Nora Gedgaudas, a world-renowned nutritionist, neurofeedback practitioner, educator, author and clinical practitioner in Portland, Oregon joins me to chat about all things to do with nutrition and the intimate connection between our food, our immune system and our mind and body.
Selected Links from the Episode
- Nora Gedgaudas website, books and program:
- My book, A Life Less Stressed
- Help spread the message and leave us a review on iTunes. Click here and then go to “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review”.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Hello and welcome to “Unstress”. I’m Dr. Ron Ehrlich. In this podcast not surprisingly, we focus on stress and pillars of health. We hear so much about various diets and paleo is certainly up there with one of the most popular and I think with good reason. Autoimmune diseases are also a big issue as you were here in this episode actually even bigger than I thought and I thought there are over 80 autoimmune diseases. Now that is the body attacking itself and depending on your genetic predisposition if your predisposition is your skin, your weakness you might have psoriasis. If your gut is the weak link you might have Crohn’s or coeliac. If thyroid then you’ll have an under or overactive thyroid, Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. Nerves, it could be Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis. If it’s your joint, you might have rheumatic fever.
Autoimmune diseases are big ones. The point is while the manifestations of those diseases are very different or appear to be different, the causes have some common overlaps and common themes and all and that’s all about gut permeability or not all but a great deal of it is about gut permeability or leaky gut where undigested proteins enter the bloodstream and the body mounts an attack and autoimmune response. It’s an issue as you’ll hear that is clearly on the rise.
Now another issue inflammation is another subject we touch on in this podcast or rather chronic inflammation which is a common denominator in almost every physical and mentally degenerative disease. Cancer, heart disease, even depression. You’ll hear the word cytokines and they are markers and the body’s response to chronic inflammation. So, there are mediators if you like. Well, all that prefaces my guest today Nora Gedgaudas.
Now, Nora is a world-renowned nutritionist, neurofeedback practitioner, educator, author and is in clinical practice in Portland, Oregon in the USA. She has an incredible in-depth knowledge of all things to do with nutrition and intimate connection between our food, our immune system and our mind and body. Now I first got to know Nora in 2009 when I read her fabulous book “Primal Body, Primal Mind”. Now, as soon as I read it together with my friends Vicky and Tim Poulter we have a group called “Nourishing Australia”. We brought Nora to Australia for a series of lectures and it was a huge success and it introduced many Australians to ancestral diets beyond just paleo.
We call this episode “Beyond Paleo” because Nora’s approach is unique. It’s backed by some very solid science lessons from the past, some very thorough testing and clinical observations and some common sense. Her approach just makes so much sense. She is a wealth of knowledge. Nora also references Western A. Price who if you didn’t know and took what I consider to be one of the most important pieces of research ever undertaken, even more relevant today than when he undertook it 80 years ago. Now Price was a dentist and what he was doing was looking for the cause of tooth decay. He visited traditional cultures living on traditional ancestral food. But what made it so unique was that at the same time he visited the same genetic groups who had just moved to nearby towns and cities and consumed Western diets. So, it was the perfect model to compare ancestral diet with Western diet. He not only found the cause of tooth decay, but he also found that all chronic degenerative diseases that accompany a society on a Western diet, consuming sugar and flour, in other words, a high carbohydrate diet. We talk about carbs, proteins, fats. We talk about leaky gut, mental and physical health. We talk about inflammation. I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Nora Gedgaudas.
Welcome to the show Nora.
Nora Gedgaudas: Oh, thank you Ron. It’s an honour and a privilege to be here with you.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Well, it’s lovely to talk to you again. It’s been far too long. Now listen people have heard of this term “paleo” and honestly, I just can’t think of anybody better qualified to explain what that means to define it and outline why it is so important for, dare I say, total health and hopefully a longer and healthier life? Tell us about polio.
Nora Gedgaudas: Well, you know the term paleo has arrived at a lot of different meanings now. It almost is there almost as many ways of defining it as there are people claiming to practice it but you know, the basic idea behind it is that if we want to understand how to most optimally feed a human being, the most essential starting place is looking at the selective pressures that shaped our physiological makeup and our nutritional requirements in the first place. And by looking at what our ancestors did, what the kinds of foods that they would have most consistently had access to that can lend us quite a number of clues as to what might be optimal for us now.
Now I actually take a, you know, my own little twist on the subject because just because our ancestors did something, it’s not necessarily a good enough reason for me to want to do the same thing. You know, human beings have lived all kinds of places all over the world eating all kinds of different things, those all those certain things fairly consistently but just because they were able to put something into their mouths chew it, swallow it, not drop dead doesn’t necessarily suggest to me persuasively that that was optimal for them or that it’s certainly going to be optimal for us now. So, how would we know?
And what I’ve done with that question is I’ve applied it to what we do understand in the realm of science, the science of human longevity research. Now longevity research isn’t simply about living forever. If you’re living longer it’s usually because you’re avoiding disease, right? So, and it turns out that there are some principles that dovetail rather neatly into that equation and that you can use to extrapolate you know, what would be ideal and one what wouldn’t.
Now you know, their variety of ways are going about making some of these determinations and I use Weston Price as an example too and we can touch upon that.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, and a favourite topic of mine.
Nora Gedgaudas: Yeah, yeah. But with respect to the whole issue of longevity research, we do know, and I’ll just throw it into a very quick nutshell that they used to, you know, for nearly a century now research from in everything from yeast to primates has shown conclusively that by restricting you know, they speak in terms of generalized caloric restriction you know, restricting calories seems to have the effect of significantly enhancing health and lifespan. And it seemed like a counterintuitive finding you know, why would you know being undernourished in some way or whatever, be somehow beneficial.
And what more recent researchers have uncovered in a couple of different arenas is that number one it turns out that insulin is a major issue in that regard. And it’s not calories in general that are important, it’s certain kinds of calories. And anything that evokes an insulin response is going to be compromising to us in some way. So, the less insulin we require over the course of our lifetimes, the longer we’re going to live in the healthier we’re going to be by far. And of course, glucose you know is inherently damaging to the body in multiple ways, we could spend a whole show just talking about that. And because there is no scientifically established human dietary requirement for carbohydrates not in any medical textbook or textbook of human physiology anywhere it’s kind of a no-brainer, leave that out. You know, sugar and starch the utilizable carbohydrates.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: But Nora let me just… let me just stop you there because I don’t know that our listener is totally you’ve said something that I think is really important because the macronutrients which are protein, fat and carbohydrate, there are minimum requirements of protein and fat. But you know, you mentioned there aren’t for carbohydrates that’s a really important point, isn’t it?
Nora Gedgaudas: Well, it is, and most people think that you know, vegetables are literally the most important thing you can consume, and the fact of the matter is we don’t actually have an established requirement for them. Now I am not saying that we should not be consuming them, in fact, I actually believe fibrous vegetables and greens are probably far more important to us today than they ever used to be during our sort of long evolutionary journey because we now live in a uniquely, I believe a uniquely challenging and toxic environment that far exceeds the hostility of any that our ancestors faced. You know, what we face as challenges today would be completely incomprehensible to our prehistoric ancestors.
And it’s interesting too that the threats that we are accustomed to facing that we’re psychologically wired for facing are all pretty tangible. I mean to a prehistoric ancestor you know, what do they have to worry about? Well, things like saber-tooth tigers and you know cantankerous woolly mammoths and snakes and maybe big storms or volcanic eruptions or major climate changes and things like that which are all quite tangible. For us we have a false sense of complacency because we all live in climate controlled environments that you know, with big screen TVs and we don’t have to take more than two steps in any direction to find something we might call food or food-like substances, we can shove inside our mouths. But the threats that face us today are by and large not visible to us. For instance, the contaminants and our air, water, and food supplies and you know, GMOs and you know, other types of biotech horrors and EMF you know electromagnetic frequency pollution, radiation contamination. All these kinds of things are challenging us in a way that has degraded our genome over the last few generations and we’ve never been more vulnerable as a species than we are now which has never lent a greater importance to making sure that our foundational needs are intact that they’re being met in a way that helps to keep those fundamental things, our fundamental health intact with all of the toxicity in our environment.
You know, fibrous vegetables and greens can supply antioxidants and phytonutrients that have demonstrated you know, benefit toward helping us offset that toxicity. You know, they help to bind excess hormones and God knows we live in a sea of oestrogen so anything that is going to bind oestrogen and help the body get rid of it is a good thing. It provides extra bulk that is you know satisfying and that also provides that badly needed fodder for our poor embattled and beleaguered microbiome, right? The healthy bacteria in our gut really does well when we add a greater variety of foods in the form of fibre to the mix. That’s good.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Now, you know, your…this is why I love talking to you about paleo because so many people associate paleo with you know, a huge protein hit on the on the barbecue and you have just been talking about vegetables here which is…
Nora Gedgaudas: I was talking about vegetables and I was talking about longevity.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah.
Nora Gedgaudas: The other aspect of that because we talked about I mentioned insulin being at you know, in longevity. But the other discovery that was very even more recent than that one involved the discovery of a metabolic pathway called mammalian target of rapamycin and I promise I won’t get too technical.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: There’s an abbreviation, isn’t there? Let’s use the…
Nora Gedgaudas: Yes. MTOR. What that is it’s basically your body’s protein sensor and it’s involved with your reproductive, with reproductive mechanisms and it’s a way that your body scans to see is there nutrients efficiency in order to create new life right now. And when we consume protein in excess of what we need, it’s an impetus for enhancing our reproductive capacity. So, if you’re looking to become pregnant or you are pregnant or lactating or you’re a baby child or teen that makes sense but if you aren’t any of those things and you’re not you know, you’re either past the reproductive age and not interested in reproducing right now whatever, then what you’re basically creating is an impetus for cellular proliferation for making new cells.
Now when we live in an environment as toxic as the one we live in is and we get these mutagenic influences, things that can affect our DNA and affect the health of the cell and then you ask your body to start making lots of new cells this is a potential impetus for cancer. But if instead, you keep your protein intake to just below that threshold which is about 21 grams of actual protein in a meal, okay? Then you basically… You know, I like to put it into modern-day economic terms it’s like your body says oh apparently, it’s too expensive to build a new house right now so let’s sticks up the one we’ve got. And instead what gets activated is maintenance and repair mechanisms that take your existing cells and make them healthier. And the effect of that then that effect is of literally being anti-aging.
I’m actually sort of abandoning the term paleo and I’m abandoning it terms like ketogenic because they become so heavily commercialized now as to almost become meaningless. And I call what I’m describing as primal genic, right? It’s just kind of a catch term that encapsulates a something that means something very specific that nobody else is going to take and run with and call anything else. So, this involves a very low carbohydrate approach that is moderate in protein. This is not a high meat high protein diet at all. It meets your protein needs from animal source foods from complete protein sources which I believe is important and I can make the case for that in a minute then add as many fibrous vegetables and greens as you want to the mix. But you’re getting the majority of your actual calories from actually fats from a variety of healthy sources of uncompromising quality and all of this food has to come from sources that are of uncompromising quality. In other words, organic in a biodynamically grown free-range, a hundred percent grass-fed and finished meat. That’s absolutely critical to this equation because anything else is health compromising. I could be a bit uncompromising so…I figure if we shoot for the stars we might hit the moon.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, yeah. Now, that’s actually you know, I mean this episode we’re calling “Beyond Paleo” because that’s exactly. You know, paleo has become this and as you said there are almost as many paleo diets and it’s become such a trendy thing that I really you know, I loved I… When did you write that book “Primal body, Primal mind”? 2009?
Nora Gedgaudas: The original version of it which was sort of self-published and it had I hadn’t had a lot of problems but what was published in 2009. And I was approached by a well it’s actually one of the largest independent publishers approached me and said we would really like to take and run with this book you know, give you… and that gave me an opportunity to completely retool it, rewrite it a bit, clean it up and also add some new information and new research that came out immediately following the publication of self-published versions.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, well, you know, what I loved about it was that you, because paleo was emerging as this very trendy term yours literally, was beyond paleo and here you are you’ve been talking about the insulin levels which actually, to be honest, Nora are recurring theme when we talk in this podcast. We’ve talked about cancer, insulin levels lower. Heart disease, insulin levels lower. Autoimmune disease, insulin. It’s a recurring, recurring, recurring theme. And I love and have always loved the way your focus is beyond paleo and it makes so much sense. And it’s this moderate amount of protein which again people miss… well, construe paleo with high protein and you…
Nora Gedgaudas: They do.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah.
Nora Gedgaudas: And I really, really try to distance myself from that way of thinking. Again, it’s the basic paleo concept is you know, if our ancestors did it it’s good enough for me. And I’ve never seen it quite that way. I won’t be saying ever I think early, early on when I discovered the concept I’m like well, of course, that makes perfect sense and it does. I mean to me it’s the only rational starting place, but it can’t be an endpoint because we don’t live in the world of our prehistoric ancestors anymore and that’s something else that I try to do is take the modern and rather challenging world that we live in today into account in that equation. Which it seems that a lot of people within the Paley generally don’t spend a lot of time looking at in the way that they should.
I also am not a big fan of dairy. Now mind you, you know, not all dairy was created, is created equal and if somebody has a well what I have to do first is qualified why I don’t because dairy also seems to be the darling oddly enough even though it’s a post-agriculture thing. It seems to be the darling of both the paleo and ketogenic communities so everybody’s into grass-fed butter and raw cream and raw milk cheeses and things like that and those are delicious foods and they may be health promoting but the problem is that there’s a phenomenon today known as autoimmunity. And I believe it is the greatest underappreciated health burden in the entire world. There are over a hundred autoimmune diseases that have now been identified and another forty to fifty disease processes that are thought to have an autoimmune component.
Dietary antigens are known to be a major impetus for initiating and exacerbating the progress of these diseases as well as environmental contaminants and things like that heavy metals etc. And this has become a tremendous area of expertise for me because well frankly I’m the only member of my family that doesn’t have an autoimmune disease and I’d like to keep it that way and I also have a vested interest in helping those close to me you know, overcome many of their problems and symptoms. And I find that a lot of times where people have unexplained symptoms that some matter of autoimmunity has to be ruled out.
So, dairy you know, the two most common dietary antigens responsible for initiating or exacerbating autoimmunity are in this particular order. Gluten in other words from grains and dairy and half of everybody that has gluten immune reactivity has dairy protein as a cross-reactivity. Meaning that some sensitive immune system simply cannot tell the difference between the two and think they’re the same so that eating a piece of cheese might be equivalent to eating a piece of bread and all that that implies. You can be on a totally gluten-free diet and yet you can be advancing your coeliac disease by eating dairy if your particular immune system has those two things confused and there’s a lab called Cyrix labs which you don’t yet have in Australia but I know they’re working crazy on getting it there. That is the only lab in the world doing accurate testing in that regard that is able to really identify that.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Let me just stop because here, was a really important thing that I know I learned from you when we first met quite a few years ago and that this is this concept of cross-reactivity because people get very enthusiastic you know, let’s go off gluten, let’s go off dairy and they and many people do and get a positive response but others don’t with an autoimmune condition others don’t go “Oh, well, it really wasn’t effective for me” but hang on… there’s more. Tell us about cross-reactivity you mentioned dairy and gluten but it’s far more complicated than that even.
Nora Gedgaudas: Well, it’s a bit more complicated. So, the substances that have been identified thus far as being potentially cross-reactive with gluten include oats, including gluten-free oats, right. Corn, rice which everybody thinks hypoallergenic it may not be at all for some people it’s just as bad as eating a piece of bread. Millet is another thing, yeast like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, you know, brewer’s yeast or a nutritional yeast is a potential problem. Cross-reactive for some people not for everybody. And dairy is far and away the most common but dairy isn’t just casein, right? It’s… there’s alpha casein, there’s beta casein, there’s whey, there is milk, there’s casein of Morphine.
So, there are a variety of proteins in dairy that has the potential to be immune reactive. And when I did my Cyrix testing I would have predicted that dairy would be fine for me at the time I tested for it. And this was after I wrote “Primal body – Primal mind” so that book was a little bit forgiving of dairy and as long as it’s like raw dairy and organic and from grass-fed animals and all that kind of thing. And I was just doing like raw grass-fed you know organic grass-fed butter and heavy cream and goat milk cheese and sheep milk cheese and the occasional piece of cow cheese and that was it really for me.
I wasn’t drinking milk or doing anything like that and I was doing such high-quality stuff I thought how it could possibly be a problem. I was off the charts immune reactive to every single component of dairy that there was, and it was a profound cross-reactivity for me and I’d already been gluten-free for quite some time, but I was still provoking the potential for initiating autoimmunity in myself and you know and creating inflammation every single time I ate something that I cooked in butter or that I had a cup of tea with heavy cream in it. And that was a huge wake-up call for me because I feel I have become pretty in tune with my body but there’s a clean windshield effect. When you’ve got it muddied with things that are causing inflammation you know you sort of that’s your normal, right? That’s what you kind of feel is the way things are and you know you seem to be above ground and be able to go to work so it seems fine. But now that I’ve removed dairy from that whole thing it’s like a huge, huge difference.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Taking a step back here to autoimmune diseases in general because you mentioned wow, a hundred. I’ve always said there are over 80 but we’re up to 140 or 50 extras. This is actually the body attacking itself and the way it manifests itself is very much ruled by genetics but the mechanism by which it’s initiated is common and I don’t think a lot of people fully appreciate this. Can you run…You know, why are these proteins such a problem? Why are these dairy proteins, these gluten proteins, these cross free activities, what’s the connection? Why does the body start attacking itself?
Nora Gedgaudas: Well, okay. So, now you know dietary antigens are certainly a potential impetus for triggering these things because while in gluten is the great I call it the gateway food sensitivity, and this is an important really, really important piece to this that everyone listening to this needs to understand. Now again number one there’s only one lab in the world doing accurate testing for gluten immune reactivity and there at least nine proteomes of gluten potentially able to cause a profoundly inflammatory response and there’s only one unfortunately that nearly every lab test for and that’s alpha gliadin. You know, an IgA immune reactivity to alpha-gliadin because that’s what’s associated with coeliac disease and coeliac disease is only 12% of what comprises the totality of what can be called gluten immune reactivity and we know that the incidence of coeliac disease alone has increased over 400% in the last 50 years alone. And why is this happening?
So, the other part to this that I need to point out is that you don’t have to have an immune reactivity to gluten at all. In order for it to compromise your gut and compromise your brain because every time you consume any amount of gluten it triggers the release of an enzyme called zonulin which I know sounds like something from a Star Trek movie but zonulin is basically an enzyme that was discovered by Dr. Alessio Fasano from Harvard and it controls gut permeability and blood brain barrier permeability, both. The same mechanisms are controlled by both.
So, when you consume say you eat a little piece of bread, the zonulin release causes your gut to suddenly become hyper permeable and if your digestion is in pristine you know, where you know, almost nobody’s is anymore you have any kind of undigested peptides or any foreign peptides that are able to get through that small that normally very selectively permeable gut lining. Sometimes I call it like the bouncer at the hip LA Club who’s deciding you know, who’s cool and gets in and who’s not and doesn’t get in.
Well, it’s like gluten clubs that bouncer over the head and you know and he is laying there unconscious on the pavement and all the geeks and the weirdos are getting into the club that don’t belong there and you know and wrecking the atmosphere. And that’s one of the things that gluten does is it allows things to pass through the gut that the gut otherwise might not have allowed to get through and then that gets into the superhighway called your bloodstream and it also can get across all important blood-brain barrier and influence and create an inflammatory response in your brain as well. And inflammatory responses are our potential triggering mechanism for these autoimmune processes. So, you know, foreign proteins and those foreign proteins incorporating into our tissues and whatever. Whatever your inherent predisposition is Hashimoto’s for instance runs like crazy in my family. You know, so, that would be my…
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Hashimoto’s being under active thyroid.
Nora Gedgaudas: No, not necessarily under active. It being autoimmune thyroid.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Okay.
Nora Gedgaudas: And your thyroid may be under active or overactive at different times you’ll have symptoms of both that’s one of the characteristics. Sometimes you know, you may feel you know nervous and irritable and have trouble sleeping and all that kind of stuff and there may be other times where you’re really having trouble losing weight or you’re losing the outer third of your eyebrows or you know, you feel cold all the time and have an intolerance to that and all that kind of thing. The numbers are sort of all over the place because you know, they’re your immune system is attacking your thyroid at various times and when it does that and your thyroid starts to break down well, what does the thyroid contain? It contains thyroid hormone. And so, suddenly your body’s flooded with these hormones and that can be extremely agitating.
In fact, psychiatrically there are a lot of similarities and somebody having a full-blown of cytokine reason somebody having a full-blown of cytokine storm it’s not necessarily dissimilar to somebody with bipolar, you know, where they can be suddenly just you know explosively reactive or extremely irritable and then they may go to feeling depressed or anxious.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Well, you know, this… I mean of course you’d call the book “Primal body – Primal mind” and the connections between mind and body are profound and you’ve actually just said the gut permeability and blood-brain barrier permeability so it’s not a stretch to think that what goes on in the gut supposedly called now the second brain affects the brain. But I want to move on to another topic that I know is very popular this is what this podcast is about – Stress. You know, it’s the topic of this podcast and I know I know people are often told that their adrenals are over adrenal glands or overactive or even exhausted. And again, you’ve written another book about this. What are our adrenals telling us?
Nora Gedgaudas: Right. So, the thing to understand about the whole concept of adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout is that it’s not really true. They’re really kind of really is no such thing that most of what natural medicine talks about in those terms is based on 1950 science that was never actually proven to be true. And you know Hans Selye was the brilliant Canadian endocrinologist who way back when actually coined the term stress. He invented that term and he wrote the very first textbook on the subject of stress. And he had a theory that you know adrenals when exposed to progressive levels of stress would become progressively unable to produce healthy amounts of cortisol in response to that stress and eventually you know, your adrenals are in their various stages involved and whatever have you and eventually you know, you just got two smouldering nuggets you know that are poof gone and now you’re burned out and you can’t deal. And it turns out that the signs of stress physiology have basically disproven that theory many times over for a long time now and it’s unfortunate that still has a lot of seems to have a lot of traction and natural health circles. But the thing to understand about the adrenals is that all they are, are two little hormone factories sitting on top of your kidneys and they do what they are told to do by your brain.
So, if your brain is dysfunctional in it and I talk about four different areas of brain function in the book that may relate to adrenal related issues. Okay? It may affect your adrenals ability to function optimally but it’s not the adrenal glands fault or issue. It really has to do with signaling mechanisms, right? The signaling mechanisms the communication between the brain and the adrenals are disregulated in some way preventing the adrenals from doing their job. And more often than not that is what is going on.
Now there is one other possibility and I run into this to a certain percentage of the time maybe may add 10 percent of the time or so that kind of brings us back to autoimmune again for a minute.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: I know it’s all connected.
Nora Gedgaudas: Yeah. You know, I do a lot of Cyrix testing with clients and I’ve seen hundreds of Cyrix reports and I can tell you it is not that unusual to be producing 21 hydroxylase antibodies which are associated with adrenal autoimmunity. But you are not likely to be diagnosed with what is called Addison’s disease until the destruction of those tissues is nearly total. The medical standard of diagnosis is that and this is a big problem that you’re not diagnoseable with Addison’s until at least 90% tissue destruction has occurred. So, if you’re only halfway there 45% I promise you will notice this in every part of the way you feel and function, you’ll be spending fortunes on supplements and running to every you know, you’re going to have counters and cupboards full of supplements you’re going to have all kinds of prescriptions for things and you’ll have no answers because you’re not diagnoseable yet. You know, there’s again only one lab in the world doing accurate testing in a way that is able to catch these things in their earliest stages so that you can actually do something about it so that you don’t end up getting you know, the long-term diagnosis. There are things all kinds of things you can do to modulate your immune system and manage these things extremely well so that you’re completely symptom-free or mostly symptom for possibly even able to go into remission, but you have to know what you’re dealing with first.
So, I don’t want to belabor the autoimmune side to that because I don’t think that that is the majority of these cases but it’s something to bring in the mix as a consideration if you have chronically low cortisol levels that aren’t responding to any of the other things that I talked about.
So, what are the things I do in rethinking fatigue is I outline… I talk about the different ways in which the adrenals become dysregulated, what are the brain-based mechanisms that do this and then I provide a screening tool of sorts that allows you to kind of look at what are the symptoms associated with these different forms of adrenal dysfunction so that you can identify better identify which one is you. And then…
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: What are some examples of those symptoms?
Nora Gedgaudas: Well, you know, for instance, if you have… so there’s a hypothalamic mechanism that’s a really common one. And there is a cluster of cells in the back of that called the pair of ventricular nuclear cells in the back of the hypothalamus that controls the amount of cortisol that your body is going to be releasing at any particular time. And so, it regulates that in a more generalized way. And it turns out that certain types of cytokines can have a profoundly dampening effect on those pair of ventricular nuclear cells.
So, say for instance you get a flu bug or you get some kind of virus, right? And lots of people are walking around with chronic viral infections. Lots of them. Cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr you know Hep-C is you know a problem too, but I mean there all kinds of things out there. And your body generates interferon as a way of producing natural killer cells to go and attack the invading organisms. Well, it turns out that interferon which is an inflammatory cytokine has a profoundly dampening effect on the hypothalamus. And so, your cortisol levels will be in the toilet if you have a chronic viral infection and it just as you would with a flu bug. How do you feel when you have the flu, right? If you’ll totally drag down. And in fact, it turns out that the same type of mechanism not always involving a virus, but certain forms of inflammation seem to be at the heart of what actually is the root cause of most cases of clinical depression. Chronic clinical depression. Depression is not an amino acid deficiency or a neurotransmitter deficiency per se. It is where all the research is going in that arena now is looking at it as a cytokine model.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: And cytokine is for our listener is inflammatory.
Nora Gedgaudas: Yeah.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, go on.
Nora Gedgaudas: Yeah, yeah. So, you feel dragged out and you know you feel like you can’t get up and go and you know you can’t do anything and whatever else. Well, that is one particular mechanism so there’s going to be a certain set of symptoms obviously associated you know with that. And for these various things I basically provide people with okay if you think that this is you based on this profile, here are the tests that you need to take to look at that and here are some of the effective ways of addressing that if in fact that really is the problem, right? And so, I provide an extremely practical step-by-step way of systematically figuring out what is actually going on with all that.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: And I mean people you’ve just said their depression cytokine connection, people don’t often associate mental health with chronic inflammation. Do they? I mean just kind of…
Nora Gedgaudas: No, they don’t. They don’t. People oftentimes don’t necessarily associate mental health with physical health. I had a neurofeedback client once this was a person with the worst case of ADD I’d ever seen in my life. I mean it was horrible and I mean she was missing the appointment she’d forget, “Oh, gee, I forgot”. You know, she was just obsessed with constantly distracted by her Blackberry and you know, whatever and this was somebody with lots of problems with anxiety and depression and couldn’t sleep and you know had all these problems and issues.
And so, I’m trying to train her brain and we’re not getting very far because she’s got major hypoglycaemic issues and that was really apparent. It’s like “What have you eaten today?- Oh, you know, I had yeah, I just had coffee this morning and I had a couple of Red Bulls around lunchtime and then I had a pastry at 2:00 o’clock afternoon or something”. And it’s like all right you know girlfriend you are in a world of hurt. At one point I just said look we’re not going to get anywhere until we start to address some foundational dietary issues because I don’t care what kind of therapeutic approach you’ve got and how effective it is, and I can be doing the best-quality protocol in the world, you know, neurofeedback protocol, it’s not going to put a nutrient there that’s not there. It’s not going to take away some interfering substance that doesn’t belong and the brain the body needs certain raw materials in order to function and her body was just a mess.
And she said, “Well, why would you think we’d have to talk about nutrition?” She says, “I’m perfectly healthy”. You know, she said, “I get up and go to work. I don’t remember the last time I was sick you know I have a look at all the energy I’ve got”. I’m like you know you’re confusing energy with neuroticism. They’re not the same thing. Caffeine doesn’t give you energy. Caffeine is a stimulant and when you’re hopped up on stimulants you don’t need to not confuse that with actual physical energy, right? They’re not the same thing. And she said yeah but I’m healthy and I don’t you know, whatever and I and I held up her progress chart where she listed all of her problems and I said look at this you know, last I looked your head was screwed onto your body, right? These things are all in outgrowth all that for instance emotions are, are just simply biochemical storms in your body and brain. And the healthier your underlying biochemistry you know the better the forecast is likely to be, right?
And so, in her case, the forecast was always a mess and she couldn’t associate that with anything that she was eating because she didn’t think physical health and mental health were related in any way or cognitive you know we’re related in any way.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, look that’s actually quite a good point at which to go onto this subject of fats because I think our relationship with fat is one of the major problems that we’ve faced over the last 30-40 years. And can you share with our listener how you see fats and why in fact healthy fats are our friends?
Nora Gedgaudas: Yes. Well, they’re more than just our friends and I make the case on my newest book “Primal Fat Burner” which by the way is not inherently a weight-loss book although it will probably be everybody’s favourite side effect from the material. But it’s about adopting a metabolism that’s based on burning fat instead of sugar as a primary source of fuel, but I also put forward a couple of I think fairly revolutionary hypotheses, but it’s also extremely well supported by the evidence I supply. And that is that that dietary fat and fat-soluble nutrients including and in fact especially those coming from animal source foods are not only central to optimizing human health, but they are quite literally central to what made us human in the first place.
And of course, the distinguishing characteristic that makes us the most human are our brains. Are very large abnormally large brains when it comes to anything else in the animal kingdom. And our brain size tripled from the time we were dragging our knuckles on the African savannah to about 20,000 years ago. Our brain size at least tripled in that amount of time which is unprecedented in the biological world you know, in a whole of the animal kingdom there’s never been anything else like it.
Now our closest relative of course primate relative everybody knows is a chimpanzee and they have a brain that is absolutely no bigger somewhere between 250 and 500 cubic centimeters depending on the species of chimp and that hasn’t changed in about seven million years. Why is that? Because they haven’t changed what they eat or how they do anything they’re still you know swinging from vines and knowing and noshing on those leaves and bananas and their brain function is they haven’t made a lot of changes that have since occurred and it’s somewhere along the line some intrepid ancestor chimp-like ancestor set foot on the African savannah stood up on two legs, it stood upright and developed opposable thumbs that were able to wrap around something like a spear. And this was following a tremendous upheaval of climate change that occurred that created the impetus for certain primates to try something different. And they developed a taste for meat.
Now, all great apes actually eat some meat. You know, there’s a book by Craig Stanford called the “Hunting Apes”, you know he’s a he’s a scholar and a primatologist and all that kind of thing anthropologist. And with the notable exception of certain herbivores gorillas who by the way have a brain only about a third of the size that would be expected for their size. Certainly, as compared to humans of similar size. You know, what happened is that this primate ancestor and an Australopithecus afarensis is the first example that we have found of that, used stone tools it turns out the 3.4 million years ago to cleave meat and marrow from bones and developed you know started to develop a more voracious appetite for meat and fat and probably started out scavenging. But by 2 million years ago when the first member of the genus Homo which was Homo erectus stepped out onto the savannah by that point we already had a full time hunting economy, all right? Our ancestors had a full-time hunting economy. And we developed the most unusually a voracious appetite for fat of any other primate out there. And the smarter we became and by the way, our brains are constructed from the very fats that we supply them with, with what it is that we choose to eat and it’s extremely interesting because the two fatty acids most responsible for our unique human cognition are these 20 and 22 carbon fatty acids. Arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. Which are found exclusively within the diet in animal source foods. And chimpanzees you know the primary fatty acids that characterize other great kind of cognition our omega-6 based. For us, it’s omega-3 based.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: But the other aspect… I mean the evolutionary aspect of it is fascinating. And the other aspect of it is that we are being led to believe that we need glucose/carbohydrates to fuel our brains and our bodies. It’s not necessarily true, is it?
Nora Gedgaudas: No, it’s not. It’s a very misleading thing. It’s only true if a person has cultivated a dependence on glucose as a primary source of fuel with what it is that they choose to eat. In other words, if you’re eating a high carbohydrate diet your body is going to become adapted to relying on glucose as a primary source of fuel. I basically talk about carbohydrates in the context of being fundamentally metabolic kindling. We were never meant to rely on it as a full-time source of fuel. The so-called complex carbohydrates were all told we need to be basing our diet on, you know here in the United States it’s the United States Department of Agriculture that makes that recommendation, right? No conflict of interest there. Your whole grains and your legumes and your brown rice and your sweet potatoes and things like that are all the equivalent of twigs thrown on your metabolic fire. Now white rice, white potatoes, pasta, bread crap like that are all basically the equivalent of having crumpled up paper thrown on that metabolic fire. And then sugary things you know, and sugary beverages especially and certain you know sweet alcoholic beverages and things of that nature can basically be viewed as lighter fluid or gasoline on that metabolic fire.
Now if you had a wood stove that you were using to heat your house with although you and Australia may not identify with this analogy too well but I’m for Minnesota so that worked well for me. You could certainly heat your house using nothing but kindling but what would you be doing? The door so that wood stove would be wide open, and you’d be constantly preoccupied with where the next handful of fuel was going to come from to keep that fire going. And God forbid you should get distracted and tried to live your life or heaven forbid try to sleep through the night and yes there’s an analogy here and suddenly at 3 o’clock in the morning you wake up and the house is freezing cold and you go and you’re running you look in the wood stove and the fires going out and oh, my God you’re it panicked and now you’re crumpling of paper and throwing that in there and using the lighter fluid to get the fire going again because it ran out of kindling. But what’s the alternative to this? Well, what if you were to take a nice big fat log and throw that on the fire instead? Now you’re effectively free.
You know, that’s going to burn long and slow and evenly and you’re going to be able to go about living your life and you’re not going to be preoccupied with where the next handful of fuel is coming from. You know cravings for things tend to just kind of evaporate, you’re satisfied for much longer periods of time. And fat is one of these fuels that you can draw upon for energy for your brain and for literally every organ and tissue in your body on an ongoing basis even in the absence of regular meals and while talking even for days and weeks not just for a few hours.
But the thing is that I can’t think of a single multinational corporate interest that would not be heavily invested in every man, woman and child on planet Earth eating a carbohydrate-based diet because it’s incredibly cheap and easy to produce. It’s almost immeasurably profitable. I mean there’s no way you can make a five thousand percent profit on a grass-fed steak like you can a box of cereal and it keeps whoever is eating a diet like this more or less perpetually hungry. So, hey fabulous for Monsanto and Kellogg’s and Kraft and whatever else and for Jenny Craig but not so fabulous for you and me. I call it a form of metabolic enslavement and we know now just this last year there was a huge expose in the New York Times that basically, they uncovered evidence to prove that all of you know, the finger pointing, and dietary fat is the culprits in heart disease and diabetes and all kinds of you know basically whatever ails us and obesity. All of it was basically based on influenced by the sugar industry. They were paying off researchers left and right to conceal the evidence that was emerging that actually it was the increased consumption of dietary sugars and carbohydrates in the diet that was in fact leading to the obesity and heart disease epidemic and they instead turned the tables and decided to blame dietary fat for this and that has been disproven now so many times over that it’s absurd but if you speak a lie enough times and loud enough it becomes you know, like a self-evident fact even when there’s no evidence to support it, no real evidence that wasn’t ghost written or where that wasn’t influenced adversely influenced by some industry.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: That message is a recurring theme on this podcast and certainly in my book too. Listen we’ve covered so much territory here I want to just finish last. You just warmed up I know, I know. But listen, I want to ask you this one last question, what do you think and there’s taking a step back from this whole issue in general, what do you think the greatest challenges that people face in our modern world on their health journey through life? What do you think that is?
Nora Gedgaudas: You know, I think immune dysregulation has to be you know, obviously metabolic dysregulation is a huge problem, but you know, also immune dysregulation. And that’s being triggered by so many things and it’s one of those things that again is less visible, it’s not necessarily outwardly visible although if somebody’s suffering in you know chronic systemic inflammation they might look a bit puffier and it may be harder to lose weight and all that kind of a thing for sure. Sometimes it’s one of those primary impetuses for resistant weight loss but you know certainly metabolic diseases are on the rise and cancer is expected to increase more than 70 percent over the next 20 years and I think that number is quite low actually, I think that’s low balling it. Things like autoimmunity, cancer and other types of for instance infectious diseases and things like that. Our immune systems are extremely compromised.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah.
Nora Gedgaudas: And you know dietary antigens are a major impetus for those kinds of compromises as are environmental antigens, all kinds of chemicals and heavy metals and things like that that can also lead to further compromise. I’d say it’s a combination of both metabolic and immune-related problems.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Great. Nora always fabulous talking with you. We’re going to have links to your website. I know you’re doing a primal restoration program, we’ll have links to that and those three fabulous…
Nora Gedgaudas: Yeah, that’s a 52-week educational program that’s accredited.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, we’ll have links to all of that on our website. So, thank you so much for joining us today.
Nora Gedgaudas: Oh, it’s an honour and a pleasure as always Ron. It’s always great talking to you.
Dr. Ron Ehrlich: Nora’s books are so well written. We’ll have links to them in the show notes. The titles themselves tell a story as I mentioned: “Primal body – Primal mind” – The subtitle being beyond paleo for total health and a longer life. Then she went on to write “Rethinking fatigue” – What your adrenals are telling you and what you can do about it and more recently she wrote “Primal fat burner”. And here’s the byline – Live longer, slow aging, superpower your brain, save your life with a high-fat low carb diet.
Now that may have been quite a mouthful excuse the pun but certainly a worthy goal I’m sure you’ll agree. Now don’t forget to do some great reviews on iTunes now interesting aside here we invite a lot of people and I have to say almost everyone accepts my invitation which is just lovely. I love talking to our guests but last week a very high-profile person in the wellness field replied that regrettably, they could only accept requests from shows that attracted over a hundred thousand listeners per week. I said okay we’re not there yet, but I’ll give you a call in a few months’ time. So, do leave some reviews on iTunes we want to get up to that number if we can. So, until next time this is Dr. Ron Ehrlich, be well.
This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions and experiences and conclusions.