Hypothyroidism

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It’s amazing to me how some of the most important realizations that I’ve come to over the past year have come from fragments of information obtained from some really misguided people.

One of the biggest discoveries was differentiating between how complex starches and simple sugars affect the human body, shown to me by Terry Shintani, the author of a book touting an extremely low fat vegan diet. Through his work, he was able to show that complex starches leave sugar in the blood to be used as fuel, unlike simple sugars from fruit, cookies, breakfast cereals and the like, which causes insulin to rise higher than the level of blood sugar and induce hypoglycemia.

This idea was further reinforced by Francine Kauffman of the American Diabetes Association, who discovered that corn starch, one of the highest glycemic carbohydrates known, actually prevented nighttime hypoglycemia in her diabetic patients. Diabetics are constantly warned about partaking of foods that rank high on the glycemic index, and are instead steered towards low glycemic carbs like fruit. The glycemic index, which Shintani (mentioned above) shatters, is like a diabetic’s bible. Yet fructose, the lowest glycemic carbohydrate, was found to be very harmful to diabetics, prompting the American Diabetes Association to recommend against using it as a sweetener in 1996. Basically, their recommendations for diabetics is as follows, ‘eat a low fat high carbohydrate diet, but don’t eat high glycemic carbs or low glycemic carbs.’ In other words, eat mostly carbs, but watch out for carbs.

Hilariously enough (unless you are diabetic, in which case this may not seem that humorous), the ADA does not offer any prohibitions for foods that contain fructose. They just warn against pure fructose sugar as a sweetener. They go on to ignore that fructose is the predominant form of sugar in fruit – that sucrose, table sugar, is 50% fructose, and that High fructose corn syrup is more than 50% fructose. And studies show that fructose is more malevolent when paired with other sugars (such as glucose), than it is alone.

Fructose is problematic because it causes a hypersecretion of insulin in proportion to the rise in blood sugar. This leads to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is bad news for several reasons.

First, when your blood sugar levels are too low, the body is in a perilous state of deprivation. This low blood sugar episode happens a few hours after eating. But even if you ate 1,500 calories, the hypoglycemic state will trigger hunger. That’s because the body needs sugar. And this hunger will be, not for hard boiled eggs mind you, but for something that raises blood sugar as quickly as possible. Makes sense right? Too little sugar in the blood makes you crave something that raises your blood sugar as fast as possible. Oh that body of ours. So clever making us want what we need all the time. You can’t sneak anything past it!

Blood sugar is raised most effectively by refined sugars and starches, particularly liquid sugars. Stimulants like coffee also perform the same function, having stress hormones activate to release glycogen (stored sugar) into the bloodstream for emergency fuel. And, the lower the blood sugar, the bigger the craving, and the larger the quantity it takes to satiate this desire for sugar. Wonder why soft drinks are addictive, and portion size is getting larger? Hmmm, refined sugar, liquid form, with added caffeine – which all make the problem progressively worse over time as the roller coaster of sugar highs and lows continues… Any questions?

Deep down I’ve always wanted to believe, like so many of us, that if a food is in its natural state, then it is healthy and healing. I wanted to believe that dates or figs, for example, in a profoundly delicious snack bar like the infamous Larabar or Santa’s (Dr. Weil) new Goji Moji bars, were making me healthier. You know, cuz they’re “All Natural.” My experience showed me precisely the opposite though. Foods that make me the most ravenous for sugar, for overall calories, while disrupting fat digestion, are milk – even raw, honey – even raw, dates, all fruits, sweet treats, fruit juices, alcohol, and to a lesser degree sweet vegetable juices (like carrot or beet). These are the foods that put me in a hypoglycemic state – a state where I can choose to either eat more sugar, starting the cycle over again but at greater intensity, or use willpower as my body raises cortisol and adrenaline to shred muscle tissue and release glycogen for sugar, in turn triggering insulin resistance (where cells stop responding to the function of insulin and storing sugar from the bloodstream into the cell).

The real question; however, is why. Why does anything containing fructose cause hypoglycemia. Why does milk and alcohol induce hypoglycemia? Why do even no-calorie sweeteners induce hypoglycemia? Why does simply eating too many carbohydrates of any kind induce hypoglycemia? Why, why, why!

Keep in mind that I’ve also proposed that hypoglycemia, because of its effect on cortisol and adrenaline, and cortisol and adrenaline’s effect on metabolic rate, is the underlying cause of obesity. Explanation: Hunger goes up due to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia raises cortisol, triggering insulin resistance, which raises hunger even more because food is being stored in fat cells instead of being available as energy. However, eating a lot of food, by itself, doesn’t make a person fat. If anything, those we know who eat the most are the thinnest. However, hypoglycemia, a state of emergency deprivation that activates stress hormones, also suppressed thyroid secretion and function. The higher the stress hormone levels, the lower the active thyroid levels as a general rule. The departure from homeostasis in this arena, where metabolic rate is no longer matched to caloric appetite, is the root cause of excessive bodyfat accumulation.

My first clue as to the underlying cause of hypoglycemia came from my studies on fructose malabsorption, discussed under the title, “Fruc Fructose.” Those who suffer from Hereditary Fructose Intolerance (HFI) cannot digest fructose and, if fructose or anything that contains or is later converted to fructose (sorbitol) is ingested, hypoglycemia of life-threatening severity ensues. It was then that I proposed the question, “what happens to those who can only partially digest fructose (fructose malabsorption, considered, from preliminary studies, to be present in over 60% of the youngest generation as ascertained by hydrogen breath tests)?”

Enter the latest and greatest piece of the puzzle, complements of Mark Pimentel, M.D., Director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Again, it’s ironic to find such an important piece of insight from someone who has “aspartame” and “margarine” listed in the sample menu of their diet program, but Pimentel’s discoveries are legendary, and they are as follows:

Pimentel began doing breath tests to monitor the absorption of certain sugars among his patients suffering from digestive problems, namely those categorized as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). He found that malabsportion of certain sugars was pandemic amongst his patients. He attributes this to bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, which sits above the colon – higher up. Bacteria, good, bad, whatever you wanna call it, does not belong in the small bowel in large part. When it colonizes it, it feasts upon sugars that have not been digested up to that point.

Sugars that digest before they reach the small intestine include starches, which are made from glucose, particularly root vegetables over grains which are a little more complex. By the time these reach the small intestine, there’s no sugar left to feed bacteria, whose primary food of choice is of course sugar. Fructose and lactose; however, are a different matter. Now if fructose and lactose come from a raw source with digestive enzymes intact that may help, but only a little. Many of us still have a helluvah time digesting these fully before they reach the small intestine. Lactose often requires the length of the entire digestive tract to digest, particularly pasteurized milk Add to that list uber-complex oligosaccharides like beans and legumes (stomach irritators and gas-inducers – not necessarily ‘good for yer heart’), and excessive amounts of dietary fiber (interesting, as just a few days ago my ‘comrade,’ a former type II diabetic, detonated a nuclear warhead on fiber in LMAO-quality video format). Pimentel also includes artificial sugars like sorbitol and sucralose (splenda), which are no-calorie sweeteners because we can’t digest them – meaning that the bacteria get 100% of that fuel and we get 0% – the worst possible scenario.

Pimentel’s dietary recommendations are to eat 4 to 8 ounces of animal protein daily, very few starchy carbs – mostly from root vegetables with the peel removed to reduce the fiber content, eat a small amount of well-cooked nonstarchy vegetables, avoid sweet-tasting foods that contain fructose and lactose (virtually all simple sugars in the typical diet), and eat enough calories to provide basic energy needs. Without saying it, Pimentel is in fact recommending an extremely high fat diet – roughly 80% of calories as fat or more.

Pimentel also contributes to the ‘big picture’ with his insight on serotonin. Serotonin, Pimentel points out, is present in ever-greater amounts in the digestive tracts of those with bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine. This is a very important detail, as the mysterious connection between the mind’s function and the digestive tract is well-established. Also, tracing back to studies on fructose malabsorption, it was found that subjects not absorbing fructose properly had low blood levels of tryptophan – the precursor to the formation of serotonin. This makes plain sense. Produce more serotonin, and blood levels of serotonin become depleted. Alter serotonin production and neurotransmitter levels can become skewed, as serotonin is thought of as the most dominant neurotransmitter, responsible for more than just moods but sleep. There is an association with virtually all psychological illness and abnormal serotonin levels – either too much or too little. Those who don’t absorb certain carbohydrates fully cause a hypersecretion of serotonin. This could initially lead to overbearing levels and later lead to depletion, causing the opposite imbalance. Thus, disorders of both high and low serotonin levels could be born in the digestive tract where serotonin is produced and absorbed.

“But my digestion is fine, I do not have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or anything like that” many of you might be saying. Not so fast. As the fructose malabsorption studies were able to show, as much as half of the people not absorbing fructose were completely asymptomatic from a digestive standpoint. Pimentel found that many hypoglycemics who weren’t showing signs of digestive problems were failing breath tests miserably, revealing malabsorption issues. You may have bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, you may not be absorbing certain types of slow and difficult-to-digest sugars, and you may have no idea. Yet, all the while, changes to your endocrine system and psychological well-being may be underway – fed by the continuing supply of sugars to these out-of-place bacteria.

My intent was not to go off on a tangent here, but hey, that’s what I do.

Since the beginning it was clear, in my research, that the root of most illness was either in the digestion – which later led to a myriad of degenerative states – or the alteration of hormone balance, later leading to impaired digestion and a myriad of degenerative states. What Pimentel has helped confirm is something that I suspected – that malabsorption causes hypoglycemia. This makes sense. The body secretes insulin in anticipation of sugar hitting the bloodstream, but the sugar never arrives because it is not absorbed. This phenomenon is noted most severely for those who cannot digest fructose at all (sufferers of H.F.I.), and they can die from the extreme hypoglycemic reaction. The rest of us exist at varying levels of malabsorption and hypoglycemia in between.

So endocrine disruptions, instead of being causal, may simply be something that patterns malabsorption. When the sugar doesn’t enter the bloodstream because it is not absorbed, adrenaline and cortisol activate to release glycogen and/or tear down muscle tissue to provide the sugar required to stabilize blood glucose levels. Cortisol is a known trigger of insulin resistance, where the body’s cells stop accepting sugar. Could this be an adaptive strategy to prevent repetitive low blood sugar episodes? Could insulin resistance (where your body resists insulin, not allowing sugar to be stored in cells) be something the body uses to counter the malabsorption-caused drop in blood sugar? An adaptive strategy to an underlying disorder? It is a real possibility.

There are still many unknowns here, but it appears that an answer to the ‘what comes first the chicken or the egg’ question that I’ve proposed in regards to digestive dysfunction and endocrine imbalance may exist. It could all be about digestion, and the processing of carbohydrates may be detrimental to humans, not because they are absorbed faster, causing a more dramatic rise in insulin, but because refinement gives a selective advantage to bacteria in the fight for calories that our body is trying to win. It could just be a matter of milk pasteurization and consumption of a quantity of fructose that breaks the levees. The latter is the most probable, as white rice and white flour (which are absorbed, to a much greater degree than lactose or fructose, before they reach the small intestine) don’t appear to be all that sinister – staples of the world’s healthiest modern nations such as France and Okinawa.

Lastly, to keep things logical, consider these final bits of information:

In Grand Canyon National Park, deer were getting accustomed to eating processed junk food that was being fed to them by tourists. They developed drastic health problems, physically and behaviorally. This may not come as no big surprise. What’s shocking is that they were unable to return to their diet of grass.

Along the same lines, Robert McCarrison, who performed extensive studies on nutritional deficiencies and their effect on digestive organs and endocrine glands, found much irony. By feeding refined foods to his animal subjects, he was able to induce all kinds of dire health problems. Control animals had flawless health in every measurable regard when receiving well-balanced rations of whole foods. Yet, although refined foods had caused the health problems, returning to a whole foods diet was impossible. The animals could no longer digest whole grains and vegetables like the controls. Thus, the apparent cure for a refined-food, nutritionally devoid diet – providing the same diet that the healthy animals were on, fell short.

These two examples both speak to the importance of identifying the departure from health, and developing a strategy to bring the body back into balance – or at least nourish the body without doing harm. Be open. Although some of the healthiest humans on record may have eaten a high-carbohydrate, high fiber diet rich in whole grains with milk, fruit, and lots of vegetables, notably the Sikhs and Hunzas so idolized by McCarrison, doing so may do your body harm. Although cursory examinations into the associations between whole grain, fruit, and vegetable consumption may reveal that those who eat the most of these substances are the healthiest, you might easily destroy yourself further trying to eat like that. It may just be that, no matter how pure and pristine the food source is, no matter if it is raw or cooked, that it may be doing you harm. A whole foods diet is a big improvement over standard American fare no doubt, but to make things easier, more efficient, and more successful, the bottom line is that most of us require a pronounced reduction of carbohydrates in the diet, the exclusion of difficult to digest forms of sugar such as fructose, lactose, and oligosaccharides (beans/legumes), and a reduction of fiber and cellulose – particularly from raw vegetables and grains. To obtain our energy needs, we must replace carbohydrate calories with fat calories, adopting, by all definitions, a high fat diet.

But we are of course left feeling that doing so is like juggling flaming chainsaws that have been dipped in poison. Historically, humans who ate no fruits, vegetables, grains, or carbohydrates were found to be as robustly healthy by every conceivable definition as any humans that ever lived. In other words, going against the standard recommendation to eat ‘mostly plants’ is a safe, viable, dietary option for those who need to pursue it. That may be you if you:

Have one of the 6 A’s: asthma, allergies, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, or Autism
Are obese or overweight, or related to the person in this picture
Crave carbohydrates and/or sugar and have a tendency to binge
Are an alcoholic or drug addict
Have been diagnosed with any digestive disorder of any severity
Suffer from mood swings and changes in energy levels throughout the day
Get shaky when you haven’t eaten in a while
Suffer from depression or any other mental disorder
Have a degenerative disease
Have a family history of health problems
Suffer from skin problems, ranging from acne to eczema
Have an autoimmune disease
Are named Bob
Are named something other than Bob

8 Comments

  1. Damn it Matt, I go through 2.5 gallons of raw milk every week, a piece of fruit every day, but zero sugar (or other sweetner) and white flour/rice. Will raw milk tip the balance, what about the Masai?

    Reply
  2. Frank,
    If you are free of health problems, not overweight regardless of your caloric intake or exercise levels, etc., then you are probably digesting your food just fine and don’t need to worry. I get the feeling, seeing that you are a 40-something guy that is trim and looks many years younger, that you don’t have problems. And lactose is more likely to be absorbed than fructose, so milk is less of a concern. 1 piece of fruit a day is a different story than the typical 1/4 pound of fructose (not including fruit or fruit juice intake), that the average American ingests in the forms of sucrose and HFCS.

    All natural food is healthy food, but some people, because of the destructive power of refined foods on digestion (best documented by McCarrison), may not fare well on even these healthy nutritious foods, instead choosing a more specific dietary strategy in which to achieve health.

    That’s all I bring up. Going sugar free can be outrageously therapeutic for any number of health problems, much of it stemming from the removal of foods that aren’t absorbed properly and the cascade of events that ensue from there — from an overresponsive immune system to nutrient deficiencies to hormonal chaos.

    Think back to what Natasha Campbell McBride shared at the 2007 WAPF conference… “Weston A. Price discovered what are healthy foods for a healthy person. My diet (GAPS) is specific foods for a specific condition.”

    And of course her diet is basically a high fat, high protein diet that excludes dairy, whole grains, and fructose in kids who “display emotional behavior after eating fruit.”

    I guess the best advice to give is:

    Don’t be blinded into assumptions that a certain food is healthy for you because historically a group of people thrived on it. A guy I know, a raw dairy farmer in fact, who was eating a refined-sugar free diet with lots of raw milk, a small amount of fruit, and local meats and vegetables — similar to your diet, and had a minor heart attack a few months ago in his late 50’s.

    But…

    He had a history of gout (hyperinsulinemic condition) and complained of hypoglycemia. He would have been better served by a sugar free (meaning all simple sugars), low-density, high fat, low carb/protein diet that heals digestion, drops insulin, and lowers chronic inflammation.

    Oh, and Ben, thanks for the link. I’m always up in Ledochowski’s experiments on fructose malabsorption. In the link you posted, he establishes one of the missing pieces I’ve been looking for — malabsorption and increased cytokine production. Cytokine hikes are seen amongst people with… virtually all degenerative diseases, those with asthma and allergies, those with autoimmune disease, and the obese. So yeah, thanks. It’s a very pivotal article for my research. You da man!

    Reply
  3. Hi Matt,

    I very much like your blog, keep up the good work! I agree with you regarding nutrition advice; I am myself a believer in low-carb diets such as JK’s diet. However, there’s a subject that I don’t see mentioned in your articles, but which is a very important piece of the puzzle to understanding the effects of modern nutrition (and it also took me some years to find it!). It’s the chemicals that are found in foods, artificial additives, but also natural chemicals such as amines and salicylates. Also in relation to blood sugar control — they cause insulin release which in turn can lead to hypoglycemia. That is why foods you mention in this post (“honey, dates, all fruits, sweet treats, fruit juices, alcohol, and to a lesser degree sweet vegetable juices”), can cause you hypoglycemia — they all contain salicylates.

    For more info on how bad sugar control can get because of consumption of these foods please check out this link (also the rest of the blog is a must-read): http://blog.plantpoisonsandrottenstuff.info/2006/08/16/salicylate-induced-hypoglycaemia/

    Two other websites worth investigating regarding this subject are:

    http://www.plantpoisonsandrottenstuff.info
    http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info

    Kind regards,

    Jana

    Reply
  4. This article/blog entry is just amazing.

    If I understand it correctly; if malabsorption causes hypoglycemia, then if I have that problem, how do I heal it? Can the malabsorption be healed at all?

    I have a history of severe sugar addiction and hypoglycemia, allergies since childhood and auto immune disease (plus, my name isn't Bob!!!).

    This is why I wonder if it wouldn't be best for someone like me to cut out all fruits too for a period of time, or forever if that would improve my health? Can I really trust my biofeedback when I'm this unhealthy or is part of the reason I love to eat some berries every day caused by some malabsorption issues?

    I've wondered for years why my healthy eating never really seemed to help improve my health (until RRARF that is). The part about the deer in the Grand Canyon is particularly illuminating for me. It shows how it's not possible to just go back to a whole foods diet and expect things to go back to normal. The damage has already been done so to say….It's been my experience these last 10 years as I've struggled to regain my health through, among other things, changing my diet to an unrefined whole foods diet. It's been difficult to do it, cause I've had to exclude so much food, like dairy and grains, and it has not led to drastic health improvements (again until RRARF which seems to be best able to nourish my body without doing any harm. That's when I avoid any dairy and gluten of course). But I still struggle a lot, and I have acne, and mental health issues and all other health issues remaining. The PMS is just getting worse and worse. I hope it's all just because my body is readjusting, but I suspect that I could do even better.

    Reply
  5. Thanks Lisa-

    I suspect, after seeing how easy it is for people to overcome hypoglycemia, and how easy Dr. Barnes could treat it with thyroid supplementation, that most cases can be easily overcome by raising metabolism.

    Does this mean overcoming malabsorption simultaneously? Who knows. It remains to be seen.

    Reply
  6. Thanks for the amazing post. But it's also unsettling. What I knew about nutrition may well turn out to be wrong. While most people's concern is probably to lose weight, how about those who have problem putting on weight, like me? I suspect I may have low blood sugar and possibly malabsorption too, and I always have a problem putting on weight. In fact, I can lose without even trying.

    I've recently tried to increase my saturated fats intake from butter and coconut oil, though I still have my reserves about them (reports about links between animal fats intake and colon cancer loom large in my mind). I'm also slowly increasing my intake of animal protein, including some in each meal.

    I'm also in the process of cutting down on fiber and sugar, but the later is problematic because I take breads with jam every morning. I'd have to think of a good replacement that doesn't require a lot of work each morning.

    Any recommendations or advice for me? I'll deeply appreciate any.

    Reply
  7. Hey Matt! I was just wondering, when you say that complex starches leave sugar in the blood, unlike simple sugars, does simple glucose count as a simple sugar or should it be thought of as a complex starch although it isn't, well, complex. Should i watch out for simple forms of glucose as well? just wanting to clarify

    Reply

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