Monthly Archives: August 2015 - Page 2

New Event: The Keto Kids Club, October 22

I’m pleased to announce a new group and an upcoming event, at which I’ll be speaking. The Keto Kids Club is a support group for families with children who suffer from neurological disorders. The Club aims to help parents find healing diets for their sick children.

The Keto Kids Club is holding their first annual family event on October 22 this year at the St. Barnabas Ambulatory Care Center, 200 S. Orange Avenue, Livingston, New Jersey. The goal of this event is to bring together a community of families to meet, discuss and learn new strategies to implement successful dietary therapies for neurological disorders, such as the ketogenic diet for epilepsy.

The tentative program:

  • 4:00-5:00pm Mingle and introductory remarks by Dr. Rina Goldberg, MD of Saint Barnabas Medical Center
  • 5:00-5:30pm Open Panel with Kids, coordinated by Courtney Schnabel Glick, RD, Coordinator of the Ketogenic Diet Program, NYU Langone Medical Center
  • 5:30pm-7:00pm Speakers:
    • Orrin Devinsky, MD, Director of NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
    • Eric Kossof, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
    • Paul Jaminet, PhD, author of Perfect Health Diet (Scribner, 2012)
  • 7:00-8:00pm Reception

For more information about the event, visit their website,, or Facebook page, It’s a great group of people and a good cause.

Keto Kids Club Invite

Sue R. on the Perfect Health Retreat

Sue R., of Liverpool, New York, was a guest at the October 2014 Perfect Health Retreat. Sue kindly recorded a video for us discussing her experience at the retreat.

Some highlights:

  • “It was very helpful to think that someone could show me what it was that I needed to do. … I thought maybe this is going to help, I hope this is going to help. So I chose to come. And I am so glad I did. It was so helpful. I got everything I needed and more.”
  • “I really appreciated hearing the science behind it … It all made a lot of sense.”
  • “We exercised three times a day. I never in a million years thought I was going to be able to exercise again, much less exercise three times a day. And I was doing things I didn’t think I could do.”
  • “Everybody was so compassionate and patient and helpful with me.”
  • “I appreciate this whole week because now I have hope.”
  • “The cooking classes were very enjoyable.”
  • “The number one thing for me was to be able to exercise and to do it without pain…. I had never dreamt of running.… I actually went out again today on my own and ran. I’m so tickled, I’m so tickled. I can’t wait to go out and do more.”
  • “I would definitely recommend the retreat to other people…. Everybody is so helpful, all the staff, Paul. Compassionate, caring, and it’s very personalized … Almost all of us had our own laundry list of problems, and we all got personalized help, exactly what we needed. That’s just so helpful, you can’t get that kind of help in a medical office.”
  • “I would strongly recommend it.”

Thank you Sue!

We are taking reservations now for the next Perfect Health Retreat to be held October 10-17, 2015. Don’t miss this opportunity for a luxurious vacation combined with a week of learning that will pay a lifetime of dividends.

To learn about the retreat, visit the various web pages under the Perfect Health Retreat tab, starting here. To reserve a room or for more information, please contact Paul Jaminet at or Whitney Ross Gray at


The Virtues of Spicy Food

I’ve been blogging recently about gut health, and emphasizing that an impaired gut often leads to systemic diseases (“Disease Begins in the Mucus,” June 23, 2015).

Impairment of the gut most commonly comes from (or is associated with) infections, or what amounts to the same thing, microbial overgrowth. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a very common disorder, afflicting about 5% of younger adults and 15% of older adults. [1]

If SIBO is a precursor to systemic diseases, then any intervention that clears germs from the small intestine should help prevent disease.

Spices: A Natural and Beneficial Antibiotic

The traditional cooking spices, such as onions, garlic, and ginger, are all antimicrobial. [3] So if clearing microbes out of the small intestine is important for health, then eating spicy food should be a good thing. The hotter, perhaps, the better: the hottest spice, chili peppers, are known for their antimicrobial and antiviral properties. [4]

But how large are the benefits of including spices on food? Evidence toward an answer comes from a new study out of China [2] using the China Kadoorie Biobank database. The study asked 487,000 people at baseline, “During the past month, about how often did you eat hot spicy foods?” Then it tracked their health outcomes for 7 years and analyzed death rates as a function of the number of spicy meals consumed per week. In this case, “hot spicy foods” means meals with chili peppers or chili oil.

Interestingly, the mortality benefits of spicing food were large. Here’s a table showing the relative risk of dying from various causes, as a function of chili pepper consumption:

  No spicy meals Spices eaten 1-2 days per week Spices eaten 3-5 days per week Spices eaten 6-7 days per week
Death from all causes 1.00 0.90 0.85 0.83
Death from cancer 1.00 0.96 1.01 0.95
Death from heart disease 1.00 0.83 0.75 0.73
Death from diabetes 1.00 0.77 0.46 0.59
Death from respiratory disease 1.00 0.60 0.59 0.57
Death from infections 1.00 0.87 0.68 0.71
Death from all other causes 1.00 0.90 0.89 0.81

The biggest benefits were for diabetes and respiratory disease, then infectious disease and heart disease. This makes sense:

  • Diabetes is probably often caused by small intestinal infections that spread to the pancreas.
  • Respiratory pathogens infect the mouth and throat, where food spices can kill them; also, they are frequently swallowed, after which they can infect the gut as well.
  • Systemic diseases often enter the body through the gut, so anything that clears pathogens from the gut will reduce infectious disease.
  • Heart disease is also known to have a major infectious component.

In the subgroup analyses, there were some interesting correlations. Here’s Figure 2 from the paper:


The interesting thing here is that alcohol consumption eliminates the benefits of chili pepper consumption. Alcohol intake is a known cause of SIBO [1], and possibly the alcohol is removing the beneficial effects of the chili peppers.

Another interesting finding was that fresh chili pepper seemed to be more protective than dried chili pepper or chili oil. Probably there are more bioactive and antimicrobial compounds in the fresh peppers.

Neurotoxicity: Pro or Con?

The study authors note that capsaicin in chili peppers has complex biological effects. So it’s possible that not all the benefits of chili peppers were due to antimicrobial action in the small intestine.

Razib Khan, tongue in cheek, suggests another possibility: maybe chili peppers kill off the neurons of the gut. Capsaicin is a ligand for the pain receptor TRPV1 on neurons; this is why eating hot chilis can be painful. In high doses, capsaicin can actually kill neurons. [5]

Now, it happens that TRPV1 knockout mice live 14% longer than wild type mice [6]. If capsaicin could kill off the TRPV1-positive neurons, then maybe the effect on longevity would be the same as in the knockout mice, who have the neurons but not TRPV1.

Entertaining as this idea is, it would require massive chili pepper consumption. Rats lost neurons after intraperiotoneal injection of 125 mg capsaicin per kg body weight, equivalent to 10 g in humans [5]. Since pure capsaicin has a rating of 16,000,000 on the Scoville scale, ten times hotter than the hottest known pepper, this would be like taking 100 grams of the Carolina Reaper, 600 grams per day of habanero chilis, 6000 grams of serrano peppers, or 60,000 grams of jalapeño peppers. I don’t know about you but I would rather not eat a hundred pounds of jalapeño peppers, at least not at one sitting.

Another consideration is that the chili consumption would have to be sustained. Capsaicin can kill neurons, but if you stop eating the chilis, the neurons come back. [5] [7]

More fundamentally, the neurons of the gut are crucial for digestion, gut motility, and tissue healing. Losing those neurons would itself be a potential cause of SIBO and all the diseases against which chili peppers are protective.


Killing off neurons seems an unlikely path to health; nor is it likely a good thing to make your soup so spicy that it burns a hole in your stomach, as happened to one Chinese man.

The best course, it appears, is to eat chili peppers, but in moderation. Nearly all the benefits are obtained with a couple of hot and spicy meals per week.

Reminder: The Perfect Health Retreat

The October Perfect Health Retreat, taking place October 10-17, still has spots remaining. If you’d like to learn PHD home cooking from Shou-Ching, the science of good health from me, and a course in movement and relaxation from our star trainers Court Wing and Jae Chung, plus health coaching from me, while enjoying a delightful time on a magnificent beach and luxury property with hot tubs and pools, come to the retreat!

For more information, see our web pages or write me at


[1] Dukowicz AC, Lacy BE, Levine GM. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a comprehensive review. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2007 Feb;3(2):112-22.

[2] Lv J et al. Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study. BMJ 2015;351:h3942. Full text:

[3] Sherman PW, Billing J. Darwinian Gastronomy: Why We Use Spices. BioScience 49(6) June 1999: 453-463.

[4] Khan FA, Mahmood T, Ali M, Saeed A, Maalik A. Pharmacological importance of an ethnobotanical plant: Capsicum annuum L. Nat Prod Res. 2014;28(16):1267-74.

[5] Czaja K, Burns GA, Ritter RC. Capsaicin-induced neuronal death and proliferation of the primary sensory neurons located in the nodose ganglia of adult rats. Neuroscience. 2008 Jun 23;154(2):621-30.

[6] Riera CE et al. TRPV1 pain receptors regulate longevity and metabolism by neuropeptide signaling. Cell. 2014 May 22;157(5):1023-36.

[7] Gallaher ZR, Johnston ST, Czaja K. Neural proliferation in the dorsal root ganglia of the adult rat following capsaicin-induced neuronal death. J Comp Neurol. 2014 Oct 1;522(14):3295-307.


Steve Hillbrand on the Perfect Health Retreat

Steve Hillbrand of Minnesota was a guest at the October 2014 Perfect Health Retreat. Steve kindly recorded a video for us discussing his experience at the retreat.

Some highlights:

  • “I’d like to say thank you for providing this opportunity, it was really nice.”
  • “Everybody here has been really friendly, very helpful, did everything to make me feel comfortable and welcome.”
  • “My purpose was to get the whole dimension of the diet and the lifestyle…. I wanted to see how it would feel to implement everything.”
  • “This couple weeks kind of gave me a good feeling for what it would be like.”
  • “I usually eat a lot, and I found that by the end of the first week and into the second week that one plate of food was all I really felt like eating. It filled me up. Very different than what I’m used to.”
  • “Cravings for alcohol kind of go with me, along with cravings for sweets and coffee, I’m constantly adjusting my mood with food. It was nice to have the wine in the evening and no problems staying within the two glasses, a couple of nights one glass. Even party night tonight I’ll probably have two glasses because that seems to be sufficient for me.”
  • “The other nice thing about the retreat for me was feeling physically stronger. Doing the weight training and the exercises, you start to realize, it doesn’t take that much. The training on the importance of consistency really rang home to me… Just the idea that you can do the 15 minutes a couple times a day and get the health benefits was nice for me to realize and I can imaging implementing it.”
  • “All the variety, looking at the barefoot running, looking at the heart rhythm training, those were all very interesting to me. I’d been exposed to them all before but it never really clicked in the same way as when you explained it.”
  • “I particularly liked the science classes. Looked forward to them every day.”
  • “Food was great. That was one of my big problems with implementing this diet…. I’d soon get bored with [meat and potatoes]. I didn’t really have the variety in my diet, didn’t really know how to make it. I have some new ideas now about doing it.”
  • “The more interesting conversation will be to talk to us a year from now…. Has it turned around some of the more chronic health issues that all of us seem to have?”
  • “I appreciate the idea that it’s not just one part, you do the whole thing.”
  • “I would heartily recommend the retreat to strangers…. I think everybody got something out of it.”
  • “I think the setting has been ideal for me. It’s been sunny, there’s a beach to walk on. I like a little bit of alone processing time, it’s very easy to walk down the beach and meander alone. That was wonderful. I really haven’t swam in the ocean hardly at all before, this was kind of exciting to be able to do that. The salt water pools right outside here were really nice. I never liked pools because I don’t like chlorine, and these were really nice for swimming and loosening up.”
  • “I don’t know if you can get a better setting.”
  • “I’m very happy I came. Very successful. I look at it as one of those pivotal points in my life. That’s my feeling right now…. It really feels like something big has shifted.”

Thank you Steve!

We are taking reservations now for the next Perfect Health Retreat to be held October 10-17, 2015. Don’t miss this opportunity for a luxurious vacation combined with a week of learning that will pay a lifetime of dividends.

To learn about the retreat, visit the various web pages under the Perfect Health Retreat tab, starting here. To reserve a room or for more information, please contact Paul Jaminet at or Whitney Ross Gray at