A green healing protocol

The digestive system is at the centre of everything that relates to our health. As this is so, gravely ill persons generally also have gravely compromised digestive systems. I would go as far as saying that everyone suffering from any kind of chronic or degenerative health problem has impaired digestion. And the more severe the health disorder, the more compromised the digestive system is likely to be.

Furthermore, I would also go as far as saying that it is usually the dysfunction of the digestive system that comes first, and that it is the consequences of this dysfunction which, over time, lead to more serious complications, and more severe health disorders. Therefore, the most important and most fundamental in the healing process is the healing of the digestive system. This must always come first, before anything else, and everything else in the healing process can only but flow from it.

The proposed protocol is therefore intended for anyone suffering from any kind of chronic and/or degenerative disease condition, from the most gravely ill to those suffering only mildly, with the assurance that, given the absence of pharmaceuticals and invasive medical procedures, and the reliance on solely natural or naturally derived foodstuff, only benefits can come from it, and, as I strongly believe, immense potential for healing and recovery.

An obvious difficulty comes from the fact that in order to promote healing of the bodymind, it is necessary to provide it with the best, most appropriate nutritional support. But since everything that we may provide through eating or drinking goes through the digestive system in order to become available to the organism as a whole, when the digestive organs are compromised, this process is similarly compromised.

So, how do we do it? We do it by minimising as much as possible the work that the digestive system needs to do to extract the nutrients from what we consume, while at the same time providing the digestive system with what it itself needs for healing: We minimise digestive stress and maximise intestinal healing.

The two most crucial elements in digestive health are the intestinal flora, and the integrity of the lining through which absorption occurs from the intestine into the bloodstream. The two most damaging elements are antibiotics and chemicals that destroy the flora, and chronic intestinal acidosis and the accompanying inflammation and malabsorption that ensue, eroding and damaging the lining. It is therefore these two fundamental issues that must be addressed by replenishing the flora and alkalising the gut.

Probiotics to replenish the flora

The organism depends intimately and completely on the trillions of bacteria and other micro-organisms that populate and live in our gut; they outnumber our own human cells 9 to 1. This symbiotic relationship is as old as life itself. Most do not know this. And those who have heard it, probably tend to forget about it, but it is truly essential, because without this relationship, without these bacteria and micro-organism on which our life depends, there would never even have come into existence complex living entities, let alone humans. This is where we start the healing process.

For this, what we need to do is quite simple: we must supplement with the best, most effective and most biologically appropriate probiotics, intensely at first, and then less so, until the gut flora is perfectly established, at which point it will sustain and maintain itself without the need to supplement on a daily basis.

I know of two excellent probiotics on the market, both of which have demonstrated excellent results. One of them is soil-based (Prescript-Assist), and the other is spore-based (MegaSpore Biotic). I personally take Prescript-Assist, which I like very much, but am very interested in trying the other, which I will at some point soon.

Whichever one you chose, you cannot make a mistake. Read the information the manufacturers provide on their web site, get the one you feel more inclined to, and start taking one capsule three times per day: morning, noon and night. Do this for 4 weeks. After that period, you can decrease to two capsules per day, morning and night. Do this for as long as the healing process lasts, probably 3 to 6 months. Once you have recovered, take only one capsule in the morning to ensure a daily replenishing and maintenance of the gut flora. You can never go wrong by taking more probiotics: if they are not needed in the gut, they won’t have a noticeable positive effect, but it is sure that they will never have a negative effect.

Green juices to alkalise

Juicing and drinking green vegetables and grasses is the most effective way to provide the digestive system and the organism a wonderfully rich array of micronutrients of all kinds—minerals and vitamins, amino acids and enzymes, innumerable phytonutrients, and lots of chlorophyll—all of them immediately and easily absorbable, and made available in the bloodstream to the whole body literally within minutes: maximising nutrients, minimising digestive stress.

Juicing and drinking green vegetables and grasses is also the most effective way to alkalise the digestive system, the blood, and over time, all the tissues of which the bodymind is made. This is extremely important for everyone, but it is truly vital for the gravely ill. It is only by alkalising the digestive system that it can begin to recover for the state of chronic acidosis, and subsequently begin to repair itself to eventually heal. This must be crystal clear:

I firmly believe that there is no way to heal any degenerative chronic disease condition, no matter what it is, without healing the digestive system. And there is no way to heal the digestive system without alkalising it deeply and thoroughly, day after day, month after month, and in fact, year after year.

The reason for this is very simple: pathogenic intestinal microorganisms in general both thrive in and promote a highly acidic environment, whereas beneficial intestinal microorganisms much prefer but also promote an alkaline environment; pathogenic intestinal microorganisms thrive and depend on simple sugars that allow them to multiply and proliferate but also to produce ever increasing amounts of lactic acid from the anaerobic oxidation of the sugars that fuel them, whereas beneficial microorganisms do not.

Coconut oil to heal and nourish

Coconut oil is a miracle of nature: it is the richest known source in nature of lauric acid (about 50% of it), which is a natural and powerful anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-baterial, proven to be so in the lab on a wide variety of common pathogens. At the same time, lauric acid is exceptional in terms of nutrition because it is a medium chain fatty acid that does not require bile to be emulsified, is easily released from the triglyceride structure of oil in the liver, and is then free to circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream to be used as cellular fuel, without being stored in fat cells as other longer chain fatty acids are.

If this was not enough to amaze and convince you that coconut oil is indeed a miracle of nature, it has been shown that coconut oil is great for thyroid health, naturally regulating down hyperthyroidism and regulating up hypothyroidism; great for cholesterol metabolism in regulating up or down lipoprotein production and balance; great for inducing and maintaining nutritional ketosis even when insulin-stimulating carbs are not completely eliminated, which is very helpful and beneficial for all those that must remain in this state of ketosis for their treatment of epilepsy and other kinds of nervous system disorders with seizures, but who would like to have some carbs sometimes; and finally, coconut oil (and the ketones derived from it) has been shown to help stop and reverse plaque formation in cerebral arteries, as well as degeneration of brain cells in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

These properties of coconut oil (and lauric acid) make it the absolute best oil to consume in general, for most of your needs in the kitchen, but most importantly for what concerns us here, the absolute best in promoting healing of the digestive system, while nourishing the body by providing the ideal cellular fuel.

Putting it all together

As explained above, to maximise global healing potential, we must maximise the healing of the digestive system. For this, we must replenish the intestinal flora with probiotics, while nurturing an intestinal environment that is beneficial to health-promoting micro-organisms but hostile to acid-forming and disease-causing micro-organisms. This is done my alkalising the intestinal tract, eliminating digestive stress, and maximising micronutrient supply and absorption by the intestines with green juices and coconut oil.

Therefore, this healing protocol in its most effective and also most radical form, relies on drinking only green juices, optionally augmented with a powdered superfood blend, to which is added a table spoon of melted coconut oil, blended into the juice, at least twice per day, but three or four times if necessary or preferred. Since the juice itself is both alkalising and alkaline, the oil can be blended smoothly into it perfectly well.

Adding the coconut oil enhances the benefits of the green juice by ensuring maximum absorption of all minerals and anti-oxidants that depend on the presence of fat in order to make it into the bloodstream. This is established for minerals and anti-oxidants, but it very likely also the case for other micronutrients: the concentration of these healthful micronutrients in the blood, appears to be more or less proportional to the amount of fat in the digestive tract.

A slightly less radical form would include eating of crunchy and watery vegetables like cucumbers, celery, kohlrabi with salt for snacks, and avocados as more filling, meal-like food.

The protocol

This programme that can be followed for a few days, a week, two weeks of more, up to several months, adjusting coconut oil intake to supply more fat energy if required. (People can sustain water healing fasts for up to 45 days, so this protocol can be sustained for months). You can also drink more mineralised water at any time.

There are minimal amounts of protein, and zero animal protein or fat. These are both important for human health, and therefore should be part of everyone’s diet. But they are also both highly acid-forming and the cause of digestive stress, especially the protein. This healing protocol excludes these to maximise alkalisation, cleansing and healing. It is nonetheless important that both animal fats and protein should be reintegrated into the diet afterwards, but always in relatively small amounts, particularly the protein of which we should not have more than about 25-30 g in one meal, and not more than 50-80 g per day, in two or three servings.

If you are interested in doing this for a long period of time lasting several weeks to several months, you should, after the first week or two, add more calories, still mostly from fat, but also from protein, by including a can of coconut milk in two servings, late morning and late afternoon, to make it sustainable on the longer term. Naturally, all these adjustments depend entirely on your condition, aims, and maybe most importantly, on your motivation and discipline. Here is the protocol:

  • Around 7 or 8: Wake up and put on magnesium oil on legs, arms, belly and back, and keep on for at least 30 minutes before showering (see Why you should start taking magnesium today for details).
  • Then slowly drink 1 litre of water with 10 drop of Concentrace minerals. Take the one capsule of probiotics, one capsule of tulsi extract for adrenal support, and optionally 5 small pellets of chlorella and 3 large pellets of spirulina for maximising detox and regeneration.
  • Around 10: Green juice with coconut oil (and superfood blend). Make about 400 ml of juice using a combination of cucumber, fennel bulb, celery with the leaves, lots of chard and/or kale, and/or lettuce, some parsley if you want, a little piece of ginger if you want, and one kiwi with the skin (you can brush off the hairs if you want). When its done, add 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil (I exclusively use Dr Goerg’s), and blend for a few seconds.
  • Between 11 and 12 (optional): some crunchy and watery vegetables with salt.
  • Around 13: Green juice with coconut oil (and superfood blend), probiotics, tulsi, chlorella and spirulina
  • Around 16: Drink (slowly) 1 litre of water with 10 drop of Concentrace, the juice of two pressed lemons, half a teaspoon of salt, some stevia to sweeten, and two teaspoons of psyllium husks. Rinse your mouth with plain water between glasses of lemonade.
  • Around 18: Green juice with coconut oil (and superfood blend), probiotics, chlorella and spirulina, but no tulsi because it will probably keep you up at night, calm but awake.
  • Between 19 and 21 (optional): Crunchy vegetables and/or avocado with salt.
  • Before bed: Magnesium oil and keep for at least 30 minutes before showering.

B12 is vital

Finally, and extremely importantly, any and every healing protocol for the gravely ill, but also for the not-so-gravely ill, must absolutely include high-dose B12 supplementation that in the most extreme cases should be administered through daily (one week), then weekly (2 months) and then bi-weekly (as long as needed) injections of 1 mg hydroxocobalamin or methylcobalamin (better), but not cyanocobalamin. Alternatively, methylcobalamin patches can be used for fast and effective replenishing of B12 stores. Lastly, a high-dose (2000 microgram/day) methylcobalamin sublingual supplement can also be taken. There are zero known negative side effects of high-dose B12 supplementation.

Blood concentration of B12 should be brought up to between 1000 and 2000 pg/ml and maintained at that level until full recovery is achieved (or as close to it as can be hoped for). You can read more about it in B12 for absolutely everyone.

Final words

It is obviously not necessary to be ill in order to incorporate these healing tools into your daily routine. On the contrary, it is by doing so that we can prevent disease conditions from ever developing, nurturing the bodymind to optimal health.

My wife, our son and myself, for example, drink green vegetable juices with melted coconut oil, lemon water with salt, stevia and psyllium husks, green powdered superfood blends, and take probiotics, tulsi, chlorella and spirulina, together with a few other supplements including B12, on a daily basis. The difference is that in this protocol, all highly acid-forming and damaging sugars and starches are strictly eliminated, but also all other solid foods, all of which require at least some work, and in particular also highly acid-forming complex proteins that require intense work on the part of the digestive system. This is done in order to really maximise the benefits of the deep alkalisation and the state of partial fasting with powerful nutritional support and zero digestive stress.

Naturally, I strongly encourage everyone of you to also incorporate these elements of natural healing into your life, no matter how old you are or how healthy (you think) you are, but also to go further, and try following the strict protocol for 1, 2, 3 or even 5 or 7 days, every once in a while. You will really feel the difference.

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Water, sugar, protein and fat

I’m not here to convince you of anything. I’m not here to debate things with you. And I’m not here to share and discuss views or opinions. I am here to talk about physiology, biochemistry, and what these can teach us about optimal health. In fact, I’m not even going to tell you anything about what you should eat and not eat, or drink and not drink. Instead, I’ll leave you to deduce that for yourselves.

The truth is that nothing we believe or think has any bearing or relevance to how things actually are: how the body works; how it responds to water or orange juice; to starch, protein and fat; to stress and relaxation; or to exercise and sleep. Everything about how the bodymind functions is determined by physiology and biochemistry.

We certainly do not know or understand everything—far from it. But we do understand quite a lot, and what we do know and understand is enough to show us how to live in optimal health without suffering from any of the aches and pains, and ills and ailments that today plague modern societies throughout the world.

Thirty minutes is not long enough for me to tell you everything I would like to. So, we’ll restrict this talk to those basic points that I feel are most fundamental in beginning to understand the effects on the bodymind of what we eat and drink: we’ll talk about water, sugar, protein and fat.

So, you have the choice now to take the blue pill, get up, go back to your office, and believe whatever you want to believe. Or, to take the red pill, stay here, and see what I can show you of how things happen in the body when we eat or drink certain things.

You’re all ready, so let’s start.

Water

Water, as you will see, is extremely important. And so, I will spend quite a bit of time on it.

Some people drink a lot of water, some drink less, and some drink hardly any. Why is that? Do you think some people need more water than others: that some need a lot and other don’t need much?

Have you ever wondered what happens when you drink a glass of water? Where does it go? What does it do? How long does it stay there?

What’s the connection between the water we drink and the urine we pee? How does the water go from our glass to our pee? Why do we pee? What do we pee? When do we need to pee? How does that work?

How much should we drink? When should we drink? Is it important to drink at certain times and not at others? What happens when we don’t drink? Is any of this important?

Well, to start, a new born baby is about 90% water by weight. An old person on their death bed is about 50% water. And a healthy teenager or adult is around 73%. It has always been like this, and looking at this picture very simply, we can say that we should strive to remain around 73% for as long as we are alive, and the closer we get to 50%, the closer we are to death.

In the digestive system

You pick up a glass, fill it with fresh, pure water, raise it to your lips, and drink. The water goes straight into the empty stomach. There, it first hydrates the specialised cells that make up the stomach’s lining and the layer of mucus that covers it, and then hydrates the pancreas. The water then moves into the intestine where it also hydrates the cells that form the lining, and the leftover starts to permeate through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, which then carries it throughout the body. This takes about 30 minutes.

The amount of water needed to hydrate the digestive system in preparation for a meal is one to two glasses or 200-500 ml, meaning that of the first two glasses you drink on the empty stomach in the morning or before a meal, little will make it to the bloodstream, because it is most important for the body’s self-preservation to ensure, first and foremost, that the digestive system is well hydrated.

You can check this for yourself: get up in the morning, go pee, drink one glass of plain water, and then wait and see how long it will take, and how much you will pee out; the next morning drink two glasses and see; and on the third morning, drink a whole litre instead, and see what happens.

Why is the hydration of the digestive system so important? Because it is on it that the organism as a whole relies for its survival:

If there is dehydration, the mucus layer of the stomach is thin and dry, and thus cannot protect the lining from the corrosive hydrochloric acid that is secreted to breakdown protein. The stomach wall gets damaged, and over time, this leads to stomach ulcers, and a stomach that simply doesn’t work properly anymore, incapable of digesting protein into the essential amino acids most importantly needed for proper brain function, but for many other things as well.

If there is dehydration, the pancreas cannot produce its alkaline bicarbonate solution needed to neutralise the acidic chyme that goes from the stomach into the first part of the small intestine. This leads to pH imbalance and damage to the intestinal wall, which over time also leads to ulcers, leaky gut, malabsorption, poor elimination, bacterial and fungal overgrowth, and systemic toxicity.

In the blood

OK. Now, what happens in the blood? Our blood is made of red blood cells (45%) and white blood cells and platelets (0.7%) floating in blood plasma (54.3%). Blood plasma shuttles nutrients to cells around the body, and transports wastes out: it consists of 92% water, 8% specialised (mostly transporter) proteins, and trace amounts of solutes (things dissolved or floating in it).

Although in trace amounts, the solutes, and especially sodium, are vital. The concentration of solutes in blood plasma is around 300 mmol/l (don’t worry about the units). In the highest concentration of all is sodium at 140, and in the second highest is chloride at 100. The sum of these is 240, and so from these numbers alone, we see that blood plasma is more or less just salty water.

Amazing isn’t it? We’re told to avoid salt because it supposedly causes high blood pressure and heart disease, but when we look at our own blood, among all the solutes, it is sodium and chloride—the salt—that are and need to be in the highest concentrations!

Filtration

Alright, what keeps everything in balance, what keeps tabs on the water content, on the sodium content, on the chloride, on the bicarbonate, and on every other electrolyte or solute? It’s the kidneys. What keeps a very close watch on blood pressure, and adjusts and controls the blood’s consistency, thickness and viscosity? It’s the kidneys. And what excretes the toxic metabolic wastes urea, uric acid and creatinine, produced more or less continuously in a normal functioning body? It’s the kidneys: so important, yet so under-appreciated, and so rarely considered or given the importance and attention they deserve.

You have 4-5 litres of blood in your body (I have about 4, and Uwe over here has about 5). One quarter of all the blood coming out of the heart flows through the kidneys: this is on average 1.2 litres per minute, which amounts to more than 1700 litres per day. And thus, every drop of blood goes through the kidneys about 400 times each and every day!

To maintain flow and pressure more easily, only 20% of the blood flowing through the kidney is filtered (that’s 240 ml or about a cup per minute, and thus 340 l/day). Because half of the blood’s volume is water, this amounts to a total of 850 (1700/2) litres of water; filtering 20% means that 170 litres of water are filtered each day.

Therefore, if one litre of urine is produced in 24 hours (that’s unfortunately pretty typical), then close to 169 out of 170 of these litres of water are reabsorbed: a reabsorption efficiency of 99.4%! Drinking a bit more and producing two litres of urine eases this down to a nonetheless remarkable efficiency of 98.8% (168/170). Think about it for a second: 99% reabsorption efficiency. That’s high efficiency.

But what does ‘filtering the blood’ actually mean and how is this done exactly? In each kidney there are about 1 million miniature filters called nephrons. It is in the nephron that the blood is filtered and the urine produced in five stages, first through Bowman’s capsule (1) and into the proximal convoluted tubule (2), then along the loop of Henle (3) and into the distal convoluted tubule (4), and finally out through the collecting duct (5) and into the ureter to the bladder. That’s how pee is made and where it comes from. What’s in it? Well, mostly water, of course, some extra solutes, but more importantly, it contains urea, uric acid and creatine, those toxic metabolic wastes resulting from protein digestion, that the body needs to excrete.

Blood pressure

And what about blood pressure regulation? Blood pressure is intimately related to blood volume, i.e., the amount of water in it, and blood osmolarity, i.e., the concentration of solutes, mainly sodium as we’ve seen, and to a lesser extent the other electrolytes, but also glucose. Maintaining these in balance is essential for proper function of everything in the body. For this reason, there are pressure sensors throughout every blood vessel, and osmolarity sensors in the hypothalamus of the brain, as well as highly sensitive sensors of both kinds in the kidney itself.

A drop in volume sensed by the pressure sensors in the blood vessels, or a rise in solute concentration sensed in the hypothalamus, will trigger the release of vasopressin from the pituitary gland. Vasopressin will signal the kidney to release more water for reabsorption into the bloodstream to make up for the drop in volume and rise in solute concentration.

Vasopressin will make the blood vessels constrict and tighten to maintain the blood pressure constant. It will also stimulate the secretion of glucose from the liver in case fast reaction times become necessary, as well as clotting factors and platelets to make the blood thicker and stickier, and prevent excessive blood losses in case of injury. All of these are part of the standard stress response. Vasopressin will also stimulate the secretion of the stress-induced adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH that will act to reinforce all of the above and make things even worse than they already are.

What does this mean? It means that even mild dehydration triggers a full stress response in the body with all associated effects and consequences.

How much water:

The minimum requirement for survival is 1.2 litres in 24 hours. The minimum for proper kidney and metabolic function is 2 litres per day. But the amount required for optimal function and health is 4 litres, together with 2 teaspoons of unrefined sea salt to replenish and maintain sodium levels in order to maximise hydration.

Conclusion for water:

Here’s my long one line conclusion about water: Water is life, and the absence of it is death; not enough water in the digestive system leads to damage of the stomach and intestines, to bad digestion, malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies, to systemic toxicity, and generalised bacterial and fungal infections; not enough water in the bloodstream leads to a full blown, textbook stress response with all the terribly negative consequences this entails, and maybe most importantly, severe damage to the arteries, and thus to the formation of arterial plaques which lead to cardio and cerebrovascular disease, i.e., heart attack and stroke; the optimal is around 4 litres of water over the course of the day, drank on an empty stomach, matched with 2 teaspoons of salt either with the water or the meals.

With this general overview of several important systems and functions, let’s move on to food: to what happens when we eat something. And to make things as simple and clear as possible, we’ll consider each macronutrient separately, and we’ll start with the undisputed favourite of them all: sugar.

Sugar

What happens when we have a fruit: a tart apple, a juicy orange, or a sweet date? What happens when we eat a biscuit, a piece of bread or a plate of pasta? How is sugar digested? How are starches digested? What happens to it in the body?

In the digestive system

Drinking a glass of orange juice on an empty stomach, will deliver 20 g of sugar to the blood in as little as a few minutes. The sugar goes from the mouth and into the stomach, which if empty, allows it to move directly to the small intestine. In a matter of minutes the sugar will have passed through the intestinal wall and made it into the bloodstream.

If the stomach is not empty, but instead contains some amount of protein, then the sugar will remain in there, because the contents of the stomach will only be emptied into the small intestine when the protein has been broken down, a process that takes around 3-4 hours. And in the meantime, the sugar will ferment, causing aches and bloating, and impair digestion.

In the blood

As soon as the sugar is in circulation and sensed by the pancreas, insulin will be secreted in an amount that is proportional to the concentration of sugar. Insulin’s primary role is storage of “excess” nutrients, and regulation of fat storage and fat burning: when insulin is high, there is fat storage; when insulin is low, there is fat burning. It’s that simple. And it also means that insulin is the primary regulator of energy balance, and therefore of metabolism.

From an evolutionary perspective, the importance of insulin is perfectly clear. Firstly, it is a mechanism that is common to all living creatures, from the simplest to the most complex, because all these living creatures depend for their survival on a mechanism that allows them to store nutrients when they are available for consumption but not needed by their metabolism, in order to live through periods where food is not available. This is why the role of insulin is so fundamental and why it is a master hormone to which most others are subject. But when glucose levels are higher than a minimum functional threshold, what insulin is trying to do, is to clear away the circulating glucose.

The body does not want large amounts of glucose in circulation. It wants blood glucose to be low—as low as possible—and beyond this minimum glucose concentration of 60 to 80 mg/dl, it always tries to store it away and clear it from the bloodstream. It tries to store what it can in the muscles and liver as glycogen, and stores the rest (i.e. most of it) as fat.

All simple and starchy carbohydrates end up as glucose in the blood, and stimulate the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Very small amounts of glucose in the bloodstream is essential for life; large amounts of glucose in the bloodstream is toxic.

Insulin resistance

Chronically elevated glucose levels lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. Like for any kind of messenger mechanism—as is insulin—if there are too many messengers repeating the same message over and over again, very soon they are not heard because their efforts at passing on the message becomes more like background noise.

Frustrated that they are not taken seriously, the messengers seek reinforcements in numbers to be able to transmit the message more forcefully. This, however, leads to even more annoyance on the part of the listeners—the message recipients—that now start to simply ignore the message and the messengers altogether.

This process continues to gradually escalate up to the point where the terrain is completely flooded by messengers yelling the same thing, but no one listening because they have insulated their windows and doors, and closed them tightly shut.

Here, the messengers are the insulin molecules; the message recipients are our cells—muscle, liver and fat cells; and the message is “take this sugar from the bloodstream, and store it away. We cannot have this circulating around for long.” The desensitisation—the not-listening—to different, progressively higher degrees over time, is called insulin resistance. Finally, the complete ignoring by the cells of the message and the messengers is called type II diabetes.

Furthermore, insulin resistance, not in the muscle, liver and fats cells, but in the brain cells, leads to neurological degradation identified as cognitive impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s. Because beyond the fact that type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are both increasing together at an alarming rate in the US and other western countries, and beyond the fact that diabetics are at least twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to non-diabetics, the basic condition of insulin resistance inevitably leads to chronically elevated glucose concentrations simply because the cells do not allow the glucose to enter.

And glucose staying in the bloodstream damages the lining of the arteries, which then leads to plaque formation: the body’s repair mechanism for the damaged cells underneath, just like a scab on the skin. Thus, as are the coronary arteries of advanced atherosclerotic heart disease sufferers (and diabetics) are riddled with plaques, so are the arteries and blood vessels in the brains of dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers (and diabetics).

Here are two quotes from metabolic scientists:

Inflammation causes our cells (specifically our mitochondria) to increase production of free radicals. Free radicals are like mini roadside bombs that interfere with normal cellular functions. So … : 1) dietary carbohydrate raises serum insulin; 2) insulin promotes inflammation … ; 3) inflammation increases cellular free radical generation; 4) free radicals attack any convenient nearby target; 5) ideal targets for free radicals are [cell] membrane polyunsaturated fats; 6) membrane polyunsaturated fats are important determinants of cellular function … (p. 82).

But also:

Carbohydrate ingestion and … hyperglycemia activate a host of inflammatory and free radical-generating pathways. Some of these include: … activation of NF-kB which regulates the transcriptional activity of over 100 pro-inflammatory genes. (The art and science of low carbohydrate living by Volek and Phinney, p.186).

And

If you drip insulin into the femoral artery of a dog, … , the artery becomes almost totally occluded with plaque after about three months; the contra lateral side remains totally clear. [So, it’s the] contact of insulin in the artery [that] causes it to fill up with plaque. That has been known since the 70s and has been repeated in chickens and in dogs; it is really a well-known fact that insulin floating around in the blood causes a plaque build-up.

Another:

Insulin also causes the blood to clot … and causes the conversion of macrophages into foam cells, which are the cells that accumulate the fatty deposits. […]  It fills the body with plaque, it constricts the arteries, it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, it increases platelet adhesiveness and coaguability of the blood. (p. 7)

And for the last quote:

Insulin regulates lifespan. If there is a single marker for lifespan, as they are finding in centenarian studies, it is insulin, specifically insulin sensitivity. How sensitive are your cells to insulin? When they are not sensitive, the insulin levels go up. Insulin resistance is the basis of all of the chronic diseases of ageing. Cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, cancer, all the so-called chronic diseases of ageing and auto-immune diseases, those are symptoms, [the cause is insulin]. (Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects by Ron Rosedale, p. 3)

Starches

What happens if we eat complex carbohydrates like the starches found in grains and grain products, starchy vegetables like potatoes, or giant grasses like corn. Well, firstly, they take quite a bit longer to digest. Just as for simple sugars, their digestion does not take place in the stomach, but instead in the small intestine, where the enzymes work to break down the long sugar chains into glucose. During this time, glucose is released into the bloodstream as it becomes available, little by little, and therefore stimulates the secretion of insulin in smaller amounts, but over a longer period of time.

However, although the breakdown of starches takes place in the alkaline environment of the intestine, the breakdown process itself leads to acidic residues that acidify the intestine as well as the blood. Over time, this leads to exactly the same problems caused by the digestive system made dysfunctional from dehydration, and from the inability of the pancreas to alkalise the small intestine. What do we get? Intestinal inflammation and damage, ulcers, leaky gut, malabsorption, poor elimination, bacterial and fungal overgrowth, and systemic toxicity.

Conclusion for sugar

So, my one-line conclusion about sugar: On an empty stomach, sugar goes straight through to the intestine and into the bloodstream within minutes; starches are digested into sugar in several hours by pancreatic enzymes in the alkaline environment of the intestine, but produce acidic residues that impair and damage the intestinal tract and digestive system; insulin is secreted by the pancreas in response to the presence of glucose in the blood; and insulin-sensitivity is the best universal marker for health and longevity, while insulin-resistance is the best universal marker for all the chronic degenerative diseases, as well as premature ageing and death.

Protein

How are proteins digested? How much do we need? What happens if we eat too little or too much?

In the digestive system

Protein provide the body amino acids needed for countless functions throughout the organism. However, in order to make these amino acids available, the large and very tightly wound protein molecules need to sit in an highly acidic bath for several hours. This is done in the stomach, and is only necessary for the digestion of protein. As soon as protein enters the stomach, it’s presence is detected by sensor cells, and the acidic hydrochloric solution needed for the breakdown is secreted.

It’s important to keep in mind that if the stomach is unable to secrete the required amount of hydrochloric acid, then the protein will be only partially broken down, and the animo acids will not be available in the bloodstream. This, besides the bad digestion, stomach aches and cramps, gas and bloating, will consequently lead to amino acid deficiency, for which the gravest consequences will be on the central nervous system: brain function and moods.

Metabolic wastes in the blood

Protein metabolism, although essential for survival, produces the highly toxic byproducts as metabolic wastes that need to be excreted. As we saw, this is the primary excretory role of the kidneys, and it is very important that these all-important work horses stay in perfect condition to ensure proper elimination of these wastes.

Production of these wastes is inevitable, but the amount is proportional to the quantity of protein that is ingested and metabolised. Therefore, it is best to have as much protein as we need, but not more; how much depends mostly on muscle mass and activity, but is between 0.75 and 1.5 g of protein per kg of lean mass per day.

Requirements

I’m 58 kg, 8.5% fat which makes 5 kg, and therefore have 52 kg of lean mass, which gives 40-52 g of protein per day. That’s not much: a couple of large handful of almonds and a couple of eggs or a small piece of meat or fish (remember that both raw meat and fish are about 70% water by weight).

Conclusion for protein

My one-line conclusion: a well-functioning and abundant supply of hydrochloric acid from the stomach is absolutely essential for complete protein digestion; protein, in order to be properly broken down and digested, must be eaten either by itself, with fat or with green vegetables, but never with either simple or starchy carbohydrates, and always on a well hydrated digestive system;  to minimise the amount of toxic wastes produced by protein metabolism, the amount consumed should not be excessive.

Fat

Fat, fat, fat. How much do we need? How much can we eat? How is it digested? Where does it go? How is it stored? How is it burned? When is it stored and when is it burned? So many important question about fat.

Firstly, I think it is crucial to start by saying that fat is the most important nutrient for humans. To state a few of these essential functions: fat is needed by every cell, especially in the brain, most of it of which is pure fat; it is needed for absorption and fixing of minerals; it is needed for absorption of proper usage of all fat-soluble vitamins, the most essential of which as vitamin A and vitamin D, without which we cannot live; it is needed to support healthy cholesterol synthesis and metabolism, and cholesterol is what all hormones and nerve synapses in the body are made from.

These things alone should be enough to convince anyone that fat is indeed the most important nutrient for us. Let’s look at a few more details.

In the digestive system

Fat, eaten alone on an empty stomach, goes straight into the small intestine. As sugar, it does not require to remain in the stomach because it does not need an acidic environment to be broken down and digested; it needs the alkaline environment of the intestine.

Unlike sugar or starches, however, fat can remain in the stomach with protein for hours without  any problem. Also unlike sugar and starches, most fats need an additional element for digestion: bile, manufactured by the liver, but stored and secreted into the small intestine by the gall bladder, when there’s fat. The bile emulsifies the fat into droplets so that it can be transported through the intestinal wall and then circulated into the bloodstream.

As cellular fuel

Probably every cell in the body can use glucose as a source of fuel. Actually, probably every cell of every living organism can use glucose as a source of fuel. This is an evolutionary trait that comes from the fact that we, and all living creatures, are descendants of the first, extremely simple living organisms that found a way to use glucose as fuel.

A molecule of glucose that enters a normal cell will be burned up by the mitochondria with oxygen and produce 36 molecules of ATP (the currency or unit of energy for living organisms). If the glucose is used without oxygen (anaerobically) it will give only 2 ATP. Glucose usage produces a waste by-product, lactic acid or lactate, which can remain in the tissue, or be partially or fully excreted into the bloodstream for elimination by the kidneys, as is normal for acidic wastes.

More importantly though, is that almost every cell in the body can also use fat as a source of fuel. And in fact, cells of living organisms like ourselves much prefer fat over glucose for the very simple reason that the oxidation of a fatty acid by a cell’s mitochondria produces a lot more molecules of ATP (the amount depends on the kind of fatty acid, and more specifically on the number of carbon atoms), and in addition, does not produce acidic waste by-product—no lactic acid or any other kind of acid—and thus no acid that requires excretion and elimination, and no acid that accumulates in the tissues.

For those relatively few cells that cannot use fat directly, the body manufactures ketone bodies, which are just simple, fat-derived molecules intended as fuel, mostly for the brain. But ketones have a whole array of wonderful, health-promoting properties, especially for the brain, like stimulating the healing and clearing out of plaques in the cerebral arteries and arterioles. This fact is the basis for many therapeutic treatments of people suffering from central nervous system disorders like epileptics, young or old, and Alzheimer’s patients.

Fat storage

Very importantly, fatty acids in circulation will not be stored into fat cells unless insulin is elevated: the fat will remain in circulation for hours, no matter how much of it there is, slowly being used up by working cells as fuel, and continue to signal satiety and suppress hunger until it is used up and gone.

If insulin is elevated, however, the insulin will store everything away, the glucose, the protein, and the fat, also no matter how much of it there is, and most of it in fat cells. Remember, insulin’s role here is to store away excess nutrients for use during future times of scarcity. It doesn’t care that we already have dozens kilos of stored fat for future times of scarcity. It just clears the bloodstream of nutrients and promotes fat storage.

Conclusion for fat

That’s it, that’s the last topic I’m going to talk about for now, and here’s my final one-line conclusion for fats: Fats are needed for building and repairing cells, for mineral absorption, for cholesterol synthesis, for hormonal balance and brain function; fats are digested in the alkaline intestine, where they are emulsified by the bile made in the liver and secreted by the gall bladder; unlike sugar, it can remain in the stomach together with protein for hours without causing problems; fat is the ideal cellular fuel, because the oxidation of a fatty acid in the cell produces 24 units of ATP, twelve times more than glucose, and does not produce any acidic by-products such as lactic acid in the case of glucose. Fat-derived ketones are not only fuel for a few specialised cells like some of those in the brain, but have many health-promoting and healing therapeutic effects.

Thanks for listening. I’m open for questions.

 

This talk was given to a group of colleagues at the European Space Astronomy Centre of the European Space Agency, in Villanueva de la Canada near Madrid in Spain, on August 6, 2013.

Understanding digestion

There are four things about digestion that I believe to be essential to understand, remember, and always keep in mind. The first is that although the environment of the stomach can be, and is generally at least mildly acidic, the intestines must be alkaline. The second is that the level of acidity inside the stomach depends on what is in it: it is in response to whatever comes into the stomach that specialised cells of its lining secrete hydrochloric acid in greater or lesser amounts. The third is that only protein requires a highly acidic environment to be properly broken down into the amino acids that make up protein before moving on into the small intestine; fats and carbohydrates neither require nor stimulate the secretion of acid in the stomach because they are broken down in the alkaline environment of the intestine. And the fourth is that water is totally crucial to the proper function of all digestive organs, and to the whole process of digestion from start to finish.

digestive_system_with_labels

Model of the human digestive system with labels

Because proteins are so hard to break down, they must remain in a highly acidic environment in the stomach for about 3 hours before the resulting chyme should be, can be, and is normally transferred to the small intestine. (Obviously, the time depends on the amount.) And the more acidic the environment of the stomach, the better it is for the breakdown of protein, but also to protect the organism by destroying pathogenic bacteria that could have come with the protein, as is presumably often the case in the wild.

In addition to the hydrochloric acid secreted by the stomach, protein-digesting enzymes (proteases) like pepsin are also secreted by the stomach when it contains protein. Moreover, the acid activates the inactive forms of the enzymes prorennin and pepsinogen into their active forms: rennin is necessary for digesting milk protein, and pepsin breaks down the proteins into polypeptides. It is very important to remember that the stomach has cells that sense what nutrients are present, so that it knows what and how much to secrete for their digestion.

Many people suffer simultaneously from amino acid deficiency, and the consequences of putrefaction of undigested protein in the intestine, even though they eat plenty, if not too much protein, because their stomach does not produce the amount of hydrochloric acid that is needed for proper protein breakdown. In fact, this is very common in older people, but it is also a problem in the middle aged and even in young adults. This problem can be partially remedied by taking hydrochloric acid supplements with protein meals, an approach that works very well for the elderly, but addressing the fundamental issues that lead to digestive dysfunction is obviously most important. The digestion of fats and carbohydrates is entirely different.

Simple carbohydrates eaten on an empty stomach will move out of it and into the intestine in a matter of minutes. This is why blood sugar levels go up almost instantly when we eat or drink simple carbs like whole fruit or fruit juice. Starchy carbohydrates begin to be broken down into sugar when they come into contact with those enzymes in the mouth whose purpose it is to do this (primarily amylase), and will be broken down completely over the course of a few hours, not in the stomach, but in the small intestine.

The same goes for fat: fat or oil by itself eaten on an empty stomach will swiftly move to the small intestine as it does not need an acidic environment, and thus simply does not need to stay in the stomach. But unlike carbohydrates, fats need to first be emulsified into droplets that can mix in the watery environment of the small intestine. This is done by the bile produced by the liver, but stored and secreted by the gall bladder into the small intestine. The emulsified triglycerides are then broken apart by pancreatic lipase that separates the glycerol backbone from the three fatty acids. The free fatty acids are absorbed in the small intestine and into the bloodstream by passive diffusion (as is water).

Another important difference between the digestion of carbohydrates and fats is that while it is no problem at all for fat to sit in the stomach for hours, together with the protein being broken down by the acidic chyme, carbohydrates, and especially simple carbs, start to ferment very quickly if they do not move out of the stomach. This is what gives rise to the characteristic bloating that we feel when we eat simple carbs together with other foods, but especially when combined with any kind of protein, the best example of which is having sweet things either with or after a large meal that typically contains plenty of protein, such as the terrible habit of having fruit after the meal, as is done in most western countries, as opposed to the much wiser habit of eating the fruit as a starter, before the meal, as is done in some other cultures. Bloating, burps, gas, stomach aches, etc, as well as really bad digestion followed by really poor absorption all result from the fermentation of the simple carbs that remain in the stomach for longer than a few minutes, as they normally would, before passing to the small intestine, as well as the incompatibility of various digestive enzymes, each with its own specific nutrient to break down, released into the intestine by the pancreas, all trying to do their work, but clashing against one other in the process.

Therefore, to properly digest protein there should be no simple or starchy carbohydrates in the stomach for the entire breakdown process that lasts about 3-4 hours for a normal (smallish) meal. In addition, there should not be any alkalising liquids like alkaline water, sodium bicarbonate water, lemon water, or green juice in the stomach, because they will work to neutralise the acid needed to break down the protein, and thus cause bad digestion and stomach aches. You can try any of the combinations described here if you want evidence through personal experience, but I’m sure you have experienced most of them at various times, although most probably unaware of it. I guarantee that it works in exactly the same way for everyone, even if some are definitely more sensitive than others.

In case you don’t know or don’t remember from other articles, I think no one should consume simple or starchy insulin-stimulating carbohydrates because their consumption in any amount inevitably damages body and health in any one of several very predictable ways. The reason why I am emphasising these points about carbohydrate digestion is not only because the majority of people in the world get most of their calories from insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, but also because these carbohydrates are most disruptive to digestive health in many more ways than we tend to know or consider.

I have written recently in the article Detoxification about the disastrous consequences on the digestive system of a diet consisting mostly of simple or starchy carbohydrates, all of which are caused by chronic acidosis of the intestine. To recover from or avoid these digestive disorders and the diseases that result from them, it is of paramount importance to, on the one hand, eliminate these acid-forming sugars and starches, and on the other, alkalise as much as we can the intestinal tracts on a continual basis, day after day, and year after year.

The natural consequence of these facts and considerations is that the most healing and health-promoting of diets is one that consists primarily of alkalising drinks and foods—alkaline water, green juices, lemon water, and green and leafy vegetables—and in which energy needs are covered by the best fats—coconut oil, raw grass-fed butter, wild fish and meats, and whole, soaked nuts and seeds—with protein consumption kept to the essential minimum based on individual needs.

Water is exceedingly important for digestion, and I have written about this in Why we should drink water before meals. The two most crucial roles of water in the digestive process are: First, to provide the stomach the level of hydration needed to make, maintain and adjust the thickness and consistency of both the layer of mucus that protects the lining of the stomach from the corrosive acidic secretion required for the breakdown of protein, and for of the chyme itself during the initial phases of digestion when it is churned by the stomach. Second, to provide the pancreas the required hydration for it to be able to produce the all-important pancreatic fluid (bicarbonate solution) whose purpose is to neutralise the acidic chyme once it is transferred from the stomach to the small intestine, as well as to carry the enzymes produced by the pancreas to break down those foods that do not themselves carry and provide the enzymes needed for their proper digestion.

As is always the case for everything that relates to health, we can only truly understand by understanding the physiology—how things work. The digestive system is the one around which all other systems are arranged because the health and survival of the organism as a whole depends entirely on it. And the key to optimal digestion and health is the understanding that the stomach only needs to be acidic when there is protein in it, the intestine must always be alkaline, and the digestive system as a whole always requires a good supply of water.

Therefore, we should aim primarily to alkalise and hydrate by drinking lots of alkaline mineral and chlorophyll rich drinks together with liberal but appropriate amounts of unrefined sea salt (see How much salt, how much water, and our amazing kidneys); consume plenty of fat; always consume protein either by itself, with fat or with green vegetables, but never with simple or starchy carbohydrates; if you eat simple carbs such as sweet fruit, make sure you eat it by itself on an empty stomach; and always make sure that when you eat protein, the environment of the stomach is kept acidic, and thus do not have any alkalising liquids for at least 60 minutes before and 3 hours after the protein meal, but also make sure to have at least half a litre of plain water, at least half an hour before eating.

Keeping to these simple principles will ensure optimal digestion, optimal digestive health, and optimal overall health, day and day, and year after year, throughout life, from childhood to old age.

Everything is in the biochemistry

The trillions of cells that make up the body don’t give a shit if you are happy and joyful, or dissatisfied and angry. They only know biochemistry, nothing else. The fact is that in regard to health, biochemistry is everything, and everything is in the biochemistry. This means that absolutely everything in the body is defined and determined by the biochemistry, and that everything we eat, drink and do, but also everything we think, feel and believe, defines and determines the biochemistry of the body.

There is no doubt that any negative stressor, including and maybe especially the various states of dissatisfaction and unhappiness most of us cycle through each day, are truly poisonous to our health. But no matter how complex the details of this may seem, no matter how much or how little of it we understand or realise, the imbalances caused by every negative stressor will be seen clearly in the biochemical tracers that can be tested for and measured. And it is those tracers together with every other bioactive molecule that define and determine all cellular functions and interactions on which depends health or disease. For example, morning cortisol levels above 10 micrograms/dl most probably means too much stress on a daily basis, independently of its causes, and cortisol levels below 5 most likely means adrenal fatigue from chronic stress over an extended period of time, also independently of what has caused this. These observations have nothing to do with how you feel about it, and the stress hormones secreted by the adrenal glands do not know what you think or feel or believe about anything at all; they just respond to the biochemical conditions in the body.

If you are chronically stressed, unhappy and generally feeling shitty, it is certain that your biochemistry is not in balance, that as a result of this your health suffers, and that you absolutely need to do something to change and improve your situation. If, on the other hand, you are feeling happy and enthusiastic, and everything seems perfectly fine, this does not imply that your biochemistry is in balance, and it certainly does not imply that it is optimal. This is obvious considering that more or less everyone in western countries dies between 65 and 85 of heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. I’m sure you’ll agree that it would be silly to say that all of these people—in this case about 90% of the population—die because they are unhappy and stressed, or that if they were as happy as can be, they would not get sick.

Feeling happy and joyful does not in the least make us immune to disease. My dad was a remarkably happy and joyful fellow for most of his life, but he was fat from the age of about 25, was taking various medications from the age of about 50, and increasing in number with time, just as his parents, and just as most people today, and he died rather unexpectedly (isn’t this almost always the case?), at home, from heart failure due to extreme dehydration as a consequence of four days of intensive chemo intended to treat a rapidly growing cancerous sarcoma in the arm. This happened even though he walked into the hospital with a spring in his step, and the belief of a good natured, joyful man that he would make it through this thanks to his positive attitude, and his lack of fear about this whole cancer thing. Obviously he was proved direly wrong, and so were the stupid, incompetent doctors that recommended that treatment to this obviously fragile 70 year-old man with highly compromised health.

The chemo administered intravenously, burned through him from the inside: he had continuous diarrhoea with no control of his bowels, but every time he drank even a sip of water, he said it felt like fire burning through his throat. So, he couldn’t drink. Amazingly, the nurses that came to measure his blood pressure, which must have been low and dropping by the hour, must not have noticed or found this problematic, because they didn’t bring him back to the hospital and put him on an IV in order to provide the water and salt needed to keep the heart and kidneys working. Living 5600 km away and 6 hours ahead, I was made aware of all of this in retrospect with several days delay, and was unable to do anything about it in time. Everything happened really quickly: four days of chemo, and he was dead seven days later.

It is one thing to know and say that negative stress, whatever form it takes, poisons our health, and indeed makes us weak, tired, and prone to developing a wide range of disease conditions. But it is another entirely different thing to say that if you are happy and joyful you don’t really need to worry about what you eat as long as you eat a “healthy” and “balanced” diet, and enjoy what you eat. That’s plain wrong, objectively false. And what does “a healthy” or “balanced” diet mean anyway? A little bit of everything? Certainly not! And isn’t this what we are aiming to define as precisely as possible through reading, studying, personal experience and investigation, and efforts towards the noble goal of achieving perfect health?

Why brush your teeth with Tooth Soap instead of with Colgate, Crest, Tom’s or nothing at all? Is it because it makes you happier, or it is because you know it’s better for the teeth? It’s the latter, of course. And independently of your state of happiness and joyfulness, Tooth Soap is better for your teeth and your health than Colgate, (and a high quality natural bar soap is even better and much cheaper). In exactly the same way, a green juice made entirely of green vegetables is a million times better for you than a fruit smoothie with bananas, apples and berries, or peaches, apricots and carrots, or whatever you like. And this is independent of your state of happiness or unhappiness, even when considering that drinking the fruit smoothie may make you feel “better” and happier than drinking the possibly (but not necessarily) bitter and astringent green juice.

Why? Not just because the fresh green juice is so objectively excellent for your health in so many ways, but primarily because each droplet of insulin in your blood beyond the strict minimum needed by the body at any given time damages the cells and tissues throughout, from the toe nails, the hair, and the skin, to the eyes, the optic nerve, and the brain cells, in the entire circulatory system, and to and from every cell, tissue and organ in every part of the body. Therefore, because insulin is raised above the strict functional minimum more and more by every single additional gram of insulin-stimulating carb you eat or drink, this means that every one of these grams of carbs harms the body in some way. The green juice can be said to be objectively good in the absolute sense of the word, while the fruit smoothie can be said to be objectively bad, also in the absolute sense of the word. Yes, I’m sorry to have to repeat this, but sweet fruit other than berries is bad for your health. And fruitarians, like Steve Jobs for most of his adult life, well: pancreatic dysfunction, failure or cancer (as was the case for Jobs), and otherwise cancers of all other kinds will almost inevitably come to anyone who eats only fruit for an extended period of time. This is entirely independent of what you think about it, what you feel about it, and how happy or unhappy you are when you eat or in general. It’s objectively thus, based solely on the biochemical effects of these foods on the body and its metabolism.

Going further still with the biochemical connections, everything we eat can either relieve inflammation or cause it, relieve acidosis or cause it, and therefore, either relieve bodily stress or cause it. All insulin-stimulating carbs directly and indirectly cause inflammation, cellular damage, acidosis, and thus physiological stress. This physiological stress not only compounds with the psychological stressors, but actually causes additional psychological stress, even if it is not perceived as such, simply because stress hormone levels are higher. As a consequence, we are more sensitive, more delicate, more prone to anxiety and nervousness, more easily startled and generally edgy, all of which just means we are stressed, more stressed.

There’s just no way around this: the bodymind is a seamlessly bound whole in which everything affects everything else, in all ways and at all levels. And once more, from the cellular perspective, the cells really don’t care in any way about how you feel, what you think, what you believe and how joyful or happy you are. How could they? They only strive to survive as best they can in the environment of the body, and they experience the consequences of everything we eat, drink, do, think and feel compounded and mixed together, only through how all of this is expressed in the complex biochemical makeup of that inner environment.

An excellent illustration of the importance of optimal biochemical balance is B12 deficiency induced disease conditions such as depression, psychosis, bipolar mania, schizophrenia and paranoia. You can take someone suffering from any one of these conditions that would be almost certainly, and thus inevitably wrongly, diagnosed as psychiatric in nature, give them all the drugs you wish, all the attention, love and caring, all the therapy and counselling in the world, and nothing will make them better. Only correcting the B12 deficiency will make them better. And often almost immediately so, within days, through daily injections of 1-2 mg doses of methyl-cobalamin.

I do not put into question the intentions and sincerity of health writers and bloggers. What I put into question is the advice given that has the potential to reach countless thousands, and cause harm to those who, looking up to these health role models, choose to follow their recommendations. Since we are concerned with optimal health, we need to be accurate and scrutinising. We need to be clear and sharp, pragmatic and scientific, and come to solid conclusions based on facts, in this case, physiological, biochemical and metabolic facts. And this cannot be done without, on the one hand, a thorough understanding of physiological, biochemical and metabolic functions, and on the other, measurements of the blood markers that are the most direct means we have to look inside, so to speak, in order to objectively assess the state of health or disease of the body.

(This was written in response to a comment by Gabriala Brown (Tooth Soap) about a comment I made in reaction to a post by Frederic Patenaude on Kevin Gianni’s Renegade Health blog. If you enjoyed reading this article, please click “Like” and share it on your social networks. This is the only way I can know you appreciated it.)

At the heart of heart disease

You are more likely to die from heart attack or stroke than anything else. Cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease are the top two causes of death (Ref1), responsible for the death of about one third of people in the US and in most industrialised countries (Ref2). What is strange, however, is that not many people seem to worry or even care about this. Well, at least not until it hits them in the face. Have you ever thought about it? Has your doctor not mentioned this? Is that surprising? Well, not really, because they also die primarily of heart attack and stroke and cancer, like everyone else, and they have no idea why.

To be fair though, some people do care, and some people do know, even some doctors, but only very few. Those who do, however, are usually not those who most need to, and those who really do need to, usually don’t. Funny how that is. And funny how this seems to be the case for so many things. Anyway, it is important to realise and remember that heart attack and stroke are together the single most important cause of death in most of the world, and are responsible for about a third of all deaths in industrialised countries. That is a lot.

Something else which is important to appreciate, is that heart attack and stroke are two manifestations of exactly the same problem: damage to the arteries. Moreover, and rather unbeknownst to most, Alzheimer’s disease, responsible for about 5% of deaths in the US (but 7% in the UK and 10% in Australia), as well as dementia and senility, are yet often a third manifestation of the same problem. In this case, it is the accumulation of plaques in the smaller arteries of the brain that gradually obstruct or block the flow of blood to specific areas, causing the gradual withering and eventual death of these brain cells. B12 deficiency, however, growing more severe with the passing years, is also a major cause of dementia and neurological problems in older people, but also in the young and the middle aged.

Now somehow, because these conditions most commonly manifest themselves in older folks, usually in their sixties, seventies or eighties, the rest of us just tend to ignore these obvious facts, pretending the whole thing has nothing to do with us. Do you find this sensible? You know it’s not. So, what do we need to know, and what do we need to do?  Let’s paint a clear picture by asking a few basic questions, the few basic questions, answering them, and looking at the links between factors that emerge from this line of questioning.

Human-Heart-Organ-Faust-heart-symbolises

Why do plaques develop and accumulate in the arteries? Because the cells and tissues that are part of the artery get injured, and the body’s repair systems are activated to patch up and heal the injured tissue. The plaque, just like a scab that allows the skin wound underneath it to heal, protects and provides the necessary constituents for the healing and repair of the artery wall. And just like a scab falls off on its own when the wound has healed, there are specific mechanisms to deconstruct the plaque, and recycle its constituents when the injury has healed. If, however, damage to the artery occurs faster than the time it takes to heal and repair, the plaques accumulate. This is exactly what happens in most of us.

Where do plaques develop? In the places where the blood pressure and blood flow are greatest, and particularly at arterial junctions where there is an important change in the angle of the blood flow from one arterial branch to another. This is very important. Moreover, plaques form inside the artery wall, not on its surface. This is also very important. Why are these two little facts so very important? Because they are completely contrary to the standard picture held by practically everyone about the development of arterial disease.

We have been taught, and hence absurdly believe, that plaques are made up of cholesterol and saturated fat that circulate in the blood, stick to our arteries, and that over time, grow into large bulges of cholesterol and fat that block the arteries. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is hard to imagine how a thinking person could have come up with a total failure of a pedagogical scenario as idiotic and absurd as this one. Still, this is what we believe. Isn’t this what you thought, at least at some point in the past, or actually even still think?

Firstly, neither cholesterol nor fats are water-soluble. Blood is 50% water and the plasma in which everything other than red and white blood cells is transported is 90% water. Therefore, neither cholesterol nor fats can circulate in the bloodstream on their own. They are carried around by lipoproteins of various sizes and densities that can be imagined as little spheres with a protein shell that hold fat and cholesterol on the inside (read more on this in What about cholesterol). These lipoproteins only open up and transfer their contents when they correctly latch onto a receiving gatekeeper on the surface of the cell, and this is so important that every cell has a lot of these ports to receive fat and cholesterol from the carrier lipoproteins.

Secondly, if it were the case that somehow fat and cholesterol floated and just stuck to the blood vessels, we would naturally expect to see a gradual appearance and accumulation of an evenly distributed layer of fat and cholesterol in all the arteries, as well as in all the veins. And this is not at all what we see: we see plaques in specific places and not anywhere else.

And thirdly, how in the world would the cholesterol and fat stuck to the blood vessel, somehow, magically, move from the outside to the inside of the artery wall without losing its structure or disintegrating? There is just no way. So please eradicate this erroneous notion from your conscious intellect, and spread the word to your family, friends and especially to your family doctor!

What causes injury to arteries? This is the million, or rather, the multi-billion dollar question, isn’t it? Because if we can answer this question, we can do what is needed to avoid arterial injury and damage. And no, it’s not cholesterol!  (I know, I know, you’ve gotten that point by now). Well, fortunately, we know what causes injury to arteries, and get to that very soon. Unfortunately, there are several causes, and they are intertwined into vines of interdependent factors, each of which must be considered in the context of the overall picture. It is through this second point that I distinguish myself from most experts whose books I’ve read on the topic, that almost inevitably focus on one particular underlying cause or problem at the expense of the others, and more importantly, the relationship between them. Here we go:

Chronic dehydration  is the most fundamental of all causes of arterial injury. Unfortunately, this is not generally recognised. But fortunately, it is the easiest to address and correct. Blood pressure is absolutely fundamental to all bodily processes and functions. The body has evolved an extremely finely tuned system for continuous control and refined adjustments of blood pressure, because everything depends on it. Since the circulatory system is pretty much a closed system (blood doesn’t go in or out), the pressure in the entire system is primarily a function of its water content (50%). Therefore, even a slight decrease in this water content, immediately translates to a drop in volume and thus pressure. This drop is sensed by many different types of cells in blood vessels, in some glands and organs, and in parts of the brain that continuously monitor the pressure in the system. This triggers a series of hormonal responses whose ultimate purpose is to raise the blood pressure back up to its optimal level, and maintain the precious balance that the organism and all of its parts require and strive for incessantly during every instant of their existence. And by the way, remember that none of these care about you, what you want, or what you like. They strive for optimal function and survival independently of you, for their own sake.

You can read more about this in The kidney: evolutionary marvel and in How much water, how much salt, and our amazing kidneys, but basically, it goes like this: drop in water content, drop in blood pressure: secretion of renin by the kidney, secretion of angiotensinogen by the liver, conversion to angiotensin I  by renin, conversion to angiotensin II  in the lungs, contraction of blood vessels in order to raise blood pressure; secretion of stress-response hormone vasopressin by the pituitary gland, more contraction of blood vessels, reabsorption of water and salt in kidney to raise blood pressure, secretion of glucose from the liver, secretion of blood clotting factors and platelets to thicken blood, secretion of stress hormone ACTH  to reinforce all of the above. Bad news. All of it. Don’t you think?

The solution is very simple, drink more water and eat more salt to maintain sodium concentration in the blood; always drink on an empty stomach: up to 30-45 minutes before meals (at the very least 500 ml 30 minutes before), and then wait at least 2-3 hours after meals. Simple, easy and inexpensive, but highly effective and absolutely fundamental.

Magnesium deficiency  is the second most fundamental cause of arterial injury. But once more, this is unfortunately not generally recognised either. Magnesium experts, (most probably unaware of the underlying problems caused by chronic dehydration), estimate that about 60% of all cardio-cerebro vascular events are attributable to magnesium deficiency. Why? Because magnesium is what allows muscles fibres to relax. It is quite straight forward: without enough available magnesium, muscle cells cannot relax; they contract and just stay contracted. This prolonged involuntary contraction is what we feel in the foot, calf or hamstring when we get a cramp. But the smooth muscle cells that line all of the blood vessels are much more sensitive to magnesium, extremely sensitive, in fact, because they are the mechanical means by which blood pressure is continuously regulated, moment to moment, in order to best adapt to the physiological conditions and needs in any given instant.

This function is far more important than the use of an arm or a leg, because it is vital to the survival of the organism as a whole, and therefore takes precedence in the body’s physiological hierarchy. Imagine if you experienced arterial spasms, and consequently, little heart attacks, as frequently as some of us experience muscle cramps in a foot, hamstring or calf? How disastrous! So the body’s physiological hierarchy definitely serves us also very well indeed. Nonetheless, even a slight deficiency in magnesium will cause dysfunction in blood pressure regulation by those smooth blood vessel muscle cells. Since the primary effect of magnesium deficiency is stiffening of muscle fibres, this will manifest in higher blood pressure, generally and in all circumstances, when relaxed or asleep, when exercising intensely or feeling stressed. Naturally, this does not get any better with time. Instead, degradation and dysfunction increase in severity at a faster rate with each passing day. The vicious cycle goes just like this: less magnesium, more stiffness; more stiffness, higher pressure, more arterial damage; more arterial damage, more plaques, more stiffness, higher pressure; and down and around it goes. Bad, bad news.

The solution in this case is also very simple: daily supplementation. You can read more about magnesium in Why you should start taking magnesium today. My updated recommendations for supplementation are as follows: use concentrated trace minerals in your drinking water, 20 drops per litre, which is just like drinking natural, mineral-rich water. This will result in 40 to 80 drops per day, and will provide 250 to 500 mg of magnesium, but also all the other trace minerals in their most natural ratio as found in sea salt (minus the sodium which is taken out). This is perfectly adequate, and over time will replenish magnesium in addition to all other mineral deficiencies that are usually just as bad but not as important or noticeable. This can take years, but that’s not a problem. Be patient and consistent.

Two or three times per week, (probably mostly in the winter), take baths with 2/3 to 1 cup of nigari (magnesium chloride) flakes. You have to soak for at least 30 minutes, and do not wash with soap or rinse off before coming out. In the summer, if you want to hasten the replenishing of your magnesium levels, you should use “magnesium oil” (concentrated solution of magnesium chloride and water; I recommend 20%, not more), and spray it on your arms, legs and body, avoiding sensitive areas because it stings a bit. In this case also, you must wait at least 30 minutes before having a shower to allow the skin to absorb the magnesium. I don’t recommend taking nigari solution orally because it irritates the intestines in the long run, especially the colon.

That’s it. And just like with good water intake, magnesium supplementation, especially using concentrated trace minerals in your drinking water, is also simple, easy and inexpensive, but highly effective and absolutely fundamental. We simply cannot be in good health without it, let alone in optimal health.

Simple and starchy carbohydrates  that stimulate the secretion of insulin from the pancreas, are without any doubt the most damaging and dangerous substances that we call and consider to be food. And once more, and again unfortunately, this is not generally recognised. Now, I know that the above statement about carbs is a very strong one which, in fact, can be interpreted to imply that simple and starchy carbohydrates should not be considered food, per se. But I hold to this, because I believe we should only consider as food those substances that are, on the one hand, essential for survival, and thus also for optimal health, and on the other, health-promoting and not the opposite. And whether you know this already or not, whether you chose to ignore this fact, or even whether you believe it or not, simple and starchy carbohydrates fail on both counts: we do not need any whatsoever for survival and certainly not for optimal health, and the ingestion of even the smallest amount causes damage to the body, its systems and its metabolism. The less is consumed, the lesser the damage; the more is consumed, the greater the damage. But there is a threshold effect, so that above a given amount, the damage that is sustained by the tissues and organs increases rapidly.

Fundamentally, the process of arterial damage, the subsequent plaque formation and the entire genesis of cardio-cerebro vascular disease is an inflammatory process. This means that anything which causes inflammation will make it worse, but also that inflammation is at the root of the problem. So, what does this have to do with carbohydrates? Absolutely everything! Volek and Phinney write in The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living:

Inflammation causes our cells (specifically our mitochondria) to increase production of free radicals. Free radicals are like mini roadside bombs that interfere with normal cellular functions. So … : 1) dietary carbohydrate raises serum insulin; 2) insulin promotes inflammation … ; 3) inflammation increases cellular free radical generation; 4) free radicals attack any convenient nearby target; 5) ideal targets for free radicals are [cell] membrane polyunsaturated fats; 6) membrane polyunsaturated fats are important determinants of cellular function … (p. 82). Carbohydrate ingestion and … hyperglycemia activate a host of inflammatory and free radical-generating pathways. Some of these include: … activation of NF-kB which regulates the transcriptional activity of over 100 pro-inflammatory genes (p.186).

And to reinforce the case against insulin, Rosedale couldn’t be clearer on this in Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects:

If you drip insulin into the femoral artery of a dog, … , the artery will become almost totally occluded with plaque after about three months. The contra lateral side was totally clear, just contact of insulin in the artery caused it to fill up with plaque. That has been known since the 70s and has been repeated in chickens and in dogs; it is really a well-known fact that insulin floating around in the blood causes a plaque build-up. They didn’t know why, but we know that insulin causes endothelial proliferation. This is the first step as it causes a tumor, an endothelial tumor.

Insulin also causes the blood to clot … and causes the conversion of macrophages into foam cells, which are the cells that accumulate the fatty deposits. Every step of the way, insulin is causing cardiovascular disease. It fills the body with plaque, it constricts the arteries, it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, it increases platelet adhesiveness and coaguability of the blood. (p. 7)

There we have it. Although tons more could be said, and indeed, has been said, tried and demonstrated many times during the last half century, the only thing that we really need to understand and remember, is that both insulin and glucose in the bloodstream are like corrosive agents that both cause direct damage to tissues and fuel inflammation throughout the circulatory system and the organism as a whole. We didn’t even mention glycation, but you can read more about carbohydrates if you wish by browsing the articles in that category.

The solution in this case is also very simple: just eliminate simple and starchy carbohydrates from your diet. This one, however, is definitely much more easily said than done. However you look at it, there are no alternatives. It is just a question of time and motivation, understanding and determination. At least until it becomes a question of necessity, and in the extreme, a choice not just between health and disease, but between life and death. Plainly said, it is impossible to gain and maintain optimal health without eliminating insulin-stimulating carbohydrates from the diet. It is important to emphasise that fibrous vegetables (everything except for starchy and potato-like) do not stimulate insulin secretion. These should constitute the bulk in volume of what we eat every day.

Polyunsaturated vegetable oils  are the other “food” substance that should be eliminated simply because they also promote inflammation and free radical damage. This includes all vegetable oils from seeds (sunflower, safflower, rape, etc), pulses (soya) and grains (corn) that are liquid at room temperature and in the fridge. You didn’t know that? Well, this is another one of those well established and demonstrated facts that most of us are unaware of. What else can I say? You can read about this in The Skinny on Fats by Mary Enigbut also in the books by Taubes, Volek & Phinney, Kendrick, Colpo and Ravnskov among others (see Bibliography).

Solution? Simple: olive oil is monounsaturated (you will notice that it solidifies in the fridge), and is the only one you should use in salads and dips; get high quality and use less. Otherwise, cold pressed, extra virgin, organic coconut oil and organic butter (unpasteurized is is much better if you can find it) are by far the best options for everything else.

Stress,  negative physical, psychological and emotional stress, especially if it is chronic, is probably the worst assault that can be imposed upon the organism. In fact, many health and stress experts maintain that stress is definitely the most potent poison with the most immediate and most deleterious effects on all bodily functions and systems. Kendrick makes this the main thesis of his book on cholesterol and heart disease, and he does make a very convincing case of it. Other medical scientist have shown how psychological stress increases all disease markers, from the propensity to catching colds and flus, to the increased probability to develop degenerative diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. This seems amazing at first, but when we look into the details of what stress actually means, how stress manifests itself in our biochemistry, it becomes completely clear and obvious why it is so damaging. In addition, this is where we see how everything ties in together, and very explicitly at that.

One thing that should be clear is that any kind of negative stress induces the release of stress hormones. As we saw earlier, this triggers a bunch of reactions: contraction of blood vessels and rise of blood pressure, increased clotting, thickening and stickiness of blood, redirection of blood from digestive system, internal organs and brain, to large muscles in outer limbs, conversion in the liver of stored glycogen into glucose and subsequent release into the bloodstream, temporary insulin-resistance and thus inability to burn fat that also causes both blood sugar and insulin to remain in the bloodstream much longer than it rightly should. Temporary suspension and suppression of essential immune functions, increased magnesium needs as well as magnesium wasting are other really important immediate consequences of the presence of stress hormones in the system. Even though these biochemically mediated reactions are all very important when we need to fight or run for our lives, it is really bad in every other possible circumstance we may find ourselves in. And I am pretty confident that most of you rarely find yourselves facing a tiger or raging bull, but frequently feel that characteristic tightening of the breath, those butterflies in the stomach, the rush of blood to head, the wave of heat that seems to come out of nowhere, and all the other sensations associated with the surge of stress hormones through the body. In fact, you probably feel this much too often.

Now imagine this state of psychological and emotional stress, with all of its biochemical effects and metabolic consequences, as chronic: as how we live our life from one day to the next. What a disaster! We simultaneously induce and exacerbate all of the effects of chronic dehydration, of magnesium deficiency, of eating simple carbohydrates, and this, throughout the day, from morning to night. What an incredible disaster! So, no wonder we find that the more stress we feel, the more colds and flus we catch, the fatter we get, the more metabolic syndrome and diabetes we develop, the more heart attacks and strokes we suffer, the more cancers we grow and die from. And if that isn’t enough, sustaining such daily stress over an extended period will inevitably lead to adrenal fatigue, because the adrenal gland sitting on top of the kidneys that are continuously stimulated to secrete ever increasing amounts of stress hormones, just get exhausted. And then our cortisol and insulin levels are all screwed up, we can’t sleep at night, we can’t get up in the morning, we can’t concentrate, we cry for no reason, we forget things we shouldn’t and don’t want to, we are confused about everything and everything confuses us. Is that enough? Is that black enough a picture?

Is there a solution? Of course there is. First and foremost, it is crucial to recognise that the bulk of the stress that we impose on the bodymind is caused by the physiological assault at the cellular, metabolic and hormonal levels of the previous four factors: chronic dehydration, magnesium deficiency, insulin-stimulating carbs and polyunsaturated oils. Therefore, the most important thing to do to reduce our overall stress, is to do what is needed to take care of the first four factors, and to stop drinking coffee which always induces a stress response by stimulating the adrenal glands directly. Doing this will go a very long way in reducing and maybe eliminating stress almost completely. The first thing that everyone who adopts the green, mostly raw, alkalising ketogenic diet I promote, is how calm they feel after just a few days. And this calm becomes how you are in general. Why? Because stress hormone levels drop dramatically and quite quickly. And note that this is solely due to the biochemical and hormonal effects of this type of diet. Therefore, the importance of what we eat and drink on the overall stress levels cannot be understated: it is the most important! Unfortunately, as with many things I point out and underline, this is not generally recognised either.

Once you have done that, you will feel an entirely different person. Then, secondarily, for the psychological aspects, you really have to relax, take it easy, and take it slow. This may sound silly: telling someone who is stressed out to relax is almost as useful as telling someone who’s clothes are on fire that they should put out the fire before they get burnt. But, in many ways it is hard to say anything else: almost all the emotional and psychological stress we feel is self-induced. We simply work ourselves up. And that’s a fact.

We might very well invoke and attribute our stress to a thousand and one external circumstances and people and places and things to do and family problems and on and on, but in the end, the fact is that stress is self-induced. It is our response to all these things, these events, these circumstances, all of these things that are just our life, nothing more and nothing less. And it is our response that is either highly stressful, mildly stressful or not stressful at all. In other words, it is our attitude, our disposition towards what happens, that determines if we will feel stressed or not.

As soon as you understand and recognise this, the stress will ease up on its own: you will relax. You really have to just let go and relax. Change your attitude towards things. Just be cool and things will cool down for you. Just be calm and things will be calm. Take your time: walk slowly when you are going somewhere, speak slowly and listen to the person that is talking, leave early so that you don’t have to rush, just take your time in everything you do. This will help enormously. And you really have to do this, not just sometimes or for a while, but as the way you do things from now onwards. You will really feel the difference.

Biochemically, it is absolutely essential to optimise your B12 (aim for 800 pg/ml) and D3 levels (aim for 80 ng/ml). Both are really important for everything physiological and everything psychological. You can also use some natural helpers like tulsi (holy basil) as a tea (we start each day with that), or in extract; it is very effective at helping to calm down and it directly supports the adrenal glands, those that secrete the stress hormones. Valerian and melatonin are excellent non-addictive aids to sleeping soundly without side effects.

Maybe what is worth underlining at this point is the relationship that all of these variables have with each other, and particularly with stress. What I mean by this is that stress stimulates the release of glucose from the liver and leads to hyperglycaemia followed by insulin secretion, but ingesting sugar that directly causes hyperglycaemia and insulin secretion, induces stress on the system. Stress wastes and depletes magnesium, but magnesium supplementation reduces stress. Chronic dehydration triggers a comprehensive and full blown stress response, but a plentiful intake of high quality mineralised water and salt puts a stop to all of this and naturally suppresses the stress response. And although I haven’t mentioned this yet, it’s the same for food: all food that is eaten that induces stress on the digestive system—processed, chemical-laden, refined, overcooked or otherwise dead food—induces stress on the organism, a lot of stress. On the contrary, all food that instead provides enzymes, minerals and other phyto- and micro-nutrients—all raw veggies, nuts, seeds, coconut milk, superfoods—nourishes the body and its systems, and very effectively eases the stress on the organism as a whole. This is very important.

Free radicals,  regardless of how they come to be in circulation in the first place, reactive oxygen species or free radicals are the source of a lot of damage, and this to all cells, tissues and organs. Naturally, they are also the cause of accelerated ageing, and consequently, promote the development of degenerative diseases. We now know that free radicals abound with high blood glucose, high insulin, high polyunsaturated oil intake, and chronic stress which combines and exacerbates all problems. So, in addition to implementing all previous solutions comprehensively, especially loading up on raw fresh vegetables and green juices every day, it is also really good to supplement with anti-oxidants. Obviously, it is intelligent to find and take only the best ones. In this regard, what I take and recommend is astaxanthin (Bio-Astin from Nutrex I think is the best on the market) and turmeric in capsules (from Organic India), at night after dinner.

Infectious viruses, bacteria and pathogenic microforms  that circulate in the bloodstream have also very clearly been found to cause direct damage to blood vessel tissues. Ravnskov makes this his primary thesis in his book on cholesterol, fats and heart disease. And even though he does make a convincing case of it, with plenty of evidence and logical deductions, I am of the opinion that the terrain—the internal environment of the body—is ultimately what matter most, and in fact, if it is in optimal balance and health, then pathogens simply cannot either exist there, or if they do, cannot cause any harm. So, instead of looking for ways to kill and eradicate these, my focus is on attaining and maintaining a perfectly healthy and alkaline terrain such that there is no need to worry about pathogenic microforms, almost all of which thrive in acidic, oxygen-deprived environments. And this without saying anything about the Bechamp’s, Enderlein’s, Rife’s and Nassens’ observations and theories of the pleomorphic nature of microzymas or somatids, and their metamorphic cycle with three health-promoting and thirteen disease-promoting states. This fascinating story will be for another time.

Elevated free iron  is very tightly correlated with increased incidence of cardiovascular events. It is well established that men tend to die about 5-10 years earlier than women. The fact is, though, that they tend get a lot more heart attacks with rates increasing with age up to about 50. But following menopause, women’s rates of heart attack steadily grow to reach those of men by the time they are 65-70.

This is due to excess free iron that is always much lower in women during their reproductive period, but that grows steadily after menopause. And it is well established that iron is definitely essential and actually also works as a potent antioxidant when it it in optimal concentrations, but that it switches to being a potent oxidant and irritant in the blood vessels in high concentrations. For men who do not exercise, iron concentration just grows with time, just as their risk and rates of heart attack. If you exercise, iron is used up and therefore stays around optimal levels naturally. For women who love blood every month, iron tends to be ok, although sometimes too low. So this needs to be monitored.Hi

Elevated Homocysteine   is considered by some researchers as the most serious risk factor for both cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease. It is a amino acid breakdown product that is either recycled back into the amino acid methionine or destroyed by the liver. However, both of these homocysteine clearing mechanisms depend upon vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid. Since it is B12 that we tend to be most deficient of, it is also the weakest link in the chain. Fortunately, it is pretty simple to keep low levels of this toxic animo acid breakdown product low: we just need to keep B12 levels high, i.e., above 600 pg/ml.

Recommendations

Is there a need for a conclusion? I don’t really think so: you have everything you need. But if I were asked to summarise everything I wrote in this article, or better still, everything I know that relates to artery disease in a few recommendations, I would then say this:

  1. Drink plenty of clean alkaline water (3-4 litres/day), at least 30 minutes before and 1-2 hours after, for a total of 3-4 litres each day. Green juice and lemon water are excellent.
  2. Avoid simple and starchy carbohydrates.
  3. Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
  4. Do not take statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, or any other drugs, really.
  5. Minimise stress: first physiological and then psychological, and sleep well. Do everything you can to make this happen: take tulsi or tulsi extract during the day, and take melatonin and/or valerian root extract at night if necessary.
  6. Eat plenty of animal fats, coconut oil and grass fed butter, all of the highest quality.
  7. Eat good amounts of high quality animal protein from animal flesh and organ meats; eggs and high quality dairy only if you are not intolerant (though many people are).
  8. Eat plenty of unrefined sea salt with your meals (1-2 teaspoons per day).
  9. Eat raw fresh veggies, lots of salads with greens of all kinds (kale and spinach are most nutrient dense).
  10. Avoid alcohol (it’s quite toxic; that’s why the liver try to filter it out of the blood.)
  11. Supplement with iodine, magnesium, vitamins B12, A, D3 and K2 to maintain optimal levels of these essential vitamins. Take other supplements as needed.
  12. Exercise and go outside in the fresh air and under the sun’s rays. Do high intensity functional resistance training; Pilates or yoga to strengthen, align, and balance the core, the posture, and the body as a whole; lots of stretching and self-massage to release accumulated tensions.
  13. Supplement with sodium bicarbonate and potassium to keep a good alkaline balance.
  14. Take Magnesium-Bicarbonate baths (if you can): 1 cup nigari flakes, 1 cup baking soda, 45 min.

If you do these things, and you are not exposed to some dangerous environmental toxin, you will, in all likelihood, never have to worry about cardio-cerebral vascular disease, never have to worry about degenerative, immune, or metabolic diseases, and in fact, never have to worry about any other kind of disease at all. Of course, I can’t really guarantee this. But I’m betting my life on it.

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Detoxification

Do you know why cattle raised industrially, either for meat or for dairy, need to be on various drugs and antibiotics? Because they’re sick. Do you know why they’re all sick with viruses, bacteria, infections, tendonitis, chronic inflammation, arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes and cancer? (sounds familiar?) Because their intestines are chronically acidic. Do you know why their intestines are chronically acidic? Because they are fed a high-carbohydrate diet based on corn.

Do most people know this? No, they don’t. But is this a well-known problem in the industry? Of course. Is the cause of this problem also well-know? Of course it is. Industrial veterinarians say so themselves: “If these animals grazed on grass, we would be out of our jobs!” (from The Omnivore’s Dilemma).

And why is that: why is it that if cattle were to eat grass—as they always have, not just for the last ten thousand years since our ancestors domesticated them, but for millions of years along the slow evolutionary path—they would not get sick? Because they are meant to eat grass: they are herbivores. Yes. But that doesn’t explain why. The reason that they would not get sick is because their intestinal tract and their blood would be alkaline. 

Now, the most important question is the following: why is a chronically acidic intestinal tract the root cause of so much sickness and disease in cattle? The answer is simple, relatively speaking: Cattle are herbivores. This means they have evolved eating grass. Dark green, chlorophyll-rich, fibrous grass loaded with minerals is not only excellently nutritious for them (and for us), but it yields in the intestines an alkaline residue after digestion, sometimes referred to as ash in analogy to something that has been consumed by fire.

The pH of the entire length of the intestines is meant to be and remain alkaline. (Recall: 7 is neutral, below that is acidic, and above is alkaline.) Unlike the stomach in which the environment must be acidic (from mildly to highly depending on its contents) in order to break down proteins into simple amino acids, and that for this reason has cells that secrete mucus to form a thick layer that protects the lining from the corrosive acid also secreted by cells in the stomach in response to the presence of proteins, the delicate lining of the intestines does not have such a protective coating of mucus. The mechanism intended to protect it is the secretion by the pancreas of a strongly alkaline sodium bicarbonate solution into the small intestine in order to neutralise the acid following the transfer of the contents of the stomach into the duodenum.

However, even though this process does take place more or less efficiently depending on many factors like pancreatic and kidney function but especially on hydration status (see Why you should drink water before meals), the final stages of digestion and breakdown of the foodstuff—the now pH-neutralised chyme that came from the stomach—leave either an alkaline or an acidic ash depending on what it is, and on how well this entire digestive process takes place.

Now, if you didn’t already know this, the digestion and breakdown process is not done by “us” or by the intestines themselves: it is done by the trillions of bacteria, yeasts and fungi that live in our gut. These microscopic inhabitants that make up our intestinal flora depend on us for their survival, but we also depend on them for ours. This is the definition of a symbiotic relationship.

As you may have guessed, some are beneficial and essential, while others are detrimental and pathogenic. What is it that regulates the proliferation and lifecycle of all these microscopic inhabitants of our intestines, different kinds throughout, depending on the section and specificity of the cells and nutrients that are absorbed in that particular stretch of the long tube that is our gut? It is the environment, the surroundings, the medium in which they live. And what determines the characteristics of that medium? The foods we eat, and when we eat them; the drinks we drink, and when we drink them. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

When the intestines are chronically acidic, the pathogenic yeasts, fungi and bacteria thrive and proliferate: their metabolic by-products, their eliminations—that are highly acidic—make the environment increasingly more acidic, the lining of the intestinal wall is gradually corroded, and eaten away by the acid. Once it is thin enough the yeasts’ and the fungi’s tentacles and outgrowths pierce through the intestinal wall and spill out their toxins and themselves into the bloodstream and outside the gut, spreading throughout the body, multiplying and proliferating in every other place where the environment is suitable, and given that in the crushing majority of people, most tissues are already quite acidic, that’s not hard to find.

The result? inflammation, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, fungal overgrowth, generalised candida all over the place, inside and out. This is what causes the cattle to be sick. This is what causes all of the diseases from which they suffer, from which they need to be treated with drugs and antibiotics, and from which they need to be treated by the vets. Why? Simply because they eat corn instead of grass. Once more: is this known by most people who gingerly go to the supermarket to get a their meat for dinner? Sadly, no, it isn’t. But is this known by the vets in the meat industry? Sadly, yes, it is.

What does any of this have to do with us? It has everything to do with us because exactly the same thing happens in our own gut (see Sick and Tired). You’ve certainly heard of the so-called leaky gut syndrome. Well, this is it: exactly it. But what you probably haven’t heard is that this is what is happening in your intestines, and in those of almost everyone you know, and, in fact, almost everyone everywhere, to a greater or lesser extent.

Why? Because we all eat lots of simple and starchy carbohydrates, because all simple and starchy carbohydrates make the intestines acidic, and because all the pathogenic inhabitants of our gut thrive on the sugar and starch it is fed, and in the increasingly acidic environment this promotes.

What does any of this have to do with detoxification? It has everything to do with detoxification because the metabolic by-products and eliminations of the pathogenic yeasts, fungi and bacteria thriving in our gut are by far the most important source of toxins from which the body is sickened, but also of which it is desperately trying to detoxify itself.

Furthermore, all toxins resulting from the natural and normal digestion and metabolism of proteins are also highly acidic. And what is generally the case for most of us—here again, almost everyone everywhere—is that every tissue in the body is overly acidic, every cell that needs an alkaline environment to function properly is desperately trying to survive in this acidic medium. And so, exactly like the cattle, we are all sick, we suffer from viruses, bacteria, infections, tendonitis, chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, arthritis, diabetes and cancer, and everything else you care to add to this list.

What happens when we stop eating simple and starchy carbohydrates? It’s simple: the pathogenic micro-organisms in the intestines are starved because they cannot survive without a constant supply of sugar, and consequently begin to die off, massively. The beneficial ones do not. In addition, there is a quick metabolic adaptation and shift to using fat instead of sugar as the primary source of cellular fuel: nutritional ketosis is triggered within about 48 hours, takes about 4 weeks to be well established, and about 8 weeks to be completely established (from The Rosedale Diet and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living).

This keto-adaptation causes a fast and sudden activation of fat-burning stimulated by the drop in blood sugar and insulin levels, thus releasing into the bloodstream the heavy metals and chemical contaminants stored in the fat cells. This causes the spilling out of toxins all at once and from all directions that can manifest in a variety of ways: headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, boils, rashes, anxiety, insomnia, as well as asthma-like or other allergy-like reactions, to mention the most common.

But all of these are signs of detoxification and are therefore good, very good, extremely good. The only thing is that depending on the initial state of the body, the process may be more or less extreme, more or less painful, more or less prolonged, and more or less stressful. In some cases, we may want to do it more gradually in order to avoid an extremely fast, and thus intense detox phase that can sometimes actually make us sick(er) for a while. But no matter what, everything that manifests is a positive and encouraging sign that we are moving towards a healthier state of body and of mind, for sure. There are several things that help in the process of detoxification.

The first, that you will have read or heard about anywhere you encounter mention of detoxification, is to drink a lot of water. What you will not have read or heard about, however, and that I will add to this recommendation, is that it is essential to take plenty of unrefined sea salt to accompany all the water. Without the salt, you will quickly dilute your blood sodium and chloride concentrations and consequently dehydrate instead of hydrating. The ratio is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt per litre of water, depending on how much you eat, and how much salt you take with that food. The more you drink, the more salt you need, and it is particularly important if you don’t eat for an extended period of time. Drops to make the water alkaline is also very helpful; just make sure you don’t do this just before, during or after having complex proteins, as they require a highly acidic stomach.

The second is that since you can consider all the toxins being released as acidic waste, it is extremely helpful to alkalise as much as you can to neutralise as much of the acidity as possible. So, drink green juices and chlorophyll, either fresh or in powdered form, and eat cucumbers, celery, kohlrabi and huge dark green salads with avocados, and fresh parsley and basil as often as you can. All of this is also true every day and always.

Third and also crucial are psyllium husks, to help clear out the toxins from the intestines as efficiently as possible. A good way to take them is to dissolve in a 1 litre bottle of water, 1 heaping teaspoon of green juice powder, 1/2 teaspoon of unrefined Atlantic salt, and two teaspoons of psyllium husks (aloe vera juice to enhance cleansing and a tiny bit of stevia to sweeten and counter the salty taste are optional). Also good is with lemon water (1 litre, 2 lemons, stevia, salt and psyllium). Make sure you let it sit for some time so that the psyllium husks are well hydrated before you start drinking, and shake well every time before drinking.

You should have at least one litre per day (I do this every day, drink relatively slowly typically between 10:30 and 12:30, always on an empty stomach), and two litres during the acute detox phase would be excellent (mid-morning and afternoon). This will clean out the entire length of the intestines very effectively but also very gently.

Remember to always start the day with a 3/4-1 litre of plain, room temperature, alkaline water, drank over the course of at least 30 minutes. Or, alternatively or in combination, you can also start with a litre of tulsi herbal tea. Tulsi or Holy Basil is a powerful anti-stress and adrenal support that is soothing and relaxing without inducing sleepiness, and that over time helps the adrenal system recover from the very commonly encountered state of partial or nearly complete adrenal exhaustion. I usually to do both the water (between 1/2 and 1 litre) and tulsi tea (also from 1/2 to 1 litre) for a total that is always between 1 and 1.5 litres, typically taken over the period from 7 to 9, first thing in the morning.

Finally, it is very useful to soak in a hot bath with 2 to 4 cups of baking soda or epson salts (magnesium sulphate), or even better, 1 cup of nigari flakes (magnesium chloride). This will help relax the muscles, alkalise by pulling out acids from the tissues, and promote maximum detoxification through the skin. Magnesium chloride is also a powerful detoxifying and metal-chelating agent on its own. Make sure to supplement with it both orally and through the skin (see Why you should start taking magnesium today). Putting food-grade, virgin coconut oil, scented with a little essential oil of lavender or geranium on the skin is excellent. (Melt the coconut oil at low temperature, add the essential oils in the ratio of 10 ml per litre, seal, shake well and put in the fridge to cool quickly. Then take it out and keep it a room temperature.)

The acute phase can be hard to get through, but it is relatively short (a few to several days), and you will really start to feel a lot better after all these toxins have been cleared out of the body: all the pathogenic micro-organisms starved off and eliminated together with their acidic metabolic byproducts.

The process of healing the intestines, the blood and the tissues takes a long time, but on the way there, you will feel better with every passing day. Regular green juice fasts are an excellent way to accelerate the process of healing and then to maintain health.

It is essential to remember, however, that beyond the initial acute detox phase, optimal health depends entirely on a continual process and perpetual cycle of cleansing, detoxification and alkalisation followed by nourishing, repairing and rebuilding, carried out every day, and day after day. The profound systemic detoxification and healing process that results from the complete elimination of sugars and starches from the diet is without any doubt the most important and powerfully healthful change you could ever make.

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The kidney: evolutionary marvel

Kidney stones appear at all ages. They are common in older people, but also in the middle aged. They are seen in infants and toddlers, but also in teens and young adults. About 80% of them are calcium stones, 10% struvite stones (from urinary tract infections), and 10% crystallised uric acid, but uric acid ‘seeds’ also promote the formation of calcium stones. That this is so naturally implies that chronic kidney dysfunction must also be common.

Pain associated with a kidney stone can be sharp or dull, mostly depending on the size of the stone either partially blocking or passing through a calix in the kidney or the ureter from the kidney to the bladder, and usually expresses itself as pain in the back or side (easily mistaken for muscular strain), in the abdominal area (easily mistaken for indigestion) or in the groin above which sits the bladder. That such a pain should appear and persist when there are no reasons to suspect either muscle soreness or indigestion indicates that the problem may well be with one or both of the kidneys.

We take almost everything for granted. That we should have air that is not toxic to breathe, water that is not polluted to drink, food that is not contaminated to eat. That we should have a comfortable and warm place to live and work, hot water to shower and bathe whenever we wish, running water wherever we find ourselves. That there should be living plants, insects and animals; soils in which can be planted seeds that will grow; rivers, lakes, seas and oceans in which fish can live, thrive and multiply; mountains, forests and plains in which trees, bushes and grass, beasts, birds and bugs, and every living thing can also not just survive, but thrive. We take these for granted, maybe all the time, and if not, probably most of the time. It is, unfortunately, more than obvious that we should not.

That we take almost everything for granted is even more remarkable when we consider this bodymind (that we customarily and mistakenly call ours), with its countless numbers of specialised cells and tissues, its amazingly intricate organs and systems, and its multitude of facets and functions. What happens when we breathe in, and then when we breathe out? What happens when we drink a glass of water or when instead we drink a glass of juice? What happens when we drink a glass of Coke or a glass of wine? What happens when we eat something: when we eat an apple or a cucumber, a carrot or a celery stick, a potato or an avocado; when we eat an almond or a walnut, pumpkin or sunflower seeds; when we eat meat or fish, eggs or cheese, olive oil, fresh butter or coconut oil; and what happens when we eat burgers and fries, doughnuts, cookies, cake and candy? What happens in the stomach, in the pancreas, in the liver, in the gall bladder, in the small intestine and in the colon? What happens during the process of digestion? How does digestion take place? What happens in the kidneys? What happens in the bloodstream? What happens in the brain?

Most of us have no idea. But we should, should we not? We take it all for granted: that everything will just work; everything will take care of itself; the body will take care of us. Although this can happen, sometimes, in general it doesn’t. But it should, shouldn’t it? Why does it escape us so thoroughly that this bodymind—every single cell in it—is entirely made from what we eat, drink and breathe? It is so obvious and yet it eludes us. And so, we must consciously come back to this again and again.

When we begin to explore the physiology of the body to find out how things work, we find that both the complexity with which we can appreciate, and the understanding of the various functions and interactions, arrange themselves in layers from coarse and superficial to more subtle and profound. Inevitably, as appreciation and understanding deepen, it becomes impossible to find all of it anything less than amazing. And although this can be said for many, maybe even for all organs, it is particularly true in this case: the kidney is an evolutionary marvel, a true jewel of physiological evolution in animals.

The kidney is without any doubt one of, if not the most refined organ both in architecture and function. To pack together so many tiny, delicate structures, working both independently and in unison in an array of such intricate, complex and subtle functions and interactions is truly mind boggling and awe inspiring. This fact is totally underappreciated. And for this very reason, I feel it is important to bring this to your attention before moving on, so that it can remain clear throughout your reading of this article. I hope that with an understanding of what the kidneys do, how they function and what they need, this appreciation will become permanent for you, coming up on its own every time you drink a glass of water, and also every time you remember that you should have.

What we need to know

The kidneys are two bean shaped organs typically 11 cm in height, 6 cm across and 3 cm thick, on top of which sit the suprarenal (as in: above-the-kidney) or adrenal glands. They are located deep in the abdomen close to the spine, one on either side, in the area of the lower back, just below the rib cage, protected in part by the last couple of ribs but mostly by the tick muscles of the back. The kidney has four main components: a thin layer that covers it like a thick skin called the capsule; a thicker layer just beneath the capsule called the cortex (outer layer), in which are most of the arteries and veins; the inner layer called the medulla (middle layer) constituted by conical structures called the pyramids (there are usually 7 of them in humans) with their wide part or base in the cortex and their tips pointing inwards towards the innermost  part of the kidney; and finally the pelvis (base) with its calyces connecting to the ureter.

kidneyDetails

As for everything that relates to health, understanding how to promote optimal function of a cell, tissue, organ or system requires understanding how it works. It is important to remember that every living cell and organelle does what it does not for our sake, but to maximise its own prospects for survival. When we understand what an organ is trying to do, then we can understand what is needed to make sure that it can do it with ease and efficiency. And when the organ functions with ease and efficiency, it functions optimally. This is the approach to use to maximise our prospects for living a long, healthy and happy life.

So, what is the kidney trying to do?

One: Take out of the blood metabolic wastes and toxins, primarily urea, uric acid and creatinine, all resulting from protein metabolism, while keeping as much as possible of the useful stuff, especially water, minerals and amino acids. Two: Maintain blood electrolyte balance (sodium, chloride and potassium; calcium, magnesium and phosphate), pH (bicarbonate and hydrogen) and osmolarity (concentration of solutes in general). Three: Regulate body fluid content and blood volume and pressure. Sodium is the most important electrolyte and blood pressure regulator, and therefore most closely monitored by the kidney.

What are the main metabolic waste products?

Urea results primarily from the breakdown (oxidation) of amino acids that are not used to build tissue, i.e., protein intake in excess of what can be used at any given time to build and repair cells, (but also from our own tissues). Urea also result from the conversion of ammonia, another byproduct of protein digestion which is so acidic that in high concentration it can cause cell death. The kidney, therefore, tries to eliminate as much as possible of the urea, recycling only what it must depending on the body’s needs, especially to increase water re-absorption when there is dehydration.

Uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines. Some are present in our own cells, and so the natural recycling of the components of dead ones produces uric acid on a more or less continual basis and at a more or less elevated rate depending on how quickly cells are dying (the rate of ageing). Purines are also present in foods we eat and drink: mostly protein-rich foods and alcohol containing drinks like wine and beer. The more purines are present, the more uric acid is produced. All the uric acid needs to be eliminated. When the urine is too concentrated and acidic, however, uric acid cannot be dissolved and thus crystallises.

Creatinine is a breakdown by-product of creatine phosphate, an energy storage molecule used mostly in cells with fluctuating energy needs like those in the muscles and brain. Creatine is made from three amino acids in two steps: the kidney combines the arginine and glycine, and then the liver binds on methionine. Creatine is then transported in the bloodstream to muscles where it is made into creatine phosphate and back to creatine as needed. In the first few seconds of an intense muscular effort or brain activity, creatine phosphate can lend a phosphate group to ADP (adenosine di-phosphate) to form ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate, the energy currency of cells), and help supply the needed energy. Very conveniently, if later there is extra ATP floating around not being used, creatine will take back a phosphate group from the ATP molecule, leaving the latter as ADP, and storing the former for future needs as creatine phosphate once more. Creatine is eventually broken down to creatinine and must be completely eliminated by the kidneys. The need for and use of creatine phosphate depends primarily on muscle mass and level of activity.  Therefore, so does production of creatinine.

How does the kidney do what it does?

By filtering the blood. And the kidneys filter a lot of blood. About 25% of all the blood coming out of the heart flows through them. This is on average 1.2 litres per minute, which amounts to more than 1700 litres per day! Since there are 4-5 litres of blood in the body, it means that every drop goes through the kidneys about 400 times each day! Since the overall flow and pressure of the system must be maintained, only around 20% of the blood flowing through the kidney is filtered (that’s 240 ml/min and 340 l/day). The renal artery supplies the blood, and branches out into smaller arteries that also branch out into smaller arterioles all the way to the filtering unit. Because half of the blood volume is water, this amounts to 850 (1700/2) litres per day flowing through the kidneys. Filtering 20% means that 170 litres of water are filtered each day. Therefore, if one litre of urine is produced and excreted over the course of 24 hours (that’s pretty typical, unfortunately), it means that 169 out of 170 of these litres of water are reabsorbed: a reabsorption efficiency of 99.4% (169/170)! Producing two litres of urine eases this down to an efficiency of merely 98.8% (168/170). Now, that’s what we call high running efficiency.

But what does ‘filtering the blood’ actually mean and how is this done exactly? In each kidney there are about 1 million miniature filters called nephrons; they run from the lower part of the cortex deep into the pyramids. It is in the nephron that the blood is filtered and the urine produced in five main stages, first through Bowman’s capsule (1) and into the proximal convoluted tubule (2), then along the loop of Henle (3) and into the distal convoluted tubule (4), and finally out through the collecting duct (5) and into the ureter to the bladder. The filtrate and the concentrated blood course separately through the nephron only once on a one-way trip through the interstitial medium in which it is embedded in distinct but intertwined vessels. Along this winding course take place the delicate regulation of blood pressure, the filtration, the reabsorption of water and useful substances, the concentration of wastes into the filtrate that will become urine, and the regulation of water content and electrolyte balance. Here’s a description of how it works:

Stage one: Bowman’s Capsule    The blood coming into the nephron first enters a little spheroidal structure 0.3 mm in diameter (Bowman’s capsule) where about 20% of it is mechanically filtered to separate the fluid part called the plasma from the solids. It is ‘mechanical’ in the sense that it is pressure driven and based on particle size: smaller stuff like water, minerals, glucose and amino acids, together with the metabolic waste like urea and uric acid pass through, whereas large stuff like blood cells, proteins and fats do not. This is similar to how a water filter works: the water goes through the porous but densely packed carbon or ceramic block that stops most of the large particles like chemicals and metals, but allows the water to pass. And just as the filtering efficiency of a given filter depends on the pressure of the water supply, the filtering through the glomerulus in Bowman’s capsule depends intimately on the pressure of the blood supply. If the pressure is too low, the filtering is inefficient. But if the pressure is too high the delicate filtering structures are damaged. The pressure must therefore be just right for the circumstances, (the conditions being obviously very different when we are running and when we are sleeping).

Stage two: The Proximal Convoluted Tubule    The fluid moves from the capsule into the proximal (as in: close-by) tubule. The blood moves from the larger afferent (as in: towards) arteriole where the pressure is monitored before entering Bowman’s capsule, into the smaller efferent (as in: away-from) arteriole after passing through the glomerulus. It is now much thicker and more concentrated. Here, most of the water (about 65%) and almost all sodium are reabsorbed from the filtrate back into the blood, in addition to all of the glucose and amino acids, (none should end up in the urine), and some urea. If the pressure is even slightly lower than it should, the juxtaglomerular (as in: next-to-the-glomerulus) pressure-sensing cells in the afferent and efferent arterioles, secrete renin that flows into the bloodstream, and stimulates the release of angiotensin I from the liver, which is then converted in the lungs to angiotensin II, a powerful vasoconstrictor that promotes the contraction of the blood vessels to raise blood pressure, but also triggers the secretion of aldosterone in the adrenal glands, which in turn stimulates more reabsorption of water and salt in the nephron, also for the purpose of raising blood volume and pressure.

Stage three: The Loop of Henle    Most of the water and salt, and all the organic molecules like glucose and amino acids are reabsorbed from the filtrate back into the blood through a network of tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the first part of the proximal convoluted tubule, straight after its emerging from Bowman’s capsule. From there, the vessel changes in shape and direction, and becomes what is named the Loop of Henle: a crucial element of the nephron that has a water-permeable descending limb and a water-impermeable ascending limb. As the filtrate travels down, water moves out because of the higher concentration of sodium in the embedding interstitial medium, and is reabsorbed by tiny capillaries back into the blood. The deeper it descends, the higher the sodium concentration grows, the more water comes out of the filtrate, and thus the more concentrated it becomes. As the concentrated filtrate travels back up along the ascending limb of the loop, it is sodium that is now pulled out, but this time by active transport through little pumps instead of by osmosis as for the water in the descending limb. This is necessary to recover as much sodium as possible and maintain the gradient of concentration of the interstitial medium in which the loop of Henle is embedded.

Stage four: The Distal Convoluted Tubule   The next leg of the trip—a very important one indeed—is through the distal (as in: distant) tubule. It is here that pH and electrolyte levels are regulated. It is also here that we find the chemo-sensing macula densa cells tucked in between the afferent and efferent arterioles, next to their pressure-sensing juxtaglomerular cells. Blood pH is regulated by either absorbing bicarbonate and secreting protons to increase acidity, or vice versa, (without a doubt the much more common alternative), by secreting bicarbonate and absorbing protons to make the blood more alkaline.  Sodium can be left to be excreted or it can be reabsorbed and potassium secreted into the bloodstream under the influence of the hormone aldosterone, and calcium can also be excreted or reabsorbed but in this case under the influence of parathyroid hormone or PTH.

Stage five: The Collecting Duct   The distal convoluted tubule is endowed with a system of collecting tubules to which is delivered the filtrate, (now practically urine), and that merge into the main collecting duct that carries the liquid to the ureter into the bladder. On this final stretch in the collecting duct through the interstitial medium of the nephron, a little more water can be squeeze out of the already concentrated urine. This, however, only happens in the presence of the very important hormone vasopressin (also called anti diuretic hormone or ADH), which is secreted when the body is dehydrated.

This amazing process takes place in millions of nephrons tightly packed and organised in each of the two kidneys, continuously throughout the day and night, from the moment the kidney starts to work in the not yet born child, to the moment we die, either from kidney failure or something else. And to appreciate just how amazing it really is, consider this back-of-the-envelope calculation: 1 million nephrons are packed into 7 pyramids makes about 150 000 per pyramid. Taking a pyramid to be a cone with a base of 2 cm in diameter gives a surface area for the base of about 3 cm squared (Pi*R^2, and R=1). Dividing 150 000 nephrons by this surface area in which all of them must be packed gives a density of 50 000 nephrons per squared cm. Since there are 100 squared mm in 1 squared cm, this makes a density of 500 nephrons in every square mm over the surface of the base of each pyramid, and remember that they must all squeeze in together even more as they penetrate towards the tip of the pyramid and its collecting calyx. Can you even imagine how small this is, without even considering the incredible complexity with which it all works? Gray’s Anatomy states that the thin part of the Loop of Henle is 30 microns in diameter, whereas its thick part is 60 microns, and it is safe to assume that most tubular parts of the nephron are probably also in this range. This is truly amazing. But appreciating this, we can also appreciate how incredibly fragile each nephron must be. And by the way, once a nephron is dead, it’s dead forever.

Now, blood pressure is intimately related to blood volume (amount of water in it) and blood osmolarity (the concentration of solutes, mostly sodium, and to a lesser extent the other electrolytes as well as glucose). Maintaining these in balance is essential to the functioning of everything in the body. For this reason, there are pressure sensors throughout every blood vessel, and osmolarity sensors in the hypothalamus of the brain, as well as highly sensitive sensors of both kinds in the kidney itself. A drop in volume sensed by the pressure sensors in the blood vessels, or a rise in solute concentration sensed in the hypothalamus, will trigger the release of vasopressin from the pituitary gland. Vasopressin will signal the kidney (the collecting duct) to release more water for reabsorption into the blood stream, in order to counter the drop in blood volume and rise in solute concentration. Vasopressin, just as angiotensin, will make the blood vessels constrict and tighten to maintain the blood pressure constant. It will also stimulate the secretion of glucose from the liver in case fast reaction times become necessary, as well as clotting factors and platelets to make the blood thicker and stickier, and prevent excessive blood losses in case of injury. All of these are part of the standard stress response. Vasopressin will also stimulate the secretion of the stress-induced adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH that will act to reinforce all of the above in what will amount to a heightened stress response.

Dehydration—especially chronic dehydration—is probably the greatest source of physical stress in most of us. We, unfortunately, tend to live our lives completely oblivious to this fact, and therefore suffer the consequences a little more acutely with each day that passes.

What we need to do

Although all of this is in many ways awfully complicated, what we need to do to make sure the kidneys function properly is quite simple: drink more water, take more magnesium and less calcium, alkalise the body and its tissues.

More water   This is by far the most important: proper hydration by drinking plenty of water—not fluids in general, just plain water—especially in the morning when the body is most dehydrated, before eating anything, and then before each meal.

Imagine what would happen to a water filter if the incoming water were just slightly cloudy with dissolved clay particles? It would work, but over time, (obviously faster than it would in the absence of clay), it would get clogged up. Now, what if there were more fine clay particles? The filter would get clogged up faster given that its role is to stop and store the particles so that the water coming out can be clean and clear. But in addition to that, because the incoming water would necessarily be thicker and more viscous, the filter would not work as well under the same pressure. To work properly it would need a higher pressure to help push through the more viscous water, but this higher pressure (if it could be adjusted upwards) would inevitably stress the filtration system as a whole and thus shorten its ‘life’. What if, in the extreme, the incoming water were really thick, brown and muddy? It’s pretty simple: no water would make it out of the filter because it would instantly clog up.

This analogy is definitely not exact but it is clear and adequately illustrative. To function well, the kidney needs the right blood pressure, blood flow, blood volume, blood viscosity and osmolarity (concentration). As soon as either pressure, volume or sodium concentration drops, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone is activated and reinforced by the stress response related to secretion of vasopressin (anti diuretic hormone), all acting to constrict the blood vessels, make the blood more viscous and increase reabsorption of both water and sodium to re-establish a functional equilibrium. Imagine now this thick, viscous, sticky blood going through the exceedingly fine arterioles and capillaries in the nephron, and the difficulty with which wastes would be filtered out and dissolved in the water that should be available but isn’t. Now, picture this happening throughout the 24 hours of the day, week after week and year after year. It’s no wonder kidney problems are so common!

So, at the very least we should drink one litre before breakfast and 500 ml before each of the other two meals, allowing each time 30 minutes for the water to be absorbed into the digestive system and then into the blood before eating. It is better to drink more than this, always on an empty stomach, and to take enough unrefined sea salt to match our water intake. Doing this is already enough to ensure proper kidney function and elimination of the bulk of the metabolic wastes through the urine, preventing in this way the formation of kidney stones.

More magnesium and less calcium   The formation of calcium stones is more than obviously related to the fact that we are all in general over-calcified and vitamin K2 deficient, consuming way more calcium than the magnesium and not enough vitamin K2 needed to keep that calcium from settling and crystallising in our tissues, blood vessels, joints, and kidneys. Therefore, to avoid calcification we must avoid over-consuming calcium, and we must supplement with magnesium and vitamin K2. This will also, over time, dissolve existing calcium stones and other sites of calcification in soft tissues.

More alkaline and less acidic   The kidney’s main purpose is to excrete acidic wastes by dissolving them in water. But all digestive and metabolic wastes are acidic, and there are many sources and forms of acid wastes that all contribute to increase the overall acid load on the body. In particular, refined sugars and protein. The heavier the load, the more acidic the blood becomes. Since the blood must remain alkaline, the acid can be eliminated, neutralised or stored in tissues. All three lines of defense are used: the kidneys try to eliminate as much as possible, alkaline minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium are pulled out of the bones to neutralise blood acidity, and excess acid is stored away in tissues. Everything is done to take it out of circulation. The more acid is stored, the more acidic the tissues become. And the more acidic the body is, the less is its alkalising potential and the harder it is for the kidneys to dissolve and eliminate the acid that should be eliminated on a continual basis. There are fundamental physiological arguments that explain how tissue acidosis is at the root of literally every health problem and disease, (I will write about this more specifically on other occasions), but even without any further considerations, the only sensible conclusion is that the less acid-forming foods and drinks we ingest, the healthier the tissues, the kidneys and the body will be.

The most strongly acid-forming foods are refined sugars. Next are meats, eggs and milk products, then flours, grains and starches. The most strongly alkaline-forming (acid-neutralising) foods are raw and green vegetables, especially salads and leafy greens, as well as watery vegetables like cucumbers and celery. The more chlorophyl, the more alkalising. Parsley, basil, cilantro and all grasses are therefore alkalising and cleansing superstars.

Looking beyond single foods we find that certain combinations make the results indigestible and thus promoting of either putrefaction (protein with sugars or starches) or fermentation (simple sugars with most everything else). Both of these lead to the formation of a lot more acid waste in the digestive system a great part of which ends up the bloodstream. Adopting an alkaline diet will very quickly help balance blood pH and promote maximum excretion of acid wastes. Over time, this will allow the body to not only recover proper digestion and elimination on a meal-per-meal and daily basis, but also to eliminate acidic wastes stored in our tissues throughout the body, thus ridding it of aches and pains, the potential for chronic inflammation or infection, as well as for more serious degenerative diseases like arthritis, cancer and multiple sclerosis, for example.

Last words

And finally, to stop taking so many things for granted is simple. We just need to pay attention to the details of our life and allow ourselves to be surprised, intrigued, inspired, and amazed by what we encounter. Nothing more. We need to open to how things present themselves, and just feel sensations with the actual feeling of the hands and fingers, of the feet and toes, of the belly, the chest, the back and neck. Really feel what is felt: the glass in the hand, the water in the mouth and then flowing in the throat and into the stomach. Actually see what the eyes are seeing: not things but forms and colours, light and dark, space and expansiveness in all directions. Actually hear what is heard in the whole space of hearing. This is how we can stop taking things for granted. Just paying attention to our life with our life. That’s all.

If you want to read more about water, salt and kidney function you can read How much salt or how much water? For more information about the importance of water in digestion and health read Why we should drink water before meals and Water, ageing and disease. For more on calcification, the importance of minerals in general and magnesium in particular, you can read Minerals and bones, calcium and heart attacks, Why you should start taking magnesium today and Reversing calcification and the miracle of vitamin K2 For more on the importance of proper hydration in treating chronic inflammation read Treating arthritis I: super-hydration, alkalisation and magnesium.

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Two articles that changed my life

Two days ago, on October 23, I turned 40. For me, it feels different than every other birthday I have had: it feels like the marker of the transition between what can be considered young adulthood from 20 to 40, and middle adulthood from 40 to 70, which is then simply followed by old age. Maybe this is also linked to the fact that from the time I started competing, first in running track and field, then in road cycling, duathlon (running and cycling), off-road cycling and eventually in long distance running, I have always been in the normal, standard 18-40 category (like almost everyone else, I thought). And now, starting with my first race in the first level Seniors from 40 to 50 a couple of weekends ago in Bordeaux at the Ariane Cross 2012, I am definitely, and will be for the next 10 years, in the over 40 category. So, I have been reflecting a little on the past and the future: What is really important to me, what have I done and accomplished, what do I want to do in the future and how can I get there? Simple questions whose answers are not so simple.

In this context, I want to share two articles that completely changed my life, and completely changed my state of health, in some respects, rather suddenly, and in others, gradually over the years. Interestingly, I stumbled upon and read them both in the same week almost exactly five years ago. I won’t summarise, discuss their contents, nor describe the positive effects the simple but radical changes in dietary habits they prompted me to instil have had on me, on my wife Kristin and on our son Laurent. I simply encourage you to read them for yourself, and sincerely hope they will benefit you as much as they have us, and, I am sure, everyone who has ever read and applied the information they contain to their diet.

What is clear to me now much more than it has in the past, is that no matter what information we are presented, its impact depends entirely on how receptive we are to it. And this depends on all of what we know and think we know, on how we understand the connections between everything we have been exposed to, on our habits and tendencies, on previous experiences throughout our life, and very importantly, on the circumstances that form the context in which the information is brought to our attention. Thus, let me hope that these two articles come at a time that is ripe for you to appreciate their importance in regards to your own health, that of the people you care about, and everyone else for that matter.

The two articles are Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects by Ron Rosedale, MD (you can get the pdf here), and The Skinny on Fats by Mary Enig, PhD (get pdf here). After reading them, please consider sending this link to those you know who will or even possibly appreciate it. As you will see from the few case histories at the start of Rosedale’s presentation, the question of understanding and controlling insulin can really be a matter of life or death.

Treating arthritis I: super-hydration, alkalisation and magnesium

This is entitled Treating arthritis I, because I want to highlight that it is the first phase of what I think is of the most fundamental importance for people suffering from any form of arthritis. It should really be entitled Treating and preventing any and all disease conditions in everyone I, because these measures are truly fundamental to optimal health in all respects and for everyone throughout life. So even if you don’t have arthritis, you should read on.

This first phase should be viewed as one during which you train yourself to acquire new habits. It is not a treatment per se, but rather a prescription for the basis of a new daily rhythm where hydrating and cleansing the body are of the most fundamental importance. In the end, it is really very easy and very simple. It’s just that we need to get used to it.

Arthritis is a word that means joint (arthro) inflammation (itis). There are tons of different types of arthritis (in the hundreds), but all of them are manifestations of the same thing in different joints and somewhat different ways. And the symptoms: the stiffness, the breakdown of cartilage and other tissues, the ossification or rather calcification, the crippling pain, are all related to the inflammation. But what if there were no inflammation? Would there be no arthritis?

what-arthritis-pain-feels-like-722x406

Illustration of painful, inflamed, arthritic joints. (Image taken from Everyday Health)

Without inflammation there is no tendonitis where a tendon gets inflamed like in the well known tennis elbow. Without inflammation of the lining of the arteries there is no plaque and no atherosclerosis, and thus no heart disease and no stroke. Without inflammation there is no Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the inflammation of the myelin sheath that covers nerves, and no Crohn’s disease either, inflammation in the gut. We could go on and on like this because inflammation is at the heart of almost every single ailment from which we suffer. The reason is simple: inflammation is the body’s way of responding to injury in our tissues.

We sprain an ankle and it swells up by the inflammation that follows the partial tearing of ligament and tendon: this is essential for bringing plenty of blood carrying all the specialised molecules and nutrients necessary to repair the injured tissues. What is the best course of action? Just rest and allow the ankle to heal. The more we use it, the slower the healing will be, the longer the inflammation will last, and the more we will increase the chances of causing some more serious or even permanent damage to these fragile tissues. Without the body’s inflammatory response mechanisms, healing would be impossible.

In fact, repair and growth would also be impossible; muscle growth would be impossible. The process is rather simple: stress and tear (injury) followed by inflammation and repair or growth. This applies to body builders who develop enormous muscle mass over years of intense daily workouts, but it also applies to a baby’s legs kicking and tiny hands squeezing your index finger tightly. It applies to their learning to hold their head up and pulling themselves to their feet with the edge of the sofa to then take those first few steps. It applies to me, to you and to every animal. So, once again: repair and growth of tissue depends on the body’s inflammatory response mechanisms. In a well-functioning metabolism, this process takes place continuously in a daily cycle regulated by activity during the day and rest during the night: stress, tear and injury to tissues during activity; repair, growth and cleaning during the night.

Difficulties arise when inflammation becomes chronic. Either a low-grade inflammation that we can ignore completely and go about our business until it manifests in the form of a serious health concern, or a sustained,  sub-acute state of inflammation that does indeed make it difficult to go about our business, but that we can nonetheless learn to ignore or cope with hoping that it will eventually disappear. Unfortunately, this is how it is for most of us to a greater or lesser extent, whether we are aware of it or not. If it weren’t the case, there wouldn’t be hundreds of millions of people suffering from arthritis the world over, and atherosclerosis-caused heart attacks and strokes would not be claiming the lives of more than one quarter of the population of industrialised countries.

As an aside, for those of you who are interested in measurements and quantifiable effects, among the best markers of chronic inflammation are C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6). The number of white blood cells relate to immune response, and if elevated mean the body is fighting something. Elevated concentrations of Ferritin and Homocysteine (HcY) are also associated with chronic inflammation much elevated risks of heart attack and stroke. You can easily get a blood test to check those numbers among other important ones (see Blood analysis: important numbers).

So what is it that causes a person to develop arthritis at 50 or even 40 years of age, while another person only begins to have mild signs of it at 80? What is it that causes a teenager to develop the crippling Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) at 16, while none of her friends do? Why does only 1 in 400 develop Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) or bamboo spine, characterised by the chronic inflammation of the spine, the ossification and gradual fusion of the vertebrae? Who knows?

But, for example, approximately 90% of AS patients express the HLA-B27 genotype and exhibit the HLA-B27 antigen, which is also expressed by Klebsiella bacteria. Could it be the bacteria that causes the damage and injury to spinal tissues and structure, which then follows by inflammation that over time becomes chronic, and since the bacteria remains and continues its damaging activities, the inflammation continues to grow together with all the awful symptoms? Maybe. The debilitating effects of certain bacteria and viruses such as Epstein Barr or HPV for example, that persist in the bloodstream over years and decades, are well known. And the chronic inflammation that results of the activity of infectious agents such as these is also a well established effect, even claimed by some to be among the primary causes of arterial disease (see Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You in the Bibliography page.

But whether it is AS or arterial disease, MS or tendonitis, what is common to all is inflammation, and what needs to be addressed are the causes of the inflammation, not the inflammation itself, which is what we do with anti-inflammatory medication. The inflammation is the body’s response to the injury. What we need to do is find and stop the process causing damage and injury to our tissues, and once the tissues have healed, the inflammation will disappear of itself.

There are many things that cause injury to our tissues, and we will look at all the most important ones in greater detail in subsequent posts, but it is fundamental to address first order issues first. Among the most fundamental issues of all are therefore those with which we concern ourselves in the first phase of treatment:  super-hydration, alkalisation and magnesium. But the truth is that these fundamental elements are what everyone concerned with optimising their health should actually concern themselves with first, before everything else.

Super-hydration

Chronic dehydration is at the root of so many health problems that it is hard to know where to begin. I’ve written a few posts on the importance of water that you can identify by their title. If you’ve read them and want to know more, you should read Your Body’s Many Cries for Water (see Bibliography). In relation to arthritis, however, water is not only the primary means to reduce inflammation of stressed cells and tissues, but it is also what gives our cartilage suppleness and flexibility.

Cartilage a very simple tissue. It is water, 85% in healthy cartilage, down to 70% or less in compromised cartilage and in most older people, held within a matrix of collagen and other proteins that consists of a single type of cell called chondrocyte. These cells have very special electrical properties that give cartilage its amazing resistance to friction and pressure. Without sufficient water, however, the chondrocytes cannot work correctly, cartilage dries out and breaks down, and calcification grows.

What is totally under-appreciated is that because cartilage does not have a blood supply, nerves or lymphatic system, water makes it into the cartilage through the porous end of the bone to which it is stuck, and the only way water can make it into the bone in order to get to that porous end to which the cartilage is attached is through the blood that makes it into the bone.

Since there is, within the body’s functions, a definite hierarchy in water usage in which the digestive system is naturally the first served since it is through it that water enters, even the mildest dehydration can be felt in the function of the most water-sensitive tissues like those of the lungs (90% water) and muscles (85% water), (something any athlete who has drank alcohol the night before a race or even training run or ride will have noticed), it is unfortunately often the cartilage that suffer the most.

Dehydration will make it such that the soft conjunctive tissues at the ends of our bones, in every joint, and that allow us to move will not get the water supply they need to remain well hydrated, supple and flexible. This is really the most important point to remember. What is also highly under-appreciated is the vital importance of silica in the form of silicic acid in the growth, maintenance, repair and regeneration of all connective tissues, including and maybe especially bones and cartilage (here is a good article about it). Silicic acid should therefore be included in all arthritis treatment programmes.

How do we super-hydrate? By drinking more, as much as possible on an empty stomach, and balancing water with salt intake. You should read How much salt, how much water, and our amazing kidneys, and make sure you understand the importance of a plentiful intake of water, an adequate intake of salt, and the crucial balance of these for optimal cellular hydration and function. Detailed recommendations are given below.

Alkalisation

Chronic acidosis, some would argue, is not only at the root of innumerable health complaints and problems, but that it actually is the root of all health disorders. The reading of Sick and Tired, The pH Miracle and Alkalise or Die is, I  believe, enough to convince most readers that that premise is in fact true. Not surprisingly though, it is not possible to alkalise bodily tissues without optimal hydration. And so we immediately understand that chronic dehydration is the primary cause of chronic and ever increasing tissue acidosis. Therefore we address both simultaneously, and in fact, cannot do otherwise.

Briefly, what is essential to understand is that healthy cells thrive in an alkaline environment, and indeed require an alkaline environment to thrive. Conversely, pathogens such as moulds, yeasts, fungi, viruses and bacteria thrive in acidic environments. Healthy cells thrive in well oxygenated aerobic environments, whereas pathogens thrive in anaerobic environments deprived of oxygen. Since this is so, we can say, crudely speaking, that if the tissues and inner environment of the body—its terrain—is alkaline, then pathogens cannot take hold nor develop nor evolve nor survive in it. On the other hand, if the body’s terrain is acidic, then they thrive, proliferate, and overtake it, sometimes slowly and gradually, but sometimes quickly and suddenly, causing sickness and disease.

Everything that we eat and drink has an effect that is either alkalising, acidifying or neutral. This is after digestion, and has little to do with taste. All sweet tasting foods or drinks that contain sugars, for instance, are acidifying. I will write quite a lot more about pH and alkalisation in future posts. For now, we are concerned with alkalising through super-hydration, and this involves drinking alkaline water and green drinks. By the end of phase I, drinking your 2 litres of alkaline water and 2 litres of super-alkalizing green juice should be as second nature to you as brushing the teeth before bed.

Magnesium

As I attempted to express and make evident the importance of magnesium for every cell and cellular process in the body in Why you should start taking magnesium today, and thus show that we all need to take plenty of magnesium daily in order to both attain and maintain optimal health, for someone suffering from arthritis it is extremely important, it is crucial. And the reason is very simple: arthritis is characterised by inflammation, stiffening and calcification. They come together, of course, and it is useless to even wonder if one comes before another. Regardless, the best, most effective, most proven treatment or antidote for inflammation, stiffening and calcification is magnesium.

Magnesium, injected directly into the bloodstream, can almost miraculously stop spasms and convulsions of muscle fibres, and release, practically instantaneously, even the most extreme muscular contraction associated with shock, heart attack and stroke. This is used routinely and very effectively in birthing wards and surgery rooms. Magnesium is the only ion that can prevent calcium from entering and flooding a cell, thereby causing it to die, and magnesium is the best at dissolving non-ionic calcium—the one that deposits throughout the body in tissues and arteries, and over bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments—and allowing all this excess calcium to be excreted: precisely what we must do in treating arthritis.

In addition, magnesium is very effective at chelating (pulling out) both toxic heavy metals like mercury and persistent chemicals that bio-accumulate in blood, brain and other tissues. For too many unfortunately unsuspecting people, heavy metal toxicity is the cause of a plethora of various symptoms, wide-ranging in nature, hard to understand or associate with some known and easily identifiable condition, but that cause them often immense discomfort up to complete disability.

Putting all of this into practice

When you get up in the morning, you go to the bathroom, undress and spray or spread on your legs, arms chest and belly, neck and shoulders, the 20% magnesium chloride solution (4 teaspoons of nigari with 80 ml of water for a total of 20 g in 100 ml of solution). You wash your hands and face well, put your PJs back on, and head to the kitchen to prepare your water and green drinks for the day.

Line up three wide-mouth 1 litre Nalgene bottles. In each one put: 5 drops of alkalising and purifying concentrate (e.g. Dr. Young’s puripHy) and 10 drops of concentrated liquid trace minerals (e.g. Concentrace).

In the first bottle, add 50 ml of the 2% solution of magnesium chloride (made with 4 teaspoons of nigari dissolved in 1 litre of water), 50 ml of aloe vera juice, 20 ml of liquid silicic acid, fill it up with high quality filtered water, shake well to mix, and take your first glass with 1 capsule of Mercola’s Complete Probiotics. You should drink this first litre over the course of about 30 minutes, taking the third or fourth glass with an added 1-2 teaspoons of psyllium husks. (The aloe vera and psyllium husks are to help cleanse the intestines over time.)

In the second and third bottles, add a heaping teaspoon of green juice powder (e.g., Vitamineral Green by HealthForce), 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of fine, grey, unrefined sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground Ceylon cinnamon, a heaping mini-spoonful of stevia extract powder and a single drop of either orange, lemon or grapefruit high quality, organic, food-grade essential oil. Shake well. One of them you will drink between about 10:00 and 12:00, the other between 15:30 and 17:30. Shake every time you serve yourself a glass or drink directly from the bottle to stir up the solutes in the water. You should take these two bottles with you to work and/or keep them in the fridge until needed: the drink is really nice when it’s cool.

Now that the magnesium has been absorbed through the skin—this takes around 30 minutes, you can go have a shower to rinse off the slight salty residue that feels like when you let sea water dry on your skin without rinsing it off. You should wait at least 30 minutes after you have finished your first litre of water before you eat anything.

By about 10 or 10:30, depending on when you finished breakfast, you should start to drink your first litre of green drink and continue until about 12:00 or 12:30. Make sure you finish drinking 30-45 minutes before you eat. Wait at least couple of hours after eating. Then start drinking the second litre of green drink by about 15:30 or 16:00 until about 17:30 or 18:00. Again, make sure you stop drinking always at least 30 minutes before eating. Depending on when you eat dinner, you should drink a half litre of plain water 30 minutes before the meal. The general rules for drinking you should follow are: 1) always drink at least 500 ml up to 30 minutes before eating, and 2) do not drink during or within 2 hours after the meal.

Before going to bed, take a small glass of water with 50 ml of 2% magnesium chloride solution. And that’s it for the day. And tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, keeping to this schedule, until it becomes perfectly natural and customary. After four weeks, you should do another blood test and see how the numbers compare to those before starting. In addition, if you are interested in this from the scientific standpoint, or just curious, or both, you should get Doppler imaging of your coronary and cerebral arteries, as well as an MRI of the joints in your body, including the spine, before you start and at then end of every phase. It will also be extremely informative to test and record the pH of at least your first urine every morning; any additional urine pH readings will be very useful and tracing the progress of the gradual de-acidification of your tissues and the days and the weeks progress. And finally, the transdermal magnesium therapy (putting the 20% solution on your skin), should last 6-8 weeks. By that time, you intracellular magnesium stores should have been replenished. We continue taking the 2% solution indefinitely, and use transdermal magnesium once in a while (once or twice per week).

The great advantage of the transdermal magnesium is that almost all of it is absorbed into your tissues and bloodstream. The oral magnesium is absorbed a level between 25 and 50%, and this depends primarily on the amount of magnesium in the blood when you take it. This is why it is very important to take it first thing in the morning when magnesium is at its lowest, and then in the latter half of the afternoon and before bed, those times when concentrations are lowest. You don’t have to worry about too much magnesium because any excess will be excrete in the urine and faeces.

You should just worry about not enough: that’s the real problem. Incidentally, the fact that almost all the magnesium that you put on your skin is absorbed underlines the importance of carefully choosing what we put on our skin. Because in the same way, anything we put on it will be absorbed into our system. So putting coconut and almond oil is just as good for our skin and our health, as it is bad to put on creams and lotions with synthetic chemicals and compounds that all make their way into our blood. General rule: if you cannot eat it, don’t put it on your skin.

Update: read these Updated recommendations for magnesium supplementation.

That’s it for the first phase: mostly drinking a lot more than you used to, with a few special tweaks to what and when you drink. I haven’t mentioned anything about food even though you can obviously know from the rest of the articles on the blog that this will come in time: in the second phase. We first deal with the first order terms, then the second order terms, and after that with the third and fourth order terms. That’s very important to grasp: what has the most and what has the least impact and thus importance.

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How much salt, how much water, and our amazing kidneys

Salt, the one we put on food, is composed almost exclusively of sodium chloride (NaCl) that very easily dissolves in water into positively charged sodium (Na+) and negatively charged chloride (Cl-) ions. And there is something very special and unique about these ions: in our blood, Na+ and Cl- are present in the highest concentrations and maintained in the narrowest of ranges. This is very revealing, and means, quite plainly, that sodium and chloride are the most important  extracellular electrolytes. This is a simple fact. Now, forget everything you’ve heard, been told, or read about salt being bad for you, and consider this:

Our blood is made of red blood cells (45%) and white blood cells and platelets (0.7%) floating in blood plasma (54.3%). Blood plasma shuttles nutrients to cells around the body and transports wastes out. It consists of 92% water, 8% specialised mostly transporter proteins, and trace amounts of solutes (things dissolved or floating in it). And although circulating in trace amounts, the solutes—especially sodium—are vital. The concentration of solutes in blood plasma is around 300 mmol/l (don’t worry about the units for now). In the highest concentration of all is sodium at 140 mmol/l. In the second highest concentration of all is chloride at 100 mmol/l. The sum of these is 240 mmol/l. So, from these numbers alone, we see that blood plasma is more or less just salty water.

glass-of-water

Pure alkaline water

Don’t you find this amazing? Don’t you find it amazing that nobody has ever told you this straight out in this way? And isn’t it amazing that we have been and continue to be told to avoid eating salt because it is bad for us: that it causes hypertension that predisposes us to heart disease? It really is completely amazing and ridiculous and also rather sad. But misunderstandings of this kind are unfortunately much more common than they should, as you may remember from What about cholesterol and Six eggs per day for six days: cholesterol?, but also from Minerals and bones, calcium and heart attacks and A diabetic’s meal on Air France. As you will understand for yourself in a few moments, the problem is not too much salt; the problem is not enough water:

Hypertension is not caused by excessive salt consumption. It is caused primarily by chronic dehydration, magnesium deficiency, and calcification.

Taking a look at the other electrolytes, bicarbonate (HCO3-), the primary pH regulator, is the third most highly concentrated molecule in plasma at 20 mmol/l. Potassium (K+) is the fourth at 4-5 mmol/l, then calcium (Ca 2+) and magnesium (Mg 2+) both at about 1 mmol/l. Therefore, the concentration of sodium in the blood is 7 times higher than that of bicarbonate, 40 times higher than that of potassium, and about 140 times higher than that of calcium and magnesium. And as with everything else in our body’s exquisite physiology, there are very good reasons for this:

Every cell in every tissue and in every organ of our body relies on an electrical potential difference between the fluid inside the cell membrane and the fluid outside of it in order to function: produce energy and transport things in and out. This is particularly important in active “electrical” tissues such as muscles and nerves, including neurones, that simply cannot work—cannot contract and relax in the case of muscle fibres, and cannot fire off electrical pulses in the case of nerve fibres and neurones—without a well-maintained and stable potential across the cellular membrane.

This resting potential across the membrane results from the delicate balance of the equilibrium potential and relative permeability through the cellular membrane of the three most important ions: Na+, K+ and Cl-. The potential is maintained by the sodium-potassium pump: a specialised protein structure in the membrane that ensures the concentration of potassium (K+) stays low outside the cell and high inside the cell, and conversely, the concentration of sodium (Na+) stays high outside the cell and low inside. This is the main reason sodium is so important and why it is so carefully monitored and scrupulously reabsorbed by the kidneys, but there are plenty more.

Obviously, this is not an accident. Nothing about the way our body functions is an accident, and no matter how well a particular physiological function or mechanism is understood or not, we can be confident that it is as perfect and finely tuned as it can be because each and every bodily function is the result of adaptations and refinements over billions of years of evolution. This is not a typo: I really did mean to write billions of years. Because every single cell of which we are made has evolved from all of its predecessors as far back as the very first organic molecules that eventually organised in the very first cell: a group of more or less self-organising organelles that developed a symbiotic relationship with one another just because it benefitted them in some way, and found it safer to cluster together behind a fatty membrane through which they could interact with the outside on their own terms.

The aim of every single self-organising entity, from the simplest virus, bacterium or organelle like the mitochondria (our cellular energy-production furnaces), to highly specialised cells in the brain, in the liver or lining a part of the microscopic nephron tubule of one of the millions of these specialised filtering units in our kidneys, to largest groupings of cells in tissues, organs and systems of organs, has always been and always will be the same: survival. Therefore, to understand living systems objectively we have to understand them from the fundamental perspective of the cell itself, the tissue, the organ and the system of organs itself because every adaptation it undergoes is always aimed at improving its own odds of survival. It is very important to keep this in mind and know that everything that happens in a living system always does so in relation to something else and always for good reason, even when we don’t understand the reason, which in itself is also very important to remember.

I use this opportunity to whole-heartedly recommend Lewis Dartnell’s book Life in the universe. Almost every page for me was a delightful discovery of things I was unaware of and found the book truly illuminating.

Coming back to salt, even though we look mostly at sodium and chloride that are the principal constituents of any kind of salt we put on our food, I very strongly recommend always and exclusively using a real salt: any kind of unrefined sea salt (French, cold water, Atlantic salt is particularly clean and rich in trace minerals), Himalayan salt, Smart Salt or Real Salt (the last two are registered trade marks and very rich in trace minerals). On the contrary, I strongly discourage eating chemically manufactured table salt or even refined sea salt, which are not only stripped of trace minerals found in natural, unrefined salts, but contain varying amounts of chemical additives such as whitening agents, for instance.

Sel-gris_prod

Unrefined sea salt from the Atlantic coast – Sel de Guerande.

Now, without regard for polemical disputes, pseudo-scientific discussions and debates, or otherwise unfounded views and opinions about salt, can we answer the simple question: how much salt should we generally eat? I believe we can, but although it may seem so, it is not that simple a question. So let’s first ask a simpler one:

How do we make a solution with the same concentration of sodium and chloride as our blood plasma?

To answer this our approach is simple: use the mean concentrations of sodium and chloride in the blood to calculate how much salt we need to match these such that drinking our salt water solution will neither increase nor decrease their concentration. It might seem a little technical at first, but bear with me, it is in fact quite simple.

This approach is rather well motivated physiologically because the kidneys’ primary function is to maintain blood pressure and concentration of electrolytes—sodium above all others, and each within its typically narrow range of optimal concentration—while excreting metabolic wastes. The kidneys do this by efficiently reabsorbing most of the water and electrolytes from the large volume of blood that goes through them continuously throughout the day and night, getting rid of as much as possible of the metabolic wastes, and carefully adjusting the elimination of ‘excessive’ amounts of water and electrolytes. (You will soon understand why I placed quotation marks around the word excessive.) Let’s start.

You already know that the mean concentration of sodium in the blood is 140 mmol/l. What we haven’t mentioned is that it must be maintained in the range between 135 to 145 mmol/l. You also know that the mean concentration of chloride is 100 mmol/l, and it must be maintained between 95 and 105 mmol/l. The atomic mass of Na is 23, hence one mole (abbreviated mol) is 23 g, and thus one millimole (abbreviated mmol) is 23 mg. The atomic mass of Cl is 35.5, hence one mole is 35.5 g, and therefore one millimole is 35.5 mg. The molecular mass of NaCl is the sum of the atomic masses of Na and Cl, which implies that one mole of NaCl is 58.5 g, and a millimole is 58.5 mg. (A mole is the amount of substance that contains 6×10^23, Avogadro’s number, elementary entities, in this case, atoms. The molar mass is the same as the atomic or molecular mass.)

Multiplying the concentrations in mmol/l by the molar mass in mg/mmol we get the concentration in mg/l. For Na this equals 140 x 23 = 3220 mg/l or 3.22 g/l, and for Cl it is 100 x 35.5 = 3550 mg/l or 3.55 g/l. This is the mean concentration of sodium and chloride there is in our blood. For a small person like me, weighing, say, 56 kg, there are 4 litres of blood that contain a total of 13 g of Na and 14 g of Cl. This is equivalent to about 2 tablespoons of salt.

It is important to note that this is truly quite a lot in comparison to other ions or molecules in our blood. Glucose, for example, which many—probably most people—mistakenly think as the ‘energy of life’, giving it such great importance, is ideally maintained around 80 mg/dl or 0.8 g/l. This is, therefore, also the amount we would need to add to our salt and water solution to make it have, in addition to that of the salt, the same concentration of glucose as that of our blood. And 0.8 g/l for 4 litres of blood makes a total of 3.2 g of glucose in that (my) entire blood supply. This is about 10 times less than the amount of salt!  What does this tell you about their relative importance in our system?

Now, given that Cl (35.5) is heavier than Na (23), NaCl will have a higher mass fraction of Cl: its mass will be 60% chloride (35.5/58.5) and 40% sodium (23/58.5). This just means that 10 g of NaCl or salt has 6 g of Cl and 4 g of Na. So to get 3.22 g of sodium, we need 8 g of sodium chloride, which provides 4.8 g of chloride.

The simple conclusion we draw from this calculation is that dissolving a somewhat heaping teaspoon of salt in one litre of water gives a solution that has the same concentration of sodium as that of our blood (with a little extra chloride).

Does this mean that we should generally drink such a salt and water solution? No, I don’t think so. Are there times when we should? Yes, I believe there are. But say we drink 4 litres per day, 8 g of salt per litre adds up to 32 g of salt just in the water we drink! If we add even half of this amount to our food, we are looking at about 50 g of salt per day! Isn’t this utterly excessive, especially since we are told by the medical authorities to avoid salt as much as possible, with some people today consuming nearly no salt at all? (This article here takes a sobering look at the evidence—actually, the lack thereof—of the claimed benefits of salt reduction.) And more questions arise: What happens when we eat less salt? What happens when we eat more? What happens when we drink less water? What happens when we drink more?

Eating more or less salt. Drinking more or less water.

Remember that the kidneys try very hard to maintain the concentration of solutes in blood plasma—to maintain plasma osmolarity. Also remember that sodium is by far the most important in regulating kidney function, and it is also in the highest concentration. It is nonetheless total osmolarity that the kidneys try to keep constant, and besides sodium, the other important molecule used to monitor and maintain osmolarity by the kidneys is ureathe primary metabolic waste they are trying to eliminate.

As an aside to put things in perspective about the importance of sodium, plasma osmolarity is typically estimated by medical professionals using the sum of twice the concentration of sodium with that of urea and glucose: calculated osmolarity = 2 Na + urea + glucose (all in mmol/l). Since sodium is typically around 140 mmol/l whereas glucose is less than 5 mmol/l and urea about 2.5 mmol/l, it’s obvious that we could just forget about the latter two whose contribution is less than 3% of the total, and look exclusively at sodium concentration (2 Na = 280; glucose + urea = 7.5, so their contribution is 7.5/(280+7.5) = 2.6%).

Eating anything at all, but especially salt or salty foods, raises plasma osmolarity. In response—to maintain constant osmolarity—the kidneys very efficiently reabsorb water and concentrate the urine. Drinking water dilutes the blood and therefore lowers its osmolarity. In response, the kidneys very scrupulously reabsorb solutes and eliminate water, hence diluting the urine.

If we eat nothing and just drink plain water, beyond the body’s minimum water needs, every glass will dilute the blood further and thus cause the kidneys to try to retain more of the sodium while eliminating more of the water. We are drinking quite a lot, but as the day progresses, we are growing more thirsty. We drink more but go to the bathroom more frequently, our urine grows more diluted, and by the end of the day we find ourselves visibly dehydrated, with chapped lips and dry skin. This seems paradoxical in that while drinking water, we are getting increasingly dehydrated. But it is not paradoxical. It is simply the consequence of the kidneys doing their work in trying to maintain constant blood plasma concentrations of sodium (and solutes). For those of you who have fasted on plain water for at least one day, you mostly likely know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who have not, you should try it and experience this first hand for yourselves. Avoiding dehydration in this case is simple: eat salt to match water intake.

If, on the other hand, we do not drink, then the blood gets more and more concentrated, the concentration of sodium and other ions, urea, and everything else for that matter, rises with time, and the kidneys keep trying, harder and harder with time, to maintain the osmolarity constant by retaining as much as they possibly can of the water that is present in the blood. You might think: why not just eliminate some of the solutes to lower their excessively high concentration? But eliminating solutes can only be done through the urine, which means getting rid of water that, in this state of increasing dehydration, is far too precious, and the kidneys therefore try to retain as much of it as possible, hence concentrating the urine as much and for as long as possible to make full use of the scarce amount of water that is available for performing their functions. But here is a crucial point to understand and remember:

In order to reabsorb water, the kidneys rely on a high concentration of solutes—hyperosmolarity—in the interstitial medium through which passes the tubule carrying the filtrate that will eventually be excreted as urine. This is how water can be reabsorbed from the filtrate: the higher the difference in concentration, the more efficient the reabsorption. If there is plenty of excess salt—sodium and chloride ions—then these solutes is what the kidneys prefers to use to drive up and maintain the hyperosmolarity of the interstitial medium, and urea can be excreted freely. If, however, there is a scarcity of sodium and chloride ions, then the kidneys will do everything to reabsorb as much of the precious ions that are in circulation to maintain adequate concentrations of these in the bloodstream, and at the slightest sign of water shortage and dehydration—to ensure the hyperosmolarity of the interstitial medium for maximum water reabsorption—the kidneys will begin to recycle urea, excreting progressively less of it as dehydration increases.

Most of you will have experienced a long day walking around, maybe while on a trip visiting a city, during which you did not drink for several hours. You might have also noticed that you probably didn’t go to the bathroom either, which you may have found unusual compared to the frequency with which you usually go pee when you’re at home or at work. You will have noticed that your mouth was drier and drier as the hours passed, but also that you felt more and more tired, heavy-footed and without energy.  Eventually it struck you just how thirsty you were, or you were finally able to find water to drink, and drank to your heart’s content. As you drank, you might have felt a surge of energy within as little as a minute or two or even immediately following the first few sips. Soon after, you finally did go to the bathroom, and noticed how incredibly dark and strong smelling your urine was. Now you understand what was happening in your kidneys, why you didn’t go pee for these long hours, why your urine was so dark and smelled so strong. However,  the reason why you felt your energy dwindle as the hours passed, and then return when you drank is still unclear.

Water in the blood regulates its volume. And volume in a closed system determines internal pressure. Our circulatory system is a closed system in the sense that there are no holes where blood either goes in or comes out. Yet at the same time it is not a closed system because water enters and leaves the system: it enters the bloodstream through the wall of the intestines, and leaves it through the kidneys and out into the urine. All physiological functions depend intimately on blood pressure: whether it is shooting up through the roof as we face a huge brown bear towering over us and growling at the top of its lungs, and priming us in this extremely stressful fight-or-flight situation for some kind of high-energy reaction in response, or whether it is as low as it can be during our most soothing and restful sleep deep into the night, when the body is repairing and rebuilding itself. And what is the primary regulator of blood pressure? The kidneys.

I will address the details of how the kidneys function and regulate pressure and osmolarity in another post. For now, what is relevant to understand why your energy faded as the hours passed or, more precisely, as the body got progressively more dehydrated, is straight forward:

As water content decreases, blood volume decreases. As the volume decreases, blood pressure drops. And as blood pressure drops, energy levels go down. It’s as simple as that.

It does not help that as soon as the kidneys detect dehydration and drop in pressure, they release hormones to provoke the contraction of the blood vessels in order to counter the pressure drop. This works to a great extent, but since the arteries and veins are constricted, blood flow throughout the body decreases, which in turn contributes significantly to our feeling increasingly heavy-footed and sleepy. With every passing minute, dehydration increases, pressure decreases, blood vessels contract more and our energy level drops further, to the point where we just want to sit down, or even better, lie down, right here on this park bench, and have a long nap.

Interesting, isn’t it? And here again there is nothing strange or paradoxical in this self-regulating mechanism that eventually puts us to sleep as we get increasingly dehydrated. It is simply the consequence of the kidneys doing their work in trying to maintain constant osmolarity and blood pressure. Avoiding dehydration in this case is even simpler: drink water.

If you’ve read this far, you know that both solutions to prevent dehydration are intimately linked: if we don’t drink enough water we get dehydrated, but if we drink too much water without eating salt we also get dehydrated. So let’s now ask another question:

Precisely how much water?

An adult human being needs on average a minimum of 3 litres of water per day to survive for more than a few days (Ref). This depends on climate and level of activity and a bunch of other factors, but in general the range is well established to be between 2 litres in cooler and 5 litres per day in the hottest climates. As suggested from our previous considerations, minimum water intake is also related to salt and food intake. And although this was obvious to me from my own experience of fasting rather regularly between 1 and 3 days at a time, I had not read about it. But as it turns out, the NRC and NAS both (independently) estimated minimum water intake as a function of food intake to be between 1 and 1.5 ml per calorie. For a diet of 2000 calories this would amount to between 2 and 3 litres. But this obviously does not mean that if we don’t eat anything, we don’t need any water! So, what is the very strict minimum amount of water the body needs before physiological functions break down? The short answer is 1.1 litres. For the slightly longer answer, here is a excerpt from page 45 of The Biology of Human Survival:

If obligatory losses are reduced to an absolute minimum and added up, the amounts are 600 milliliters of urine, 400 milliliters of insensible skin loss, and 200 milliliters of respiratory water loss, a total of 1.2 liters. Because maximum urine osmolarity is 1200 milliosmoles/liter, if diet is adjusted to provide the minimum solute excretion per day (about 600 mOsmol), minimum urine output may fall, in theory, to 500 milliliters per day and maitain solute balance. Hence, the absolute minimum water intake amounts to just more than 1 liter (1.1) per day.

(This is also taught in renal physiology lectures such as this one. If you are interested, you will learn a lot from this longer series of 13 segments on urine concentration and dilution here, as well as from this series of 7 segments on the renin-angiotension-aldosterone system here. I found all of them very instructive.)

Keep in mind that 1100 ml of water per day is the very bare minimum for survival, and that there are absolutely no other water losses: basically, you have to be lying, perfectly calm and unmoving at an ideal room temperature where you are neither hot nor cold, not even in the slightest. That’s not particularly realistic unless you’re in a coma. And to show just how extreme it is, let’s see how much of the water the kidneys need to reabsorb to make this happen:

For someone like me weighing 57 kg, the mass of blood is 57*7% = 4 kg. Since the density is almost equal to that of water, 4 kg corresponds to 4 litres. Of this, we know that plasma accounts for a little more than half (54.7%) by volume which makes 2.2 litres, and since plasma is 92% water, the volume of free water in the blood supply is almost exactly half: 2 litres. Blood flow through the kidneys is, on average, around 1.2 l/min. This amounts to more than 1700 litres per day, and means that for 4 litres of blood in the body, every drop of blood goes through the kidneys 425 times in 24 hours, each and every day.

In the kidneys the first step in filtration is the “mechanical”, particle-size-based separation of the blood’s solids from its liquid component. Water makes up half the blood volume, and therefore represents half the flow through the kidneys: 0.6 l or 600 ml/min (850 litres per day). But only 20% of the total flow goes through nephron filtration, which makes 120 ml/min. In the extreme case we are considering, urine output is taken to be 500 ml in 24 hours, equivalent to 20.83 ml/hour or 0.35 ml/min (500 ml/24 h/60 min). Therefore, to achieve this, the kidneys must reabsorb 119.65 ml of the 120 ml flowing through them every minute. This translates to an astounding 99.7% reabsorption efficiency! I’m very skeptical that your average person’s (generally compromised) kidneys could achieve this, but the point was to quantify how extreme this situation at the limit of human survival really is, and as you can see, it is indeed as extreme can be.

Also, keeping in mind that these minimum vital physiological water losses in these circumstances would occur at a more or less uniform rate throughout the day, it would probably be much better to drink a little at regular intervals during our walking hours than to drink everything at once and nothing else during the remaining 24 hours. But what would be the ideal rate at which we should replenish our water in these extreme circumstances?

Assuming the theoretically minimum combined water losses of 1100 ml are lost evenly over the course of the 24 hours, this corresponds to a water loss rate of 0.76 ml/min (1100 ml/24 h/60 min). This is therefore the ideal rate at which to replenishing it. In practice, we may not have an IV system to do this for us, and we will probably be sleeping long nights as our heart rate and blood pressure will have hit rock bottom. Drinking 1100 ml in 11 hours (to work with round numbers) could be done by taking 100 ml, (half a small glass), every hour. This would be the simplest and most reasonable way to maintain solute balance as best we can.

Naturally, with such a minimal water intake, the kidneys are struggling to maintain osmolarity by retaining as much water as possible. Any additional intake of salt (or food) would make things worse in the sense that it would raise the concentration of sodium (and solutes) in the blood whose balance the kidneys will not be able to maintain without additional water. But remember that eating a 200 g cucumber, for example, supplies nearly no calories as it contains virtually no sugar, fat or protein, while proving almost 200 g (ml) of water. And that, conversely, any drink containing caffeine or alcohol will actually dehydrate as those substances are diuretic and cause the excretion of free water.

A somewhat more realistic scenario is one in which we are not eating, but very moderately active at comfortable temperatures. In this case, most experts would agree that the minimum water requirements would be around 2 litres per day. Since we are fasting, these additional water needs are due to greater water losses through evaporation and physiological activity; not to offsetting increased water needs due to food consumption. Consequently, we should ideally drink about 10 glasses of 200 ml, one approximately every hour from 7h to 19h, and we should not eat any salt.

More realistic but still not so common, is that you are doing a 24 hour fast. The purpose of the fast is to give a break to the digestive system, rehydrate bodily tissues, stimulate more fat burning and flush toxins out of the system. Say we drink 4 litres instead of the minimum of 2. In this case we should, in fact, eat some salt in order to ensure good hydration of tissues by supplying plenty of water through a well hydrated bloodstream without diluting the sodium and thus causing the kidneys to excrete more water. And this brings us back to the basic question that set us on this rather long  investigation:

Precisely how much salt?

But you already know the answer to this question: 1 teaspoon per litre in 2 of the 4 litres. Because we don’t drink during the night for about 12 hours, the body inevitably gets dehydrated. Therefore, the best strategy is to start with plain water to rehydrate the concentrated blood and bodily tissues dehydrated from the night, and end with a litre of plain water in preparation for the dry night coming. You should take the equivalent of 1 generous teaspoon of salt with each of the additional litres of water during the day. This will ensure proper hydration of tissues by preventing excessive dilution of blood sodium levels, and maximum urea excretion. Excess sodium, chloride and any other electrolyte will be readily excreted in the urine.

Finally, the far more realistic scenario and, in fact, the one that for most of us is the everyday, is that we are normally active and eating around 2000 calories a day, typically over the course of about 12 hours. In this case we need the basic 2 litres to offset minimum evaporation and physiological losses, and between 2 and 3 litres to offset the 2000 calories. This makes between 4 and 5 litres, 2 of which must be plain water, and 2 or 3 of which must be matched by a good teaspoon of salt per litre that will most naturally, and maybe also preferably, be taken with the food.

Keep in mind that this is the total salt requirements and many prepared foods contain quite a lot already. The hotter or drier the climate, the more water we need. The more we exercise, the more water and the more salt we need. The more we sweat, the more water and the more salt we need. The more stress we experience, the more water and the more salt we need. And in all of these cases, we also need a lot more magnesium.

By the way, it is interesting but not surprising that this conclusion on the amount of salt per day: about 10-15 g, is also the recommendation of the late Dr Batmanghelidj, the “Water doctor”, as well as that of Drs Volek and Phinney, the “Low-Carb doctors” (see References  for details), although the former emphasises the importance of an abundant water intake, while the latter hardly mention it if at all.

So this is it. We know how much water we should generally drink, and we know how much salt we should generally eat:

We should always drink the bare minimum of 2 litres per day. Ideally we should drink 4-5 litres every day. If for some reason we drink 2 litres or less, we should not take any salt (or food for that matter!). If we drink more than 2 litres, we should match each additional litre of water with 1 teaspoon of salt, taking into account the salt contained in the food we eat. It is always better physiologically to drink more than to drink less. And remember that we hydrate most effectively on an empty stomach by drinking 30 minutes before meals.

A simple meal plan for my friend Cristian

Cristian is a physiotherapist, osteopath and Pilates instructor at Fisico, the gym where I have been going since I moved to Spain in October 2006. We don’t spend much time together, but have a good connection. I attended his Monday lunchtime classes and did one-on-one sessions with him in the Pilates studio every second Wednesday for several years. I don’t attend either one anymore because I began giving lunchtime Pilates and body mindfulness classes myself to a small group of interested people at work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since I need the midday break on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to do my personal high-intensity, super-slow resistance training, this leaves no other gaps in the otherwise full weekly schedule. Nonetheless, we see each other and chat regularly.

Cristian reads my posts, tells me he finds them interesting and trusts that I know what I’m talking about, but often finds the stuff too technical or complicated. So, he asked me to just give him a simple eating plan to help him change his eating habits into healthier ones in exchange for a body therapy session. I readily accepted and here it is. (This is closely modelled on how I have been eating for the last several months, just that I have gradually shifted everything to later and later in the day, and you’ll understand why in a second).

The first thing is to stop thinking in terms breakfast, lunch and dinner, and instead start thinking in terms of hydrating and cleansing, and nourishing and rebuilding. This is a very important shift in focus and perspective that, in fact, leads to a rupture with the traditional understanding about food and eating cycles as they have been handed down and taught to us ever since we came into this world. (Fortunately, I know that Cristian appreciates the non-conventional and thus the non-traditional.)

Thinking in terms of these two cycles of cleansing and hydrating, followed by nourishing and rebuilding, is simply a reflection of the body’s own natural daily cycles. The cleansing starts sometime before we wake up in the morning, and can be extended well into the afternoon. Cleansing of accumulated acid in the blood and throughout the body from the food and activities of previous day that is excreted mostly through our urine. And cleansing of the toxins and more or less well digested remains of the food we ate in the previous 24 hours that we eliminate through the intestines. Since this is what the body must do to keep itself functional and healthy, it is most appropriate to help in this regard instead of making it harder.

This is therefore what we want to do: cleanse by supplying liberal amounts of water and drinks (green juice) that help the body both dilute stored acid and eliminate it from the blood (uric acid) and tissues (urate). And cleanse the colon by taking psyllium husks and or chia seeds sometime in the morning with our water and green drink. Eating cuts this cleansing cycle short and thus its benefits. Extending our overnight fast into the cleansing cycle even to 10 or 11 is a good start. And then eating less during the day while we are busy and active, just to keep us from feeling very hungry, is perfect. The longer we cleanse and wait before eating, the more effectively our body will excrete stored acid and clean and repair itself over time. The less we eat during the day, the more cleansing will continue throughout. The nourishing and rebuilding cycle starts in the late afternoon and extends throughout the night.

So, start by extending your overnight fast until 10:30, and throughout the morning drink plenty of pure water and dehydrated green juice powder diluted into it. You should drink a total of about 2 litres by 10:30. Keep a little container of unrefined sea salt with you and take a pinch every so often. This will help maintain sodium and chloride concentrations in the blood and also help in eliminate uric acid.

You will probably be hungry by 11h and so you can make yourself what I consider to be maybe the to best breakfast: a coconut milk smoothie. With one can of coconut milk (400 ml), a small handful of frozen berries or a heaping teaspoon of powdered ginger or cinnamon or powdered aniseed or pure cocoa powder (less often than the rest), and a tiny pinch of stevia with an added 100 ml of water, you will blend a delicious smoothie whose calories come almost entirely from the coconut oil in the milk whose health-promoting qualities are almost beyond belief (more on that on another occasion), and whose flavour will be a great, slightly sweet, with the rich and creamy texture but mild flavoured coconut milk.

Since one can of coconut milk contains typically about 65 g of fat (Dr Georg is the brand I like the best and recommend), this gives a total of about 600 Calories, (which is a lot!), almost from fat alone—and this is the key, because fat does not stimulate insulin secretion, it gives us plenty of readily useable energy to fuel all cellular activity—this is especially true for medium chained fatty acids like those found in coconut oil, and it makes us feel full and satisfied. Therefore, you should pour half of it in a glass, sipping it slowly over about 15 minutes or more to allow the stomach to send satiety hormones to the brain. Keep the other half in the fridge for later. You can have this single glass containing about 300 Calories with a handful of walnuts or almonds, (if you soak them in water overnight, it is much better), to give you something to chew and give you the sense that you are eating something solid. This will without a doubt keep you feeling full and not hungry easily until about 14h or 15h, at which time you can have the second glass with another handful of walnuts or almonds. And this will keep you satisfied into the late afternoon/early evening.

If at any other time you feel somewhat hungry and want to snack on something, then buy yourself a bunch of small crunchy cucumbers, some delicious red peppers and excellent avocados, and snack on those, with unrefined sea salt.

Now, that you have finished your daily activities, running around here and there, going up and down the stairs of the gym, talking to this person and then that, and that you are finally at home or at a friend’s house, you are ready to relax for the evening and start to prepare yourself a plentiful and nourishing dinner. Before you start though, drink another full litre of plain water, and allow at least 45 minutes before eating anything.

Your evening meal should always typically include a very large green salad made of fresh dark greens, with plenty of dressing made from olive oil and lemon juice from a freshly pressed lemon, and plenty of unrefined sea salt to taste. The salad can also have red peppers, cucumbers and an avocado cut in pieces on top, for example. You can also make gazpacho without bread and without vinegar: 3 tomatoes, 2 small red pepper, 1 cucumber, 2 cloves of garlic, plenty (1/2 cup) of olive oil, juice of 1 lemon and a teaspoon of salt. Put everything in food processor and that’s it. You can add water to make it more liquid.

If you want to make the salad your meal, then you need to add some protein for the tissue repair and rebuild that takes place during the night. This can be a couple of boiled eggs (“hard” boiled, but as soft as you can make them and still peel them without difficulty), walnuts, fresh goat’s cheese, or some meat. Otherwise, you can make yourself another protein/fat dish to go with your big salad. With that you should feel completely satisfied, and make sure that’s the case, but that’s it: no bread, no potatoes, no pasta, no rice, no sweet fruits and no desserts, at any time.

Summary

  1. Wake up and drink 1 litre of water over the course of 30 or 45 minutes (optional: add 20 drops of concentrace, 15 ml of silicic acid and 15 ml of pure aloe vera juice). Take one dose of a methyl-cobalamin B12 supplement.
  2. By 10:30  Finish drinking 1 litre of “green” water (water with 1 tsp of powdered green vegetable juice). If you can make yourself fresh green vegetable juice, this is amazingly better; always dilute the juice with as much water.
  3. 11 – 11:30  Take 1 glass (1/2 can) of coconut milk smoothie with handful of (soaked) walnuts and/or almonds or an avocado with salt.
  4. 13:30  Start drinking 1 litre of green water and finish in about one hour. Take another dose of a methyl-cobalamin B12 supplement.
  5. 15 – 15:30  Take the other half of the coconut milk smoothie with handful of (soaked nuts) or an avocado with salt.
  6. 18:30  Start drinking 1 litre of plain water with concentrace drops, finish by 19:30 or sooner.
  7. 20:00  Have your dinner

Shopping list

There are a few uncommon things you need to get:

  1. Plenty of fresh veggies for juicing or Dr Young’s Doc Broc’s Power Plants and purify drops (online here).
  2. Coconut milk and oil for cooking (Dr. Georg brand)
  3. Stevia extract powder (at Ecocentro)
  4. Essential oil of orange to flavour the powdered greens.
  5. Silicic Acid is optional but very good (3 months on, 3 months off)
  6. Aloe Vera juice (pure) is optional but very good (no time limits of constraints).
  7. B12 supplement (I recommend Mercola’s cherry spray).

Everything else is food.

Final words

The first few days might be a little difficult as your body starts to adjust to all these changes, and especially the fundamental metabolic shift from using glucose as the primary  cellular fuel to using fats instead. It is always important to drink lots and take salt, but particularly so in the first few days. It is also very important to sleep long and restful nights, which is also always the case, but particularly at the start when the metabolic shift and the most extreme detoxification is taking place.

In a matter of less than a week, however, you will feel like a million bucks: you will feel great! Not really hungry, never bloated, and light and energetic. The body will start excreting all the accumulated acid from your tissues, and in so doing find aches, pains, stiffness, discomfort and inflammation gradually fading. The body will start burning off excess fat reserves that have been accumulating throughout the body over the years, and in so doing start to heal the digestive system and detoxify the entire organism. You will find yourself feeling lighter, more prone to exercising and moving, and with higher energy levels. And you will start to feel stronger and younger as your body starts to produce more growth hormone, gradually a little more every day. And the longer you do that, the better you will feel, especially if you make it your default lifestyle.

It would also be cool if you got the few blood tests I recommend here at the start and then at semi-regular intervals in the months that follow.

Why you should start taking magnesium today

Because magnesium is maybe the most important mineral for plant and animal life on Earth. Because magnesium is certainly one of the essential minerals most deficient in our food. And because we are all magnesium deficient.

Magnesium was the key element in the evolution of plant life on Earth as it is the heart, the central ion of chlorophyll—the plant’s photosynthesising lifeblood. I was amazed when I learnt that chlorophyll and haemoglobin have identical molecular structures, only that chlorophyll has magnesium at its heart, while haemoglobin has iron. This does indeed seem amazing at first, but upon reflection, it seems quite natural, as we can be pretty sure that this is not an evolutionary coincidence since simple cellular life came first, then plant life—obviously dependent on the simplest forms of life, and then animal life—which is completely dependent on plant life.

The human body is about 70% water by weight, with about 2/3 inside our cells and 1/3 outside; the dry weight of a 70 kg person is about 20 kg. So we can say that the rest of our weight is various arrangements of naturally occurring elements. But of the 92 naturally occurring elements, a mere 7 of them make up 99% of the body’s total mineral content. These essential macrominerals are, in order of abundance: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium, magnesium, and chloride (chlorine gas dissolved in water).

Calcium is the most abundant and it must be in balance primarily with phosphorus for proper physiological function, but also with magnesium. Phosphorus is the second most abundant, and, present in every cell of the body, it plays a role in almost every chemical reaction. Potassium and sodium work together in their most notable function to transport nutrients into cells and metabolic waste out of them. And hence, potassium is the most abundant element inside the cell, in the intracellular fluid, while sodium is the most abundant element outside, in the extracellular fluid. Sodium is also the primary element on which rely the kidneys for regulating the amount of water in the blood and bodily fluids in general. Chloride works with its siblings potassium and sodium in their role as fluid and acid-base regulators, but it is also the essential element in hydrochloric acid secreted in the stomach to break down proteins into amino acids. Sulphur is necessary for the formation of hair, nails, cartilage and tissue. It is needed for metabolism and a healthy nervous system, plus it aids bile secretion in the liver.

Why so important?

Among these 7 macrominerals, however, magnesium is king. It is second most abundant element inside cells after potassium, and even though it totals only around 25 g in the average 70 kg human body, (more than half of it stored in bones and teeth, and the rest in muscle and soft tissues), it plays a role akin to that of a conductor in regulating the absorption and excretion of many of its sibling macrominerals, both in the intestines and in our cells. Of the multitude of functions it plays, magnesium is involved as a necessary co-factor on which more than 300 essential metabolic enzymatic reactions depend; it is crucially needed for structural function of proteins, nucleic acids and mitochodria; it regulates production, transport, storage and utilisation of energy in cells; it regulates DNA and RNA synthesis, cell growth and cell reproduction; and it regulates nerve function throughout the body.

But certainly most noteworthy, and indeed very important for the vast majority of us magnesium-deficient humans, is that magnesium is what allows muscles to relax: every single muscle cell in our body depends on magnesium to release a contraction instigated by calcium, magnesium’s antagonist brother. Going further, only magnesium can inhibit calcium-induced cell death: only magnesium regulates entry, and can thus prevent calcium from flooding a cell to trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death). It is for these two reasons that magnesium is so much more important than calcium. Sadly, we are as over-calcified—caked stiff with calcium from the inside out—as we are magnesium deficient. And that’s bad news because the more over-calcified the body grows, the more magnesium deficient it becomes. In addition, as important as it is to optimise vitamin D status, it is now clear that this cannot be done without at the same time optimising magnesium status (1).

And in practical terms, what does this mean for you? It means that most modern diseases and conditions are either a direct consequence of or severally aggravated by magnesium deficiency. It means that of all the heart attacks and strokes that claim the lives of most people in industrialised countries, it’s estimated that more than half are caused by magnesium-deficiency. It means that hypertension, poor circulation, water retention, osteoporosis, kidney stones and kidney disease are all caused or severely aggravated by magnesium deficiency. It means that arterial plaque buildup (atherosclerosis), arterial wall thickening and stiffening (arteriosclerosis), cardiac arrhythmia and palpitations, headaches and migraines, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and depression are all caused or severely aggravated by magnesisum deficiency. It means that from the seemingly most benign, occasional involuntary twitching of the eye, or the cramp in your foot, calf or hamstring that just seems to you as a brief nuisance unworthy of attention, to the cardiac arrest or stroke caused by a prolonged spasm of a coronary or cerebral artery that can claim your life in a few instants or leave you paralysed and debilitated for the rest of your life, to chronic anxiety, occasional panic attacks, recurring depression, bipolar or schizophrenic disorders, all of these health problems and hundreds more are caused or severely aggravated by magnesium deficiency. Insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes are also intimately related to magnesium deficiency as it is this mineral that allows insulin to transfer its cargo of glucose from the bloodstream into the cell.

Like many other realities of our world in the realm of medical sciences and treatment of disease, that this can be so—that we can be in such a dire situation of global magnesium deficiency—is truly mind-boggling given the ease with which it can be both prevented and remedied. But for this one as well as so many other such logic-defying realities in today’s medical and health sciences, ignorance is the major hurdle, but the power of the politics of profits cannot be underestimated, and should not be ignored or overlooked.

Why so magnesium-deficient?

Very unfortunately for us, agriculture is not, and to a great extent, never has been as it should rightly be—feeding and enriching the soils and the land, while at the same time producing from it, foods with the perfect balance of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients in an amazing and unique positive balance process, ultimately based on a remarkably efficient harnessing of the Sun’s energy by the grass and soil. Instead we have an agricultural system that globally pollutes the waters with toxic runoffs, depletes the soils with chemical herbicides, pesticides and Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium or NPK fertilisers, all of which help to slowly but surely sterilise the earth’s surface.

Now, to give you a sense of the scale of the problem of soil mineral content depletion, as far back as 1936, a hearing was held in the 74th US Senate Congress where the following statement was made:

“Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until depleted soils from which our food comes are brought into proper balance? The alarming fact is that foods now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain minerals are starving us—no matter how much of them we eat. Our physical wellbeing is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems than upon the calories or vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein or carbohydrates we consume (my italics). Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs, and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago. No man today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his stomach with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health.”

And you can be sure that the situation has gotten worse since then—much, much worse. Just to illustrate the point, all chemicals, whether they are those found in fertilisers, in herbicides or in pesticides, contribute to magnesium wasting. Pollutants in the air that fall back down in the form of acid rain waste magnesium stores because it is simultaneously a potent acid buffer and the most water-soluble of the macrominerals. Therefore, it is also the most affected by acid rain and runoffs saturated with agricultural chemicals.

To make matters worse, any processing of a food in its natural form, will most effectively deplete its magnesium content. Here again this is due to magnesium’s super water solubility. Such that with every step of processing, more magnesium is lost from the already magnesium deficient food. The result is that all processed foods are basically devoid of it. Fluoride, the reactive industrial by-product and poison that is put into many municipal drinking waters under the false pretence that it is good for the teeth, seeks out minerals like magnesium, and by binding to them makes it impossible for the body to absorb or use. (This is just one of the many, well researched and well documented negative effects of water fluoridation. See the Fluoride Action Network for plenty more details.)

And the last straw in this magnesium-depleting scenario is our own evermore stressful lifestyle. Always more stress: stress related to the economic situation in our country; stress related to the stability of “The Market”; stress related to the economic stability of our company; stress related to the security of our own job; stress related to our professional and therefore social status; stress related to worries about our kids’ wellbeing, happiness, social development, about their future; stress related to all those deadlines we have to meet, and to those that we set ourselves for our personal projects that somehow always slip to the bottom of the pile of books sitting collecting dust next to your bed; stress about how to save money for hard times, and about where we will go on our next holiday; and on and on and on. Incredible but true: the more time passes, the more technological advances are made, the more stuff we are able to make and use and buy, the more stress there seems to be in our lives.

And what does stress have to do with magnesium? Very simply: stress depletes magnesium and magnesium deficiency magnifies stress. How do we know this? By doing a simple experiment where adrenaline is introduced in the bloodstream intravenously, and seeing the levels of magnesium drop immediately, together with those of calcium, potassium and sodium. Stop the adrenaline and they start to make their way back up, but unfortunately, is takes magnesium the longest to recover to physiological concentrations. But the fact is that every time we feel any kind of stress, adrenaline triggers our fight-or-flight response, in which the heart starts pumping, digestion is stopped as blood is diverted from the digestive system to the arms and legs, blood also thickens by the release of clotting factors to prevent excessive blood loss in case we get injured, glycogen stores are released from the liver to be made available as glucose for immediate energy use in the heart, lungs and muscles, and yes, all of these processes are intensely magnesium-dependent, and at the same time, intensely magnesium-depleting.

In short, almost all soils on agricultural land everywhere are magnesium deficient, some totally depleted, others just greatly depleted. All foods grown in these soils are inevitably also magnesium deficient, and in some cases even more due to the excess potassium in the chemical fertilisers that prevent the plant from taking up magnesium. All processing of food further depletes magnesium, and our crazy and sickly addiction to stress delivers yet another blow—a final blow. We—all of us—really are magnesium deficient. And many of us severely so. For this reason we all need magnesium supplementation. And the sooner we start, the better off we’ll be. If you want to know how magnesium deficient you are, order an RBC Mg test (red blood cells hold about 40% of the body stores of Mg): the lab’s reference range can be anywhere from 3.5 to 7, but you want to be at 6.5 mg/dL.

Remarkably easy, extremely safe and incredibly inexpensive

There are several forms of magnesium supplements. Magnesium chloride is the most  completely ionised (with a stability constant of 0), and therefore the most easily absorbable in its ionic form by our cells. This also means that it is super hydrophilic (water-loving) and dissolves instantly when in contact with even a drop of water, so it needs to be kept very dry in a well-sealed bag or container. All the better for us, it also turns out to be very inexpensive (about 6 euros/kg) in the form of white, brittle flakes called Nigari, which is used to make tofu.

To drink your magnesium, dissolve 20 g (4 teaspoons, and 10 cents worth!) in a 1 litre bottle or 30 g (6 teaspoons) in a 1.5 litre bottle. (This makes a 2% solution of magnesium chloride.) Take 50 ml on an empty stomach when you get up in the morning, and again at bedtime. You can dilute this in as much water as you want because it is the total quantity of magnesium that counts, not the concentration of the solution that you drink. At first or when you feel you need more (stressful day, weakness, cold coming on), you should take another 50 ml in the late afternoon when the body is most in need of it. This will supply 360 mg if you take it three times, and 240 mg if you take it twice per day (magnesium chloride is 12% magnesium by weight. Dissolving 20 g in 1 litre gives 2.4 g of ionic magnesium, and dividing this litre in twenty 50 ml doses yields 120 mg per dose. Therefore 3 doses gives 360 mg and 2 doses gives 240 mg).

To absorb your magnesium through the skin, dissolve 20 g in 80 ml of water. (This gives a 20% solution of magnesium chloride—ten times more concentrated than the drinking solution.) Naturally, you can dissolve more magnesium chloride in more water, keeping the same proportions, and storing the solution in a spray bottle. With just 6 sprays on each arm and leg as well as on 6 on your chest and back, you can take up as much as 600 mg of magnesium every day. This is a much more effective way to absorb magnesium because instead of going through the digestive system from which as little as 25% up to 75% of the magnesium will be absorbed depending on many factors but primarily the state of health of your digestive system, which in most of us is appalling, almost all the magnesium is absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream in about 30 minutes. We use both methods at home.

Finally, supplementing with magnesium is extremely safe for the simple reason that it is extremely water soluble: it binds so tightly to water that the magnesium ion forms a hydration shell around itself resulting in a radius 400 times larger than in its dehydrated form. This is unlike any of its macromineral siblings. And for this reason, it is also excessively easy for the body to excrete any excess magnesium either through the urine or in the stools. Therefore, there is virtually no chances of overdosing on magnesium, and no possible negative side effects.

So please, for your own good, for the good of your sons and daughters, husband or wife, ageing mother and father, buy some Nigari at your local natural food store, and start magnesium supplementation for all of them. And for the good of your friends and colleagues, tell them about it and send them this article if they need convincing. (In France, Spain and probably other European countries, we find the Celnat brand 1 kg bag of Nigari. I’ve bought is at Bio-coop stores in Paris, and at Eco-centro in Madrid)

Conclusion: Main points to remember

  1. We are all magnesium-deficient, and many of us, dangerously so. This is due to the severe lack of magnesium in soils everywhere and therefore in the foods we eat, due to the fact that processing of whole foods strips most if not all the magnesium that is present in the unprocessed food, due to the fact that our diet is excessively rich in calcium that must be balanced with magnesium in order not to accumulate in our tissues and stiffen everything from our organs to our arteries and to our brain, and finally due to the excessive stress that we all know to be the most remarkable feature of our modern lifestyle.
  2. Magnesium is absolutely essential for relaxing muscle cells including—and maybe most importantly—the endothelial cells that line our blood vessels. Stiff blood vessels cause high blood pressure. This puts great stress on the kidneys and causes a chain of negative consequences that mould into a vicious cycle in kidney deterioration that eventually leads to failure. In addition, stiff blood vessels causes them to suffer much greater damage, especially at bifurcations where the arteries split into finer and finer arterioles. This damage leads to the buildup of plaque, and then to cardiovascular disease, heart attack,s strokes, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  3. We all need magnesium supplementation, and fortunately it is easy, cheap and safe because Nigari is an inexpensive, food grade magnesium chloride salt easy to buy in natural food stores, and because magnesium’s ultra water solubility makes it very easy for the body to excrete in the urine and eliminations, which guarantees that that it cannot accumulate excessively. On the other hand, this also means that it takes several months to replenish intra-cellular magnesium levels, and that we need to take it daily.

A diabetic’s meal on Air France

A few days ago, I was updating a reservation on the Air France website in anticipation of my trip from Madrid to Toronto on my way to the Origin of Stars and their Planetary Systems conference at  McMaster University. Looking through my personal profile, I found a section where to define a preference for the meals served on long flights. Looking through the list, I was intrigued by the “Diabetic” option.

2000px-air_france_logo

The fact is, I’ve read more than I ever intended about diabetes. That’s because the authors of most, if not all books that relate to natural health and nutrition in some way or another, usually have something to say about diabetes, more specifically, insulin-resistant or adult-onset or type II diabetes. One simple reason for this is that diabetes is so widespread in the populations of industrialised countries that it is almost ubiquitous. Another reason, certainly just as important if not more, is that the most common causes of death in industrialised countries—heart disease, stroke, alzheimer’s and cancer—are all much more common in diabetics than they are in non-diabetics, and in all cases, several-fold more common. Doesn’t this very naturally suggest that there is a fundamental relationship between insulin-resistant diabetes and these other conditions? Maybe even that what causes the development of the diabetic condition also causes the development of the others?

Type II diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, should instead always be referred to insulin-resistant diabetes in order to highlight the actual problem—insulin resistance. Unfortunately, it is only rarely referred to as such. Insulin resistance is a description of the state of a cell that does not allow insulin through its membrane to carry glucose to the inside of the cell—it resists insulin’s plea to let the glucose enter. The consequence of this is high levels of blood-glucose and insulin that don’t drop down as they should to acceptable, let alone ideal physiological levels. In fact, as far as I know, the primary, if not the only criteria used by  most MDs to diagnose the onset of diabetes is blood-sugar levels. It is considered normal to have blood-sugar levels anywhere between 65 and 110 mg/dl, but at 120 or above we are considered at risk of developing diabetes.

Interestingly, although fasting insulin concentration is a much better, more robust, indicator of not only the condition of insulin-resistant diabetes, but also of the gradual development of it, which does not appear from one year’s blood test to the next but rather develops over an entire lifetime, slowly and surely, it is almost never performed in standard blood tests ordered by general practitioners. It should.

And why is it better? Because instead of being subject to large fluctuations due to a myriad of different factors as is blood-sugar, such as carbohydrate intake, stress and physical activity, for example, fasting insulin is much more stable, decreasing steadily over the course of several hours, and reflects well the overall state of insulin resistance or sensitivity of our cells.

There is another more direct and accurate way of testing insulin sensitivity that involves measuring blood-sugar and insulin concentrations at regular intervals after ingesting a large amount of glucose. But this method is much more involved and lengthy. Fasting insulin is simple, easy, accurate and cheap. It really should always be done in standard blood tests. Request it on your next blood test. Although, if you follow the dietary advice on this blog, you should never even have to think about getting any blood tests done at all. I just do them because I find it interesting.

I discussed the insulin mechanism in We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, and also in When you eliminatie insulin-stimulating carbohydrates. But for just a second, forget what you remember about it, and consider the following:

Insulin is necessary to clear out excess sugar in the blood: it is the hormone that regulates fat storage. The greater the amount of sugar, the greater the amount of insulin required, and the greater the fat storage. The more often there is sugar, the more often insulin is needed. Insulin resistance in cells develops over time due to over-exposure to insulin, snack after snack, meal after meal, day after day and year after year.

Would we not then immediately conclude that in order to avoid developing insulin resistance we simply and straight-forwardly need to avoid raising blood-sugar levels? Furthermore, would we not immediately hypothesise that in order to reverse insulin resistance and regain insulin sensitivity we need to do just that: avoid raising blood-sugar levels? And how might we do that? You already know this: by not eating simple or starchy carbohydrates. Instead, eating most of our calories from fat to provide all the energy and calories needed for healthy cellular and hormonal activity throughout the body, and never or rarely be hungry.

Now, what was I served as the special order diabetic meal on the flight from Paris to Toronto that I am still sitting on? The salad was of grated carrots sprinkled with super dry, also kind-of-grated white meat, either of chicken, turkey of tuna, (I can’t tell because it didn’t have a smell and I don’t eat meat, so I didn’t taste it). The main course was of a piece of super-dry white fish on a bed of pre-cooked, dry, white rice with boiled frozen ripple-cut carrot slices. This was accompanied by not one of the classic crusty, refined white flour, mini-baguettes they serve on Air France flights, but by two of them. There were also two deserts, a small, dry-baked apple cut in two halves, and a soy-based pudding-like desert. Needless to say that I didn’t eat much of this meal. It was an experiment anyway: I was curious to see what a diabetic would be served, and now I know.

Before reading the next sentence, could you now tell me what is the main characteristic of the meal I just described?

It is a low-calorie, low-protein, super-low fat meal. As a consequence, it is a very high carbohydrate meal: there’s obviously nothing else it could be. Well, that’s not quite true: it is a very low-mineral and enzyme content meal, highly processed and totally dead. But that’s not really important, right? Only calories are important, right? And it is only important that it be low-fat, right?

Therefore, a diabetic that goes to the effort of ordering a special meal instead of the standard menu will end up consuming less protein, a lot less fat, and a lot more carbohydrates. This will cause a much greater rise in blood-sugar levels, that will in turn cause a much greater rise in insulin, and in the case of most diabetics will, in fact, require the injection of additional insulin because their cells are already mostly insulin-resistant. This will inevitably cause increased insulin resistance. But to make matters even worse than this already is, because they are eating very little fat, they will be increasingly hungry after each meal, and thus tend of overeat every time they get the chance. And overeat what? … carbohydrates. This is the definition of a vicious cycle. How sad. How incredibly sad.

I was just offered by second meal: it was pretty much the same thing with a cold dry meat salad instead of the re-heated dry fish with rice dish. What a laugh. This time, I just turned in down.

Oh, and by the way, the first meal was frozen almost solid. Every component, including the carrot salad, baked apple, soy desert and water: everything except for the main course that had been heated. And the second meal was also frozen, but this time, the air flight attendant felt quite sorry about it, and was rather sheepish when offering it to me. How funny! It’s a good thing I am used to fasting.

The worst mistake in the history of the human race

In We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, I mention those three books of Professor Jared Diamond that I have read, in the context of archeological evidence for the ill effects of the grain-based diet that our first farming ancestors adopted some 10000 years ago. This morning, I stumbled upon this article (link to pdf file) by him that was published in Discover magazine in May 1987. He boldly gave it the title The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race (link to Discover magazine’s online version with adds and everything else). It is a short article that presents the issue succinctly, but nonetheless convincingly, I think.

He doesn’t mention anything about insulin and its metabolic effects, (maybe he doesn’t even know anything about the topic). He only discussed archeological evidence and studies. But I think that if you were not completely convinced by my post that the human animal that we are simply shouldn’t be eating simple or starchy carbohydrates at all, then reading Diamond’s article will certainly help in that respect. If you were convinced, (which I truly hope is the case), I have no doubts that you will certainly find his article interesting, maybe even more so in the light of the physiological background presented in mine.

On the same topic, the very extensive work of Dr. Loren Cordain and his team turned him into a world scientific celebrity, and rightly so, I think. His public lecture on the Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet is really incredibly informative, interesting and eye-opening. Naturally, it goes in the same direction, but from a somewhat different angle.

A meal plan for an ageing parent

Here is the programme I made for my ageing mother to help her regain strength, health and vitality, but also rebuild cartilage to help in her recovery from hip replacement surgery, which she did impressively quickly. It provides the body the opportunity to cleanse and heal itself from the inside out. As a consequence, the skin will gradually get smoother in appearance, more supple and less wrinkled, and will eventually almost glow with the radiance of health. Your body will gradually burn off all excess fat reserves, and chronic aches and pains will gradually dissolve as the accumulated acid and calcium clears from your tissues. You will regain energy, flexibility, calm and better sleep, and over time, feel completely transformed. You really have to do it and feel it to believe it. But, independently of your state of health (or disease) I guarantee that this programme will without a doubt, over the course of a few months, completely transform your body and your health for the better. It is intended to be followed strictly for at least 2 months, but can be followed indefinitely for vibrant health and long life.

First thing in the morning on an empty stomach:

  1. Small glass (200 ml) of plain water with probiotics and chlorella
  2. Small glass (200 ml) of water with 1 table spoon of liquid silicic acid (400 mg)
  3. 50 ml of magnesium chloride solution: 4 teaspoons (20 g) of Nigari flakes in 1 litre of water
  4. Large glass (350 ml) of green drink with psyllium husks or chia seeds: 1 teaspoon of Doc Broc’s Power Plants powder, 1 mini-spoon of stevia extract powder, 3 tablespoons of aloe vera juice, 5 drops of alkalising drops (puripHy) and 3 drops of mandarin or orange essential oil in a 1 litre bottle of water with wide neck (e.g. Nalgene; this yields 3 large glasses). Shake well, let sit for a few minutes, shake again and serve. Mix in 2 teaspoons of psyllium husks/1 tea spoon of psyllium and 1 teaspoon of chia seeds/2 teaspoons of chia seeds. Drink the psyllium/chia relatively quickly so that it swells up in your stomach/intestines instead of in the glass.
  5. A few minutes later, take a pinch of two of unrefined, French-Atlantic sea salt.

Throughout the morning from around 10:00 until 13:00

  1. 1 full litre of green drink (optional chlorella)
  2. Pinches of salt to taste

Lunchtime, around 13:00

  1. Small glass of wild berry-coconut milk smoothie: 1 can of whole coconut milk, 2 mini-spoons of stevia extract powder, and 4 tablespoons of raspberries (~16) or blueberries (~20) or strawberries (~4): fresh if possible or frozen if not. Blend well and serve one glass; keep the other glass of later. If you are working, make the smoothie in the morning and take it with you to work.
  2. Supplements: whole-food multi, astaxanthin, vitamin D3: take 25000 IU or during the summer, suntan for 15-20 minutes at midday when the Sun is close zenith, exposing as much skin as possible; you will never burn in this amount of time, and for a fair-skinned person, your body will produce close to 50000 IU—the darker the skin, the longer you need to stay, but 30 minutes should be the maximum in order to not burn.

Mid-afternoon, around 14:00

  1. Large glass of the green drink (optional chlorella)
  2. Pinch of salt

Late-afternoon, around 16:00

  1. Large glass of green drink (optional chlorella)
  2. Small glass of wild berry-coconut milk smoothie

Dinner, around 18:30 or 19:00

  1. Large glass of green drink and or plain alkaline water 30 minutes before eating.
  2. Huge salad of dark greens with olive oil/lemon juice dressing: can be romaine or any other kind of dark green lettuce, rocket, spinach, or mesclun (mixed baby greens), with 1 red pepper, 1 small cucumber, soaked almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts (5 or 6 each is plenty, but you can have as many as you want). Optional: a couple of soft boiled eggs (if you eat eggs) or high quality smoked salmon (if you eat fish).
  3. Supplements: krill oil, krill IQ, ubiquinol, astaxanthin, vitamin K2.

Notes:

  • The green drink is the most important element in this healing protocol and this is why there is about 2 litres of it per day. Its main purpose is to alkalise tissues and pull out accumulated acid throughout the body, while providing plenty of minerals, phytonutrients, and enzymes, and lots of chlorophyl for building healthy blood cells. An alkaline terrain is the best way to prevent any pathogenic microforms (viruses, bacteria, yeasts, funguses and moulds) from surviving, let alone thriving as they do in the vast majority of people.
  • Fasting until about midday allows the body to really take advantage of its natural cleansing cycle from the time we wake up until the early afternoon without feeling overly hungry or deprived. Eating lightly at noon and mid-afternoon, providing mostly calories from coconut oil, is perfect to give the body enough fuel to function well without hunger and at the same time keep blood sugar and insulin super low. The single evening meal is plentiful, filling and satisfying, proving tons of chlorophyl, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, as well as excellent proteins and fats for nourishing the body and rebuilding cells and tissues during the night.
  • The liquid silicic acid is for rebuilding and maintaining healthy and supple cartilage and conjunctive tissues, healthy skin, nails and hair. It should be taken for about 3 months every 6 months (3 months on, 3 months off).
  • The magnesium chloride is an amazing all around health tonic and cure-all. It can be taken indefinitely or intermittently, but magnesium is water soluble and so we need it every day.
  • The aloe vera helps dissolve the hardened undigested proteins and waste stuck on the walls of the intestines, and the psyllium husks and chia seeds very effectively pull these toxins out with the stools.
  • The multi is for extra vitamins, minerals and enzymes; vitamin D3 is the most important supplement as it is essential for health, but almost everyone is deficient in it; krill oil is the best source of essential omega 3 fats, ubiquinol is essential for energy production in every single cell in the body but our production of it drops after the age of 35; astaxanthin is the most powerful anti-oxident and excellent for energy, vitality, physical endurance and youthfulness; and vitamin K2 is essential for strong, healthy bones, but it is hard to come by in our diets.

Six eggs per day for six days: cholesterol?

In What about cholesterol we saw how important cholesterol is for so many essential bodily functions and in so many important ways, that there should never have been a shadow of a doubt in anyone’s mind that cholesterol is anything but essential and vital to our health and our life. And that, therefore, it is ridiculous to even have to say that cholesterol is good for us. However, it is more than completely absurd, non-sensical, and outright dangerous to claim that it is bad for us. Let me assume you are now well convinced of this.

There is something we didn’t go into that relates to the fact that we’ve been told—and continue to be told—that we should minimise our intake of dietary cholesterol. The crazy thing about that recommendation is that the amount needed by the body of this vital substance depends solely on the body’s needs for it. And thus, the normally functioning liver, supplied with adequate amounts of the essential building blocks, produces cholesterol in the amount that is necessary for proper bodily function—whatever that amount happens to be at a particular time. What this means is that in a healthy individual, the amount of cholesterol you eat should not really affect the amount of cholesterol in the blood, estimated by the concentration of the lipoproteins that transport it to and from tissues.

Even though this obvious consequence of considering the body’s physiological function should just be accepted as a plain fact, unfortunately, most people—including health professionals—don’t. We continue to believe that cholesterol is bad, and we continue to try to minimise dietary cholesterol in order to lower lipoprotein concentrations, completely ignoring the fact that cholesterol and lipoprotein production is an exceedingly refined and well regulated mechanism that responds directly to the body’s needs.

It is certainly possible that if dietary cholesterol intake decreases, the liver produces more, and if dietary cholesterol intake increases, then the liver produces less; to what extent certainly depends on the physiological circumstances, and specific needs for cholesterol depend on many factors, all related to the state of the body. But it is pretty well established that the body produces more or less the same amount of cholesterol regardless of the dietary cholesterol intake because it much prefers to use the kind of cholesterol the liver produces, which is free or un-esterified cholesterol, rather than having to de-esterify the dietary cholesterol that comes primarily as cholesterol ester. Therefore, much of the dietary cholesterol is used in bile and excreted through the intestines.

For a lot more details, you can check out Peter Attia’s essential points to remember on his series The straight dope on cholesterol, even if I don’t really agree with the points linking LDL with atherosclerosis, simply because lipoprotein concentration, particle number, size distribution and everything else are all secondary or even further removed consequences of other dietary and metabolic factors upstream. In fact, I believe we should not even have started measuring lipoprotein concentrations and cholesterol in the first place. What we should have always focused on are uric acid levels and tracers of inflammation. And on another note, Peter is categorical that dietary cholesterol is not absorbed and all excreted. However, a couple of review papers I read about lipid absorption state that about 50% of intestinal cholesterol is, in fact, absorbed. The truth is that it is almost certainly dependent on a whole slew of factors and that, as for all things, the body absorbs and excretes in accord with its needs.

A viral infection, for example, will generally lead to the increase of lipoprotein concentration because these are the molecules that can most effectively gobble up and destroy viruses. Dehydration leads to a scarcity of water at the cellular level. As a consequence, each cell’s survival relies on producing more cholesterol in order to more effectively seal in the precious water it depends on for life that appears to be so scarce. Hence, dehydration also leads to higher cholesterol. A diet high in sugar—simple and starchy carbohydrates—naturally leads to a much greater amount of damage to cells and tissues throughout the body, but especially to the blood vessels themselves, from the highly damaging presence of insulin, the result of glycation of proteins and fats by higher concentrations of circulating glucose, and several other related factors. To repair the damaged cells, cholesterol is needed, and thus, in this case also, lipoprotein concentrations rise accordingly.

Although the fact that the amount of dietary cholesterol does not affect blood lipoprotein concentrations much is not debated by people in-the-know about issues pertaining to cholesterol, I just wanted to see this for myself what would happen. So, I devised a simple self-experiment: compare the lipoprotein concentrations in my blood when following my low-card, high-fat, high-nutrient diet, to those after eating 6 eggs per day for 6 days in a rowwhere I basically just added to my diet more eggs, usually raw in smoothies. That’s a lot of eggs… But before I present the results, I think it’s important to go through a few numbers relevant to this discussion.

lotsofeggs

Eggs: An average organic egg of 50 g supplies 70 calories, and contains 5 g of fat (all in the yolk), 6 g of protein (all in the egg white), less than 0.5 g of carbohydrates and 215 mg of cholesterol. This means that 6 eggs supply a total of 1300 mg of cholesterol. For me, 6 eggs per day is 3 times my usual consumption of 2 eggs per day on average—a 300% increase.

Blood volume: The blood in our body accounts for about 7% of its mass (Ref). For a weight of 100 kg, there is 7 kg of blood (about 7 litres); if you weight 50 kg, then there is 3.5 kg of blood or about 3.5 litres. And therefore, for a 57-58 kg person like me, this makes almost exactly 4 kg, and thus about 4 litres or 40 decilitres.

Lipoproteins: Cholesterol is not water-soluble, and thus has to be transported by lipoproteins. Different lipoproteins carry a different amount of cholesterol. The bulk of it, however, is found in LDL and HDL molecules. The percentage of cholesterol by weight in LDL is about 40%, and in HDL it is between 20 and 35% (Ref). To keep our calculation simple, we’ll take this to mean that LDL is half cholesterol by weight, and HDL is one quarter cholesterol.

Here are the results of the blood tests from December 16 and 22, 2011, both taken in the late afternoon after nearly 24 hours of fasting (I do this every week, so it was nothing unusual). And please don’t worry about the boldface: it appears automatically if the numbers are not in the “recommended” range, which for cholesterol is below 200 and for glucose 65-110 mg/dL. And don’t worry about the spelling: it’s spanish because I live in Spain.

Now, looking at the results, can you guess which one is which: which is the result of the blood test before one week of 6 eggs per day, and which one is after?

The answer is that the first table is from the blood test done on Dec 16, and the second table is from the blood test done on Dec 22:

After one week of eating 6 eggs per day, the LDL decreased from 110 to 95 mg/dL, the HDL increased from 106 to 112 mg/dL, the “total cholesterol” decreased from 224 to 213, and the triglycerides decreased from 41 to 29 mg/dL.

About the lipoprotein concentrations, you may recall from this graph I linked to in my first post on cholesterol, and in which was compiled all the available data found by its author, that included mortality rates and what is referred to as “total cholesterol” (but is in fact total lipoproteins), the ideal range for which is labelled “Colesterol total” in the above test results is 200-240 mg/dL, and the minimum all-cause mortality is found for concentrations of 220 mg/dL. That’s right where my numbers happen to be.

As for the glucose, well, you already know I try to keep it as low as possible, and by the way, I had no signs of hypoglycemia when my blood glucose was 60 mg/dL. In fact, I never do, even during three-day fasts, cycling to and from work, and doing resistance training at lunchtime. This demonstrates that the state of hypoglycemia can not be defined by a fixed threshold of glucose concentration below which we are considered to be in that state, but rather is based upon the individual’s metabolic function. This should be obvious since some people feel the consequence of hypoglycemia quite regularly and at glucose levels that would be exceptionally high for others, who on the contrary never feel them, simply because their metabolism has been trained to use fats for the body’s energy needs efficiently, and in fact, almost exclusively—to function in ketosis—as is my case. I plan to revisit this topic in greater detail in the future. But for now, let’s come back to the blood test results.

Firstly, we see that the sum of LDL and HDL compared to the “total cholesterol” is 216 vs. 224 (Dec 16) and 207 vs. 213 (Dec 22). This tells us that the VLDL (very low density lipoproteins) and CM (chylomicrons) together account for 8 mg/dL on Dec 16, and 6 mg/dL on Dec 22. They are, and we’ll not discuss these lipoproteins any further in this post.

Secondly, we note that the small difference in the very low concentrations of triglycerides (three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone), considered to be “normal” up to 150 mg/dL, mirrors the small difference in the lipoproteins that carry most of the triglycerides: the CM (90% triglycerides) and VLDL (62% triglycerides). Low triglyceride levels with low glucose and insulin levels equate to efficient metabolic use of fats.

And thirdly, we find that for 4 litres of blood, if we assume simple rounded figures of 100 mg/dL of LDL and 100 mg/dL of HDL, the total amount of cholesterol being carried around in the bloodstream is about 3000 mg: 40 dL*(50%*100 mg/dL + 25%*100 mg/dL). This is just 3 grams in the entire blood supply for a body weight of 58 kg! And an additional 1300 mg of cholesterol per day—almost half of the cholesterol in the bloodstream—from eating 6 eggs, and this for 6 consecutive days that supplied a total of 7800 mg of cholesterol, did not affect the lipoprotein concentration.

This leads us back to the hypothesis presented in the first paragraphs: the amount of cholesterol you eat should not really affect the amount of cholesterol in the blood. And although a quick experiment on a single person is far from being definitive proof of anything, this one clearly indicates, at least for me, that increasing intake of dietary cholesterol by an amount that is close to half of the total cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream, and doing this each day for 6 days in a row, does not raise lipoprotein concentrations (in this case, they went down slightly) when comparing the values measured at the same time in the late afternoon after a 24 hour fast once at the start of the week and 7 days later.

Furthermore, based on the sensible assumption that cholesterol synthesis by the liver is a response to the body’s needs, but also ability to manufacture it, if absorption of intestinal cholesterol is not nil but varies depending on the body’s needs, then supplying more dietary cholesterol may help ease the requirements on the liver for manufacturing the quantities needed. Therefore, this “help” to the liver can only be viewed as favourable considering the extreme importance of this organ for good health. It could also be that most or even all the additional dietary cholesterol was simply excreted in the stools. But in any case, it is absolutely certain that eating this huge amount of cholesterol every day did not affect lipoprotein concentrations in the blood after the period of fasting.

What I would like to do is to evaluate dietary cholesterol absorption on me, a 40-year old man in excellent health, by adopting an extreme diet of eating only eggs and water (this will remove the influence of other foods and nutrients and therefore reduce significantly the number of variables that can influence cholesterol synthesis and absorption), and take minimal blood samples at regular time intervals such as every hour or every couple of hours. By evaluating the changes in cholesterol transporters we would be able to estimate how much is absorbed because we know that lipids from the intestines are transported to the blood mostly by CM and VLDL, whereas HDL and LDL are mostly responsible for transport to and from the liver.

In any case, as we have seen here, but also as I mentioned in my opening sentences that we have known for a rather long time, dietary cholesterol does not influence blood cholesterol much. So please, when you hear someone say that we should avoid eating too much cholesterol because they have “high cholesterol”, you don’t need to say anything if you don’t want to, but remember at least this: cholesterol is so important and so good for us, that the liver and cells themselves will always do everything to supply the all the cholesterol that is needed, whatever that is at a particular time, and no matter how little or how much we get from our food. And maybe it is even the case that eating more cholesterol actually helps the liver and cells meet the body’s continuous demands throughout the day and night of this vital substance.

Healthy and lucid from childhood to old age

So you’ve been around for 70 years, and you’re still well enough to read this. Have you actually made it past 75, 80 or even 85? This is really great! Through a combination of different factors, various reasons, personal habits and choices, you have made this far.

Maybe because of your genetic makeup: Your parents and grand-parents all lived well into their 80’s or 90’s by following a kind of innate, traditional wisdom based on the understanding that we really are what we eat, in a very real sense, and you’ve done more or less the same, following in their footsteps.

Maybe because you have always been moderate in your eating habits: You’ve never been overweight; you’ve never eaten much sweets or deserts; you’ve never eaten much preserved meats and canned foods; you’ve never drank much alcohol; you’ve never drank sweetened soft drinks, juice or milk—mostly just water, always paying attention not to drink too much coffee or strongly caffeinated tea.

Maybe you have made it this far because you have also been moderately active throughout your life, never exercising too much or too intensely, but always quite regularly: Walking; doing light exercises for your joints (rotations of the arms for your shoulders, stretches for your neck and back, and exercises for your knees); riding a bike a couple times a week in the good season, not getting off the bike but instead riding up those hills; maybe you went skiing a week or two most years; went for long walks or even hikes in the mountains during holidays; or did a little swimming in the sea or in lakes when the occasion presented itself.

The golden middleas my grand-father called it: everything is moderation. And he almost made it to 90 years of age! But no matter what the reason is, it is truly wonderful that you have indeed made it this far. Then again, you might be young or middle aged, but interested—maybe somewhat, maybe highly, but nonetheless interested—in being healthy and lucid for as long as possible, and hopefully well into your old age.

Either way, young or old, you live in this modern world like most of us. You live in a city, you drive a car, you work in an office, you fly or flew often on business trips, maybe even several times per week. You eat meat and fish; bread, potatoes, rice and pasta; fruits and vegetables, all from the supermarket.  And so you have, throughout your life, been continuously exposed to increasing amounts of chemicals, heavy metals and various other toxins in our environment, most of which have been accumulating in your tissues. You live in the modern world like most of us, and so you have taken medication on various occasions during your life: antibiotics a few times, maybe some pain killers, maybe some sleeping pills, maybe simple anti-histamines when you had a cold. Maybe you are and have even been taking medication on a daily basis for some “minor” but “chronic” condition.

You live in this modern world and so you have been told to drink plenty of fluids and that salt is bad and should be avoided. You’ve been told that fat in general, but especially saturated fats and cholesterol, are bad because they cause heart disease: they cause your arteries to clog up with fatty plaques that eventually block them to give you a heart attack. You’ve been told to avoid them as much as you can, and instead to consume polyunsaturated vegetable oils, plenty of whole grains and cereal products, legumes, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and so you have done that: you have decreased or almost eliminated your intake of butter, eggs, fatty cheese, fatty yoghurt, red meat—never ever eating the fatty trimmings, and also of the fatty skin on chicken or fish.

Consequently, you have increased your intake of morning cereal—but only sugar-free whole grain cereal like muesli; increased your intake of bread—but usually whole grain bread; increased your intake of rice—but usually brown rice; increased your intake of pasta—but usually also whole grain pasta; and increased you intake of potatoes—but never fried, only baked, steamed or boiled potatoes.

Maybe your total lipoprotein levels are around 220 or 240 mg/dl, and you have been told that this is too high, and for this reason you have tried to further reduce your fat intake, and are even taking statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs, every day, just like hundreds of millions of other people in this modern world.

Unfortunately, you have not been told that you should be drinking water; not fluids in general, and that there are many reasons water, ageing and disease are intimately connected—the lack of water, that is. In addition to that, you have not been told that it is not enough to drink some water sometimes: it is essential to drink water before meals. Unfortunately, you have not been told that sodium is one of the most important minerals for health: why else would the kidneys, without which we cannot live for more than a few days, go to such great lengths to prevent its excretion in the urine, and keep it in the blood if it wasn’t? But even more unfortunately, you have not been told that minerals in general, are essential for health, and that unrefined sea salt contains all naturally occurring trace minerals is proportions that closely match those of several of our bodily fluids. And that furthermore, proper bodily function depends intimately on the balance of the minerals available, and that our salt-phobic and calcium-phillic society has led to most of us becoming completely over-calcified while growing more and more deficient in the rest of the trace minerals, and in particular magnesium. The link between generalised magnesium deficiency and minerals, ageing and disease are now everywhere painfully obvious.

Unfortunately—and indeed very sadly—you have not been told that cholesterol is absolutely vital for life and good health: that it forms the membrane of every single cell in your body and in that of every animal, that your entire nervous system and especially your brain are built using cholesterol and depend intimately on the availability of plenty of cholesterol, that your hormonal system relies completely on cholesterol for building hormones, and that your best defences against infectious and inflammatory pathogens are in fact the lipoproteins carrying around the precious cholesterol throughout your body. You have not been told that cholesterol is so important that it is manufactured continuously by our liver to keep up with the body’s needs, and that therefore, the cholesterol we eat does not in any ways raise lipoprotein concentrations. You have not been told that in addition to cholesterol, fat is also essential for building hormones, essential for absorbing minerals from the intestines into our bloodstream, essential for the binding of these minerals into the bones and teeth, essential for energy production in every cell of our body.

Furthermore, you have not been told that saturated fats like those found in animal products and coconut oil are molecularly stable, whereas unsaturated and particularly polyunsaturated oils such as those that make up all vegetable oils are molecularly unstable, some more than others, for the double bonds between carbon atoms in the chain that forms the fat molecule are weak and readily broken to permit some other unstable molecule seeking a free electron to attach in order to make the final molecular configuration stable. But that those unstable compounds are actually scavenging around for any electron to bind to, and unfortunately most of the time if not always, these free-radicals will attach themselves to healthy tissue without proper enzymatic action to guide them in the proper place and position, thus damaging our tissues.

In fact, you have not been told that all large studies that have been conducted to evaluate the “health-promoting” properties of polyunsaturated fats have not only failed to do so, but instead have shown that the more polyunsaturated oils we consume, the more atherosclerotic plaques develop in our arteries, and therefore the more likely we are to suffer a heart attack or stroke. And that on the contrary, the more saturated fats we consume, the less plaques we have, and consequently, the less likely we are to have a heart attack or a stroke (see any of the books about cholesterol in Further readings).

You have not been told, that for millions of years our species has evolved consuming most of its calories in the form of saturated fats from meat and animal products—in some cases exclusively from these, from coconut and palm oil (where these grow), and to a much lesser extent from polyunsaturated fats, and this only in whole foods such as fish, nuts and seeds—never concentrated into vegetable oils.

Unfortunately—and indeed very sadly—you have not been told that we were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates: that eating such carbohydrates always triggers the pancreas to secrete insulin in order to clear the bloodstream of the damaging glucose in circulation, that chronically elevated glucose levels lead to chronically elevated insulin levels that in turn lead to insulin resistance—first in our muscles, then in our liver, and finally in our fat cells—which leads to type II diabetes, to heart disease from the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries and vessels, and to Alzheimer’s and cognitive degradation from the buildup of plaque in the cerebral arteries and vessels.

Unfortunately—and indeed very sadly—you have not been told and have not considered that all the multitude of chemicals and heavy metals that we are exposed to in the medications we take, in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the food we eat, in the soaps and shampoos we use, and in the household products we employ to keep our house sparkling clean and bacteria-free, accumulate in our bodies. They accumulate in our fat cells, in our tissues, in our organs, in our brains. They burden, disrupt and damage our digestive system, our immune system, our hormonal system, our organs, tissues and cells. Sometimes they reach such concentrations that we become gravely ill, but none of the doctors we visit in seeking a solution and relief understand why. Most often, however, we don’t get gravely ill but instead start developing different kinds of little problems: we get colds more often and take longer to recover, we get mild but regular digestive upsets that we can’t explain and that seem to get worse with time, we get headaches and have trouble sleeping, we feel depressed, tired, alone, helpless, not acutely but enough to disturb us enough that we notice it.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, you have not been told how truly essential vitamin B12 really is, but how, for a variety of different reasons, blood concentrations B12 decrease with age, and eventually dwindle to very low levels. That B12 is essential most crucially to preserve the myelin sheath that covers all of our nerves healthy, and thus crucially important for everything that takes place throughout the nervous system, which means, everything in the body and brain. Levels of B12 should never go below 450 pg/ml, and ideally should be maintained at 800 pg/ml throughout life, from childhood to old age hood.

Can we do anything about all this?

The most fundamental point to understand is that everything about your health depends on the state of health of your digestive system. All absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste happens in the digestive system. Since our health depends on proper absorption and efficient elimination, the digestive system should be our first as well as our main concern.

The first step is to rebuild and establish a healthy intestinal flora of beneficial bacteria (breakdown and absorption), and at the same time begin to detoxify the body and clean out the intestines (elimination). This is done by taking high quality probiotics to supply beneficial bacteria on a daily basis, high quality chlorella to both supply a lot of micronutrients and pull out heavy metals, and water-soluble fibre like psyllium husks to clean out the intestines by pushing out toxins and waste products. If you are not already taking these, read Probiotics, chlorella and psyllium husks.

The second step is by far the most important, and in fact, crucial dietary change necessary to achieve optimal metabolic health. It is to eliminate simple and starchy carbohydrates from you diet, and replace them with more raw vegetables—especially green and leafy salads and colourful vegetables such as red and yellow peppers, more nuts and seeds—especially raw and soaked, more good and efficiently absorbed protein—especially eggs, fish and raw cheeses, and much more saturated fats—especially coconut oil (at least 3 tablespoons per day) and butter. Doing this is  essential for the systemic detoxification, rebuilding and then maintaining a healthy digestive system. Everything should be organic: you obviously don’t want to be adding to your toxic load while trying to detoxify.

And the third step is to supplement our now-excellent, health-promoting diet with a few essential and very important nutrients that are, for most of us, difficult to obtain. The only such supplements that I believe to be essential, and that my family and I take daily, are: Vitamin B12 and vitamin D3—the most important supplements to take for overall health, but in which we are almost all deficient; Krill oil—a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat with its own natural anti-oxidants, highly absorbable, and particularly important for proper brain function; Ubiquinol—the reduced and thus useable form of coenzyme Q10, critical for cellular energy production, and a powerful lipid-soluble anti-oxidant that protects our cells from oxidative damage, but both of whose synthesis as CoQ10 and conversion from CoQ10 to ubiquinol drop dramatically after about age 30-40; Vitamin K2—essential for healthy bones but very hard to get other than from fermented foods, which we typically eat little of.

In addition to these, we usually always take Astaxanthin and turmeric—very powerful antioxidants with amazing general and specific anti-ageing health benefits, and also sometimes take a whole-foods-multi—basically dehydrated vegetables and berries made into a powder and compressed into a pill for extra micronutrients. (You can read about all of these supplements on Wikipedia or any other page you will find by doing an internet search.)

I tend to buy our supplements from Dr Joseph Mercola, (whose website also provides a lot of info about these and other supplements, as well as about a multitude of other health-related issues and conditions), because I trust that his are among if not the best on the market: there’s really no point in buying cheap supplements at the pharmacy, and risking doing yourself more harm than good, as would happen with a rancid omega-3 supplement, or a synthetic Vitamin D, for example.

Staying healthy and lucid is, in reality, quite easy and simple. Unfortunately, most of us, including, and maybe especially our medical doctors, just don’t know how. And so, medical diagnostic and high-tech treatment technologies continue to improve and develop, and medical expenditures continue to rise throughout the modern world, but we are sicker than ever: more obesity, more diabetes, more strokes, more heart attacks, more cancers, more Alzheimer’s, more leaky guts, more ulcers, more liver failures, more kidney failures, and on and on. There is more disease, more pain, more suffering and more premature deaths. And all of it is completely unnecessary and avoidable by such simple and inexpensive means as those outlined herein. The only critical point is that only you can do it; nobody else can do it for you.

Probiotics, chlorella and psyllium husks

Essential for building and maintaining a healthy digestive system, it is best to take probiotics and chlorella on an empty stomach, once to several times per day, to maximise the bacterial flora replenishing from the probiotics, and the prebiotic as well as cleansing and heavy metal chelating effects of the chlorella. This way, there is minimal potential damage to the probiotics by acidic gastric juices secreted into the stomach when protein is present.

Psyllium are also good to take on an empty stomach or with foods that are not mineral-rich (as in a coconut milk pudding, for example), in order to maximise their intestinal cleaning and minimise their possible interference with mineral absorption. It is most important for the psyllium husks to be completely saturated with water before taking them to avoid causing cork-like condensations of psyllium husks in the gut.

All supplements should be of the highest quality. I buy probiotics from Prescript-Assist, chlorella from Dr. Mercola, and psyllium husks either whole or powdered but organically grown without pesticides or herbicides from Frontier.

If you have not taken these supplements, then your digestive system will be in dire need of them. It would be best, in addition to the morning probiotics, chlorella and psyllium husks, to take probiotics and chlorella with 500 ml about 30-45 minutes before eating at lunchtime, and again before dinner. After even 1 week, you will feel much better. After about 1 month, you can reduce the frequency to twice per day, and eventually you can take your probiotic only in the morning.

For the chlorella,  it’s important to not take too much at first because the detox could be too fast, and this would stress the body unnecessarily and make you feel unwell as well as make your stools runny. Once you have past the initial detox phase, you can and should take chlorella as often and as much as you want depending both on the circumstances and on your needs.

I, for example, sometimes take at 15 little pellets (3 grams) per day in two or three doses, 30 minutes before meals. But on my weekly, 24-hour fast, (usually on Mondays), during which I only take water and herbal teas, unrefined sea salt and chlorella from Sunday evening after dinner, until Monday evening before dinner, I take at least 30 little pellets (6 grams) of chlorella over the course of the day, and sometimes more. This not only gives the body easily digestible essential amino acids, but also supplies a lot of essential minerals, chlorophyl, and detox power, which is, after all, the main purpose of the fast.

The quantity of the psyllium husks should be 1 teaspoon per day for the first week. Then 2 teaspoons, and eventually 3 teaspoons per day, but not more: it’s not necessary and this much fibre may stress your digestive system, which is obviously not what you are trying to do. After a month, you should reduce the quantity of psyllium to one teaspoon per day, and see if you can reduce it further to every other day, depending on the effects on your digestion. I personally usually take 1 teaspoon almost every day to maintain perfect intestinal transit and  stools (regular, easy to pass, and almost nothing to wipe). In any case, you can not do yourself harm by taking psyllium husks with plenty of water on a regular basis (unless you are allergic to it, which is very rare); instead it will be of great benefit.

The best way to know how much and how often you need to take is by carefully monitoring the smell of your breath—it should be fresh and odourless throughout the day and night; the smell of your sweat—it should also be light, not acidic smelling, and basically odourless, even if you don’t shower for a couple of days without using deodorant or perfume; and finally, the regularity, consistency and smell of your solid eliminations—they should not be too hard nor too soft, voluminous, easy to pass, and easy to wipe. Ideal stools pass easily and do not need any wiping. This is what we should strive for by making adjustment to our water intake, cooked versus raw food intake, psyllium and vegetable fibre intake, paying particular attention to the timing of these with respect to one another.

Doing these simple things you will very quickly feel much better, and also begin to notice and understand much more about the natural detox functions of your own body, with its daily cycles as well as with its particularities. In physiological function, we are all basically the same with small individual differences that must be first identified and then tended to with care, patience and attention, being especially mindful of their evolution in time and depending on the changing circumstances. Only we ourselves can really learn how to do this, and so we must if we want to achieve and then maintain optimal health throughout our life, as we age and mature.

When you eliminate insulin-stimulating carbohydrates

Eliminating insulin-stimulating carbohydrates will have a profound effect on your health. What are insulin-stimualing carbohydrates? All simple sugars: white sugar, brown sugar, unrefined sugar, dehydrated cane sugar juice, coconut sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, agave syrup, fructose, and also fruit whose calories are typically half glucose half fructose. And all starchy carbohydrates: potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, all grain products and whole grains alike. That’s quite a lot of things we tend to eat, isn’t it? But the truth is that We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates in the first place. And the fact that we do is enough to explain why we are all so fat and so sick.

The first and most noticeable immediate effect will be deep detoxification by starving off and killing of the colonies of pathogenic bacteria and fungi in the intestines, all of which live off simple sugars supplied either by your eating of refined carbohydrates or the breakdown of starches to glucose. All these bad bacteria will starve and die, which will temporarily increase the toxins that need to be eliminated from the body. For this reason it is very important to drink plenty of water (see Water, ageing and disease), on an empty stomach, and preferably about 30 minutes before meals (see Why we should drink water before meals) together with probiotics and chlorella supplements, as well as plenty of unrefined sea or rock salt because the body excretes more sodium when it is burning fat. You may very well not feel so good for the first few days or maybe even the first couple of weeks depending on the state of toxicity of your body and its ability to detoxify. But once past this initial detox phase, you will feel great—really great.

The second most noticeable effect will be the transition from using glucose as the primary cellular fuel to using fat instead. As glucose concentrations will fall, so will insulin concentrations. At the beginning, your body is unable to burn fat because it hasn’t had to for a long time. Instead, it will try to manufacture more glucose in the liver to sustain its energy needs. When this source runs dry, the body, now desperate for sugar because still unable to tap into the plentiful fat stores throughout, will turn to muscle tissue, and break down the proteins to manufacture glucose. This is what insulin resistance, even in the mildest of forms, leads to: more fat storage, less fat burning, and breakdown of muscle tissue whenever glucose concentrations drop. What varies depending on the level of insulin resistance is the pace at which fat is stored, the relative difficulty with which fat is burnt, and the speed at which muscle tissue is broken down.

Fortunately, the body is truly amazing, and although you will have periods, some short and some longer, during which you feel weak, tired and sleepy, within days the metabolism will begin to make the switch to fat-burning as the main source of cellular fuel and energy. Then, you will start to melt all of the excess fat that has been accumulating both on the surface of your body (the visible bulges under your skin), as well as the fat that has been accumulating internally between and around all of your organs, especially in the abdominal cavity, but also around tendons and ligaments, and even within the tissues or your liver and heart, and in between muscle fibres—we all know the difference between lean meat and fatty meat, and will have had or at least heard of the french delicatessen “foie gras” (fat liver).

I, for example, a lean 35 year-old athlete who had always exercised extensively through a typically quite intense training programme in endurance, speed and strength since I was 12 (first running, then cycling, then both), with a peak during the university years, when I competed quite seriously first in cycling (road), then in duathlon (run, bike, run), and then cycling off-road, and another during my PhD, when I trained and competed running, with the most worthy achievements being the running of the Mont Saint-Michel marathon in 2:58, but training more or less steadily throughout my life, found the transition from glucose to fat-burning very quick and easy. That was about 4 years ago, and small details of momentary sensations tend to slip out of memory over such periods, but of course I had a few headaches and foul smelling stools. But within days, I had more energy, more endurance and better, longer-sustained concentration, and it’s been getting better ever since! None of my body measurements changed significantly: I was always pretty lean and my clothes didn’t fit differently. However, I lost 4 kilos (9 pounds): my weight went from of 61 to 57 kg, and has remained thus ever since, without any effort, and without hunger. Consequently, most of these 4 kg were surely in part sub-cutaneous, but necessarily in great part internal fat stores: intra-abdominal (between organs), visceral (within organs like the liver and heart), and intra-muscular.

Averagely overweight people typically lose a lot more fat than this. Like a friend who followed my advice closely, and lost more than 25 kilos (55 pounds) in about a year, without hunger. And she is still melting fat reserves that had been accumulating and that she had been carrying around for years. Beyond a certain threshold, as the body gets closer to its ideal weight and composition, the fat reserves naturally begin to melt a little slower every day. Nonetheless, it will continue until there is only the necessary reserves for optimal metabolic function—and that’s not very much fat.

There are thousands of examples such as this one, but this is not the point I want to make. The loss of fat is a trivial consequence of the body’s hormonal and metabolic recovery. It is everything else that happens to the glands, the hormones, the brain, the digestive system, the immune system, the cardio-vascular system, and all other systems, allowing more efficiently and better functioning, that is really important. You should always keep that in mind: it is not about getting thin, it is about getting healthy.

When fat-burning kicks in and especially when it kicks into high gear, all the toxins—heavy metals like mercury and chemicals of various kinds—that have been accumulating in your tissues will be released as the fat cells open up to free these energy reserves. It is crucial to drink a lot of water, especially first thing in the morning, to take plenty of unrefined sea salt to balance the increased need for and usage of electrolytes in elimination through the urine, and take plenty of chlorella throughout the day for it to bind to the metals and toxins, and excrete them from the body.

The third most noticeable effect of eliminating insulin-stimuating carbohydrates will be the gradual extraction and excretion of uric acid from all the soft tissues and organs. Since metabolising simple and starchy carbohydrates leads to acid formation, and that our kidneys—our primary blood filtration and thus acid-removing organ—never developed to handle the huge quantities of acid produced by a diet based on carbohydrates, it tries to filter it out of the blood, but simply cannot take it all out. To make matters worse, 90% of us are chronically dehydrated (see Water, ageing and disease). This not only prevents the proper dilution of the uric acid from the blood and its transfer to the urine, but it also severally stresses the kidneys that are continuously trying to filter this and other metabolic wastes from the poorly hydrated, and thus excessively thick and viscous blood, extracting what liquid they can from it to actually produce enough urine to excrete the wastes out of the body.

To make matter even worse, for years we have been told to avoid salt, and supplement with calcium. As a consequence, 90% of us are not only deficient in most essential minerals (see Minerals, bones, calcium and heart attacks), but also in sodium—probably the most important element for proper health and kidney function, and on the contrary, we are totally over-calcified. All of this makes both calcium and acid accumulate not just in our kidneys to the point of forming “stones” (about 80% of them are calcium deposits with crystallised uric acid seeds and 10% pure uric acid), but everywhere in our body, making all tissues gradually stiffer, from arteries and veins to muscles, tendons and ligaments. What a nightmare! And what a sad state of affairs it is when we realise that this is a highly accurate description of what happens to most of us, day after day, and year after year until our untimely and inevitably premature death.

The last straw is that we are all terribly deficient in magnesium, scarcely found in our soils and therefore in our foods, and this leads to severe problems over time. If you didn’t know or need convincing, read Why you should start taking magnesium today.

What do we eat when we eliminate what currently constitutes between 50 and 70 percent of our daily calories? I’ve written up some general guidelines with brief explanations in What to eat: Four basic rules. And here are some examples of daily meal plans: A simple meal plan for my friend Cristian and Vibrant health and long life.

We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates

The transition between hunting-gathering and farming took place over a period of about 1000 years between 11000 and 10000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a crescent-like shape of land that stretches across parts of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Iraq. The first people to settle were hunter-gatherers that built villages in places they found provided enough food to sustain them without having to move around. At first, these were “seasonal” villages located in different areas, to which they returned in a seasonal cycle. Finding ways to store the grain from the large seeded grasses like barley and emmer wheat growing wild but in large quantities, allowed them to settle permanently. This most likely led to a rapid growth of the population, that was matched with a proportionally rapid growth in the demand for food. The response was the development of agriculture.

The gradual decimation of the wild game over the course of about 2000 years led to the domestication of the most easily domesticable, large mammals to inhabit the region, the sheep, goat and pig, all about 8000 years ago, followed by the cow about 6000 years ago. It is very interesting and important to point out, from an anthropological point of view, that the Fertile Crescent—the seat of civilisation—is the region in the world where there were the greatest number of large-seeded grasses, as well as the greatest number of large, easily domesticable animals, by far.

The cultivation of cereal crops allowed our ancestors, some 10000 years ago, to have, for the first time in our evolutionary history, enough spare time to develop tools and technologies, as well as arts and music. For the first time in evolutionary history, a handful of people could sow, tend to, and harvest enough cereal grain to feed hundreds or even thousands of people who were, therefore, free to do a multitude of other things. Without agriculture and this shift from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of spending most of our waking hours hunting and rummaging around looking for food, we would not have developed much of anything because we simply never would have had the time to do so.

Now, although it is well known to most anthropologists, it is not a well appreciated fact that the cultivation and eating of cereal crops as an important source of calories, is possibly the most negatively impacting evolutionary mistake to have been made in regards to the health and robustness of our species as a whole. There was, indeed, plenty of free time, and we did develop technologies extremely quickly considering how slowly things had changed before then. But the price to pay was high.

Within as little as one or two generations, our powerful stature shrank markedly, our strong teeth rotted, our massive bones became thin and brittle, our thick hair grew thin and fell out at an early age. In fact, evidence indicates that while our hunter-gatherer ancestors were tall, strong, robust, with hard teeth and bones, and apparently healthy to their death—usually of a violent nature instead of progressive degradation through “ageing” as later became the norm, our oldest cereal-eating ancestors in contrast, were the exact opposite: small, weak, fragile, with rotten teeth, and advanced osteoporosis in their bones at the time of their death in their early 50’s. (For a lot more details about all the points discussed up to here, I strongly recommend Jared Diamond’s fascinating books: The Third Chimpanzee; Guns, Germs and Steel; and Collapse).

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century some 10000 years later, we know exactly why we were never meant to consume carbohydrates on a regular basis, let alone in large quantities as we do today, such that they provide a significant part of our daily calories—sometimes even the majority! We know exactly why because we have pretty clearly understood the primary effect of phytic acids or phytates, the importance of dietary fats, and the insulin mechanism.

Phytates are compounds that exist in all grains and legumes—where they are found in the greatest concentration—as well as in all nuts and seeds. Some animals like rats, for example, have evolved the necessary digestive mechanisms to break down phytates, but humans have not. The consequence is these bind to minerals in the gut and in so doing prevent their absorption into the bloodstream. The regular consumption of grains and legumes—and we believe that many of our first agrarian ancestors lived almost exclusively from grains—leads to severe mineral deficiencies that result in demineralisation of the teeth and bones, exactly as is seen in the remains of these ancestors.

Moreover, any diet consisting primarily of grains (and legumes) as was theirs, will also inevitably be extremely deficient in fat, that is now know to be essential for the proper function of every cell, tissue and organ in the body (especially the brain), but also crucial in the absorption of minerals. So, the combination of a high concentration of phytates together with an almost complete absence of fat, made for an extremely effective demineralisation, which is indeed seen in the smaller statures, weakened bones and teeth, and considerably shortened lifespan of our agrarian ancestors. This obviously still applies today: the more phytates, the faster the demineralisation; and the less fat; the faster the demineralisation.

Finally, insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. There is always a certain concentration of glucose in the blood, and there is also always a certain concentration of insulin. If there isn’t a major metabolic disorder, then the higher the glucose concentration, the higher the insulin concentration. And conversely, the lower the glucose concentration, the lower the insulin concentration. But since the body is programmed to always keep glucose concentrations to a minimum, as soon as there is a simple carbohydrate in our mouth, insulin is secreted into the bloodstream. As the glucose—either from the simple carbohydrates or from the breakdown of starches—enters the bloodstream through the intestinal wall, and as its concentration continues to rise, the pancreas continues to secrete insulin to match the concentration of glucose; but always a little more, just to be on the safe side.

Why? If glucose were good for us, then why should we have this highly sensitive mechanism to always try to get rid of it?

Insulin’s primary role is storage of “excess” nutrients, and regulation of fat storage and fat burning: when insulin is high, there is fat storage; when insulin is low, there is fat burning. It’s very simple. This, in turn, means that insulin is the primary regulator of energy balance, and therefore of metabolism. From an evolutionary perspective, the importance of insulin is perfectly clear. Firstly, it is a mechanism that is common to almost if not all living creatures, from the simplest to the most complex, because all living creatures depend for their survival on a mechanism that allows them to store nutrients when they are available for consumption but not needed by their metabolism, in order to live through periods where food is not available. This is why the role of insulin is so fundamental and why it is a master hormone around which most others adjust themselves. But when glucose levels are higher than a minimum functional threshold, what insulin is trying to do, in fact, is to clear away the glucose circulating in our bloodstream.

Why? Because the body simply does not want large amounts of glucose in circulation. In fact, it wants blood glucose to be low, very low, as low as possible. And beyond this very low threshold of glucose concentration between 60 and 80 mg/dl, it always tries to store it away, to clear it from the bloodstream, to make it go away. It tries to store as much as possible in the muscles and the liver as glycogen, and converts the rest to fat stored away in fat cells. That the body does not want glucose in circulation is most certainly related to the fact that the insulin mechanism even exists: very small amounts of glucose in the bloodstream is essential for life, but large amounts of glucose in the bloodstream is toxic. And all simple and starchy carbohydrates stimulate the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.

Keep in mind that the presence of insulin promotes the storage of glucose, but also of proteins as well as fats. Once more, its role is to store away and deplete the “excess” nutrients in the bloodstream for later times of food scarcity. Once the insulin molecule has delivered its load (glucose, protein or fat) through the receptor on the cell, it can either be released back into circulation or degraded by the cell. Degradation of circulating insulin is done by the liver and kidneys, and a single molecule will circulate for about 1 hour from the time it was released into the bloodstream by the pancreas until it is broken down.

It is important to add that stress stimulates the secretion of stress hormones that in turn stimulates the release from and production of glucose by the liver, just in case we need to sprint or jump on someone to save ourselves. Obviously, the presence of glucose—now not from ingested carbohydrates but from the liver itself—will trigger the secretion of insulin in exactly the same way as if we had eaten sugar. This means that stress mimics the physiological effects of a high sugar diet. And that’s not good. In fact, it’s pretty bad.

Chronically elevated glucose levels lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. And this is much worse. Like for any kind of messenger mechanism—as is insulin, if there are too many messengers repeating the same message over and over again, very soon they are not heard well because their efforts at passing on the message becomes more like background noise. Frustrated that they are not taken seriously, the messengers seek reinforcements in numbers to be able to pass on their message more forcefully. This, however, leads to even more annoyance on the part of the listeners—the message recipients—that now start to simply ignore the message and the messengers. This process continues to gradually escalate up to the point where the terrain is completely flooded by messengers yelling the same thing, but there is no one at all that is listening because they have insulated their windows and doors, and closed them tightly shut.

Here, the messengers are the insulin hormone molecules secreted by the pancreas and coursing throughout the body in our veins and arteries; the message recipients are our cells: muscle tissue, liver and fat cells; and the message itself is “Take this sugar from the bloodstream, and store it away. We don’t want this stuff circulating around.” The desensitisation—the not-listening—to different, progressively higher degrees with time, is called insulin resistance. Finally, the complete ignoring by the cells of the message and the messengers is called type II diabetes.

Furthermore, insulin resistance—not in the muscle, liver and fats cells, but in the brain cells—clearly leads to neurological degradation identified as cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s or whatever other terms are used. Because beyond the fact that type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are both increasing together at an alarming rate in the US and other western countries, and beyond the fact that diabetics are at least twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to non-diabetics, the basic condition of insulin resistance inevitably leads to chronically elevated glucose concentrations simply because the cells do not allow the glucose to enter. And it is well known that glucose in the blood simply and straight forwardly damages to the lining of the blood vessels, which then leads to plaque formation—the body’s repair mechanism for the damaged cells underneath. Thus, as are the coronary arteries of advanced atherosclerotic heart disease sufferers (and diabetics): riddled with plaques, so are the arteries and blood vessels in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers (and diabetics).

Now, although many claim that these and other issues related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of neurological degradation are still relatively poorly understood, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all the evidence I need: Do you want the vessels supplying blood to the brain fill up with plaque in response to the damage caused by glucose circulating in the bloodstream? Do you want the coronary arteries fill up with plaque in response from the damage caused by glucose circulating in the bloodstream? I certainly don’t. How could anyone?

What do we need to do? Very simple: just eliminate  simple and starchy carbohydrates from the diet. Concentrate on eating a lot of green vegetables, tons of green leafy salad greens; plenty of fat from coconut milk, coconut oil, nuts and seed of all kinds; and a little animal protein from eggs, raw cheese, wild fish and meat (if you chose to do so). Blood sugar will drop to its minimum, insulin will follow suit, and the body’s own repair and maintenance mechanisms will clear out the plaques, repair damaged tissues, degraded unneeded scar tissues and small tumours and recycle these proteins into useful muscle tissue, and many, many more amazing things will happen to the body that it will gradually look and feel younger and stronger as time passes. Sounds too good to be true? Just try it, and you’ll see for yourself. I guarantee it.

What about concentration

Concentration is a complex topic. As with many other things, because we use a single word for it, we can be tricked into believing that it is, in fact, one thing even though it is not. In addition to that, different people will likely mean different things when they use the term “concentration”.

For me, “concentration” means focusing attention onto something, and in the process, excluding as much as we can of everything else that is going on in the field of present experience, deeming them distractions. To concentrate on trying to hear a particular sound, for example, a very faint sound way off in the distance, implies directing our attention towards it with all our mental might. And somehow by doing this it is implied that we have to exclude everything else that is happening, and the better we can exclude everything else the more concentrated we can be.

But focused attention tends to be very fast moving, spontaneously jumping from this thing to that thing to the other thing, continuously and restlessly. This happens so quickly and so continuously that most of us hardly notice it at all. Therefore concentrating requires a great deal of effort and energy. This is why it is so exhausting, and this is also why it cannot possibly be sustained for very long. In fact, there may come a time when we notice that concentrating is becoming harder and harder, or even that we are simply unable to do it for any length of time. And then we start to worry because we feel that we cannot get anything done as we are totally distracted and scattered, continuously and incessantly.

Naturally, our first strategy should be to minimise our own stimulating of this jumping from one thing to another by restricting ourselves to doing the task we have at hand whole heartedly, without interrupting ourselves every few minutes or even seconds to check this last email that just came in to our inbox, or lookup something with Google. For most of us, this kind of scattered multi-tasking will only exacerbate the scattering of attention and gradually prevent us from doing any one thing for longer than a few minutes, if that. To minimise mental jumpiness we should minimise jumpiness in the way we work and function. Just turn off that email notifier, close your inbox, close your web browser, and work on your document or the problem you are trying to solve.

Beyond this basic strategy of minimising scattering behaviours, what if instead of concentrating we simply paid attention. The essential difference is that although paying attention does require a certain kind of effort, it does not require excluding anything at all, it does not require the straining effort of continuously pushing things away to re-focus attention. In fact, the more facets of our immediate experience we include in paying attention—the more we open our attention—the more we can indeed pay close attention to what we are attending to. Since we tend to focus on the thoughts, images, memories and run-on stories and commentaries that we continuously tell ourselves throughout the day and night, since we tend to live in our head, looking out through the eyes as if they were our windows onto this world outside that surrounds and often threatens us in various ways, the means to bring in balance is to spread attention to the body.

Feel the breath in the belly filling our inner cavity with air and keeping us alive in this very moment, and feel it in the belly with the belly, not just once, but breath after breath after breath. Feel the feet on the floor with the feet and toes, whether we are sitting, standing or walking: feeling the weight of the body rolling from the heel to the front of the foot, first on the right foot, then on the left, step after step. Feel the hands holding a cold glass of water, holding a hot cut of tea, holding a book, holding a baby: feeling the weight, the texture, the temperature. Feeling the water running on the skin when we wash the hands over the sink, the body in the shower. Really feel the body with the body. Don’t talk about it to yourself, don’t comment: just feel it.

Doing this—feeling the life of this body with this living body—will gradually and naturally bring our attention into balance, allowing us to function more freely, more easily, and more efficiently, no matter what we are doing. However, on the most basic level, our emotions, moods, tendencies, states and thus the general configurations of attention, are regulated by hormones: messengers coursing through the blood carrying all sorts of signals to organs and tissues. And as it cannot possibly be otherwise because the same blood circulates everywhere, all of these hormones have some influence on our brain. Therefore, for the brain to function properly, and our moods to be stable, and our attitude positive, there is no other way than to re-establish and maintain proper hormonal balance. Hormones, in turn, are primarily regulated by what we eat and what we drink: hormonal balance is rooted in our diet.

One of, if not the most important hormone—the one that has both the greatest direct and indirect influence on the other hormones—is insulin. For this reason, the only way to establish and maintain proper hormonal balance is to make sure that insulin is balanced—that it is by natural means as low as possible.  When insulin is low, everything else naturally falls into place: appetite, energy levels, mood, mental function and sleep. Naturally, it should be needless to say that all chemical stimulants, be it coffee, alcohol, cigarettes or drugs (prescription or not) should be eliminated, as these are all potent hormonal disruptors.

Fortunately, it is very easy to lower insulin levels and keep them low: as insulin levels mirror blood glucose levels, we need simply eliminate refined and starchy carbohydrates from your diet. Unfortunately, for most of us today this is not so easy because we are plainly addicted to carbohydrates.

I use “addicted” with the same strong, negative connotation as it is used in the context of drug use, because it really is so in the sense that our entire hormonal system is regulated by glucose levels and insulin, and although we may think somewhat differently of the powerful urge to smoke a cigarette or have a cup of coffee, an intense craving for chocolate or plain old hunger, all of these are regulated by our hormones whose overall profile is shaped, (distorted rather), by the presence of sugar and insulin. So, we do need to get over our addition to carbohydrates in order to function smoothly and efficiently as stable and balanced individuals. This is done by gradually reducing refined and starchy carbs as much as possible. And there is no minimum: the less of them we consume, the better off we’ll be.

Eliminating these carbohydrates from our diet will most likely lead to the elimination of at least half, if not three quarters of our daily calories. Considering the multitude of detrimental effects carbs have on our health—on our body and mind—this is indeed quite sad, but for most of us it is true. So what do we replace these empty calories with? Fats, and mineral and enzyme rich foods.

Fat is not only the constituent of every membrane of every cell in our body, but it is also the cellular fuel of choice. Therefore, fat should rightly be our main source of calories—at least 50% of them (I personally aim for 70% of my calories from fat). What kinds of fats? Lots of natural, unprocessed, chemically stable saturated fats from coconut oil, butter, eggs and cheese—preferably all organic to minimise the ingestion of toxic substances; monounsaturated fats from olive oil for salad dressings—choose a flavourful, unfiltered, fresh and cold pressed oil; polyunsaturated plant-based omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fats with Vitamin E complex from many different kinds of whole, raw nuts and seeds every day—buy only the best and freshest organic or wild harvested nuts and seeds; and polyunsaturated animal-based omega-3 fats with the vital Vitamins A and D from eggs, fish (for those who eat some), and krill oil supplements—these are absolutely essential for optimal health. Omega-3 fats are really important but needed only in small amounts. They should also be consumed in small amounts because they are very easily oxidised into free radicals. The animal omega-3 fats are particularly important for proper brain function.

Cholesterol is essential, especially for optimal brain and nerve function because synapses—the connections that allow electrical impulses to travel from one nerve cell to another—are almost entirely made of cholesterol. Moreover, most hormones are also made from it as cholesterol is used as their building block. Therefore, we must consume plenty of cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs, as well as plenty of cholesterol synthesis-promoting foods such as the good saturated fats mentioned above.

Minerals basically make up the solids of the body, and in this respect, it is vital to replenish them on a daily basis through the foods we eat: nuts, seeds and vegetables, (sea vegetable are the richest of all). And for vegetables, the greener and darker the better. Furthermore, eaten raw these nuts, seeds and vegetables provide plenty of enzymes and anti-oxidants that offer a wide spectrum of remarkable health benefits. It is crucial to keep in mind that all minerals and anti-oxidants are much better absorbed from the small intestine into the bloodstream when there is plenty of fat in the digestive system. In fact, in some cases, the absence of fat prevents the absorption of both minerals and anti-oxidants. I have not included fruit in this discussion because fruits are basically just simple sugars: glucose and fructose, and offer very little in terms of minerals, and phytonutrients compared to most vegetables. All berries, however, fresh or dried, are excellent as they are usually low in sugar, and often very high in anti-oxidant and healthful compounds.

Sometimes, allergies and toxicities such as heavy metal accumulation in the tissues, are at the root of what may appear to be either a mood or neurological disorder. The best way to detoxify and cleanse the body of heavy metals such as mercury is to take chlorella and spirulina supplements on a daily basis, on an empty stomach with plenty of water at least 30 minutes before meals. These have the ability to bind to heavy metals and flush them out of the body through the stools. And as for allergenic compounds, this needs to be investigated be each person individually.

Finally, water is vital for life and health. We must therefore have plenty of it, and drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and before meals.

There is no way to address what we may call “concentration problems” without addressing everything about what we eat and drink. Everything relating to brain function is also related to bodily functions and vice versa. Whether we like it or not, and whether we recognise it or not, this bodymind is whole, and mind and body are seamless. This is therefore how it must be taken care of and treated.

But what about cholesterol?

Cholesterol is nothing less than vital for life. It is vital for development. It is vital for growth. It is vital for reproduction. It is ultimately vital for both life to emerge, and for life to sustain itself. This is not a personal opinion—it is a fact.

Why? Because every membrane of every single cell in your body relies on cholesterol to give it structural integrity. Because every single nerve cell in your brain and every synapse through which nerve impulses are transmitted are mostly made of cholesterol. Because every sex hormone of every woman, man and child is constructed from cholesterol. Simply put: without cholesterol, animal life is impossible. There is not a single person in the world that can or would dispute this—it is simply so.

Does it even make sense to say that cholesterol is important for health, when our very existence and that of every animal life form depend on it? And how in the world can anyone in their right mind even formulate the notion that cholesterol is bad in any way, let alone the cause of a disease, and go as far as suggesting that we should avoid it as much as possible, as well as try to minimise and even suppress our body’s production of it as if it were some kind of poisonous substance whose purpose is to kill us? This is nothing less then absurd—totally and completely absurd.

I wish it were enough to say only this to immediately dispel all false, but firmly held beliefs we hold ‘on the dangers that cholesterol poses to our health’ because they have been given to us, forced upon us over the years, and now ingrained in our conscious mind. But unfortunately, although those few fundamental points about cholesterol mentioned above are more than enough to convince me that the entire anti-cholesterol campaign is at best a huge misunderstand, and at worse the biggest and most lucrative scam in human history, I fear that for most of us who have been thoroughly brainwashed by decades of misinformation campaigns, it will not suffice. So let’s look at this a little more closely, starting with the very basics, so that once you have read this article, you will be a lot better informed than you were, and in fact, almost surely better informed than your family doctor, as medical doctors tend to be pretty ignorant (I’m being lenient) of most things that relate to your health.

No such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cholesterol

Firstly, cholesterol comes in only one form: there is no such thing as good and bad cholesterol. Whether it is the cholesterol contained in the dark orange yolk of a fresh, free range, organic egg, whether it is the cholesterol synthesised by your liver through a complicated chain of steps that we still do not understand completely, or whether it is the cholesterol produced by the individual cells like the glial cells in the brain, or in any other tissue or organ other than the liver. And yes, this is yet something else that should make us clue in to the fact that cholesterol is vital for survival: unlike almost any other molecule, cholesterol is maybe the only one that probably every cell in every tissue can produce. Amazing, isn’t it? Why would most if not all cells be endowed with this ability, if cholesterol was not of vital importance to their survival as a living entity?

Anyway, there is only one form of cholesterol, and although I am repeating myself, it is very important to make the point as clear as possible: cholesterol is beyond good or bad—it is absolutely vital.

What are LDL and HDL?

Secondly, what is usually referred to as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cholesterol (the result of a marketing scheme by the pharmaceutical industry), are in fact molecules called lipoproteins. They are proteins that transport lipids in the bloodstream (hence lipo-protein), and in particular cholesterol, to and from tissues in different parts of the body. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is not soluble in water and therefore cannot flow in the bloodstream that is mostly water. For this reason it needs to be transported where it is needed by some other molecules: the lipoproteins. It is indeed most unfortunate that we hear about LDL as the ‘bad’, and HDL as the ‘good’ cholesterol. This is not only false, but completely absurd:

LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein, and HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein. The reason why this erroneous association and misguided use of these terms came about—beyond that marketing scheme intent on making us believe that there is some bad agent in our blood that we need to get rid of by taking drugs—is based on the fact that one of the functions of LDL molecules is to transport cholesterol from the liver, where most of it is manufactured, to cells and tissues that need it for repair and regeneration. Since LDL helps to carry cholesterol out from the liver and into the bloodstream to tissues, in thinking that cholesterol in the blood should be minimised, then this is clearly a terrible thing. Hence LDL was dubbed the ‘bad’ cholesterol. Does this makes any sense? Not the slightest.

Why does the liver produce this complex cholesterol molecule, and why is there LDL to carry it from the liver to the organs and tissues of our body? Because cholesterol is necessary for the manufacture, maintenance and repair of the membrane of every single one of the 50 trillion cells in the body.

Naturally, for a molecule as important, as complex to synthesise, and therefore as precious as cholesterol, the organism has evolved a way to collect and reuse it: obviously, the three R’s, Reduce (the need for synthesis), Reuse and Recycle (everything you can). One of the roles of the HDL carrier molecules is to scavenge around for unneeded or surplus cholesterol and bring it back to the liver. Once more, in the mindset that cholesterol in the blood should be minimised—beyond the clever trick to introduce the essential protagonist to counter the bad LDL, for if there is a bad guy there naturally must be a good guy—since HDL helps to carry cholesterol from the bloodstream back to liver, this must be a good thing. Hence HDL was dubbed the ‘good’ cholesterol. Does this makes any sense? Not the slightest.

So we know that one of the the roles of LDL and HDL molecules—certainly the most obvious one—is to transport cholesterol from the liver to cells and tissues, and back to it for reuse and recycling or breakdown into other molecules. LDL and HDL work together as essential partners in the cholesterol transport system. But do these lipoproteins have other roles in the complex biochemistry of the human body? Indeed they do.

HDL and LDL: beyond cholesterol transport

As incredible as this may possibly sound to you if you are still brain-washed by the anti-cholesterol campaigns intended to convince you to eat more highly processed, tasteless, odourless, chemically altered and typically rancid vegetable oils, as well as to start taking ‘life-saving’ statin drugs, compiling all the data we have from studies that measured lipoprotein levels in the blood and death rates, we find that the lowest mortality from all diseases occurs in people with total lipoprotein levels between 200 and 240, centred on 220 mg/dl. These are age-corrected data, so as we age levels should gradually rise. But that’s not the only thing we find from looking at this graph of compiled data: there is an inverse relationship between lipoprotein levels and mortality such that the lower the lipoprotein levels are, the higher the death rate! and this for all diseases—infectious, parasitic and cardiovascular. To those who know what HDL and LDL molecules do, this is not surprising at all. It is, in fact, perfectly sensible.

As much as some may believe that the main role of LDL and HDL molecules is to carry cholesterol to and from tissues for cellular maintenance and repair, some would argue that their main role is not simple transport of cholesterol, but in fact, it is to protect the organism from bacterial and viral pathogens. It is firmly established that lipoproteins bind to endotoxins to inactivate them and protect against their toxic effects that include arterial wall inflammation. Endotoxins are part of the outer membrane of the cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Pseudomonas, Neisseria, Haemophilus influenzae, Bordetella pertussis and Vibrio cholerae, all of which can cause severe, well known diseases. In addition, lipoproteins also protect against viruses like hepatitis B, and consequently in this case, against cancer and other diseases of the liver as reported here. There are many scientific publications on this and related topics, but most are quite complicated. (If you are interested in this kind of thing, you can look at this article, and browse through the long list of references. For those interested in bacteriology, I found a great free online textbook by Kenneth Todar of the University of Wisconsin.)

The essential point to remember, however, is that the lipoproteins LDL and HDL play a very important role in our immune system by neutralising harmful toxins released from the activity of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, thus protecting us from infectious diseases and the related chronic inflammation. This is why people with higher levels of lipoproteins LDL and HDL live longer and healthier lives.

Cholesterol and the brain

Although all cell membranes rely on cholesterol for structural integrity, neurons or brain cells are highly enriched in cholesterol that makes up more than 20% of their dry weight. The importance of this enrichment can be appreciated when we consider that our brain accounts for about 2% of our body weight, but it contains about 25% of the cholesterol in the body. This means that the concentration of cholesterol in the brain is 12.5 times higher than the average bodily concentration. Isn’t this enough to convince you of the extreme importance of cholesterol for proper brain functions?

As elsewhere in the body, cholesterol is found in the cell membrane—for brain cells this is the myelin sheaths that insulate them. But in addition, and maybe more importantly, cholesterol is the main constituent of the synapses through which nerve impulses are transmitted from one neurons to another. And contrary to common wisdom that lipoproteins cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, and therefore brain cholesterol must be synthesised in the brain, it has been shown that if something prevents brain cells from synthesising the precious cholesterol, then they use whatever they can get from the lipoproteins circulating in the blood.

With all of this in mind, is it surprising that when cholesterol synthesis is partially or completely de-activated using statin drugs, some of the most common symptoms seen are memory loss, dizziness, mental fog, slowing reflexes, etc., all of which are obviously related to brain function? Is it surprising that Alzheimer’s patients tend to have lower cholesterol levels both in the blood and in the brain? Well, no. It’s not.

For me, there is no need to go further: I want to have a brain that is provided with all the fat and cholesterol is needs to function to best of its abilities for as long as I am alive. If you want to learn more about the incredibly detrimental effects of cholesterol-reducing drugs, you should read any or all of Dr Duane Graveline‘s books: Lipitor: Thief of Memory, Statin Drugs Side Effect and the Misguided War on Cholesterol, and Statin Damage Crisis. I also stumbled upon this article in the Wall Street Journal (out of all places), that describes how important cholesterol is for the brain, and hence, how damaging cholesterol-lowering drugs can be.

Cholesterol and hormones

What more needs to be said to emphasise the importance of cholesterol for healthy hormonal function than that all steroid hormones are made from it. Steroid hormones, as the names suggests, are steroids that act as hormones. Hormones are messenger molecules that tell cells what to do and when to do it. To carry out their function—to pass on their message—they must reach the nucleus of the cell. But to reach the well protected nucleus and bind to specific receptors in it, hormones must pass through the fatty cellular membrane. For this reason, hormones are made of fat: they are lipids. Since lipids are not water soluble, as is the case of cholesterol, hormones rely on specialised proteins to transport them in the bloodstream throughout the body.

There are 5 groups of steroid hormones: glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, androgens, oestrogens and progestogens, as well the closely related hormones that we refer to as Vitamin D. Each one of these is a family of hormones responsible for regulating the metabolism related to a specific group of substances.

Glucocorticoids are steroids produced in the adrenal gland, and responsible for glucose metabolism. Cortisol is maybe the most important of glucocorticoids as it is absolutely essential for life, regulating or supporting a variety of important cardiovascular, metabolic, immunologic, and homeostatic functions.

Mineralocorticoids are responsible for the regulation minerals, the most important of which are sodium and potassium. The primary such hormone is aldosterone that acts on the kidneys to regulate reabsorption of sodium and water from the blood, as well as secretion of potassium. These two minerals are required in the well known sodium-potassium pump that continuously, for every single cell, work to ensure that the concentration of sodium stays higher outside, while the concentration of potassium stays higher inside the cell. This is crucial for its proper function. In addition, it is through the sodium-potassium pump that glucose is transported from the bloodstream into the cell.

Androgens, oestrogens and progestogens are sex hormones. It is needless to say that they must all be in good balance for proper development and physiological function, as well as psychological health in both males and females. It is important to emphasise that although we typically associate the main androgen, testosterone, with men, this hormone plays a very important role in muscle development and inhibition of fat deposition, both of which are clearly of great value to women as well. There are also several psychological factors regulated by the concentration and relative balance of male and female sex hormones such as assertiveness, motivation, self-confidence, on the one hand, and calm, caring and compassion, on the other. Interestingly, the most important oestrogens are derived from androgens through the action of enzymes. Therefore a deficiency in androgens will naturally lead to a corresponding deficiency in oestrogenic hormones. As is well known, oestrogens regulate all aspects of the reproductive system in women. Phychologically, low oestrogen levels are associated with depression and hyper-sensitivity in females, and insecurity and obsessive compulsive type of behaviours in males. Progestogens are most important in their role in maintaining pregnancy (pro-gestation) and are therefore most important for women. They are, however, rather special hormones because progestogens are precursors to all other steroids. All steroid producing tissues such as the adrenals, ovaries and testes, must therefore be able to produce progestogens.

To learn more about hormones, their importance, their effects and how to bring them into balance through diet, I recommend the Hormone Solution (english) or Le regime hormone (french) by Thierry Hertoghe, MD.

Too much cholesterol?

There is no such thing as too much cholesterol. The body produces exactly what it needs depending on the conditions, and as such, the amount in circulation is a consequence of other factors. Lipoprotein levels, reflecting the amount of cholesterol in circulation, are a function of genetics and of the state of the body. Genetic tendencies are what they are. The state of the body, as far as cholesterol is concerned, means primarily the condition of the tissues. And the condition of the tissues reflects the amount of damage they sustain in relation to the amount of repair that takes place: in other words, the rate of ageing. Since cholesterol gives cell membranes strength and integrity, it is needed to repair and rebuild cells: the more cellular reproduction as in growing children, the more cholesterol is needed; the more damage to cells, the more cholesterol is needed. The damage sustained by tissues is mostly from glycation, free-radicals and chronic inflammation, all of which are intimately related because blood sugar triggers both free-radical production and inflammatory processes, but inflammation also arises from the action of toxins and infectious agents like viruses and bacteria.

Refined and starchy carbohydates and chemically unstable polyunsaturated vegetable oils both directly cause glycation, free-radical damage and chronic inflammation. They should be eliminated from the diet—from everyone’s diet. Doing this is the only truly effective way to minimise tissue damage and ageing, maximise repairing and rebuilding, and as a consequence, minimise risks of degenerative diseases. It will also normalise cholesterol synthesis and usage, and bring lipoprotein levels into their optimal range, completely naturally because, once more: cholesterol needs and lipoprotein concentrations are always a consequence of other factors. They should never be tampered with and manipulated, because intervention of this kind can only and will inevitably lead to problems.

Further readings on cholesterol

If you want to learn more about cholesterol, I recommend to first read the short and light-hearted book by Malcolm Kendrick, MD, entitled The Great Cholesterol Con subtitled The truth about what really causes heart disease and how to avoid it. Beyond showing that cholesterol and saturated fat are not in any way causes of heart disease, this author presents convincing evidence that, in fact, it is psychological stress that is surely one of the main causes of heart disease.

After reading this, if you want to read a complete analysis of all the studies related in some way to heart disease that is also very accessible to a general readership, you should read the much longer but very thorough book by Anthony Colpo, revealingly also entitled The Great Cholesterol Con, but subtitled Why everything you’ve been told about cholesterol, diet and heart disease is wrong! Beyond the thorough review of the literature and clearly explained conclusions, the author looks at all major factors demonstrably linked to the causes of heart disease.

For a shorter but more technical review and close look at the cholesterol and saturated fat related scientific literature, you should read Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You by Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD. Beyond also showing that cholesterol and saturated fats are not in any way the cause of heart disease, this author makes a case for infectious disease as the root cause of arterial inflammation, buildup of plaque, and eventually heart disease. His line of arguments is also quite convincing.

The excellent book by Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories, is a thorough review of 150 years of diet-related medical history, especially in what relates to obesity and diabetes, but also heart disease. The writing style is that of a good science writer, as is the author. There is a full analysis of the lipid hypothesis of heart disease, followed by a full analysis of the carbohydrate hypothesis of heart disease. And although there more of an emphasis on the detrimental effects of eating carbohydrates, there is naturally considerable discussion of all points that relate to cholesterol and saturated fats.

Lastly, this is an excellent web site on cholesterol, full of interesting and well-researched articles: http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com and an excellent interview here.

Why Oh Why?

Why is it then, that most of us believe cholesterol is bad? Why do most of us believe we should, not sometimes, but always avoid foods that contain cholesterol or saturated fats that seem to help the body manufacture cholesterol? Because we have been told that it is. Nothing more complicated than that. We have been told this absurd, unfounded and outright dangerous story that is in fact a lie, and we believe it. Why have we been made to believe this? The answer is two-fold: bad science, bad scientists and egos, on the one hand, and on the other, money: lots and lots of money. In fact, more than 29 000 000 000 dollars worth of money.

For the ‘bad science’ part I will only say this: It is true that the accumulation of plaque can lead to heart disease. It is also true that plaque is very cholesterol-rich. However, the reason why plaque is formed is because the arterial tissue is damaged and needs to be repaired. The cholesterol-rich plaque is like a scab whose role is to allow the damaged tissue to heal. And just as a scab, once the tissue is healed, it ‘falls off’ and is brought back to the liver for recycling. The cholesterol is part of the healing agent: the cure, so to speak. The damage to the tissue comes from other things, wether it is inflammatory endotoxins released from pathogenic bacteria, cigarette smoking-related chemicals, or maybe most importantly glucose sticking haphazardly to proteins, damaging the arterial walls and forming advanced glycation end-products or AGEs for short, cholesterol is the bandage meant to help the tissue heal—not the cause of the problem.

For the ‘money’ part, I will have to write a few more paragraphs. In the 1950s the vegetable oil industry found a way to hydrogenate inexpensive liquid vegetable oil made from soy and corn into firm shortening. This gave them the perfect means to compete for, and indeed takeover a large share of the market that had traditionally been held by the dairy (butter), meat (lard) or coconut and palm oil producers to which they did not have a way to tap into. With hydrogenation, they were able to produce butter substitutes (margarines), as well as lard and tropical oil substitutes (shortenings), and offer them at a mere fraction of the price of the original products with the potential of making enormous profits with their sale on a national and in some cases international scales. Therefore, unfortunately, but not so surprisingly, many of the large scale trials in the field of dietary science carried out in the 60s, 70s and 80s were funded by the vegetable oil industry.

The money that the vegetable oil industry must have made and still makes the world over, however, is probably nothing in comparison to the billions raked in every year by a handful of pharmaceutical manufacturers that produce and sell the cholesterol-lowering statins. In 2003, the best selling prescription drug in the world was Pfizer’s Lipitor with sales of 9.2 billion dollars (that’s more than 25 million per day). And in 2009 statin sales generated a staggering 25 billion dollars in revenues, and this figure has been rising since the very beginning of statin sales in the 1990s.

But doctors don’t have anything to gain from this, do they? Well, no, not really. But for one thing, doctors are usually not research scientist, and thus they are generally not only very poorly informed about health-related matters, but also unable or simply uninterested in reading books written by specialists on various health topics, let alone in reading the often technical and complicated scientific literature.

To make matters worse, 75% of clinical trials are funded by pharmaceutical companies, and therefore about 75% of all published medical papers also derive from pharmaceutical funding. Finally, the vast majority of conferences and workshops that doctors are invited to attend, all expenses paid of course, to keep them informed of the latest and greatest developments in medical science are also usually fully funded by the pharmaceutical. It goes without saying that what is presented at these conferences naturally serves their interests that are obviously purely financial.

I think you get the picture, but if you want to read more about this, all of the independent researchers and authors mentioned above: Malcolm Kendrick (The Great Cholesterol Con) and Uffe Ravnskov (Cholesterol and Fat are Good for You) who both practice medicine and have thus experienced this first hand, as well as Gary Taubes (Good Calories, Bad Calories) and Anthony Colpo (a different The Great Cholesterol Con) have some things to say about corporate involvement in clinical trials. Obviously, you can also search the internet to your heart’s content.

Final words

I certainly hope I have succeeded in convincing you that cholesterol is not in the least harmful, and that it is, in fact, absolutely vital to your health: vital for your hormonal system, vital for your immune system, vital for your brain, and vital for every cell in your body.

I also hope I have convinced you that it is not only the case that everything you have been told that incriminates either cholesterol or LDL as causing heart disease or any other ailment is wrong, but that you should actually do whatever you can to maintain optimal lipoprotein levels around 220 mg/dl, and supply your body with ample amounts of health-promoting fats, increasing your intake of coconut oil (the most healthful of all fats), as well as fat-soluble vitamins and cholesterol from organic eggs from free range, grass-and-insect eating hens (preferably raw in smoothies in order not to damage any of the fats or proteins), butter and fatty cheeses (highly preferably made from unpasteurized milk to maximise digestibility), and grass-fed meats if you are not vegetarian or vegan. But here, and as always, the most important and fundamental health-promoting thing to do is to eliminate insulin-stimulating carbohydrates.

Minerals and bones, calcium and heart attacks

Asking Robert Thompson, M.D., author of The Calcium Lie, what causes atherosclerosis and heart disease, he would most likely say that it is the accumulation of calcium in the veins and arteries, but also everywhere else in the body, that leads to a hardening of the tissues, and eventually to the complete stiffening of the blood vessels that inevitably leads to heart attack. He might add that this calcification of the body comes from an imbalance in the amount of calcium that is consumed compared with that of all the other essential minerals required for proper bodily function.

He would also be quick to point out that based on a huge database of about one million results of detailed hair mineral analysis, about 90% of the population is deficient in most if not all elements of the spectrum of essential minerals we need for optimal health, while being over-calcified. Dr Thompson would probably also say that a majority of the conditions that lead to disease, no matter what form it takes, are rooted in mineral deficiencies. Naturally, given that all deficiencies grow with time unless something is done to address the problem, how can this fundamental issue not be related to ageing.

Just as the amount of water in our body and cells tends to decrease with age, so do both bone mineral content and density, as well as the specific hormones like calcitonin and parathyroid hormone. Calcitonin helps fix calcium in the bones, and parathyroid hormone removes calcium from bones when it is required for other purposes. Their main roles is to regulate the amount of calcium to fix in our bones, and their delicate balance depends on factors mostly related to diet and nutrition, but we know that it is intimately linked to Vitamin D levels.

We also know that uric acid tends to accumulate in the tissues throughout the body with time, making every soft tissue stiffer and making our every movement more difficult and painful as we get older, and that an acidic environment tends to leach out minerals from the bones. So what causes bone loss: dropping levels of hormones, dropping levels of Vitamin D, increasing levels of uric acid, increasing mineral deficiencies, all of these, other things?

Thompson repeats throughout his book: “bones are not made of calcium, they are made of minerals”. What minerals? Calcium and phosphorus, yes, but also sodium, sulfur, magnesium, potassium, copper, iodine, zinc, iron, boron, and more. Calcium accounts for about 30% of the mineral content of bone, but phosphate (PO4) makes up about 50% of the bone mass. And in fact, what makes bone hard is calcium phosphate Ca3(PO4)2(OH)2, which immediately shows that it is the balance of calcium and phosphorous intake and absorption—mostly regulated by Vitamin D, which is of vital importance for bone strength and rigidity.

However, it is essential to understand that it is the presence and balance of all of the 84 essential minerals found in unrefined sea or rock salt that are required for optimal overall health, which includes the health of our bones. And remember that table salt contains 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemical additives, whereas unrefined sea salt from the French Atlantic contains 84% sodium chloride, 14% moisture, and 2% trace-minerals (follow the links to see the chemical analysis of Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan, and a comparison of the two).

Therefore, one of our primary aims when choosing the foods we eat should be to maximise mineral content. Since Nature’s powerhouses of nutrition, the foods with the highest mineral content and nutritional density are seeds, nuts, sea vegetables, and dark green leafy vegetables, in that order, these are the foods that we should strive to eat as much of as we can in order to always provide the body with maximum amount of minerals that we can. Unrefined sea or rock salt should also be eaten liberally for a total of at least 1-2 teaspoons per day with 2-4 litres of water. (And no, salt does not cause hypertension or any other health problems of any kind, and never has.)

Now, maximising our intake of minerals through our eating of mineral-dense foods, how can we ensure maximum absorption of these minerals? Two key elements are Vitamin D, and fats, especially saturated fats.

Vitamin D is so extremely important for so many things that I simply refer you to the non-profit Vitamin D Council web page for long hours of reading on everything related to Vitamin D. I will just quote the following as an extremely short introduction to it:

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but one of the oldest prohormones, having been produced by life forms for over 750 million years. Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and most animals that are exposed to sunlight have the capacity to make vitamin D.

In humans, vitamin D is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body, beginning with gestation in the womb and continuing throughout the lifespan. Vitamin D’s metabolic product, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol), is actually a secosteroid hormone that is the key which unlocks binding sites on the human genome. The human genome contains more than 2,700 binding sites for calcitriol; those binding sites are near genes involved in virtually every known major disease of humans.

Vitamin D is one of, if not the most important substance for optimal health. I take between 25000 and 50000 IU per day, which is approximately the amount produced from about 30 minutes of full body exposure to midday sun for a caucasian. But for the purpose of this discussion on minerals and bones, it is enough to know that vitamin D plays an crucial role in regulating how much calcium and phosphorus is absorbed in the intestine and ultimately fixed in the bones.

On fats there is so much to say that it will have to be for another post. You could read The truth about saturated fats by Mary Enig, PhD, on this coconut oil website that has links to many other interesting articles on fats. And remember that coconut oil is by far the best fat to consume, but more on this another time. But once more, the essential thing to remember is that the more fat there is in the intestines, the more minerals (and antioxidants) will be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Now, what is ageing if it is not the gradual decay of the body and its systems. Given that everything in the body is constituted and constructed from the food we eat and water we drink, isn’t it utterly obvious that in order to maintain the bodymind as healthy as possible for as long as possible it is absolutely essential to ensure that it is always perfectly hydrated by drinking plenty of water before meals, maximise the nutrition density and mineral content of the foods we eat, and minimise intake of harmful substances that disrupt or damage the delicate inner workings of this bodymind? I certainly think so.

Water, ageing, and disease

Thinning skin, drying hair, wrinkles, brown spots here and there, patches of discolouration. Sagging eye lids, sagging cheeks, sagging skin all over the body. Loss of bone mass, loss of muscle mass. Stiffening joints, stiffening muscles, stiffening tendons and ligaments, stiffening veins and arteries. Weakness, tiredness, aching. Loss of memory, loss of concentration, loss of intellectual capacity, dullness. Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, senility, dementia, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, elevated cholesterol, atherosclerosis, stroke, kidney failure, liver failure, heart failure, cancer.

Are all these symptoms, these conditions, independent from one another? Are they different? Do they arise spontaneously and develop on their own? Do they just fall upon us unpredictably as rain does? Or are they consequences of more basic factors that elude most of us.

If we could ask the late Dr. Batmanghelidj (1931-2004), M.D., about ageing and disease, he would surely say that its primary cause is the cumulative effects of chronic dehydration on the body, and the plethora of consequences that this brings about. This chronic dehydration that only increases in severity with time, gives rise to so many problems.

But independently of anyone’s opinion, it is an observational fact is that when we are born, the body is 90% water, but when we die, it is only 50% water. Doesn’t this tell us something? Doesn’t this tell us that ageing and dying could be considered as a process of gradual dehydration?

The main way in which we provide water to the body is by drinking. And all of the nutrients required to sustain the body come from the foods we eat. Therefore, the digestive system is truly at the root of it all. As I explained in this previous post on the important of water in the digestive system, the direct consequences of not drinking adequately on an empty stomach long enough before eating, are the poor digestion of food, and the damage caused to the lining of the stomach and intestines that eventually lead to ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.

But poor digestion of food means improper break down of protein into amino acids, and the deficiency in the full range of these essential compounds necessary for so many functions in the brain and in every cell of the body. Poor digestion of food means improper break down of fats into their constituent fatty acids that provide not only the primary source of energy, but also the very building blocks of the membrane of every single cell in the body. Poor digestion of food means improper absorption of minerals and the complex molecules we call vitamins, that together with the proteins and fats are used not only in building all the tissues in the body, but also in every single chemical reaction, transport and communication between cells and tissues. Over time, poor digestion and damage to the digestive organs leads to the permanent loss of the ability to absorb certain minerals and vitamins. There is no doubt that this leads to complications that will manifest in various complex ways.

The lack of water in the digestive system leads to a lack of water in the bloodstream. The blood gradually thickens, its volume decreases, and its viscosity increases. This increases the friction between the blood and the walls of the blood vessels, and therefore the resistance in the flow. The heart is now under severe stress as it attempts to pump this thick, viscous, sticky blood to all parts of the body, and through all the vessels from the largest arteries to the narrowest almost microscopic veins. But this intense efforts by the heart also stressed the vessels themselves. Stress on the vessels leads to lesions. Lesions lead to plaques whose purpose is to patch up and heal the damaged tissues. The accumulation of such plaques, whose spontaneous bursting causes strokes, leads to atherosclerosis that eventually leads to heart failure. Pretty grim picture, isn’t it? But far from being complete yet.

The lack of sufficient amounts of water in the bloodstream obviously means that every organ and every cell of the body gradually becomes more and more dehydrated over time. For the cell, water is by far the most important substance, it is the context in which absolutely everything takes place, and on which everything depends. In order to maintain as much of this precious water as is possible, every single cell starts to produce more cholesterol to seal its membrane a well as possible and keep and protect its water. This is why dehydration leads to the appearance of excessive amounts of cholesterol, which in this case is the cell’s essential water preservation mechanism.

The lack of sufficient amounts of water in the bloodstream is particularly detrimental to the articulations. The joints of the body, all those areas where out limbs bend, are a complex assemblage of tissues whose primary component is cartilage. Cartilage is a kind of a simple matrix that holds water. It is the water content of the cartilage that gives it its suppleness and flexibility, allowing it to protect the bones from rubbing against each other in the joints when we move. It is well known that as we age, all of our joints and cartilage dries out, and we develop what we call arthritis. But is this because we are getting older, or is it because we are getting more and more dehydrated with every passing day? Is arthritis a disease of ageing or is it a consequence of chronic dehydration?

The amazing thing is that the only way to bring water to the cartilage in the joints to maintain their flexibility and prevent their degradation is through the porous ends of the bones to which the cartilage is attached. And the only way to bring water to the end of the bone is through its marrow. And the only way to bring water to the marrow is by way of the blood. Therefore, to prevent the gradual dehydration and subsequent breaking down of the cartilage in the joints, the blood must be well hydrated: thin, easy flowing and full of water.

And what does all this mean for the rest of the body? By weight, the muscles are 75% water; the blood is 82% water; the lungs are 90% water; the brain, the primary element of the central nervous system, is 78% water; even the bones are 25% water. So, it’s pretty simple: as dehydration increases over time, all organs, all tissues and all cells suffer, shrink, weaken, and succumb ever more easily to disease, whatever form it may take.

Dr. Batmanghelidj presents a convincing line of arguments linking breathing and lung disorders like asthma and allergies to chronic dehydration, and also believes that the dehydration of brain and nerve cells whose composition is also mostly water, leads to disorders of the central nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease.

And the skin? Think about any fruit or vegetable that you place on a shelf in the fridge, like an apple, a carrot or a radish, and leave there for a long time. It will gradually soften, then start to wrinkle, and with time continue to soften and wrinkle more and more until it is nothing but a tiny dried out little thing. Moreover, you may also have noticed that if you take a partly dehydrated carrot, radish, or celery stick, for example, cut them and place them in water for a while, they will re-hydrate by refilling the cells with water, and in so doing become hard and crunchy once again. But if you wait too long, then no matter how much time you leave them in water, the cells will not re-hydrate. Logically, since our water content is similar to a fruit or vegetable, what happens to the body is probably very similar, and hence gradual the softening, wrinkling, weakening, and overall degradation of the bodymind at the days and years go by.

Obviously, this does not mean that by drinking enough pure water—no other liquids can be substituted for water—to ensure that the bodymind is well hydrated, we will not age. Of course not. But at least, we will ensure that ageing and all the consequences associated with ageing are not accelerated by dehydration. The last thing we want is to accelerate our rate of ageing and our susceptibility to disease.

The truth is that for most living beings on Earth, water is life. There is no question about this. We and most terrestrial animals are constituted of about 60-70% water and 30-40% minerals—by mass. But in fact, in terms of the number of molecules in our bodies, we are 99% water! Can we grasp the significance of this? Can we now realise what dire consequences the slightest dehydration can cause to every cell, every tissue, every organ, and every system of the body? It is hard to quantify, but it is huge. And coming back to our initial question: are ageing and disease different? Are they related? What do you think?

Although chronic dehydration is so common that it is generalised, avoiding dehydration is very simple: drink water, unsweetened herbal teas, and light green tea. Don’t drink sweet drinks, juices or sodas: these are full of sugar, including large amounts of fructose, that totally disrupt both the hormonal system and the metabolism, promoting hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. Don’t drink milk: this is a food that contains fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and trigger all the required digestive processes that further exacerbate the problems associates with chronic dehydration. Just drink water.

At the very least, drink half a litre when you get up in the morning (7:00), half a litre mid-morning (10:30), half a litre 30 minutes before lunch (12:30), half a litre in the late afternoon (16:30), and half a litre 30 minutes before dinner (18:30). And make sure you have plenty of unrefined sea salt with your meals. If you are fasting, take a pinch of salt on at least some of the occasions when you drink to reach a total of 1 to 2 teaspoons over the course of the day (including the salt eaten with meals). In this way, you will provide your body a good amount of water and salt to ensure proper hydration and excretion of acids through the urine.

Why we should drink water before meals

We all need to drink at least about two litres of water every day. Not juice, not sodas, not coffee, not tea: plain water. None of these other liquids have the properties of water, nor do they have the desirable effects of water on the body. Most of us don’t however, and so we are chronically dehydrated. Whether it is 75% or as high as 90%, it is evident that a very large portion of the population is chronically dehydrated.

The digestive system can be viewed as the most fundamental because everything used to sustain life in the body goes through it. In a very real sense, we are a digestive system, supplemented by a central nervous system and refined sense organs to allow us to devise ways to get food (and avoid being eaten), coupled to a refined locomotor system to allow us to gather the food (and run away when it is needed). Since every component of every cell in the body is made from the nutrients in our food, it is obvious that everything in the body depends on the digestive system. And for the digestive system, the single-most important element is the presence of ample amounts of water.

cropped-glass-of-water

As soon as we even think about eating, the digestive system starts to get ready. The pancreas secretes a little jolt of insulin just in case carbohydrates come in, and the stomach starts to produce the highly acidic digestive gastric juice (pH of 1-2). This gastric juice is composed of only a little bit (0.5%) of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and a lot of salt, both sodium chloride (NaCl) and potassium chloride (KCl). The stomach has sensor cells to know exactly how much protein, fat and carbohydrates are present at any given time, and thus can adjust the production and composition of the gastric juice.

Although present in very small amounts, the hydrochloric acid is the essential compound for activating the enzymes responsible for breaking down protein, which is its main purpose because both fats and carbohydrates are mostly broken down in the intestine. But to make it to the stomach without causing any damage along the way, the two constituents of this highly corrosive acid, the hydrogen (H) and the chlorine ions (Cl), are produced separately and transported to the inside of the stomach where they combine to form the acid.

The delicate lining of the stomach with all its different kinds of highly specialised cells, is protected from the acidic gastric juice by an alkaline layer of mucus. This mucus is between 90 and 98% water, with some binding molecules and a few other components. It can be regarded as a blanket of water whose primary role in the stomach is to protect its lining from the gastric acid. The very thin mucosa that produces and maintains the mucus layer, also secretes sodium bicarbonate that sits in it, and neutralises the acid upon contact when it penetrates the layer, leaving only sodium chloride (salt), water and carbon dioxide. The neutralisation reaction is simple: HCl + NaHCO3 -> NaCl + H2O + CO2.

As we get progressively more dehydrated, not only are the stomach cells incapable of releasing adequate amounts of water into the stomach in order to allow for the proper mixing of the food and acid into chyme with the optimal consistency, but the thickness of the protective mucus layer decreases, thus allowing the acidic contents to damage the fragile lining. This is what eventually leads to stomach ulcers, according to a well known specialist in the matter, Dr Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water.

The contents of the stomach are churned and blended between one and three hours depending on the amount and composition, until the chyme is liquified and smooth, at which point it is poured into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. It is in the small intestine that the real work of the break down and absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream takes place over a period of about 24 hours. The sensor cells in the duodenum will immediately determine the pH and composition of the chyme in order to send the messenger hormones to the pancreas to secrete the right amount of the alkaline, watery sodium bicarbonate solution necessary to neutralize the acid, and to the liver to secrete the right amount of bile needed for the breakdown of fats.

And even though the pancreas is known primarily for its role in producing and secreting insulin needed to clear the bloodstream of sugar, it is arguably its role in secreting this alkaline solution that is the most important. Indeed, as the duodenum does not have a protective layer of mucus as the stomach, it is this sodium bicarbonate solution that protects it and the rest of the small intestine from the devastating effects that the highly acidic chyme can have on it.

However, just as even partial dehydration causes the protective mucus layer in the stomach to dry out and shrink, making it permeable to the gastric acid that eats away at the delicate soft tissues, dehydration also causes the pancreas to be unable to secrete as much of the watery sodium bicarbonate solution as is required to fully neutralise the acidic chyme that, therefore, also damages the intestine. In fact, that there are several times more cases of duodenal as there are stomach ulcers attests to the reality that the lining of the intestine is all that much more fragile as it is unprotected and thus directly exposed to the excessively acidic chyme.

Therefore, water is of the utmost importance in protecting the lining of the stomach and intestine from the acid required for the break down of proteins into amino acids. Water is of the utmost importance for proper digestion and absorption of the nutrients in the food. And hence, water is of the utmost importance in maintaining a healthy digestive system meal after meal, day after day, and year after year throughout our life.

We must make sure that the body and digestive system are properly hydrated before eating. And for this, all we need to do is drink half a litre of plain water 30 minutes before meals, and not drink during nor after the meal for two to four hours.

Drinking during or soon after a meal will only dilute the chyme, making it excessively watery. This will not lower the pH, because water does not neutralise acid. It is best to ensure proper hydration prior to the start of the digestive process, providing the water necessary for the mucosa and pancreas to function optimally, and allow the stomach to adjust the water content of the chyme on its own. I personally usually wait two hours after a snack or small meal, and at least three to four hours after a large meal.

The time needed for the chyme to leave the stomach through the pyloric sphincter and enter the duodenum depends on its amount and composition. For example, fruit or any other food consisting mostly of simple sugars eaten on an empty stomach will make it into the intestine, and the sugar into the blood, in a matter of minutes: Since there is no protein, no acid is required for its breakdown in the stomach; and since there is no fat, no bile is required to break it down in the intestine.

Naturally, the time needed for the stomach to process a small meal will be less than that needed to process a large meal of more or less equal composition. In fact, given that our stomach is a very small pouch with an empty volume of about 50 ml, and a full volume of about 1 litre (up to a max of 2-3 litres when it is really extended),  the time needed for large meals increases substantially and disproportionately compared to smaller meals.