Category Archives: Therapeutic Diets

Experiences, Good and Bad, On the Diet

A number of people have now given us feedback after starting the diet, and I think this is a good time to review the effects, good and bad, that people have experienced.

In upcoming posts, I’ll discuss the negative experiences further and explore possible causes.

Positive Experiences

It’s gratifying that most people who have tried our diet have reported very positive experiences. Those who read the comment threads or Amazon reviews will have seen some of them; I get others via email.

Here are two from Amazon reviews:

I have battled Celiac disease for some time and got about 80% better with a Paleo diet… but the Perfect Health Diet was the first book that could finally answer that last 20% with science based logic. (Jordan Reasoner)

UPDATE: Jordan has an e-book, SCD Lifestyle: Surviving to Thriving, which looks great for bowel disease sufferers. He gives us an update on his personal progress in the comments.

I can’t believe how much better I feel!…

I had been eating (very) low-carb and high-protein for the better part of a decade – and I had gotten a lot of practice arrogantly dismissing suggestions (from any source) that I should change anything about my diet….

Results: (after 1.5 months or so.)

  1. I’m no longer “brain-dead” and unable to think in the evenings after work.
  2. I no longer have fruit or chocolate cravings.
  3. I’m much happier, and wake up looking forward to the day.
  4. I’ve been much more social.
  5. The extra starch has not resulted in weight gain. (I always gained weight when eating carbs before.)
  6. It looks like the fasting (which I’ve never tried before) is helping my alertness and also contributing to healthy weight loss.

It took less than a week for me to notice dramatic changes….

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. (gp2x)

Here are two from the last few days’ comments.

Yours is by far, the best Paleo / Ancestral diet that makes sense….  I was very strict Paleo for a good 8 months, and yes felt fantastic and lost 10ks etc.  But then started feeling tired, moody.  Enter some carbs (from the suggestion of your book) in the source of potato and rice and taro – and now I’m feeling a whole lot better.  Did I put on weight.  Of course not!  Essentially now I eat what my body craves.  I can listen to it now and it responds accordingly.  It knows when it needs more carbs (eg., after exercise).  And it knows how much as well. (Lisa Weis)

Since reading Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories my life has been transformed. Who knew that butter was a healthy food.  Previous to reading GCBC I was a fruit fiend.  I ate bowls and bowls of cherries this past summer and wondered by I could not lose weight.  I reached my weight loss goals by eliminating grains and limiting dairy to butter and cream and reducing fruit intake.  That said, over the last month or so, I was wondering why my body seemed to be drying out from the inside out.  I want to tweak my diet to optimum health and found your book. The information about the importance of mucin was helpful.  What was missing in my diet was the carbs that you and the missus recommend.  Sweet potatos, white rice etc.  Maybe less protein than I’ve been eating and more saturated fat.  (I’m alarmed by the stomach and other cancers suffered by long term adherence to the Optimal diet …)  I’m having better results every day.  I am fascinated that I have a laboratory of my own body to put your ideas to a test and have them show positive results.  Thank you both so much for your work and above responses to questions and comments. (Doris)

I think these positive experiences are impressive considering that most of our readers have come from the low-carb Paleo community. Low-carb Paleo diets are far healthier than the Standard American Diet, and so improving health further is quite an accomplishment.

Another group that we are trying to help are people with chronic diseases. Probably most readers who did not arrive from the low-carb Paleo community have come from the chronic disease community. It’s a little early to report results, but at least some people are finding promise in our diet. Natalie wrote:

As someone dealing with chronic disease (a very unfun combination of Lyme, Babesia, and Bartonella), I know I’m always looking to find out more of what has worked and what did not work for others.

This blog along with many of the readers of this blog have been a tremendous help to me personally.  For example, I now know I can avoid the daily “coma naps” if I don’t go crazy on the carbohydrates.  I’ve actually received some excellent diet advice from my doctor, but he never told me to chill on the carbs!  (Natalie)

Ketogenic diets are frequently mentioned by us as potentially therapeutic for many diseases. I’ve blogged previously about Claire’s discovery that ketogenic diets help her gastroparesis and Rob’s suppression of his lifelong migraines through fasting and ketogenic dieting.  

As more chronic disease sufferers try the diet – for instance, Darren who has Lyme disease – we hope to prove that the Perfect Health Diet in conjunction with antibiotic therapies can lead to cures for these difficult-to-treat conditions.

Negative Experiences

So far, all the negative experiences I am aware of have come from low-carb dieters who had difficulty after adding carbs and/or cutting protein.

Don Matesz is an interesting case, because his own diet was already a “Perfect Health Diet.” His diet, if I’m not mistaken, was in the low end of our carb range and high end of our protein range. As a test he reduced protein and added carbs, heading toward the high end of our carb range and low end of our protein range. He didn’t like the results:

Just to experiment, for a couple of days Tracy and I reduced our meat intake by half.  I reduced my meat intake from more than a pound daily to just about one-half pound, and, as the Jaminets suggest, replaced the protein with starchy carbohydrates (potatoes and sweet potatoes).  For both Tracy and I, this resulted in a noticeable decline in mood and a dramatic increase in hunger and intestinal gas, along with a disruption of bowel function….

UPDATE: Don says that he does best eating above the bottom end of our optimal carb range, but that for years he has gotten into trouble whenever carbs reach 100g/day (the middle of our optimal range). It sounds to me like an unresolved gut dysbiosis.

Don’s commenter SamAbroad had a similar experience with reducing protein intake:

But I’ve also been following the PHD, and to be honest, I am so hungry and cranky when I restrict protein.

UPDATE: SamAbroad turns out to be our Sarah, and she says that the Perfect Health Diet “has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health.” Maybe we should move her to the Positive Experiences group!

I’m still following the diet, I eat circa 100g carbs from starch a day not including veg and this has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health along with including a vitamin C supplement. My low-level depression and anxiety have completely disappeared and the diet is considerably more varied and easier to stick to than VLC.

Sarah’s issue is that she needs to eat at least the midrange of our carb+protein “plateau range,” for reasons as yet unknown.

Chris Masterjohn had trouble with sweet potatoes:

Although sweet potatoes are considered a safe starch on the Perfect Health Diet, they are not very safe for me. When I discovered how yummy sweet potato fries are, I started eating several sweet potatoes per day. Within a few days, I was limping and my neck was stiff. By the end of the week, my limp was extreme. I looked online to see if I was eating anything high in oxalates, and sure enough, sweet potatoes are loaded with them. My symptoms dramatically improved after one day off sweet potatoes and were gone the second day.

Chris’s commenter Lisa also had trouble with sweet potatoes:

I’ve been very achy since I started eating sweet potatoes daily. Why would some of us be maladapted to oxalates?… I’m wondering if after a long stint of LC/paleo eating I’ve become intolerant to oxalates or to starch in general.

UPDATE: We discuss possible reasons for problems with sweet potatoes here.

Several people have gained weight after starting the diet. This Amazon review doesn’t come right and say that the reviewer experienced weight gain, but I’m guessing that was the case:

It is worth emphasizing what another reviewer noted: The Perfect Health Diet is not focused on weight loss. In fact, if you are coming to the diet from a zero-carb or very-low-carb regimen, you can count on an immediate and substantial weight gain if you suddenly adopt the recommended intake of “400 carb calories [100 grams] per day of starchy tubers, rice, fruit, and berries.” (K. Hix)

From the comments, Maggy reported weight gain:

Following your advice, I added back a bit of “safe starch” last week, and decreased protein intake, keeping sat fat and MCF pretty high. Well, I got on the scale today and have managed to put on 5 pounds! I’m trying to figure out what is going on and what I need to tweak. I do need to lose a good 20-30 lbs, and while I don’t want to compromise health, I also don’t want to put back on what I managed to lose doing a VLC diet.

Is this an adjustment period I need to get through? Maybe I’m one of those broken metabolism folks who has to stick with VLC? (Maggy)

These negative experiences will be the subject of my next few posts.

Because individuals are so variable, it is often not possible to figure out what is going on without experimentation with different dietary variations and considerable communication. Therefore, I’m most grateful to people like Maggy who are willing to experiment and share their experiences with us.

Conclusion

It’s interesting that the same dietary change – adding “safe starches” to a low-carb Paleo diet – made some people feel better and others worse.

This series may also lead us into the question of trade-offs in diet. These trade-offs may cause different people to prefer different diets. For instance:

  • Shifting from lean-meat-and-vegetables to starches and fats may increase the pleasure of eating and improve health in some, but promote weight gain in others.
  • Higher protein may promote athleticism and fertility, but shorten lifespan (as it does in some animals).

In writing our book, we tried to present the evidence underlying all of our recommendations, and provide healthy ranges for the various nutrients with explanation why the reader might prefer to be at the high or low ends of the range. Our goal was to empower each reader to find his or her own “perfect health diet,” not to rigidly prescribe a specific way of eating.

But negative experiences on a diet can also have diagnostic value. For instance, when I first adopted a low-carb Paleo diet I developed severe fungal skin infections. The new diet revealed an infection I hadn’t known I had. For this reason, even negative experiences can be beneficial, as they may open a path to curing an underlying but hitherto concealed health problem.

We see this blog as a communal enterprise, in which we and our readers together try to discover the truth about diet and health. Therefore, we hope that anyone who does have negative experiences on the diet will not hesitate to report them in the comment threads and work with us to discover the cause.

Eleven Steps for Overcoming Alzheimer’s and Other Chronic Infectious Diseases

If Alzheimer’s is due to bacterial infection, as I suggested yesterday (http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=126), then it can be treated by diet, supplements, and antibiotics.

Here are eleven steps that can help defeat chronic bacterial infections, including the infections that cause Alzheimer’s. (Note:  I will justify each of these eleven steps, and cite to the scientific literature, in follow-up posts.)

1. Normalization of Vitamin D Levels.

Vitamin D is needed for the transcription of anti-microbial peptides, such as the cathelicidin LL-37 and beta-defensin, which are essential for defense against intracellular bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for every chronic infection, and chronic infections tend to increase in frequency with latitude and progress most rapidly during the winter when vitamin D levels are low.  In general, a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 level of 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L in SI units) is a good target. (Some people, such as Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council, believe there may be benefits to higher levels, but this is speculative.)

2. Restriction of Carb Intake to 400 Calories Per Day.

Eating a carb-rich diet is doubly bad:  it increases blood glucose levels and triggers insulin release, both of which promote bacterial infections.

Intracellular parasitic bacteria need glucose or its glycolytic products to obtain energy. Abundant cellular glucose, caused by high blood glucose levels, enable them to reproduce and generate immune-impairing proteins more prolifically.

Insulin represses immune defenses against parasitic bacteria, by blocking production of antimicrobial peptides.

To keep both blood glucose and insulin levels low, carbohydrate consumption should be restricted to about 400 calories per day – the amount in 0.3 pounds of cooked white rice, or 1.3 pounds of sweet potatoes.

3. Restriction of Protein.

Eating minimal protein helps in two ways: it deprives bacteria of amino acids necessary for growth, like tryptophan; and it promotes autophagy, the primary means by which cells kill intracellular pathogens.

Indeed, the body’s primary defense mechanism against C. pneumoniae is tryptophan deprivation. This is why people with chronic brain infections have symptoms of serotonin deprivation, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, impaired ability to concentrate, and low self-confidence. It’s important not to relieve this by tryptophan or 5-HTP supplementation, both of which promote bacterial growth. If symptoms are intolerable, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, like Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft, might be able to provide symptomatic relief. (NB: We neither recommend nor disparage these drugs.)

4. Intermittent Fasting

Autophagy is the garbage collection and recycling process of human cells.  When resources are scarce, cells turn on recycling programs and send garbage collectors known as lysosomes to engulf and digest junk proteins and damaged organelles, enabling re-use of their amino and fatty acids.

Autophagy is a key part of the immune defense against parasitic bacteria.  Lysosomes not only digest human junk, they seek out bacteria and digest them. 

Autophagy is strongly turned after about 16 hours of fasting. The longer one fasts, the more parasitic bacteria are destroyed in lysosomes.  Fasting is an easy way to improve the relative balance of power between your body and intracellular pathogens. Fasting strongly promotes autophagy in neurons, and is of therapeutic value for Alzheimer’s.

A simple strategy of intermittent fasting is to confine meals to an 8-hour window each day, thus engaging in a daily 16 hour fast.  On this strategy, one might eat only between noon and 8 pm.

5. Ketogenic Fasting.

Two dangers of fasting are that it can lead to loss of muscle tissue as protein is consumed to generate ketones and glucose, and that neurons may be put under stress by glucose deprivation.

Both dangers can be ameliorated by eating ketogenic fats during the fast.  “Ketogenic” means generative of ketone bodies. Ketone bodies, which are generated from fats or some proteins during fasting, are the only neuronal energy source that bacteria can’t steal. There is a large literature showing that high circulating ketone levels are neuroprotective, and ketogenic diets have been successfully tested as Alzheimer’s therapies.

The most ketogenic fats are the short- and medium-chain fats found abundantly in coconut oil. Taking plentiful fat calories from coconut oil, but no carb or protein calories and few other fats, can enable fasts to be extended substantially longer with minimal loss of muscle tissue or neuronal stress.

On a ketogenic fast, eliminate carbs and protein for a 36-hour period, from dinner one day to breakfast on the second day.  During the intervening day, eat no protein or carbs, but do eat as much coconut oil as you like.

There is no limit on how much coconut oil may be consumed – but 12 tablespoons per day would produce a surfeit of ketones. NB: Always drink plenty of water during a fast. We also drink coffee with plentiful heavy cream.

6. Elimination of Wheat and Other Grains. 

Wheat is a toxic food that interferes with immune defenses and impairs vitamin D function. It also generates antibodies to the thyroid, which damage the thyroid status and further impair immune function.

7. Elimination of Omega-6-Rich Oils and Inclusion of Omega-3-Rich Fish.

A diet that minimizes omega-6 content by replacing soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, and other omega-6 rich oils with butter, coconut oil, and beef tallow, and gets adequate omega-3 fats by eating salmon or other cold-water fish, optimizes the immune defense against intracellular pathogens.

A high omega-6 and low omega-3 diet weakens immune defenses against intracellular pathogens and re-directs the immune system toward extracellular threats.

Note that the combination of carbohydrate, protein, and omega-6 fat restriction necessarily means that half or more of calories should be obtained from saturated and monounsaturated fats.  It is important not to have a saturated fat phobia if you want to escape or defeat Alzheimer’s!

8. Fructose Minimization.

Fructose is a toxin and is deprecated on the Perfect Health Diet. One of its worst features is that promotes infections. In mice, blood levels of endotoxin, a bacterial waste product, are higher on a fructose-rich diet than on any other diet.

Therefore, sugary foods like soft drinks should be eliminated.  Fruit and berries are OK in moderation.  We recommend no more than 2 portions of fruit and berries per day. Most carb calories should be obtained from starchy foods, like sweet potatoes or taro or white rice.

9. Melatonin supplementation. 

Whereas vitamin D is the “daylight hormone,” melatonin is the “hormone of darkness.”  It is generated during sleep, and is favored by darkness.  Even a little bit of light at night, like the LEDs of an alarm clock or streetlights shining through a window, can disrupt melatonin production.

Melatonin is extremely important, not least because it has powerful antibiotic effects.

To maximize melatonin production, everyone should sleep in a totally darkened room, with windows covered by opaque drapes and all lights extinguished and LCD or LED clocks turned face down.

Unfortunately, people with chronic bacterial infections will generally still be melatonin-deficient, for the same reason they are serotonin-deficient:  melatonin is derived from tryptophan and serotonin. Fortunately, melatonin is easily supplemented.

A melatonin tablet can be allowed to dissolve in the mouth just before bed. High doses will generally produce a deep sleep followed by early waking; this can be remedied by using time-release capsules, or by reducing the dose.

10. Selenium and Iodine Supplementation and Thyroid Normalization.

This is basic for good health in all contexts, but optimizing thyroid hormone levels and maintaining iodine and selenium status are especially important for anyone with an infection.

Both selenium and iodine are required for proper immune function. To get iodine, white blood cells will strip iodine from thyroid hormone; for this reason, people with chronic infections are often somewhat hypothyroid, as indicated by TSH levels above 1.5.

There are too many tricks and pitfalls to thyroid normalization to describe the whole issue here, but a good start is to eliminate wheat from the diet, and to obtain 200 mcg selenium and at least 400 mcg iodine per day. Do not get too much selenium as it is toxic.  Selenium and iodine may be obtained from foods:  two to three Brazil nuts a day for selenium, and seaweed for iodine.

11. Vitamin C and Glutathione or NAC Supplementation.

These are important for immune function. Vitamin C supplementation is an important safety precaution because infections greatly increase the rate of loss of vitamin C, and can generate tissue scurvy with devastating consequences.

Glutathione is destroyed by stomach acid. We recommend buying reduced glutathione and taking it with a full glass of water on an empty stomach, at least 2 hours after and 1 hour before taking food. Alternatively, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and glycine-rich foods like gelatin may be taken to promote glutathione synthesis.

Conclusion

This is by no means an exhaustive list of dietary and nutritional steps that can help against chronic infections.  However, we believe these are the most powerful and important steps.

Alzheimer’s and other diseases caused by chronic bacterial infections – possibly including multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndromes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and many others – are preventable, treatable, and often curable.  These dietary steps, along with appropriate antibiotic therapy, are keys to a cure.