By Danny Roddy, author of The Peat Whisperer
A few weeks ago I received a message from Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser about their new ‘Paleologix’ line of supplements.
I was immediately stunned, as I never imagined either of these dudes wanted to get into the supplement business, but I was also extremely curious, as I used to be quite the supplement connoisseur.
Upon whiffing through the marketing material I learned that they had three products for sale, one for digestion, one for “stabilizing energy levels” and one for “liver detoxification.”
Why is there a need for supplements when livin’ la vida Paleo diet template you ask?
Well, like every dietary paradigm, not everyone does so hot during the transition. Having expert experience in this realm, Robb and Chris came up with three supplements that could be used for a finite amount of time to help one overcome common obstacles when traversing from the standard American diet.
Is there anything wrong with that? No. Not at all.
Supplements have a place in health and will always have a place in health. Personally, I don’t take as many supplements as I used to (i.e., ~50 pills per meal in my prime), but I still use salt, white sugar, various fat-soluble vitamins, aspirin, and thyroid—which are all contextually useful for increasing the metabolic rate and lowering stress.
And that’s what supplements are about right? Supporting your context for wellness?
Context n’ Shit
In my last guest post I shared that I viewed health problems in the context of a disorder of energy metabolism. While that sounds abstract, simple self-diagnostics (e.g., body warmth, average pulse rate, Achilles tendon reflex, etc.) can be suggestive of one’s current metabolic situation.
The Paleo diet was born out of the context of something like, ‘the diseases of civilization are largely related to abandonment of the metabolic conditions we evolved under’. ‘The metabolic condition we evolved under’, whatever that may be, was thought to be disturbed by the inclusion of anti-Paleolithic foods like dairy, refined sugar, legumes, and grains.
Post-2007, however, Paleo has lost its unified concept of disease after several of the assumptions that it was based on proved to be false. Paleo became largely “macronutrient agnostic” and even long-standing ideas of the “toxicity” of refined sugar was challenged.
Since then, the community has become directionless, resorting to abstract theories about the gut biome, the role of the hormone leptin, “food reward,” or proclaiming that calories are, and always have been, the true arbiter of health.
However, I think Chris and Robb’s new line of supplements provides some much-needed context for the community. They seem to be suggesting that for many people, digestion, blood sugar dysregulation, and “sluggish” liver function are common problems that can be trickier to overcome than adhering to an arbitrary diet.
The Hundred Thousand Dollar Bar Question
Chris, Robb, and I share different contexts for wellness. In fact, that is the very reason I parted ways with Chris after helping launch, edit, and co-host his podcast show for free.
Without addressing the effectiveness of the supplements—maybe they’re great, I will never know—I believe the above issues are contextually mangled without considering the known factors that influence efficient energy production (e.g., carbon dioxide, parathyroid hormone, progesterone, pregnenolone, free fatty acids, phosphate, calcium, estrogen, serotonin, prolactin, etc.).
Unsurprisingly, I think that digestion, liver function, and the cell’s use of sugar can be best addressed by supporting the metabolic rate (e.g., pulse rate, body temperature) with diet, lifestyle, and supplementation (if necessary).
Poor Digestion & The Metabolic Rate
In the literature for AdaptaGest, Robb and Chris state that digestion is “by far the most common complaint” when adopting a Paleo diet. AdaptaGest Flex and Adaptagest Core seem to focus on a couple of things: supplying betaine HCl (i.e., stomach acid), digestive enzymes, and increasing the production of bile acids.
As we discussed in the last article , Hans Selye pioneered the concept of stress in 1936, culminating in the identification of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and numerous other hormones and signaling substances involved in adaptation. His basic idea was that stress (e.g., darkness, low blood sugar, toxic drugs, loud noises, forced exercise, etc.) activated the HPA axis, and if excessive resulted in numerous diseases associated with aging. To be clear, stress, whatever the source, produced characteristic changes in the body that led to a myriad of pathological manifestations.
Selye noted, through his meticulous experiments, that one of the beginning manifestations of stress involved the digestive system:
“The gastrointestinal tract is particularly sensitive to general stress. Loss of appetite is one of the first symptoms in the great ‘syndrome of just being sick,’ and this may he accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.” — Hans Selye
Later, (and as Matt discusses at length in 180 Degree Digestion), Broda Barnes found that poor digestion and absorption of nutrients are two symptoms of low thyroid:
“In hypothyroidism [e.g., low pulse, low body temperature], digestion in the stomach and intestines is delayed. The concentration of acid and enzymes involved in digestion may be diminished. Motility of the gut is reduced and food is propelled more slowly along the tract. Absorption through the intestinal wall is slower.” —Dr. Broda Barnes
AdaptaGest Core contains ox bile, but also several ingredients that will stimulate the gallbladder to secrete bile acids, which are necessary for the absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
Bile acids are synthesized by breaking down cholesterol, which requires active thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (or T3) and vitamin A (i.e., retinol, not beta carotene).
A deficiency of bile is a common symptom in those with low metabolic rates:
“Finally, a sluggish gall bladder interferes with proper liver detoxification and prevents hormones from being cleared from the body, and hypothyroidism impairs GB function by reducing bile flow.” —Chris Kresser
Additionally, estrogen, which tends to accumulate in people with low metabolic rates, sluggish bowels, and poor liver function, could also decrease the formation of bile acids:
“The general use of synthetic estrogens like DC pointed out that near many skilled collateral effects, some others that are showing with a decrease of bile excretion (cholestasis), reversible with their administration interruption…”—Riv Eur Sci Med Farmacol 1990 Jun;12(3):165-168 [Oral contraceptive and hepatic effects]. Tarantino G, et al.
Blood Sugar & The Metabolic Rate
A case can be made that the Paleosphere has somewhat of a reductionist view towards blood sugar. While a wide range of factors affects the cell’s efficient use of glucose, for those that are “glucose intolerant” the primitive idea of modulating carbohydrate intake is almost always at the forefront of the conversation.
While AdaptaBoost provides some cofactors that support the cell’s ability to completely metabolize glucose, blood sugar dysregulation is a systemic problem that should be thought of in the context of the “whole organism.”
Let’s briefly review the metabolism of glucose along its journey through an efficient and inefficient metabolism.
Glucose is metabolized into pyruvic acid in a process known as glycolysis. If oxygen (and carbon dioxide) is available, pyruvate is converted into acetyl-CoA and fully metabolized in the mitochondria providing energy, one molecule of carbon dioxide for each molecule of pyruvic acid, and water. This is an example of an oxidative metabolism, which by lowering stress (e.g., free fatty acids) allows for a ‘youthful’ metabolism.
However, if oxygen is not present (or cannot be utilized, “The Warburg Effect”), pyruvate will be converted into lactic acid instead of going on to be metabolized in the mitochondria. This is called anaerobic glycolysis, which stifles oxidative metabolism by shunting pyruvate to “lactate dehydrogenase,” instead of “pyruvate dehydrogenase” (a vicious cycle; the only way to overcome this is would be to stop the excessive oxidation of fat).
While it is a commonly held belief that those with poor glucose tolerance cannot use glucose, diabetics often have increased levels of lactate in their blood, which suggests that they are using glucose, but are inefficiently oxidizing it to lactic acid instead of carbon dioxide.
Supplements like niacinamide (not niacin or nicotinic acid) and aspirin both have antidiabetogenic effects. They accomplish this, by inhibiting lipolysis, which liberates free fatty acids into the blood. This is an immediate phenomenon and physiological; it’s only when excessive fat oxidation is chronic (e.g., low carb diet) that pathological insulin resistance develops, with the accumulation of fatty acid oxidation metabolites inside cells.
Liver Detoxification & The Metabolic Rate
AdaptaClear claims to protect one from “food toxins” as well as environmental toxins by supporting the different “phases” of liver detoxification. It supposedly accomplishes this by supplying cofactors for methylation and several ingredients that increase and recycle the “master antioxidant” glutathione.
Broda Barnes pointed out that those with low metabolic rates often had sluggish livers and were unable to store glucose (which fructose restores), create bile acids, synthesize sex hormones, or in a vicious cycle, convert thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3).
While the very word “detoxification” and “toxins” has become synonymous with pseudoscience, Hans Selye found that various steroid hormones had a “catatoxic” protective action against a wide range of poisons.
“Catatoxic substances increase the destruction and/or excretion of potentially toxic substances.” —Hans Selye
Both pregnenolone and progesterone have catatoxic properties possibly by neutralizing or balancing an excess of estrogen or cortisol. Active thyroid hormone and vitamin A are needed to produce both of these substances and this in turn is dependent on proper regulation of various stress hormones and signaling substances.
There is no doubt in my mind that for many people, digestion, blood sugar dysregulation, and poor liver function are common problems that can be trickier to overcome than adhering to an arbitrary diet.
But at the same time, I doubt a wild mix of pills is the best way to go about treating these problems. Supporting the known factors that influence energy production would likely be simpler, more straightforward, and most importantly, measurable (e.g., pulse, body temperature, etc.).
Leave your thoughts in the comments section.