that if they have it to lose. I think you’re right there. They’re not coming from a bad place. They’re not trying to sabotage you for bad reasons. They know they can’t go more than four hours without eating because that bagel they had for breakfast has them screaming for more food. That’s why they’ve come up with the term “second breakfast”, and most fast food places serve breakfast all day long because they want to keep feeding you those carbs and keeping you coming back for more.
Brian (17:22): Right. Once you get into the fasting protocol and it’s feeling more natural, because like anything else, it gets easier and easier the more you do it – then maybe you can tell some people or tell people who maybe would have been against it at first and they’ll be like, “Wow, you’re getting great results. You’re feeling great. I’ll support you.” And things like that. People know now that I do intermittent fasting, but when I first started doing it, I don’t think many people knew. I just sort of did it. Those are the main tips. I would say one more tip would be, drink a warm liquid. It could be a tea or black coffee. And I talk about this a little bit. People go, “What if I get hunger pains?” And you will get that. You might even get headaches. I always say for headaches that can be avoided or can be helped, to have some water and put some salt in it. I know it doesn’t sound the most appetizing, but…
Allan (18:24): But we’re not talking lots of salt. A pinch or two.
Brian (18:29): Pinch of salt, exactly. Some Pink Himalayan salt.
Allan (18:33): It’s not like drinking sea water.
Brian (18:38): No. A little bit of salt, you can taste it, but it’s doable. So, drinking the coffee or the tea. And I’ll just say this – I recently got an email from a client saying, “I like to put cream in my coffee or I won’t drink it.” I will say, if you can do the fasting protocol and if you have to have a little bit of cream in your coffee, then go ahead.
Allan (19:05): The one thing I will say on this, and I don’t mean anything against Dave Asprey at all – I appreciate that he has developed a protocol and a product he calls Bulletproof Coffee. He sells coffee and he sells the MCT oil, and he doesn’t sell the butter. But if he could, he probably would. He just found Kerrygold works for him, so he didn’t have to make his own butter. But when you do that coffee, the way they protocol it, the way they put it forward, that can be upwards of 700 calories. To me that’s not fasting anymore. You’re feeding your body and you’re choosing to feed it fat, which is great, but your body’s going to use that fat for energy. It’s not going to use the body fat that we’re trying to get our body to be more accustomed to using. So in my mind it’s like, if you can avoid the creams, if you can avoid the butters and take your coffee to black… And this is the same thing as I think what you have in the book, which is great for a protocol, is you walk yourself into it. So maybe it was two ounces of cream and you can cut that down to one and three quarters, and then one and a half. And over the course of these three weeks going through your program, maybe they can get to a point where they’re not having to put cream in their coffee at all.
Brian (20:21): Yeah. It’s sort of that “one step at a time” approach. That’s what I did when I started fasting – just pushing back breakfast an hour a day. Some people might be like, “Oh, screw that. I’m just going to go right to lunch.” That might be your protocol, but my protocol was I took it one step at a time. Same thing with little things like that with cream in your coffee – if you want to slowly start taking that out, that would be obviously the best, perhaps the easiest way to do it.
Allan (20:52): Yeah. As we look at this, the cool thing about your Simple Intermittent Fasting Journal here is that you have a space for each of the 21 days for them to walk through the process. And you’re giving them guidance each time, you’re giving them a tip each day. I think for the folks that want a tool that’s going to walk them through this and get them to a point where they understand intermittent fasting, they understand their body’s response to it, and the 21 days gives them plenty of time to understand how it’s going to affect them. Some people will take this and they’ll just keep going. Other people will say, “This will be my period of detox”, for lack of a better word, “Where I just use this protocol from time to time.” Are you using it all the time or is this something you implement just from time to time?
Brian (21:46): For my own good or for a client?
Allan (21:48): For you in general.
Brian (21:50): For me I don’t use it anymore. I did test it on myself when I was first creating the journal, and so I did use it early on, but now I’m to the point where it’s just become… And that’s what I say on the cover – it’s become a lifestyle for me. I don’t use the journal anymore.
Allan (22:12): I didn’t mean so much the journal. It’s just that you do intermittent fasting and it’s just a lifestyle. With me I have gotten to the point where I don’t eat what would be a standard breakfast in the morning and I’m typically not eating until somewhere between 2:00 to 4:00. And a lot of times that’s still breakfast for me, and sometimes it’s still breakfast foods. It just depends on my mood and what I want to eat. I have found that once you kind of get into that process of not being dependent on eating a meal every three hours, it almost becomes a natural, “Let your day decide when you’re going to eat, when you’re hungry”, and it’s not so much, “I have a fixed time that I have to eat each meal.” You can have a lot more flexibility with this.
Brian (22:58): Yeah, I would agree. I would think that’s the biggest benefit. For me at least one of the biggest benefits is you’re in control of your food. A lot of times with people, food controls them, and a lot of that is almost just in your mind because we’re programmed to eat at certain times. But once you get into this protocol, you realize, like you said – if something happens, like you got stuck in your own yard – you were fine. You weren’t like, “Oh my God, I need to run to Starbucks or get something.” It gives you that flexibility, and I think you’re just in control. I think that’s the biggest thing – you have more time to do things that maybe you want to do, like you said, in the morning. So, it really gives you that flexibility.
Allan (23:41): And I also want to emphasize that there is an energy aspect to this. When your body starts learning how to use your own body fat for energy, you have an abundance of energy. And a question I get a lot from clients is, “I’m going to start this intermittent fasting, I’m going to start this protocol. So I should stop exercising for a few days, right?” And my short answer is, “Why?” It’ll be hard the first few days of this protocol, the first few days of keto. For me, when I tried pescatarian, the first three days were hard. Once you kind of get through that dip, things get easier. But to me, unless you’re really having some blood sugar issues or whatnot, you can continue to train.
And that’s the only other thing I would leave off with this conversation – before you start any kind of protocol like this, particularly if you’re diabetic or pregnant or on any medication at all – have the conversation with your doctor because this is not a protocol for everybody. It does have a special use, and you include a lot of that information in the book here. So Brian, I really appreciate you coming on and talking to us about intermittent fasting and your guide Simple Intermittent Fasting Journal. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about what you’re doing and learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Brian (24:58): They can go to my website, which is my name, so BrianGryn.com. They can reach out to me, order the journals on there and ask any questions.
Allan (25:12): This is going to be episode 334, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/334, and I’ll be sure to have a link to Brian’s website there. Brian, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast.
Brian (25:26): Thanks, Allan. Really enjoyed it.
Allan (25:32): I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation with Brian. If you’re interested in managing your body fat percentage, intermittent fasting can be a great strategy for you, and I encourage you to check out his journal if you want to try that out.
I am very happy to announce that I have gotten my manuscript over to the publisher, so at this point we’re about to lock it down, as they say, which I feel really good about. But I still need your help. I need you on my launch team. If you can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com, you’ll learn more about the book and you can also then there sign up to join the launch team. Launch teams are very, very important to help books get off the ground, and I need you on my team. So please go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com and be a part of the launch team. Thank you.
Dr. Stephanie Gray is the author of Your Longevity Blueprint. On this episode, we talk about nutritional supplementation, hormones optimization, and how to find a doctor to help you stay healthy.
Allan (1:06): Dr. Gray, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Gray (1:10): I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Allan (1:12): Your book is Your Longevity Blueprint, and I really enjoyed the read. A lot of great information and put in a way that I think is very understandable for quite a few people. But the book in my opinion is not actually about so much longevity as, how do we maximize our health and wellness so that we actually enjoy living longer?
Dr. Gray (1:37): Well said. Yeah, I would agree. I was really trying to create some nine actionable steps for readers to optimize their health, because unfortunately many individuals don’t even know functional medicine exists. They don’t know that testing options exist to help them optimize their nutritional status or help them detoxify their body or increase their hormone levels. So I was hoping this book would really introduce the audience to functional medicine.
Allan (2:03): Yes. And I think most of us go to a doctor when we’re sick, we’re not feeling well, and the doctor asks what are you symptoms and you tell them fatigue, brain fog, several other things that are kind of going on in your life, not sleeping well, maybe some migraines. And the doctor says, “Well, here’s some Prozac”, or whatever. It’s a symptom-diagnosis. It’s like there’s a chart in the back of their office, or maybe they’ve memorized it. If they’re thinking you have this – this is how you fix it, with some form of medicine. But the reality is, medicine isn’t really designed to fix us. It’s designed to fix a symptom.
Dr. Gray (2:50): I totally agree. We need conventional medicine, especially unfortunately if you get in an accident. We have great emergency care here in the United States. In my book I reference Dr. Patrick Flynn’s analogy that conventional medicine is more of the fire department approach. So if you have a fire, conventional medicine can help you put out that fire, but really only using two tools – drugs and surgery. Unfortunately, when you have a symptom like fatigue that isn’t really an emergency, conventional medicine doesn’t necessarily help you get to the root cause of the problem. Like you mentioned, a lot of times they’ll just recommend taking an antidepressant or a stimulant medication, when that’s really not getting to the root cause. It’s not really explaining the “Why” to the fatigue. That’s what makes functional medicine different – we do explore the “Why”. We try to explore if the patient has low thyroid or low sex hormone status or maybe their nutrition is terrible, but we want to get to the root cause of the problem and not just give the patient that Band-aid approach to their health care.
Allan (3:50): It’s very interesting to me. Hippocrates said it a long, long time ago – “Let food be thy medicine.” And now it’s changing. It feels like it’s changing – more and more understanding that the food which we put in our mouths in volumes can do a lot more for our health than the one little pill or 12 little pills that we’re taking over the course of a day. I think a lot of that is because when we’re fueling our body and we’re building our body with better stuff, we end up being better. But a lot of folks don’t actually recognize that they have nutritional deficiencies. A lot of my clients will come to me and say, “Allan, should I be supplementing with something? Should I be taking an iron supplement, or should I be taking vitamin B or C?”, or whatever the cool thing is today. And my short answer is, “I have no clue, because I don’t have your blood test to see if there are any deficiencies. I don’t really know the quality of your food to know if you’re getting most of the vitamins you need. I don’t know if you’re getting outside to get enough sun exposure to have the vitamin D that you need.” Can you talk a bit about the nutritional deficiencies and some of the symptoms we might be seeing some of the things we can do, what to look for with supplements? Because you said it in a book, one a day actually isn’t one a day. You would need to take four of them just to get what your basic bodily needs are. But even then I’m not sure we actually get all of that from that one a day, just based on total quality and everything else. I know that’s a lot to throw out there, but could you tell us a bit about nutritional deficiencies and how we can recognize them and what we can do?
Dr. Gray (5:35): Sure. If you don’t mind, I might go off on a little tangent here. I think first we should clarify why we are so nutritionally deficient, because a lot of my patients say, “Why did my grandma never have to supplement, but I do?” Sadly, our world has really changed. The nutritional value that used to be in an apple grown in your grandma’s backyard unfortunately was better, much higher in nutritional content as compared to an apple today. Our apples might be three times the size, but they’re not packing that nutritional punch that apples used to. Unfortunately, our food sources are just not as nutritionally dense. We have very deficient soil, and even the USDA agriculture figures will show the decline in over 40 crops that they’ve been tracking for years. We know that the food that’s growing in this deficient soil is now deficient. Soil should be rich in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, producing in foods the same, and that’s unfortunately not always the case. I even have patients who are growing their own food in their backyard and it’s organic, and the foods still, again, don’t pack that nutritional punch. That’s not our fault, but unfortunately that’s working against us.
The processing of foods also depletes nutrients. Half the time the food we’re eating has been harvested or picked days, weeks, even months before we’re eating it. And so, as you can imagine over time the nutrient content in those foods is declining. And then sometimes we even cook with really high heat, high temperature, and that’s blasting our foods, destroying some of the nutritional value. So, we’re unfortunately set up to be nutritionally deficient. And then when we add things like some lifestyle choices – if we choose to consume alcohol or caffeine, or smoke – those are all going to use up or deplete our body of nutrients. And if we take medications, many of my patients are shocked to know that the medications they’re taking are depleting them of nutrients. Many individuals are aware that drugs like statin medications for cholesterol can deplete CoQ10. And CoQ10 is a very important antioxidant in the body. It can help us with energy, and many patients who are taking a statin medication end up with myalgias or muscle pains, because their body has been robbed of that CoQ10. And that’s just one example. All sort of medications, even things like birth control, one patient might feel is just a basic medication, actually does deplete B vitamins and even magnesium.
So, very quickly, I just wanted to go over some of the reasons why we unfortunately are so low on nutrients. Then you add maybe exercise, or if you have a very stressful life, and again, what’s happening – your body is using up those nutrients. So, unfortunately we now, in our world today, need to supplement more than ever before, more than our grandma decades ago. That’s part of why we need the nutrients. But in my book, Your Longevity Blueprint, I try to describe nutrients as working in our body like putting a key in a keyhole. The nutrients are going to unlock certain processes in the body. I tell patients to think of nutrients as what you need, literally, to produce energy in that Krebs cycle, if you remember that from high school science class. You need nutrients to make hormones, hormones that make you feel good. So you just don’t want to be set up to be nutritionally deficient. The list of symptoms, I could go on and on, but fatigue is obviously one symptom. We could go nutrient by nutrient and discuss the symptoms that can exist.
Allan (9:25): For the core ones – vitamin D, C, B, the core ones. Maybe some of the minerals. I think this would be quite valuable, because I do believe that people will know if they don’t have enough iron, they may feel a little anemic and their energy will be low. Sometimes the doctor will pick that up in a blood test and say you’re low in your iron. That’s a fairly common test that a standard doctor would do, but it’s not often that a doctor will do a full blood panel to look at how deficient you might be in these various vitamins. So I think us having some basic recognition of when we might be deficient in a vitamin, so we know we at least need to start doing the diagnostic work.
Dr. Gray (10:03): Sure. So, B vitamin deficiencies are very common. B vitamins are what help our adrenals, they help us adapt to stress, they help us produce energy. One of the first supplements I’ll have a patient, especially an athlete start if they’re really tired is just a B Complex to see if that’s helping. Some patients can even have symptoms in the nervous system, so if they’re getting tingling, burning symptoms, whatnot, a lot of times they will need the B vitamins as well.
Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to fatigue. Actually I live in Iowa, so many of my patients are very low in vitamin D, just because we don’t have the sun year round. Patients who are low in vitamin D are going to be more likely to get sick, get the flu through that flu season, so that’s one of the first nutrients we try to optimize in our patients come fall time, so they can get their level high to protect them through the winter. I’ve had even patients young, in their 20s and 30s have fractures, and it’s not normal to have fractures when you’re young. One of the first things we’re then looking at in those patients if they end up with osteopenia or osteoporosis, is their vitamin D status. Sometimes, shockingly, even young patients are very low in vitamin D. Vitamin D helps greatly with bone density, so not just in the young populations, but also in the older populations we want to make sure we’re increasing vitamin D. Vitamin D greatly helps with mood, so if we think of seasonal affective disorder through the winter, that makes sense. Patients get more depressed when there’s no sunlight, they’re not getting their vitamin D through the winter. Those are some of the symptoms of low vitamin D.
And then you mentioned vitamin C. Vitamin C is great for immune support also, so that’s typically also a nutrient that I’m going to recommend through the winter, just to help support the patient for not getting sick. Many patients will bruise very easily, so one of the first nutrients we’ll recommend for them is also vitamin C. Vitamin C helps strengthen the capillaries so that they don’t bruise as easily. And then, do you want me to keep going?
Allan (12:08): A couple of the minerals I think would be valuable too, because there are some of them that are quite important and if we’re not monitoring those, there’s going to be some risk there.
Dr. Gray (12:19): So magnesium is probably the most important mineral in my opinion. It’s important for I think, over 300 different enzymatic pathways in the body. I recently wrote a blog on magnesium and all the different types, picking the best type of magnesium and whatnot. But I use magnesium in my patients because it’s a very calming, relaxing hormone. So if they’re having any symptoms of overstimulation, meaning anxiety, if they can’t sleep, if their legs feel kind of creepy crawly, if they’re having restless leg symptoms or cramping in the legs, we’ll give them magnesium to calm down the cramps or calm down the mind or calm down the heart. So magnesium can be extremely beneficial, even to calm the gut. If patients have constipation, magnesium can help relax the bowels to facilitate daily bowel movements in the morning. Magnesium also helps produce your hormones. So you don’t want to be low in magnesium if you have low hormones, which we all do. Hormones decline as we age, so supplementing with magnesium can help prevent some of that loss.
Allan (13:4): I was really happy in the book that when you got into the discussion of hormones, you didn’t go just one way or the other. I’ve seen so many books where they say, “Let’s focus on the sex hormones because that’s what people care about.” And then other people say, “I’m dealing with people that have thyroid issues, so they’re looking for a book on thyroid issues.” It’s not very common that someone will say, “Let’s just look at this whole thing together.” To me, they’re the one to punch vitality and feeling and being the best you you can be. If your sex hormones are not optimized, you don’t feel as good as you could, and obviously if you don’t have the thyroid hormones working, you’re not going to have the energy level that you need to have to do the things you want to do. So, to me they’re both just as important. I understand when someone has an issue on one side or the other, they’re going to be more focused on that, but if we’re coming at this looking at it from a “How to stay as healthy as we can” versus “How do I cure illness”, I want to look at both. And I’m glad that you did. Could you take a little bit of time to talk about hormones? How do we actually go about optimizing our hormones so that we can be the best we can be?
Dr. Gray (14:38): Sure. I think the first step is to really know your body and know, “What symptoms am I experiencing? Have I had hair loss? Have I had brain fog? Am I more cold? Have I had weight gain or more fatigue?” Those are all low thyroid symptoms. If you’re thinking you may have some low hormone symptoms, find a provider who can help you order a comprehensive hormone panel to get your levels checked to see where you’re at. And I would love it if my patients would have had levels checked in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, so we could track subtle changes, any subtle decline that’s happening each decade or half decade, whatnot. Sometimes patients’ levels are really low end, and I don’t know if that’s their baseline, I don’t know if that’s where they’ve been for years, or if their levels are barely in the reference range, is this a dramatic decline? Years ago, were they very high end of normal and now they’re low end of normal? So, it’d be really nice to be able to track those levels over the years so patients could detect if their levels are declining.
But having comprehensive thyroid hormone levels done is extremely important. I describe this in Chapter 6 of my book. TSH is thyroid-stimulating hormone, which should be checked. But I said my book it stands for “too slow to help”, because by the time TSH is high, many times T4 and T3 are very low. So you only have T3 receptors in your body. T4’s whole role in life is to convert to T3, and many doctors never check T3. They only check T4, and if T4 looks good they assume the patient’s good to go. And that’s not the case. So, a big take home is to make sure you have a free T3 checked – that’s the gas pedal on your metabolism and your energy. You want your gas on hard. You don’t want your reverse T3, which is the brake pedal on hard. You want those flipped. It’s also important to have the reverse T3 checked, and then thyroid antibodies. If thyroid antibodies are high, that indicates your body could be attacking itself. Those are some autoimmune markers. The more that your body attacks the thyroid, the more thyroid function is going to decline. Even if your thyroid function is holding steady but your antibody levels are high, that’s great information to have to know, “I need to stay ahead of this to prevent my thyroid hormone levels from further declining.” I can speak to sex hormones as well, but just from a thyroid standpoint, those are great tests to have your provider run, to give you a gauge on where you’re sitting today, to know if low thyroid is a problem for you currently.
Allan (17:18): Okay. And then on the sex hormones, how would we go about optimizing those?
Dr. Gray (17:25): Again, the first step is to get your levels tested. I think a lot of women think they don’t need testosterone, but actually they do. I have women very young who already have zero testosterone due to big stressors in their life or whatnot. Sometimes it’s difficult to maybe admit that we lose hormones as we age, but men aged 30 to 70 are going to lose 1% to 5% of their testosterone every year, and women aged 20 to 40 lose 50% of their total testosterone production. So it’s important to have testosterone levels checked in both men and women, and also estrogen levels checked in both men and women. A lot of guys think they don’t have estrogen, but many men convert their testosterone over to estrogen, and that’s what men don’t want. We need to have lower estrogen, higher testosterone in men. So, checking those hormones is important. And then in women also checking progesterone. Progesterone’s the most soothing, calming hormone, great for sleep. Many women in their 30s and 40s get put on antidepressants or anxiety medications, and really the root cause of the problem was low progesterone, but no one ever assessed it. So, asking your provider to check estrogen, progesterone, testosterone is a great start.
Allan (18:40): Cool. And then from there you can decide how you want to address some deficiencies or some low numbers through the help of your healthcare provider.
Dr. Gray (18:51): Yes. And there are natural ways to boost hormones. We could talk about optimizing, again, nutritional status. Also, many times herbs can be very effective for patients who haven’t had hysterectomies, who still have all their organs. Using herbs can help to produce hormones. But in my clinic we do specialize in natural hormone replacement therapy for both men and women, and there are lots of options for those patients.
Allan (19:16): One of the things I really do want to recap here is that your standard doctor, bless their heart – they are going to go in and try to take care of you when you go and say you’re not feeling well. You may go in for regular checkups, so they’ll do the normal stuff, but the normal blood panel is going to be looking at your cholesterol and maybe they’re looking at some organ function, particularly if they know there’s some lifestyle things going on. They may check some bits and pieces of the data that you might want to have. But when you’re really looking at this, I think it’s worth at least once a year, maybe once every two years, if you need to push it off, is to go out get a full-on panel. What are my potential nutritional deficiencies, what are my potential hormone issues?
And I say this even if you don’t feel like you have symptoms, because one of the funny things is, you might think you’re normal – you might think, “This is my normal day. I wake up, I have trouble sleeping, I feel a little groggy in the morning. I do my coffee and I’m good to go for the day, as long as I drink coffee until 3:00 in the afternoon.” And that’s the normal day. And you say that’s normal, but you get yourself tested and you realize that your testosterone is a little low, perhaps your vitamin D is a little low, and your vitamin B, particularly B12 is low. If we actually supplement for these things, now you start to realize what actual normal should feel like, because you get back up to stability and you get up to where you’re now optimized.
Sorry to interject there, but I think so many people just go in and say, “Well, my doctor…” And the generation before us I think was so much more, “My doctor said it so it’s the absolute truth.” I think we have to be engaged as a part of our health care. The normal doctor isn’t necessarily inclined to want to go that route initially because he has seven minutes with you. He has to figure out what’s wrong with you, he has to prescribe medication, and then he has to move on to the next patient. But a holistic functional doctor is really going to have more opportunity and a more holistic view of health. I need to go find that person because my current doctor in my own town might not be that person. How do I find a contractor? In your book you say “contractor”, like doing the house stuff, but how do I find the right person to treat me for optimal health?
Dr. Gray (21:54): Good question. That’s the topic of the last chapter in my book. My book is about building a healthier body using functional medicine. So just to clarify to the audience here, I’m comparing how we maintain our home – we’re mowing the lawn, we keep hair out of the drain, we make sure we’re changing our furnace filters. We do all these things for maintenance for our home, but yet we don’t always do, or we don’t always know even what maintenance is available for our body. So, the last chapter of the book I discuss finding a contractor, who I describe as being a functional medicine provider, to help them rebuild and repair their body. We need conventional docs. If you have strep throat, if you have an emergency, we need them to be available, but unfortunately they don’t have a lot of training in nutrition. So again, they may tell you all your labs are normal – your blood count, your kidney, liver function, your cholesterol, as you were referring to, but they have never looked really deep. They haven’t really explored what a functional medicine provider could explore.
In your area usually, hopefully, you could find either an anti-aging, a regenerative or a functional medicine provider. You can search by your zip code on either the A4M, which is the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine’s website, or the IFM – Institute for Functional Medicine website, and hopefully find someone. Even if they’re not real local, a lot of these providers will see patients virtually, over the phone, or you can make a day trip to go see one. In a lot of the larger states, functional medicine is growing very rapidly. So, Florida, California, Texas, are states that are going to be easier to find providers than in the Midwest, where I’m from. There are probably only five or six in my state. But they are available; you just have to be able to find them. And they have the training. I have masters in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine. Many of my colleagues have this training where they’re more understanding, they interpret the labs differently, and they have access to functional medicine labs. My primary care provider unfortunately can’t order a nutritional analysis; it’s just not available through our local hospital systems. But I have a contract with the functional medicine lab so I can run a fancy nutritional analysis on my patients. It’s 20 pages of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants. We can literally test glutathione levels, which is amazing, and even looking at their omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood. So, the unique thing about these functional medicine providers is that they do have some specialized testing that can really optimize your health. You just have to find the provider to work with.
Allan (24:33): Yes. I think that’s so critical because we can’t depend on the current medical system to make us well. If we’re injured, if we’re sick – yes, they’ve been doing that, they know how to do that. But if you really want to optimize health, you really want to feel well all the time and you really want to have longevity, like you say in Your Longevity Blueprint – but the reality is if you want to have a wonderful life and really enjoy it – these are some valuable tests for you to check out. Even if you’re not really having major symptoms – I do want to stress – get out there every once in a while and find out what your numbers are. I’m not going to advertise any of them here, but you can go look online. There are some sites that you can actually do full panels yourself. You just go to a local lab and they’ll draw. So a local phlebotomist will draw it and they’ll send it off to these labs, and they’ll do a full workup for you and send it to you. And it’s written in plain English to help you interpret what you see. At that point you can either have a conversation with your primary physician, or you can seek out a professional that’s going to understand what you’re going through and what you want to try to accomplish. Dr. Gray, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast. If someone wanted to reach out and get to know more about you, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Gray (25:55): They can check out YourLongevityBlueprint.com/40. That is a link to a page on my website where we’re offering a 10% off storewide purchases code. The code is thanks40. You can certainly check me out there. I do have a free PDF to download on three top tips to boost your hormones naturally. I talk about reducing stress, reducing your toxin exposure and fixing nutritional deficiencies. And you can certainly see my book in our book trailer video right on that website – YourLongevityBlueprint.com/40.
Allan (26:31): And as you said, there’s a lot more in the book than we could ever, ever hope to cover in a podcast. So, do check out the book. There’s a lot of valuable information in there for you to kind of understand what’s going on in your body, and some great actionable items for you to use in building your health and fitness. As I said before, Dr. Gray, thank you for being on the podcast.
Dr. Gray (26:52): Thank you. And to all the listeners – know there’s hope. If you don’t feel right, there’s an answer. Find a provider who can help you get those answers.
Allan (27:05): I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Gray. I certainly did. Really, a lot of good information there. The book is well worth the purchase, so I would encourage you to go out and get Your Longevity Blueprint. It’s a really, really good book. It’ll teach you a lot about yourself and help you be a big partner and big lead – the driver in your wellness journey.
So the last week I went to Panama – actually, it was an island set called Bocas del Toro. Spend some time with my wife, just kind of unwind, enjoy ourselves, learn a little bit about the place and the culture. It really does interest me, and maybe might end up being a place that we spend a lot more time than we had originally thought. We’re looking into that; more on that later.
I wanted to also let you know before we go that this is going to be the last week that I’m going to leave open the waiting list for The Wellness GPS. If you want to be a part of the launch team, the team that goes through and does their Wellness GPSs with me walking you through step by step, you need to go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. If you’re not on that list, you’re probably not going to hear about this because the list is filling up and there’s almost enough people on there now that it will fill the 20 slots. I can only work with 20 people because this is hands-on. I’m working with you daily for the seven-day challenge as we go about putting together our Wellness GPS. If you’re interested, you need to go there today and sign up – 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. I’ll announce it there when I open it, it’s going to be open until the 20 slots are filled, so it’s probably just going to be people that are on this waiting list that are going to get the opportunity to be a part of this challenge. It’s not an open challenge. It’s going to be open only to the individuals that are on this list until I fill the 20 slots, and then we’re done. So again, 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS.
And then finally, I know I’ve been talking about it for the past few weeks, but we’re working on getting the final bit of manuscript together for The Wellness Roadmap book that I’ve been working on. And I’ve also put out a base site for the book. You can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com to learn more about the topic matter of the book, learn a little bit about me. I am setting up a mailing list that’s going to be specific for the book. You won’t be getting other mailings from me; this is going to be my launch team. When you write a book, it’s really not an individual thing. Yes, I do spend a lot of time alone, writing and editing and typing and redlining. I’m not the most efficient writer out there, so it does take me a little while. So there’s a lot of alone time – don’t get me wrong – but launching a book is really a team sport, and I need you on my team. I need you to help me make this book a success, and the way we do that is we coordinate our work, we coordinate what we do. And the best way for me to do that with you would be through this mailing list. I will only mail you on that mailing list information about the book, the progress on the book, things like that. But I won’t be mailing you other stuff. So this is a very private, single-source, single-use email list. If you want to be a part of the launch team, please go sign up today. You can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com, and at the bottom of that page you’ll see where you can give me your name and email and I can make you a part of the launch team. A launch like this can be a lot of fun, working together, getting things done. You’ll get some special discounts on the book, you might get some additional freebies and bonuses that I can throw in there. I’ll be looking at what I can do and what I can’t do, but this is the group that’s going to help me launch the book and make it a success, and I want to do as much for you as I possibly can. So go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com and go ahead and join the launch team today. Thank you.
The science behind food is both confusing because much of it is financed by the companies with the most to gain by the outcomes. Dr David Friedman helps us understand how to get to the real answer in his book Food Sanity.
Allan (1:28):Dr. Friedman, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Friedman (1:31): Great to be here.
Allan (1:32): Your book, Food Sanity, is probably one of the most researched books I've ever seen. I've been doing this for a while. I've interviewed over 175 authors, all of which have their own ways of looking at things. You did some deep, deep digging, and I'm using that as a pun, but we'll get into that. Now, you had a reason to want to do this because you were seeing all these different guests come on your show, like I do. And many of them were saying, “You should eat like this”, and others were saying, “No, you should eat like that.” On the surface they're very different, almost contradictory in many aspects. And then you were like, “I've got this really, really smart cardiologist telling me I need to stop eating meat, and then I have this other very smart cardiologist telling me it's fine to eat meat.” So you get confused, and it is very easy to get confused in all this. But you've put together a very good model and you've gone through a lot of this yourself. So do you mind sharing a little bit of your story?
Dr. Friedman (2:36): Yeah. Basically I wrote Food Sanity after the 18 years of frustration that I went through as a syndicated TV and radio health expert. And like you, I've interviewed hundreds of scientists, doctors, bestselling authors, hoping to share information that would help my audience reach their optimal health. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Instead, every guest would contradict the previous expert, leaving everybody, including me, more confused. You've got the proponents of the vegan, the Paleo, Mediterranean, the gluten-free and low carb diet. And let's face it, the opinions are as different as night and day. I remember oatmeal used to help balance blood sugar and research proved it. Now we’re told to avoid grains, because they spike our blood sugar. Coffee used to be considered unhealthy. Today we're told it helps prevent disease. Actually three weeks ago it caused cancer and they just announced a new study, about I think a week ago, that's saying it actually prolongs our life, that it’s good for you now. Eggs used to cause high cholesterol; now research shows eggs contain lecithin, which helps lower cholesterol. So I was very frustrated with all the conflicting opinions. I wrote Food Sanity; it really breaks through all the facts, fads and fiction, and finally answers the big question: What are we supposed to eat?
Allan (3:49): Part of your approach, which I really appreciate, because quite frankly it's common sense – is the DIG model. Can you go through that DIG model because I really think this is probably the best tool overall I've ever seen for a way to think about food and food choices?
Dr. Friedman (4:09): Yeah, and not just that. A lot of people are calling it the “lie detector test” to pass the DIG method to find out if it's true or false, even beyond food. I've been getting a lot of emails saying that works in other areas as well. It’s really neat that you can kind of dive in and, as we say, dig in. Basically in Food Sanity I used the “common science meets common sense” approach for figuring out the culinary conundrum. Unfortunately, we can't solely rely on the scientific studies, because as we just talked about, that changes sometimes weekly, like the coffee – that changed in a week. Plus many of them are biased, meaning studies are bought and paid for. So I show the reader how to avoid these paid for unreliable scientific studies, tap into their instincts and trust their gut instead of relying on what they hear in the media. Then we explore the biology of the body and if we’re designed to eat it. When you combine these three things, these are the DIG. D is “discovery” – that’s the science. I is “instinct”. And G is “God”. That's not necessarily biblical, but how our Creator created our body – our biology, our teeth, our enzymes. If you combine the science, instinct and biology, you have a foolproof blueprint that shows you what you should and shouldn't eat. It's kind of like a tricycle – without three wheels it can’t function. And my three little processes are really what other diet books are missing. In Food Sanity I don't use this “my way or the highway” approach. Instead I help the reader make up their own mind on the best way to eat and lose weight and prevent disease.
Allan (5:41): I was reading one study, and I think it was a Harvard scientist. He basically said that they were testing cholesterol numbers against mortality rate, and they basically weren't finding that when they lowered cholesterol with the statin that it was really giving them the results they wanted. So his complete conclusion was, we need to give them more statins. I can't wrap my mind around what this guy is saying. It's like we gave them statins and it didn't stop the heart attacks in the way that we intended. So therefore we think we just need to give them more statins. I had to question the guy’s motives or where he was coming from. It really just confused me. So I've made a practice now – if I’m going to rely on a study, I have to actually go read the study, because the headlines are going to skew it one way. The study may have been skewed one way in the way it was set up, or just the way they frame their conclusion is completely unsupported by the way they did the study in the first place. So the science is really where I get stuck the most, because you're right, there are people who are bought. So basically Monsanto pays for someone to do a study on Monsanto, and lo and behold, it's awesome. You should eat this for breakfast. And many of us do. But then there are those ones where I think while they might not have a complete buy-in, they have a paradigm that swings them to set the study up or run it a certain way. So that throws me off sometimes, but you don't necessarily know that unless you actually get in and see how they set up the study, which is a shame.
Dr. Friedman (7:31): So true. The saying is, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” So if your boss is paying you millions of dollars to find a specific finding of a study, you're not going to let your boss down, you don't want to lose that money. So the American Dairy Association funds a study and let's say they pay a big organization, Johns Hopkins, and say, “We want you to show that milk builds strong bones. Here’s $40 million.” If that study comes back where it doesn't show that it builds strong bones, they're not going to publish it. It behooves everybody to keep the boss happy, and that's what I’ve noticed. But if you find a study that’s not paid for by somebody that has vested interest, then you can dig a little bit deeper and say, “This is a sound study. Now let's research and see the findings.” If it's biased, I don't even look at it. It’s not fair.
Allan (8:18): And I think the same thing sometimes of animal studies as well. I don't necessarily place a whole lot of credence on them. There are data points, but maybe not as reliable as we'd want to think. You even said in the book, cats are carnivorous, and we don't necessarily have to be. Or rabbits are vegan, and we don't necessarily have to be. So a study they did on cats or rabbits or mice isn't necessarily going to give us the best information. What I'm getting at is, a lot of the experts that get really passionate about one side of this or the other without having the objectivity, I think they find the study that fits their cognitive bias and they run with that. The expert finds these sets of studies and says, “I have 12,000 studies and you have 12,000 studies.” And they write their books, and there you go.
Dr. Friedman (9:10): That’s why you have to jump into your instincts, and also the biology. So you're right, we can’t really rely on science, and a lot of these authors just spit out the science. And you can battle science against science all day long. I’ve interviewed the plant-based and they’ve great science. I’ve interviewed the Paleo and they’ve got great science. But it’s not all about science. You've got to really go in and do the full DIG.
Allan (9:31): That's why I like your model so well. It puts a little bit of common sense behind the way we approach these things. You do a little bit of digging into the science, you learn more about it, and then you can just apply your model from what makes sense and what your biology is all about. Then the other side of it, I've always found is after you start eating a certain way. You saw this with meat – once you stopped eating red meat, your health improved dramatically.
Dr. Friedman (9:59): Correct, yeah. And that’s really what made the foundation of, “Let me explore what foods are good for me, what are bad for me.” The first one that was my own self-study is, “I feel better when I get off red meat. Why is that?” Then I researched, are there other foods that maybe I shouldn't be eating? And that's what led into Food Sanity, where I explore every single food group, if we’re supposed to eat it, what the science shows, does that make sense? And is our biology set up for us to eat it?
Allan (10:27): As we start having this conversation about biology, invariably the conversation comes up to, what did our ancestors eat? And then that takes us over to the Paleo movement and the people with the big flags with the bacon on it saying, “This is what we ate. This is what we ate.” And you've done a little bit of digging into the Paleo Diet, which I thought was fascinating. So I'm going to let you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on what our ancestors actually ate. Like I said, I did a little bit of a dig myself, and we can kind of have a compare and contrast there.
Dr. Friedman (11:04): There are few subjects out there that raise more controversy and heated opinions than food and politics. And when you look at plant-based versus Paleo Diet, it’s kind of like Republicans versus Democrats. Hopefully when they’re done with Food Sanity, they find we can all eat and dine together, because I’m getting some praise from the Paleo and also from the vegan, even though I’m from neither one of those. I’m kind of a mix between. But really, vegans and vegetarians believe a diet void of meat is the secret to optimal health and longevity. And of course proponents of the Paleo Diet say we need to eat meat like our caveman ancestors did. In Food Sanity I show how this belief is based on a serious distortion of human history. Caveman are portrayed as these big, strong, savage hunters, able to stab and kill mammoth-sized animals, carry their dead carcass over their shoulders. That may be how the cartoons and the movies portray them, but it's far from the truth. Cavemen were actually short and fat people. In fact, they were not much taller than 5 feet, they weighed 171 pounds, the size of their body was an evolutionary adaptation for cold weather, since that extra fat consolidated heat. According to the National Institute of Health, this is considered clinically obese. A short obese man certainly could not have the speed or the endurance that it would take to run fast enough to hunt and kill a mammoth, lion, tiger, bear. Cavemen were not the predator hunters that we've been led to believe they are. In my book I actually show how they were the hunted, not the hunters. They carried weapons for defense.
Using forensic analysis scientists showed our cavemen ancestors ate primarily plant-based diet, but forget the science, forget the forensics. Let’s get to talking about instincts. What do our instincts show us? If they were able to catch a lion, tiger and bear, which I show in the book is very difficult… It’s difficult now, if I gave you a sword and I told you to go out and catch one – it's not easy. But if they did, that meat was good for about five hours before it would rot and make them sick. So it was good for one meal. So, are they going to spend all day hunting the one meal, or since they had hands, which are designed for picking, wouldn't it be logical, common sense instincts to say they probably picked fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains, because that would last longer than five hours? And if that ran out, there's nothing left but meat, would they eat meat? Absolutely. They weren't vegetarians, but if you really want to talk about our ancestors and we should be eating like a caveman like we're told, but in fact there's only a 1.6% difference in another ancestor, the chimpanzee. So there is a 1.6% difference between a chimpanzee’s DNA and ours. We both have fingers, thumbs, fingernails, similar reproductive system, gestation is nine months, 32 teeth. We're the only species able to use tools. Chimpanzees’ diet is 90% to 95% plant-based, with the remaining percentage being insects, eggs and baby animals. They will eat meat, but only if they’re left with no other choice. Having said that, why aren’t there diet books out there telling us we should eat like a chimp instead of a caveman?
Allan (14:17): I agree with you there, but one of the thoughts that hit me as I was going through this section and thinking about this was, it’s pretty obvious that we’re food opportunists. If there's a drive through available, we're going to drive through it. If we leave bad food in our pantry, we're going to eat it. Some of the advice is, avoid the drive throughs, don't have bad food in your pantry because then you're more inclined to eat it. So I see humans as very opportunistic eaters, particularly when food was not necessarily always abundant. My ancestors would have been in Northeastern Europe, so there were winters and times of pretty bad famine where there wasn't much food around at all. So I do agree, they would be digging up roots and they would be doing other things. That said, they were very smart. They had tools and they were able to move and do things. They didn't want to get hurt any more than the others. If all these leafy greens and root vegetables were there, and everything they needed from a vegetable perspective – that vegetable is not going to strike back. I might get a thorn when I'm picking a berry, but that's going to be the worst of it.
But then the other side of it is when we start talking about – and we’ll get into this in a bit – fish and poultry, at least birds. They're not very dangerous to hunt, unless it's a piranha or a barracuda or something like that. But for the most part, fishing and killing birds is not a dangerous pastime, and not a bad thing. It's more difficult than picking off of a bush, but like I said, it's there. So I do believe that they probably would go out and do some hunting for small game. If they find a nest with eggs – they’re opportunistic, they would do that. They’d kill the bird, then they've got the bird. They’d go fishing if they have an opportunity to do that, if they're in an area where water is abundant and there's some fish. So, I think they're going to be opportunistic. Now, if a mammoth or some other bear or something is in the area, I do agree that they might pack-animal hunt that bear, if they felt like they could get it without hurting themselves and they felt like it would provide them with a really good meal and everybody would eat off of it. And then you're right, the rest of it would probably get wasted.
Dr. Friedman (16:40): But that bear probably was a lot quicker than the cavemen, so if you wanted to outrun them and eat them, you’d go a lot quicker, or they’re going to be gone.
Allan (16:49): But I think we would go as pack animals. I think we would surround them, we would use our intellect and we would have methodologies. I don't know if it's true, but there was a story of how Indians would effectively try to herd a buffalo off of a cliff, as a way of killing it, so that they didn't have to get hurt. Or when they had access to guns, one of the ways that they would want to hunt a buffalo would be to surround the buffalo and get it moving away from them. And if it didn't take care of itself, it's going to fall off the cliff, and then they've got what they were after. So I just see us as opportunistic eaters. If it's there, we're going to eat it and we're going to eat, I would say, the easiest sum game of effort versus benefit.
Dr. Friedman (17:35): The pathway of least resistance.
Allan (17:37): Yes, exactly. So I would see us like that, which would tell me when meat is there and it's easy to get, we'll get it. I don't know about you, but I do enjoy fish, I do enjoy chicken.
Dr. Friedman (17:51): So you and me eat the real cavemen diet, because that’s it.
Allan (17:56): And occasionally if our tribe had an opportunity to kill an animal that was going to provide red meat, like a bear or whatnot, I think we might rally the forces and say, “Hey, that last bear we ate tasted pretty good. Why don't we go get another one?” If it's opportunistic. I think that's really where this all comes about is, it's really difficult to say they would have only eaten vegetables, because they had to eat something else. When the vegetables were gone, what did my ancestors eat? Did they just go five, six months without eating at all, waiting for the vegetables to come back?
Dr. Friedman (18:33): The Paleo advocates and their philosophy is they tend to go against the grain, pun intended. And advocates of their diet tell us to eat a lot of red meat and stay clear of grains and legumes, which cavemen supposedly didn’t eat because of their lack of agricultural techniques. But using advancements in modern technology, fossilized remnants of beans and barley have been discovered between the teeth of cavemen. In fact, the University of Utah says 40% of the cavemen’s diet, we’re talking 3.5 million years ago, was our gluten, grains containing gluten. So that whole thing that 10,000 years ago is when we started eating grains, has been debunked. That’s another thing when we look at our ancestors. It really raises the question, what did we eat and do we really care? And my point is this: I don't care what the caveman ate. I just had this find out, because everyone's always saying to eat like a caveman. I care what our great grandparents ate, because that’s our direct line. If you look at our great grandparents, they were thinner, they were healthier, they didn’t have the cancer, they didn’t have the diseases we do. And I challenge people that are overweight and blame their genes; I say you can’t blame your genes on why you can’t fit into your jeans. Because in the early 1900s, 3% to 5% were overweight; today it’s 70%. But if you can show me a picture of your great grandma or grandfather and they were overweight, then go ahead and blame your DNA. So I tend to say, let’s eat like our great grandparents did. They didn't eat the hormones, the chemicals, the coloring, they didn’t eat the processed food. That's more my view, rather than Neanderthals, who didn't have stores back then. We do. Let’s eat like our grandparents did.
Allan (20:14): When I walk into a grocery store, I just cringe. I look at millions and millions of empty calories sitting on the shelves. About three quarters of my cart ends up being vegetables, and then I'm walking around the outside of the store getting the rest of my foods. You also went in and did the DIG method for the vegan diet as well. Can you spend a little bit of time on that?
Dr. Friedman (20:41): Yeah. It’s interesting, how we talked before about the one thing that people agree on is fruits, vegetables and plant-based have benefits. Not everybody agrees that the beef and the red meat does. So if you look at studies out there, the fruits, vegetables and grains… And we can talk about the gluten – that’s an interesting topic. Basically there’s still good and bad, because it is processed, you still have to deal with pesticides, you still have to deal with the soil. There are certain goods and bads with all food, including fruits and vegetables. So in the book I kind of show the good, the bad and the ugly of everything. But when you look at nature, when you look at natural-derived that’s not processed, that's not touched by Monsanto – fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are great for us. There's no if, ands or buts. But man has kind of tainted a lot of that, and that's why you really have to start looking for organic, non-GMO.
One quick little tip to know if it’s organic – if you see the fruit, the vegetable, and you're not sure, look at the PLU code – it’s the Price Lookup Code. If you see a 9, it’s organic. If you see it starting with an 8, it's GMO. The saying I use is, “Nine is fine, eight isn’t great.” So if you see a 9 in front of it, it’s organic. That’s a little quick tip. And you want to go organic as much as you can. Some people ask if they should do everything organic. No. Here's the quick little rule of thumb, rather than memorizing the Dirty Dozen that people talk about by EWG, I say if you can get your fingernail and you can puncture the skin, probably you're going to get pesticides in there just as easy as you puncture the skin. So if it's easy to puncture, get organic. If it's not, don't worry about it. Avocados – don't worry about it. Bananas, pineapple, kiwi – not so much, because you can’t penetrate that. So that's just an easy little Friedman way of knowing, take the nails test. Don’t do it though in the store, you’re going to get in trouble. Just know if you've got grapes, you can puncture it – that's organic. Apple, puncture – that’s organic. Pear, easy to puncture – organic. Strawberries, that’s super easy to puncture – organic. Just a little easy way to know what fruits and vegetables you should and shouldn't have that are organic.
Allan (23:01): I like how you said it in the book as well. And my mantra is to buy local. You’ve got farmers that are growing seasonal vegetables right there in soil, and you can actually ask them, “How do you grow this? Do you use any pesticides? Do you use any fertilizers?” And talk to them about it. Find that farmer at the farmer's market or the co-op that's doing the things the way you want them done. It’s being transported less, which means it's going to retain more of its nutrition. In many cases when I’m talking to them, they picked the tomatoes they're selling me that day, that morning, right before they came. They got up at 6:00 in the morning to make the 8:00 farmer's market. They picked all those tomatoes themselves that morning. So I know that's going to be an awesome tomato, and it's organic, as it should be. It's going to give me much more nutrition than if I stopped at the local grocery store and picked one up there. Even if that one said “organic”, it's been transported for a lot longer distance and isn't quite as good for me.
Dr. Friedman (24:11): A lot longer, sometimes thousands of miles. There is no such thing as fresh food in Atlanta if you're buying it from California. It’s not fresh. It shipped all the way from there. When we talk about fruit, it's amazing what a bad rap it’s getting. I talk to all these experts that are saying to get off of all fruit because it contains sugar known as fructose. There's so many health advocates that recommend totally eliminating it, and what they believe is that fruit creates a sugar overload that can lead to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes. In my opinion that’s taking things way too far. Fruit is an important part of the diet. It does have sugar, but so do vegetables. One cup of sweet potatoes contain 6 grams of sugar. It is the perfect food for diabetics. One stock of broccoli contains 2.6 grams of sugar. The reason eating sweet potatoes and broccoli won’t spike your blood sugar is because they contain a lot of fiber, which buffers out the sugar content. So when deciding which fruit to eat, it's important to look at the glycemic index. This measures how the fruit you eat will affect your blood sugar levels, and the best way to keep your blood sugar in balance is to eat fruits that have higher fiber and contain low GI. So instead of reaching for grapes and banana, opt for fruits high in fiber that have a low GI, like apples and blueberries. Even though these fruits are high in sugar – blueberries have a whopping 15 grams of sugar per cup – because of the fiber content, the natural fruit sugar is released slowly into the body, won't cause an unhealthy sugar spike. In spite of the high sugar, blueberries can actually reduce the risk of diabetes by 23%. Another option is an apple that’s full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals. It contains lots of fibers and it buffers out the fructose, keeping you from having an insulin spike. But don't peel the apple because that defeats the whole purpose. There's so much research out there showing that people who eat five or more apples per day are least likely to develop diabetes, and same with blueberries, which are loaded with sugar. So the whole concept, “Stay away from all fruits” is just ludicrous to me.
Allan (26:16): I have to admit, I’m a little bit more on the other side, and the reason is this. Like I said, I think people are opportunists when they eat and I think that we have a major sugar addiction problem in our country. And I think that when you start trying to get people off of sugar, one bit of advice that’s fairly common is to get off all of sugar for just a short amount of time. And then you can add the berries back in, you can add fruits like apples and pears and things like that in. And then to a lesser extent, some of those tropical plants, which have a higher glycemic index. I would typically say what I would do is just not eat fruit for a short period of time, till I got my sugar under control. And then they say, “What about the artificial sweeteners?” I say drop that too, because that's still teaching your body to want the sweetness from the foods. And if you get your palate set back down a little bit by not having the sweetness from the artificial sweetener and to some extent from the fruit, you get to a point where the fruit tastes better when you come back to it.
I remember when I was a kid, we used to add white sugar, just pour it on strawberries. We needed to do that. We’d do that with watermelon. We’d put sugar on our watermelon. And now if I eat a strawberry, it's one of the sweetest things I can taste. If it's a good, organic, fresh strawberry, it's awesome. Same thing with watermelon. I’m down in a part of the country where they grow a lot of watermelons, so it's available during the season. It's so sweet, so delicious, but it's because I've reset my palate to just not want those sweet things. So I think sometimes taking a break from it – not permanently, but a break from it to let your palate reset – isn't necessarily a bad idea.
Dr. Friedman (28:22): Then you don’t have to add the sugar to the strawberries because they already taste sweet.
Allan (28:26): Exactly. That’s where I was going with that, was to say, if you have a sugar addiction, I think that there's an opportunity for you to consider how fruit is contributing to that in the short run. If a short hiatus from it is going to make you appreciate it that much more, I think that's not a bad idea.
Dr. Friedman (28:43): Right. But they should never go back on those artificial sweeteners, because those are lousy. What’s so funny is there's no research showing that they help you lose weight or curb your appetite. When I researched it, it’s the opposite – they make you hungry, they make you eat more. University of Texas did a study showing there's a 41% increased risk of obesity for every one diet soft drink you consume that has these artificial sweeteners. And the average person doesn't drink one; they drink five. So you can imagine. And people that drink these artificial sodas think they're losing weight. Most of them are overweight, and years and years later, how's that working for you? It didn’t help.
Allan (29:19): It didn’t. That’s the calorie model. And I think they’re sugar-addicted, and that artificial sweetener is just causing them to eat more sugar across the board.
Dr. Friedman (29:29): Exactly. It makes you crave something. You're teasing your brain. It’s like, “That’s not real. Give me more.” So it makes you crave more carbs and sweets.
Allan (29:38): The research you did for this book just blew my mind. I was looking at the citations – there were over 700 citations in this book. You could have written eight books with that many citations, but you got this down into one good, concise thing. I think your simplified DIG model is a brilliant model. It's not simple, but it's easy to think through. It's a model that I think will work for anyone. You've done that, and now obviously with everything you've done with all the interviews, going through this process, what do you eat today?
Dr. Friedman (30:13): I live by a Flexitarian Diet, which is a marriage between the word “flexible” and “vegetarian”. Basically I'm eating like our real ancestors did, dealing with more plant-based and about 20% animal. I did look at all the different animal food and there's one that you really need to stay off of, and we can talk about deep into that. There's just so much science – like you saw, I looked at both sides – and that’s the beef. One thing that’s interesting, four years ago, the National Academy of Sciences shared a major discovery. They found a unique sugar called Neu5Gc, which is found in abundance in cows, but it's not found in humans. And when we eat this sugar, this molecule, it triggers an immune response that our body attacks. This leads to chronic inflammation, which has been linked to colon cancer, and among all victims of cancer, colon cancer is the second leading cause of death. So the more red meat you eat, the more likely you are to get colon cancer. The most authoritative report on colon cancer risk today was published by the World Cancer Research Fund International. They concluded almost half of colon cancer could be prevented if people just ate less red meat. And interestingly, Neu5Gc – inflammatory sugar – is just one atom different than a molecule that lines our blood vessels called Neu5Ac. We share this molecule with chickens and fish, so eat those foods with no inflammatory reaction. When we eat red meat our immune system can't tell the difference so our body ends up attacking our own blood vessels. This explains why red meat has been shown to increase heart disease. So more and more research out there. And it's so funny that you’ve got Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, Harvard all saying red meat is not good. The good I found was endorsed by the American Cattle Association. So that's the one thing I’d stay away from. I do organic chicken – I think that's great. Fish – I’d love to chat more about that. That was my favorite food, and I debunk that mercury myth by far in my book. My big “a-ha” moment was discovering that. I think that's something that's never been discovered, and I had to dig because fish is not a moneymaker. They really make that the redheaded stepchild when it comes to food.
Allan (32:23): So basically primarily plant-based, and occasionally eating pastured organic chickens, pastured organic eggs, and then fish which is wild-caught and delicious.
Dr. Friedman (32:40): Yeah.
Allan (32:48): I think you either like fish or you don't like fish, but almost in no cases do I find a lot of people where fish is a staple for them. It's an occasional treat that they'll have. I don't think enough people eat enough fish.
Dr. Friedman (33:05): And I share this in the book. It's the least advertised, it’s the least promoted, it’s the least endorsed. In fact, the FDA says to stay away from it. It causes mercury, it’s polluted waters. And every expert that I’ve heard says to cut back on fish, mercury, mercury. I love fish. And I used to preach the same thing. It’s like I’m preaching what they told me to preach. I was like, “Let me dig in. Is it true?” So I actually went in and looked at this mercury thing, and the truth is that the oceans are not the mercury-laden cesspools that we’re lead to believe. In Food Sanity I debunk this myth. There are cultures around the world that eat fish daily, sometimes three times a day, and their blood tests, Allan, show no mercury toxicity. They're the epitome of good health. And then I looked at pregnant females that are scared, that avoid certain types of fish because they supposedly contain mercury that can harm the unborn fetus. There's simply no credible resource to support this. In fact, evidence shows quite the opposite. Cultures where pregnant females eat a diet primarily of fish, mostly tuna, have healthier children with higher IQ scores than mothers avoiding fish. Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in soil, air, water and food, and we hear so much about the dangers of mercury in fish, but cattle products contain mercury, and mushrooms, and high-fructose corn syrup contains it. That's our fruit juices and cereals. Here’s why the mercury in fish is not a concern. Mercury cannot cause harm unless it occurs in extremely high enough levels to inhibit selenium-dependent enzymes, which naturally protect the cells of the brain. So in other words, if fish contains more selenium than mercury, it cancels out the mercury that is absorbed by the body. In Food Sanity I have a chart of 18 of the most commonly eaten fish. All of them, except the mako shark, have more selenium than mercury. Folks, play it safe. If you’re at a restaurant and you see mako shark on the menu, don’t order it. The other wild-caught fish are good for you. Enjoy them, you’re not going to have mercury poisoning. It’s just not a factor.
Allan (34:57): I was actually happy to hear that, because I had moved away from swordfish. I do eat some tuna, but a lot less. I’m more on the sardines. In this part of the country, in Florida, if you don't eat grouper and red snapper and cobia – shame on you, because they're delicious, and they're local. So, Dr. Friedman, thank you so much for this book. I know I say this to a lot of my guests, but you did your research, you've put together an awesome model for us to think about food. You've blended ideas of the two sides of an argument that seldom see the same as the other. And the basis is, let's eat whole foods. Let's get the nutrition our body needs by finding the most nutritious, healthy food we can find, and let's just eat that. I really think that's the core message of the book. So, thank you for sharing Food Sanity with us. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Friedman (36:04): For the book they can go to FoodSanity.com. And as you see, the book was so thick. I actually had 92 pages of recipes that I couldn't include. So I actually created an e-book and that book is for free. You can download that at FoodSanity.com. It’s a nice compilation book that goes with Food Sanity. So that’s available, and you can have over 30 recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to see how easy it is to eat healthy. You don't have to compromise taste. And then to stay in touch with me and learn more, you can go to DrDavidFriedman.com, and you can see some of my blog posts, articles, and you can get all my social media contacts as well from DrDavidFriedman.com.
Allan (36:43): Cool. This is going to be episode 331, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/331 and I’ll be sure to have links to everything Dr. Friedman mentioned there. Again, Dr. Friedman, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Friedman (36:59): Thank you, Allan. It was a lot of fun. I appreciate it.
Allan (37:06): I do hope that you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Friedman. His DIG method and the book are excellent, and something I think you should read, see how he's applying the DIG method to various types of foods. It really is a great conversation that he's having with you in the book to explain exactly why a food may or may not be good for you. Going through the science, going through instinct things, and then of course getting into how this really fits ourselves using this DIG method. It is really a wonderful tool and a wonderful book, so I do encourage you to go out and get that book.
It has been a really, really busy couple of weeks here, as I was working on my book, working and preparing my presentations for Ketofest. I did go to Ketofest and had a great time. Did four training classes. The classes were relatively small in size, which made it even nicer because I had a chance to really work directly with folks and help them through the exercises. I had all the way from advanced to beginner. There was something in there for everybody, and I got a lot of good feedback from that. My talk went really well. We did have some technical issues. I was the first speaker of the day, so you kind of have to expect that’s going to happen. I had to start a little bit late and the streaming didn't work and I don't think the recording worked. So, a lot of the technical stuff. But I had a great audience and I feel like I had a really good talk. And I got a lot of good feedback after the talk. It’s one of those things where I just enjoy sharing and having those opportunities to help people. And it's really nice to have that face time with them. And so I met some new people. I was able to see Richard and Carl from 2 Keto Dudes again, and some people I knew from last year. I actually even got to have dinner with a client, which was really, really cool. So, Ketofest is over.
I'm about a week out, I think, from getting my final draft to the editor. So I think the heavy lifting on my book is done and I'm kind of excited about that because I have this thing in mind called The Wellness GPS Challenge, and I'm going to launch that in a few weeks' time. Normally my challenges will have upwards of 100, 200, almost 300 people in some of them, but this one I'm going to have to limit to 20. So what I'm going to do this time that's a little different is I'm creating a waiting list, and if you're interested in joining the waiting list, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. From there you can get on the waiting list. You'll be the first to find out about it. And if the 20 slots fill up from just me sending the email to the GPS waiting list, then I'm done. I won't announce it on a podcast, I won't announce it in the Facebook group, and I won't email anyone else. I'm only going to email this waiting list and give them some time to sign up.
This challenge is going to be a 7-day challenge to help you set your Wellness GPS, which is in my mind the single most important thing you have to do if you want to be successful in your health and fitness. A lot of people will start something and then they fizzle out, and the reason they fizzle out is because they never really set their GPS. I see people start things and hurt themselves, and the reason they hurt themselves is because they never set their Wellness GPS. The Wellness GPS is a tool I've developed to help people get a really, really good start, and each and every time they're starting to struggle in their journey, they'll always have that GPS with them to keep them on track and on their way. So it's a really cool tool. It works with my clients today, I use it, and I'm looking forward to teaching 20 new people exactly how to do the Wellness GPS. Like I said, I'm working with you hand in hand, so this is not a phone in an email kind of thing. I'm literally with you, so I can only handle 20. They come from the waiting list, so do join the waiting list by going to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. I look forward to seeing your name there and I look forward to connecting with you and getting on with this challenge. It'll start in a few weeks, but I just want to get the waiting list going, so I know who is interested and I can talk directly to you. Thank you.