Rejecting the lipid hypothesis with a cholesterol of 278 mg/dl and a smile

When it comes to evaluating how likely you are to have a heart attack, the most accurate diagnostic—the gold standard—is the calcium score. The reason why it’s the most accurate is because it’s calculated from an actual 3D image of the heart and the blood vessels around it. A computerised tomography (CT) scan is done, and from it the amount of plaque buildup in all the places where it appears because of the high density of the calcium it contains is measured and summed to give the total calcium score.

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3D volume rendering of my heart seen from the top.

Even though it has been estimated that approximately half of heart attacks are caused by non-calcified lesions, this is the closest thing we have to a direct measurement of the amount of plaque in the network of arteries around the heart. From doing this to thousands of people, we know that plaque usually begins to accumulate after the age of 35. Why isn’t the calcium score test done systematically on everyone above 40 in order to assess their immediate risk, but also to track their individual cardiovascular evolution, showing, with a reliable reference each year, how quickly or slowly arterial plaque is growing? Because it’s too expensive. Therefore, it’s only prescribed to people who are deemed to be at high risk based on other so-called “risk factors”. You know the list: overweight, sedentary, smoking, stressed, etc. But the clincher in this list of risk factors, the one factor that has pretty much eclipsed all the other ones, at least for the past few decades, is high cholesterol.

The focus on cholesterol was, over time, shifted to LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and later on the ratio between it and HDL, the “good” cholesterol, terms introduced by the pharmaceutical industry to convince us that there is a battle between a good guy and a villain that must be stopped, which they can help with by providing us cholesterol lowering statins, even if with each passing year, the evidence exonerating cholesterol and lipoproteins from any wrong-doing in the genesis and progression of cardiovascular disease has been accumulating. Still, for people and for doctors, it’s really hard to overcome the several decades of conditioning we’ve suffered holding cholesterol as the main culprit for heart disease.

Fortunately, this knowledge and information have been shared and available for as long as the first experiments that set us on this damning direction in thinking and mindset. For my part, I first read a clear expose on the function of cholesterol and lipoproteins from Ron Rosedale over 10 years ago. Then I read it from Uffe Ravnskov, then from Anthony Colpo, then from Malcolm Kendrick who has and to this day continues to investigate the topic and share his findings on his blog, and then from Gary Taubes. All of this has taught me that cholesterol, HDL, and LDL, are not only not dangerous, but that they are essential and crucial for optimal health. This, I shared with you in But what about cholesterol? and shaped my diet to maintain healthy levels: I restricted carbohydrates and polyunsaturated oils, and have gotten most of my calories from minimally processed saturated fats from grass fed animals fats, coconut oil, butter, and olive oil. In this endeavour to maintain strong cholesterol and lipoprotein levels, as you can see below, I have succeeded.

The following plot shows all the measurements of total cholesterol I have ever gotten made from blood tests over the past decade. What you can see is that in late 2007—a time before which I ate mostly complex carbohydrates and polyunsaturated seed oils while avoiding animal and saturated fats—my total cholesterol was below 150 mg/dl. Since then, it has been generally around or above 200 mg/dl with a slight upward trend over the years.

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My own total cholesterol levels in mg/dl measured from late 2007 to mid 2018.

If we look at the concentration of low and high density lipoproteins LDL and HDL, we also see consistently high levels, with LDL typically 10-30 mg/dl higher than HDL levels. Unsurprisingly, the same general shape and trend are is seen in these measurements as are seen in those of the total cholesterol.

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My own LDL and HDL levels in mg/dl measured from late 2007 to mid 2018.

Many of you have been reading this blog for a while, and I trust that you have therefore also known for a while that cholesterol is good for you, and that we should strive to have robust levels of HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol. Whether you have managed to overcome the conditioning we have all been subject to over our lifetimes about the purported but never-substantiated dangers of cholesterol and saturated fats, I cannot know. But I hope that I have at least helped a little in that respect.

In any case, I have for several years, every since I first read about the calcium score, wanted to get this test done, and see where I actually stood on the arterial calcification scale. I’ve never had fears or apprehension about it because even when I first read about it, I felt that I had a pretty good idea of the process by which cardiovascular disease evolved, and was following a regime that I knew would minimise the likelihood of atherosclerosis. But still, there is a big difference between having confidence that something is the case, and actually knowing that it is by seeing observational, quantitative, measured evidence for it. Finally, this spring, I was able to get a calcium score done.

I was very lucky to be referred to a young (45), well-informed, and open-minded cardiologist who also does research and has led trials on a group of several thousands of people who work at the Santander Bank campus near Madrid. He also happens to be the head of the cardiology imaging unit of the Clinical Hospital San Carlos in Madrid, a post he has held for more than 6 years now. So, he’s not just any cardiologist: he’s one of the best, and most importantly, one of the very best in cardiology imaging, which was exactly the purpose of consulting with him in the first place. I could not have been in better hands.

On our first appointment, after the initial conversation and questions regarding medical and health history, his assistant helped do an ECG, which looked “perfectly normal”, he said. Then he did the ultrasound with Doppler imaging that allows to see the heart pumping and the blood flowing with a colour coding of red and blue for the blood flowing away and towards the probe. To the trained eye of the imaging cardiologist, the Doppler ultrasound shows how the heart moves, how the cross-sections of the arteries pulsate with the heart beats, how the valves open and close, how flexible the tissues are, and how impeded or unimpeded the flow is. After a thorough examination, from one side and then from the other, he said everything looked very good.

At the end of the appointment he wrote a prescription for the CT scan to be able to get my calcium score, and another for a set of blood tests to which he willingly allowed me to request any additional one I wanted to have done. Before leaving the clinic, the assistant was able to arrange to have the blood test and the scan on the same day one week later: the blood test would be done in house first thing in the morning, and the scan would be done afterwards at the best medical imaging facility in the city.

The day before the scan, I read up on the test, how it’s done, how the measurements are made, and what the score means. I found out that, first, that the measuring of the amount of plaque buildup was done by eye, meaning that the experience and know-how of the cardiologist doing it was quite important. Second, I found out that the scale was not normalised like a scale from 1 to 10 or 0 to 100; that it was from 0 to whatever, which could be 400, 1000 or 4000. Although I was surprised and a little disappointed at first—we all love to get a score that can be immediately compared to everyone else’s, and gives us a sense of where we stand with respect to the rest of the population—I quickly realised that this made good sense given that it is not a relative but instead an absolute measure of plaque buildup in the arteries: naturally, this can go from no plaque to a little bit, to a lot, and to a ton of plaque. One could imagine estimating a maximum amount—say the amount needed to completely fill up the arteries—and use that as the normalising factor representative of 100%, and expressing every other result with respect to this. For now, this hasn’t been done, and the guidelines for interpreting your calcium score suggest values as follows:

  • 0 — No identifiable plaque. Risk: Very low, generally less than 5 percent.
  • 1 – 10 — Minimal identifiable plaque. Risk: Very unlikely, less than 10 percent.
  • 11 – 100 — Definite, at least mild atherosclerotic plaque. Risk: Mild or minimal coronary narrowing likely.
  • 101 – 400 — Definite, at least moderate atherosclerotic plaque. Risk: Mild coronary artery disease highly likely, significant narrowings possible.
  • 401 or Higher — Extensive atherosclerotic plaque. Risk: High likelihood of at least one significant coronary narrowing.

I got the blood test results back before the calcium score: everything looked good. Because most of my blood markers have been stable for years, especially the metabolic markers related to glucose and fat metabolism, the ones I am most interested in are those I need to monitor: things like B12, folate, homocysteine, and D, all of which need to be controlled and their levels adjusted with supplements; those that show my hormonal status, especially for the thyroid and sex hormones; and finally the markers of systemic inflammation which should always be as low as possible. The cholesterol panel is the one that for me has the least importance. But we are here considering cholesterol and lipoproteins in relation to cardiovascular risk assessed by means of the calcium score. So, these were the measured values: total cholesterol was 278 mg/dl, HDL was 122 mg/dl, LDL was 145 mg/dl, VLDL was 11 mg/dl (ref: <40), lipoprotein(a) was 4.40 mg/dl (ref: <30), and the ratios of total/HDL and LDL/HDL labelled atherogenesis indices were 2.28 (ref: <4.5) and 1.19 (ref: <3.55), values which are all deemed very good, of course.

A few days later I got my calcium score back. What do you think it was? You know I’m currently 45 and that calcification begins to grow after the age of 30-35, and has definitely progressed by the age of 40. You also know that—from what we are told by most doctors and health authorities—that plaque buildup and calcification is an inevitable part of ageing, that no matter what we do or eat or not eat, even if we might be able do things to slow it down, plaque accumulates and calcification progresses in only one direction: upward and onward. With this in mind, what would you guess my calcium score was?

My calcium score—based on 3D imaging of the heart and the region around it, and calculated by the one of best imaging cardiologist in Spain—was 0. It wasn’t 10 or 20. It wasn’t even 1, or 2, or 3. It was zero.

In our scientific training we learn that theories can never be proven—that they can only be disproven, and that hypotheses can never of accepted—that they can only be rejected. We also learn that to disprove or reject a theory or hypothesis, what is needed is a single contradicting piece of evidence, a single contradicting observation. The lipid hypothesis—that elevated blood cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis of the arteries, and that therefore decreasing blood cholesterol concentration significantly reduces cardiovascular risk—has been ingrained into our psyche more solidly than almost anything else that we collectively believe. But faced with this evidence, even if it is from one person only, of having maintained “elevated” fasting cholesterol levels consistently for a decade while in spite of this having gotten a perfect calcium score at the age of 45, the hypothesis must surely be rejected.

Even if we didn’t have any other evidence at all, according to the scientific principle that one contradicting piece of evidence is sufficient to reject a hypothesis, this single instance of my history of high total cholesterol together with a calcium score of zero is enough to reject the hypothesis that having elevated blood cholesterol levels over a long time leads to atherosclerosis and therefore to cardiovascular disease.

And we can be sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I’m willing to bet anything that most people in the low carb community who have been low carbers for as long as I have will have high cholesterol levels and low calcium scores. But still, to change the mindset of several generations of doctors, journalists, and people everywhere—hundreds of millions of educated people conditioned from decades of misinformation—will take years, probably decades. That’s how we are as social animals: stubborn in our beliefs.

In any case, I hope you, at least are, if you weren’t already, are now convinced that having high cholesterol does not cause atherosclerosis. Are you now curious to find out what your calcium score is? If you do get it done, please share.

For my part, I feel even more confident than I did. Even if I assured you more than five years ago in the spring of 2013 in At the heart of heart disease that you could be entirely free from cardiovascular disease by following some basic guidelines I listed regarding our eating, drinking, and living habits, there is nothing like observational evidence. And now we have it.

Reversing calcification and the miracle of vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is the only known substance that can stop and reverse soft tissue calcification.

If you didn’t stop at the end of that sentence to say Wow to yourself, you should keep reading.

Soft tissue calcification is one of the most serious health problems we face as individuals, as modern societies, and, on a global scale, as a species.  Cardiovascular disease—which leads to heart attacks and strokes, and accounts for nearly half of all deaths in industrialised countries—is a disease of soft tissue calcification: the calcification of our arteries.

Arthritis, of which basically everyone past the age of 40 suffers, and increasingly more with time and with age, is a disease of soft tissue calcification.  It is caused by the calcification of the cartilage in the joints:  the joints of the knees, but also of the shoulders; the joints of the hips, but also of the wrists; the joints of the elbows, but also of the feet and the toes; the cartilage between the vertebrae of the neck and the spine all the way down the back, but also of the hands and of the fingers.

Soft tissue calcification also causes kidney stones and kidney disease.  How many people above the age of 60 don’t have kidney problems?  Hardly any.  And how many young men and women in their 20s and 30s already have kidney stones and kidney dysfunction?  More and more every year.

Every one of the processes generally associated with ageing, from heart disease and stroke, to Alzheimer’s and dementia, to arthritis and kidney disease, to stiffness in the joints and muscles, but also to the wrinkling of the skin, is intimately linked to soft tissue calcification.

And now, let me repeat the sentence with which we opened:  Vitamin K2 is the only known substance that can stop and reverse soft tissue calcification.  It is really remarkable.

Maybe you didn’t know about calcification.  And so, maybe you are wondering why it is such a major and widespread problem, why it affects everyone no matter where we are or what we do.  It’s a good question.  But because we know that only vitamin K2 can prevent this from happening, we already have our answer:  soft tissue calcification is a major and widespread problem because our intake of vitamin K2 is inadequate to provide protection from calcification.

Naturally, the next question is why?  Why is our intake of vitamin K2 so inadequate?  If it is such a crucial essential nutrient, we would surely not be here as a species if intake had always been so inadequate.  Looking at things the other way around, if we are so dependent on adequate K2 intake for staying healthy, this must necessarily mean that we evolved having plenty of it in our food supply.  What’s so different now?

To answer this question with some level of detail—meaning with an explanation more extensive than just saying that it’s industrialisation that stripped our food supply of vitamin K2 as it has for all the essential nutrients to a greater or lesser extent—we have to understand what K2 is, how it’s made, and where it’s found in food.

The short answer is that K2 is found in the fat of pastured animals that graze on fresh green grass, and produced from vitamin K1 by certain kinds of bacteria in their gut.

The longer answer is that vitamin K2 is a family of compounds called menaquinones, ranging from MK-4 to MK-13 depending on their molecular structure.  These compounds are derived from the plant analog, the sister compound, vitamin K1, called phylloquinone, and found in chlorophyll-rich plant foods.  Phylloquinone is consumed by the pastured animal, it makes its way into their intestines, and there it is transformed by the bacteria of the animal’s intestinal flora.  The resulting menaquinone is then stored in the fat cells of the animal as well as in the fat of their milk if they are milk-producing.  Consuming these animal fats in which vitamin K2 has been concentrated will provide this precious essential micronutrient.

If the grazing animal does not feed on green grass, they get no vitamin K1.  If they get no vitamin K1, their gut flora is not only compromised and negatively altered with respect to what it should be if they were consuming the grass they have evolved eating, but it produces no vitamin K2.  If their gut flora produces no vitamin K2, their fat and milk will contain no vitamin K2, and neither their offspring nor any person consuming products derived from the animal will get any vitamin K2.  Hence, no grass feeding, no vitamin K2 in the animal’s fat.

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It is most natural that grass-eating animals should be grazing on fresh green grass in open pastures.  And yet, it is rather rare.  But without green grass, there is no vitamin K1.  And without vitamin K1 there can be no vitamin K2.

Maybe you’ve already thought ahead, and wondered since it is bacteria that produces vitamin K2 from vitamin K1 in the guts of grazing animals, can’t we make vitamin K2 without the need for grass-fed animals to do it for us?  Yes, it is possible.  Fermented vegetables and dairy products like cheese can also contain vitamin K2.  In fact, in the case of cheese, there is a lot more in the finished hard cheese than in the milk used to make it.  The amount varies widely because it depends on the kind of bacteria.  For dairy products, hard cheeses like Gouda have the most, and for plant foods, even if fermented veggies have a little, the Japanese fermented soybean snack natto is the ultimate source of K2.

As we all know, pastured meat and dairy is not easy to come by in our modern world.  It’s actually quite hard to find.  Our supermarkets and food stores are flooded with industrially produced meat and dairy from animals that have never seen a blade of grass—grass-grazing animals living their entire lives indoors, in stalls, fed and fattened exclusively on grains, corn, and soybeans.  This is how we have stripped our food supply of vitamin K2, and this is why is this a modern phenomenon—most of our grand-parents were still eating pastured meats and animal foods.

And if this wasn’t enough of a blow to vitamin K2 status, trans-fats, which are formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated to be made saturated and stable (for long shelf life), and which most of us consume in great quantities, contain a K2 analog called DHP (dihydrophylloquinone) that displaces the little K2 that might has found its way into our diet.

It is for all these reasons that soft tissue calcification is so widespread.  And you have at this point what you need to know in order to first stop the process by which your soft tissues are getting increasingly calcified, and then, in time, to remove the accumulated calcium from these tissues.  It’s simple: healthy grass-fed animals produce yellow butter, yellow yolks, and yellowish fat;  you need to eat plenty of pastured animal foods, making sure you eat the fat in which vitamin K2 is concentrated, and, to be sure you have enough to reverse the already present calcification, take K2 supplements.  And this might be enough for you.

If it is, you can head to your browser to find and order some K2 supplements (I currently get mine, it’s a 500 mcg per tablet, from Phoenix Nutrition).  Also, we need to know that the two main forms of K2 are MK-4 (with four double bonds) and MK-7 (with seven).  The first is the one generally found in animal fats that haven’t been fermented, while the second is the product of bacterial fermentation.  Hence, meat and butter contain mostly MK-4, whereas natto, sauerkraut, and cheese contain mostly MK-7.

There is an important difference between these two forms of K2 in terms of their effects inside the body which has to do with their half-life, not in the sense of radioactivity, but in the sense of duration of biological activity in the body.  MK-4 will be in circulation at therapeutic doses for a number of hours, while MK-7 remains in circulation between 24 and 48 hours.  Therefore, to be safe, we need to eat grass fed meat and butter, and take MK-7 supplements (I take 1000 mcg), always after a meal with plenty of fat to maximize absorption.

If you are curious to find out more, if you want to know how menaquinone does this, how vitamin K2 does its miracles inside the body, then we need to take a closer look at the biochemistry of calcium metabolism.

There are three proteins found in bone matrix that undergo gamma-carboxylation via Vitamin K-dependent enzymes: matrix-gla-protein (MGP) (Price et al., 1983), osteocalcin (bone gla-protein, BGP) (Price et al., 1976), both of which are made by bone cells, and protein S (made primarily in the liver but also made by osteogenic cells) (Maillard et al., 1992) (Table V).  The presence of di-carboxylic glutamyl (gla) residues confers calcium-binding properties to these proteins.

MGP is found in many connective tissues and is highly expressed in cartilage.  It appears that the physiological role of MGP is to act as an inhibitor of mineral deposition.  MGP-deficient mice develop calcification in extraskeletal sites such as in the aorta (Luo et al., 1997).  Interestingly, the vascular calcification proceeds via transition of vascular smooth muscle cells into chondrocytes, which subsequently hypertrophy (El-Maadawy et al., 2003).  In humans, mutations in MGP have been also been associated with excessive cartilage calcification (Keutel syndrome, OMIM 245150).

Whereas MGP is broadly expressed, osteocalcin is somewhat bone specific, although messenger RNA (mRNA) has been found in platelets and megakaryocytes (Thiede et al., 1994).  Osteocalcin-deficient mice are reported to have increased bone mineral density compared with normal (Ducy et al., 1996).  In human bone, it is concentrated in osteocytes, and its release may be a signal in the bone-turnover cascade (Kasai et al., 1994).  Osteocalcin measurements in serum have proved valuable as a marker of bone turnover in metabolic disease states.  Interestingly, it has been recently suggested that osteocalcin also acts as a hormone that influences energy metabolism by regulating insulin secretion, beta-cell proliferation, and serum triglyceride (Lee et al., 2007).

These are the first three paragraphs of the chapter Noncollagenous Bone Matrix Proteins in Principles of Bone Biology (3rd ed.) which I found it on the web when I was searching for more info on the biochemical action of menaquinone.

And now, here is my simple explanation of how things work:

The players are the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2;  three special proteins called osteocalcin, matrix gla protein, and protein S;  and an enzyme called vitamin K-dependent carboxylase.

First, vitamin D makes calcium available by allowing its absorption from the intestines into the bloodstream.  This is vital for life and health.  You know that severe vitamin D deficiency is extremely dangerous and develops into the disease that deforms bones called rickets.  Milder forms of vitamin D deficiency are much harder to detect without a blood test, but can and do lead to a huge spectrum of disorders and health problems.  However, without vitamin K2, ample or even just adequate levels of vitamin D will inevitably lead to increased soft tissue calcification.

Vitamins A and D make bone-building cells (osteoblasts) and teeth-building cells (odontoblasts) produce osteocalcin (also known as bone gla protein or BGP) and matrix gla protein (or MGP).  This is key because it is these proteins that will transport the calcium.

Vitamin K2, through the action of the vitamin K-dependent carboxylase enzyme, activates bone and matrix gla proteins by changing their molecular structure which then allows them to bind and transport calcium.

Once activated, bone gla protein brings calcium (and other minerals) into the bones;  and matrix gla protein takes calcium out of the soft tissues like smooth muscle cells of arteries, but also organs, cartilage, skeletal muscles, and skin.  Without this K2-dependent activation, BGP and MGP remain inactive, and the calcium accumulates in soft tissues all over the body.

What completes the act, is that vitamin K2 activates protein S which oversees and helps the immune system clear out the stuff of arterial plaques that remains once the calcium making the plaques structurally stable has been taken out.  And, amazingly, protein S does this without triggering a large inflammatory response.

Even though it is quite straight forward when explained in this way, this understanding of vitamin K2 and its action in the body is really quite recent: in the last 20 years or so.  For one thing, it was only 10 years ago that Chris Masterjohn solved the 60-year old mystery of Weston A. Price’s X-Factor, correctly identifying it for the first time as vitamin K2. (You can read that for yourself here.)  And although some laboratory studies and experiments on vitamin K were done several decades ago, the majority are from the last 10 years (take a look at the references in Masterjohn’s paper.)

We’ll stop here for now.  But we’ll come back to vitamin K2 because there are so many other amazing things it does for our health.

This article was inspired by Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue’s book entitled Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.  If you think it could be useful to others, please Like and Share it.

Ten years of carbohydrate restriction: here’s why

It was almost exactly ten years ago, in March 2008, that I read Ron Rosedale’s Insulin and Its Metabolic Effects.  I now know that this is surely the one thing I’ve read that has had the most impact on my life. Rosedale’s presentation was a total revelation to me:  I had never read anything about insulin before, and his explanations of the biochemical and physiological functions and effects of insulin on the body all made perfect sense in and of themselves, but also appealed to my appreciation and reliance on complete explanations that are consistent with the facts we can observe about them.  I eliminated insulin-stimulating carbohydrates from my diet overnight.  That was that.

We were then still vegetarian at home.  Hence, the family breakfast, following Mercola’s example, became smoothies made of raw, local, pastured eggs with berries and stevia.  That lasted quite a while.  I always travelled with my hand blender and stevia, brought eggs if it was for short trip, or scouted out places to get good ones when the trip was longer.  Throughout a summer trip along the American west coast, I made our raw egg smoothies every day, in hotel rooms and campgrounds.

At one point, I discovered coconut oil and coconut milk.  The breakfast smoothies evolved to being made of eggs and coconut milk with berries, and eventually only coconut milk, berries and stevia.  This period lasted several years until we moved on to cold pressed green juice with coconut milk; it was two thirds juice and one third milk.  We also did this for several years until about two years ago when our son left for university, at which point we dropped having breakfast entirely to allow for a daily overnight fasting period of about 16 hours from after dinner to lunchtime.

 

Food intolerance testing in 2014 showed that all three of us were intolerant to eggs; we removed them from our diet.  My wife and I had the most and our son the least intolerances; this was not surprising given we were a lot older than him.  It also showed my wife and I were intolerant to most dairy products; we removed them from our diet.  We were also intolerant to grains: both highly intolerant to wheat, and then I, in addition, somewhat less so to barley, malt, and quinoa—we ate quinoa almost daily for years as our son was growing up.  He, although not intolerant to dairy or wheat, was intolerant to almonds, pistachios, and brazil nuts. (Here are my test results, if you’re interested.)

Imagine: vegetarian for 20 years, with a diet during these two decades from teenage hood to middle adult hood consisting primarily of wheat and grain products, beans, cheese and yogurt, eggs and nuts.  Of course, also plenty of sweet fruit, starchy vegetables, and salads, as with is true for most vegetarians.  But the bulk, both in volume and in calories, was from grain products, cheese, and eggs.  The shocker for me was that the food intolerance test painted the profile of a meat-eater:  if you remove grains, dairy, and eggs, what is left is animal flesh, vegetables and fruits.

If now, in addition, you remove fruit and starchy vegetables to avoid insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, all that is left is animal flesh and green vegetables.  That’s just how it is.  We also used to eat almonds—the richest in magnesium, and brazil nuts—the richest in selenium, almost daily.  But because our son was intolerant to both and I was intolerant to brazil nuts, we removed those from our diet as well.

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These were all food intolerances; they were not allergies.  But they were nonetheless intolerances, some stronger, some weaker.  If you are concerned about health in the sense of being in the best state of health you can, then obviously you must not eat foods to which you are intolerant.  Otherwise, your immune system is triggered each time the offending molecules in those foods enter the gut and bloodstream.  This gradually but inevitably makes the intolerance greater, your system weaker, and body sicker.

Over these ten years, I’ve read quite a few books, articles, blog posts, and detailed discussions about health-related matters.  I’ve also experimented quite a bit with my own diet, and learned a great deal from that.  The other thing I’ve done a lot of, is have conversations with people about diet, nutrition, diseases, and the metabolic effects of different foods and of insulin.

My position—which has only grown stronger with time—is that the first and most fundamental pillar of optimal health is having a metabolism that runs on fat.  And this means keeping insulin levels low by restricting sugars and starches.  Not necessarily always, but most of the time, as in almost always.

The first question that people ask when they find out is why: Why do you not eat bread? Bread has forever been essential to humans.  I simply couldn’t live without bread.  Or, why don’t you eat potatoes, or rice, or pasta?  They’re so good!  I simply couldn’t live without potatoes and pasta.  And, you don’t even eat fruit? But isn’t fruit full of vitamins and minerals?

The way I have answered has depended on a lot of things: the setting, the atmosphere, the company, the time available, but most importantly on the person.  Some people are actually interested to find out, and maybe even learn something.  Most, however, are not.  Consequently, I have made the answer shorter and shorter over the years.  Now, I even sometimes say: well, just because, and smile.

Maybe you have wondered, or even still wonder why.  Maybe although you’ve read so many times in my writings that I think everyone seeking to improve their health should restrict insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, you still wonder what the main reason is, what the most fundamental reason for which I don’t eat sugars and starches.  Here’s why:

 

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin make us fat by promoting storage and preventing the release of energy from the ever larger reserves of fat in our body: I am lean and always have been.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes; inflammation, dyslipidemia, water retention, and high blood pressure; kidney dysfunction, pancreatic dysfunction, and liver dysfunction: my fasting glucose, insulin, and triglycerides have been around 85 mg, 3 mili units, and 40 mg per dl for years; my blood pressure is 110/70 mg Hg, glomerular filtration rate is high, and all pancreatic and liver markers are optimal.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin promote cancer growth since cancer cells fuel their activity and rapid reproduction by developing some 10 times the number of insulin receptors as normal cells to capture all the glucose they can, fermenting it without oxygen to produce a little energy and tons of lactic acid, further acidifying the anaerobic environment in which they thrive.  My insulin levels are always low, and my metabolism has been running on fat in a highly oxygenated alkaline environment for a decade.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin promote atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke by triggering hundreds of inflammatory pathways that compound into chronic inflammation and damage to the blood vessels, which then leads to plaque formation and accumulation, restriction of blood flow, and eventually to heart attack and stroke: my sedimentation rate, interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and Apolipoprotein-A are all very low.

It’s not primarily because carbs and insulin promote the deterioration of the brain, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, both through the damage to blood vessels around and in the brain itself, and insulin resistance of brain cells, which together lead to restricted blood flow, energy and nutrient deficiency, and accumulation of damaging reactive oxygen species and toxins in the cells, and, unsurprisingly, eventually to dysfunction that just grows in time: because my metabolism runs on fat, this means that my brain runs on ketones, and is therefore free of excessive insulin or glucose exposure.

It isn’t primarily for any of these reasons, which, I believe, are each sufficient to motivate avoiding sugars and starches in order to keep tissue exposure to glucose and insulin as low as possible.

 

My main reason is that, at the cellular level, in its action on the nucleus and on gene expression, insulin is the primary regulator of the rate of ageing.

Insulin is essential for life: without insulin, cells starve and die. It is essential for growth: without insulin cells don’t reproduce, and there can be no growth.  This is why at that most fundamental level, insulin regulate growth in immature individuals.  But in mature individuals, once we have stopped growing, insulin is the primary regulator of the rate of ageing, both in terms of its effect in suppressing the production of antioxidants and cleansing and repair mechanisms within the cell, but also in stimulating cellular reproduction. And the more reproduction cycles, the greater accumulation of DNA transcription defects, the faster the shortening of telomeres, and the faster the ageing.

This is a fundamental fact that appears to be true for all living organisms.  It is as true for yeasts and worms, as it is for mice and rats, as it is for dogs and humans.  And the rate of ageing is the rate of degeneration, of growing dysfunction, of more damage and less repair, of lower metabolic efficiency and less energy, of increased cell death and senescence.  I personally wish to be as healthy, energetic, strong, and sharp as possible for as long as possible.  This is why I avoid sugars and starches.  This is why I restrict insulin-stimulating carbohydrates.

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Vitamin C is not vitamin C

Several years ago now, when I read The Calcium Lie, I found out that vitamin C and whole food vitamin C complex were not the same thing. I wasn’t surprised in the least because obviously this is surely the case for most supplements: an extract is not the whole food. But a few days ago, I saw a short video presentation that forced upon me the realisation that there is a huge functional difference between what is sold as vitamin C and the complex vitamin C molecule we find in whole foods.

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The distinction may seem trivial at first—it has on the whole clearly been missed—but it is rather important: ascorbic acid, that has been equated to and sold as vitamin C, is the substance from which is made the thin antioxidant shell that protects the many constituents of the vitamin C complex as it is found in food. Since ascorbic acid can be produced in a lab, whereas whole vitamin C complex can only be found and extracted from real food and therefore cannot, this is naturally what has been done: manufacture ascorbic acid and sell it as vitamin C.

This makes sense, of course, because none of the supplement manufacturers would be inclined to emphasise this point. It would be kind of like shooting themselves in the foot. But also because, given the proven biochemical and physiological value of antioxidants, it’s not a far stretch to convince oneself that the usefulness of vitamin C is, in fact, derived from the effects of the ascorbic acid shell. For this reason, when I read Dr Thompson’s comments on vitamin C, I made a point to pile on the red peppers, brocoli and lemons in our diet at home, but nonetheless kept on taking ascorbic acid supplements and do to this day. This is about to change.

Dr. Darren Schmidt is an American chiropractor who works at the Nutritional Healing Center of Ann Arbour and, as most chiropractors, practices natural medicine, treating thousands of patients each year, most of them suffering from the same kinds of complaints, aches, pains and disorders, as is the case everywhere else. The talk was about heart disease: number one killer in the US and very prominent in all industrialised countries. To make it as clear and simple as possible and get the message across, he described that heart disease arises from the gradual filling up of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart with arterial plaques that with time grow to block the way completely or almost, and that this leads to a heart attack. We covered this topic in detail in the article At the heart of heart disease.

The main point he wanted to get across is that plaques in the arteries and blood vessels develop because of an injury to the tissues lining the vessels, just like a scab does on the surface of the skin when we accidentally scratch, scrape or cut it, and that a well-functioning organism will fix that injury in the same way as it does the surface of the skin: the scab forms, the skin repairs itself underneath, and when it is healed, the scab falls off. Plaques are like scabs.

He explained that, fresh out of university in the early 90’s, he had heard at a conference someone speak of the work of a great pioneer in nutritional medicine of the first half of the twentieth century, Dr Royal Lee, a friend and colleague of the other great pioneer Dr Weston Price. Dr Lee was the man who made the first food supplement, and the first concentrated whole food vitamin C supplement. He founded in 1929 the Vitamin Products Company, which later became Standard Process, Inc. Lee taught that this concentrated food in tablet form was like a pipe cleaner for arteries. Hearing this, the young chiropractor thought to himself, if it worked then it should work now, and he began to prescribe vitamin C to all his heart disease patients. For a decade he prescribed vitamin C, and for a decade he failed to see significant improvements or any sign of reversal of atherosclerosis in his heart disease patients. But he had missed something.

Frustrated and disappointed, he looked again at the original research and writings of Drs Lee and Price about nutrition and disease, and in particular about vitamin C, and began prescribing only Standard Process vitamin C. What he found, invariably, was a quick improvement in his patients whose chest pains and complains would disappear, and who would gradually feel better and better. Since then, he has repeated this on thousands of people with such success that he now teaches, he now repeats what Dr Royal Lee taught almost a century ago, that the cure for heart disease, for disease of the arteries and atherosclerosis, is vitamin C. And that vitamin C is not ascorbic acid, but it is whole food vitamin C complex.

Schmidt is not handsome nor charismatic. He does not speak eloquently. He is far from refined in his choice of words and speaking style. He doesn’t come across as a brilliant doctor or scientist, and not even as a bright guy, really. But the clinical experience and observations on which his statements and claims are based are undeniably impressive and clearly unambiguous in the information they convey: ascorbic acid has no effect on healing injured tissues and in allowing for the body to clean up and remove the plaques from the arteries and blood vessels; whole food vitamin C complex does, and it does so remarkably well and efficiently in everyone who takes it.

The implication is that other than providing antioxidant effects, ascorbic acid is useless for aiding and promoting healing of tissues. In this case, the concern is the health of the arteries, but it’s not a far stretch to conclude that this applies to all injured tissues in general. What is needed is whole food complex vitamin C, which we eat in whole foods or take in supplements that are made from whole foods. Therefore, it’s a no brainer: if you are interested in keeping your arteries clean and your heart and brain healthy and well-functioning for as long as possible, take a whole food vitamin C complex supplement, and pile on the vitamin C rich foods in your diet (superfoods highest in vitamin C include Camu Camu, Acerola and Goji ; regular foods highest in C include bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries and kiwi).

There is one last crucial point to this story, and I was happily surprised to hear it mentioned during the presentation. It is something that is explained by Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories, but that is very rarely heard or mentioned anywhere. Vitamin C enters cells through the same channel as sugar does. But for evolutionary reasons, glucose always takes precedence over it (and all other nutrients). Therefore, as long as there is sugar to be shuttled into the cell, vitamin C stays out and waits: it does not enter the cell. So, what does he suggest for the diet? Can you guess? No sugars (simple carbohydrates), no starches (starchy carbohydrates) because they become sugars, lots of fat, adequate protein from healthy animal sources, and lots of green veggies, Sounds familiar? And, of course, whole food vitamin C concentrated in supplement form.

Finally, I promise to write about these and other great pioneers of nutritional medicine. I feel that these people who were greatly ahead of their times and usually greatly suffered from it deserve more recognition than they get. They deserve more recognition than they ever will get. But still, I would like to do my part. I don’t know when, but I will.

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Treating arthritis II: cleansing, nourishing and rebuilding

Preventing arthritis is easy. Unfortunately, everything everyone does, or almost, promotes arthritis. But not just arthritis, all inflammatory degenerative conditions. The amazing thing is that what must be done to prevent any of them is quite well known. We have covered a lot of material relating to this already, and it was made clear at the start of Treating arthritis I, that natural healing, even when motivated by the healing of a particular condition, is done through healing the entire organism—all cells, all tissues, all organs, all parts—all at once. Therefore, we could just as well entitle this article “treating arthritis and all other inflammatory degenerative disease conditions” because the approach is fundamentally always the same.

Treating arthritis after it has already developed is not as easy as preventing it, but the extent to which it can be reversed and cured depends firstly on our own dedication and determination, and secondly on the state of the body and amount of damage it has sustained. The first article on arthritis was posted a while back. Its writing was motivated by my wish to help a friend who suffers from a highly debilitating form of arthritis for which conventional approaches are mostly inadequate—as inadequate as they are for all other degenerative chronic conditions.

It is useful for me to know that even if these efforts of were in vain in the sense that they were not acknowledged and didn’t motivate in them to make the recommended changes in lifestyle and diet, the article must have made some difference to some people because it has at this point been viewed more than 4600 times, and is the most viewed of all the posts on the blog after the Welcome page. If you are among the millions of people who suffer from arthritis, and also happens to be one of those who read Treating arthritis I, I hope you found it useful, and you are most welcome to let me and every other reader know how.

There is an obvious difficulty in overcoming any state of disease, especially one like arthritis. It is that everything about our success depends on our efforts to foster and nurture the conditions under which the organism can heal and repair itself. This is the only way to regain health. I want to emphasise this more explicitly:

It is only by creating, fostering and maintaining the biochemical, hormonal and physiological conditions under which the organism has the ability to clean, repair and rebuild its cells, tissues and organs that disease conditions—no matter what they are—can be prevented, overcome, reversed and recovered from. What we are required to do is provide the organism what it needs to do this.

The fundamental elements we concentrated on in the first part were: hydration, alkalisation, and magnesium. As was underlined, these are essential for everyone, but primordial for arthritis relief. The detailed recommendations were intended to help establish good habits. Their essence should be understood as follows.

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

Every day, from the moment you get out of bed, your primary concern should be to hydrate and alkalise. This is particularly important in the morning and the first part of the day. There is a natural daily cycle governed by the circadian rhythm which controls all processes in the organism by a delicate balance of a vast number of different hormones. A good example relating to the hydration-dehydration cycle, is that the hormone calcitonin whose role is to put calcium from the bloodstream into bones and teeth, is active at night as dehydration sets in: as the water content of the blood decreases, the kidneys release renin and angiotensin, calcitonin is activated, and can thus do its work for fixing calcium where it is needed, subject to adequate amounts of the all-important fat-soluble vitamins D and K2. There are surely many more hormonal processes that depend on the diurnal cycle than those we currently know of. The point to remember is that we have to make hydration and alkalisation a priority in our life, and repeat this every day, while allowing dehydration during the night by typically having our last drink of water between 19 and 20 hours and nothing else until the morning.

Hydration and alkalisation are most effectively done when there is no food in the stomach, and both depend critically on maintaining a balanced intake of water and unrefined salt. An easy way to keep track of both and ensure optimal balance, is to prepare capsules filled with unrefined sea salt, taking one capsule for every half liter of water tea or green juice. This is particularly useful when doing a cleanse. In normal circumstances, it can also easily be achieved by having watery veggies like cucumber, celery or kohlrabi with liberal amounts of salt a couple of times a day. It is ideal to finish drinking about 30-45 minute before eating and not drink for two to three hours after. This leads to a natural rhythm of drinking, waiting, eating, waiting, and repeating this pattern throughout the day.

As this is so, it is easiest to hydrate and alkalise thoroughly each day by adopting a regime based on having only one big meal in the late afternoon or early evening, leaving the rest of the day before that to focus on these crucial aspects of our optimal health without the constraints of the timing surrounding eating. Snacking on raw veggies and salt is perfect and can be done at any time regardless of drinking, because it is also a kind of drinking: watery veggies are basically water with minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and some fibre. Intermittent fasting, as is called, has many metabolic and physiological benefits not least of which is natural detoxification.

We have looked at some of the key aspects of this practice in The crux of the intermittent fasting, and I plan to deepen this investigation in the future, but maybe the most useful consequence of it, which should also come across as a rather obvious, is that if the body is getting food of any kind that requires processing, then it will immediately engage in doing just that: processing it to extract what it can from it.

Food processing is prioritised and mobilises much of the body’s energy and resources: blood supply (directed to the stomach), secretions from the digestive organs (acid and enzymes from the stomach; insulin, bicarbonate and more digestive enzymes from the pancreas; and bile produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder), active transport across the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, increased workload on kidneys and liver in filtering metabolic wastes out of the blood, and although you don’t feel it, you can be sure that this does indeed require a lot of energy and bodily resources.

Allowing the body to rest from all this food processing related physiological activity leaves all this energy for other tasks which generally fall in the category of “clean and repair”. This is the natural detoxification that the body desperately needs to engage in as often and regularly as possible but unfortunately cannot because we are, from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed, almost constantly eating. As soon as we take the foot off the gas pedal and give the system a much-needed break from food processing, the organism immediately begins to clean and repair itself. This is why fasting is so good.

Now, if you, in addition to that, provide the organism with a supply of vital nutrients—enzymes, vitamins, minerals—in a form that requires no digestion and is immediately absorbable from the intestines into the bloodstream in the form of vegetable juices, this becomes an amazing way to bring about self-healing in what will indeed look like a most miraculous manner depending on how sick we are at the onset. This is what happens during a juice fast or cleanse, and although fasting has been practiced for centuries, and juice fasting for many decades, both with awe-inspiring results, one recent and vocal advocate of juicing cleanses for healing is the Englishman Jason Vale who runs the Juicy Oasis retreat and healing centre in Portugal (see Superjuice Me on FMTV).

Arthritis sufferers would do extremely well to consider doing such a juice fast as well as adopting intermittent fasting as a long-term daily practice. These measures—in and of themselves—could resolve the problem permanently in a relatively brief period of time.

The importance of magnesium was also emphasised in Treating arthritis I. The best is to have baths with one cup of nigari and one cup of baking soda at least once a week (a couple of times is great, and in some circumstances you may want or need to have them every other day). We should soak the whole body for 45–60 minutes. Magnesium oil, a saturated solution of nigari in water, is also very effective. Putting it on the skin of the arms, upper back and neck, chest and belly, legs and bum, avoiding sensitive skin of the armpits and genital area, and leaving it at least 30 minutes before showering. It can work wonders to loosen tight, achy or cramping muscles, and will often do this quickly from the first application. It doesn’t need to be done every day, but it can for several months without risking overwhelming the system with too much magnesium. Oral supplementation with liposomal (fat-bound) magnesium is also a very good idea.

Once we have understood the importance of these elements of health, healing and recovery that are hydration, alkalisation, magnesium, juicing green vegetables and intermittent fasting, and incorporated them into our life as fundamental pillars of optimal health, then we can and must turn to the question of what to eat when we do eat.

When we consider what to eat from the perspective of eating to most effectively promote health, the considerations can be very different from what they might be were we to take any other point of view as to our primary motivation. For optimal health, the first and foremost important consideration is the old and well-known principle first do no harm. This means what it says, but more explicitly means to not eat anything that has or may have detrimental effects on the organism. Using “has” implies negative effects have been identified and demonstrated to a lesser or greater extent, whereas “may have” means that even though there may be little, inconclusive or no evidence, there are nevertheless reasons to be skeptical or at least cautious about its safety or health benefits. Simple examples include cigarette smoke that is well established to have multiple negative impacts on our health, and industrial pesticides demonstrated to be endocrine disruptors or neurotoxic: a new brand of cigarettes or a new yet untested agricultural pesticide should therefore also be considered as potentially harmful. This is just common sense.

Following this principle encourages us to eliminate industrial chemicals and additives from our food and drink, but also from our cleaning and body care products. This can sound as an obvious and simple first step, but it is not so easy nor so simple without considerable care and attention to detail. Moreover, it also implies, right from the start, no industrially processed products of any kind, and that is a major step for most people given the state of affairs and average dietary regime of the bulk of the population in industrialised countries.

Assuming you are reading this because you are already on the lookout for better ways of doing things, as well as already feeding yourself with real food, this is not such a big deal. And in practice, it means this: buy and eat only whole organically grown or raised food, use only the simplest and most benign organic cleaning and body care products, drink the highest quality filtered or natural spring or mineral water that is certified to be free of known major and minor pollutants, and take only the highest quality supplements. Doing only this ensures an already excellent base for a healthy lifestyle, and it is already enough to avoid and prevent a lot of potential health disorders.

It is, however, not enough if our goal it to be optimally healthy, never have any health disorders at all, and live strong and vibrant to 100, 120 or 140 years of age. It is, also, not enough if we are trying to stop progression, reverse already existing damage, and eventually recover from our own arthritic condition that may have been causing us pain for years or decades. In either case, we need to go further.

The statement in the opening paragraph about the universality of the natural healing approach to treatment and prevention of disease conditions is here both appropriate and necessary to emphasise:

the most fundamental characteristic of but also driver in progressively worsening arthritis symptoms and degeneration is chronic systemic inflammation;

the most fundamental characteristic of but also driver in progressively worsening cardiovascular heart disease symptoms and degeneration is chronic systemic inflammation;

the most fundamental characteristic of but also driver in progressively worsening cardiovascular brain disease symptoms and degeneration is chronic systemic inflammation;

the most fundamental characteristic of but also driver in progressively worsening Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and degeneration is chronic systemic inflammation;

the most fundamental characteristic of but also driver in progressively worsening multiple sclerosis symptoms and degeneration is chronic systemic inflammation;

the most fundamental characteristic of but also driver in progressively worsening Crohn’s disease symptoms and degeneration is chronic systemic inflammation;

and, of course, the most fundamental characteristic of but also driver in progressively worsening type II diabetes symptoms and degeneration is also chronic systemic inflammation,

even if we know that the root cause of this diabetes is chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels, that this leads to systemic inflammation, which in turn leads to the pathological symptoms and degeneration, something that is underlined by the fact that diabetics suffer all other chronic diseases listed above 200-400% more than non-diabetics.

This was a forceful, repetitive, heavy-handed way to express and highlight this fundamental characteristic that is shared by so many disease conditions. But it is, I think objectively, the most important point to have in mind when our intention is to really understand health and to be ourselves, at all levels, an expression and embodiment of health. Because whether it is inflammation in the joints as in arthritis, in the arteries supplying the heart or brain as in cardiovascular disease, in the brain itself as in Alzheimer’s disease, in the nerves throughout the body as in multiple sclerosis, in the lining of the gut as in Crohn’s disease, or basically everywhere in the body as for diabetes, this inflammation—in all cases—is chronic and systemic. Hence, it is this which must be addressed and corrected, and it is addressed and corrected in exactly the same way in every case.

Taking into account differences and thus tuning the treatment, especially in what concerns reversing and repairing existing damage, is important. But it is definitely secondary with respect to the root cause of degeneration that is systemic inflammation. And even these differences whose importance varies depending on the specificity of the condition we aim to address, all of them—when working with natural, nutrition-based medicine—are useful and health-promoting for all conditions: none are detrimental to the treatment of any other specific disease.

For example, supplementing with organic silicic acid, collagen, vitamin C, and vitamin D is essential for repairing and rebuilding cartilage and soft tissues, and thus essential in the treatment of arthritis. It is, however, greatly beneficial for everyone to supplement with these micronutrients because all will benefit from it. It is essential to supplement with and maintain very high levels of vitamin B12 (>1200 pg/ml) when treating multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, but it is excellent for everyone to do the same. It is essential to supplement with L-Carnosine when treating Crohn’s disease because it is particularly useful for healing the lining of the gut. But it is also very beneficial for everybody to take because it helps to stop and repair the damage caused by glycation, which affects everyone to a greater or lesser extent depending on circulating glucose and insulin concentrations.

And thus, the first principle is to eliminate from our life what causes inflammation: everything that triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body. This obviously includes all allergens which, even if there are some well-known foods that have been recognised as causing allergic reactions, mild or severe, in a large fraction of the population, and could, therefore, be eliminated from our diet directly in order to minimise unnecessary exposure to potentially harmful substances, it is nevertheless ultimately an individual assessment and testing of food intolerance that is needed.

The foods most likely to cause an inflammatory immune system response are gluten-containing grain products and animal milk products. Estimates of intolerance for these two classes of foods—grains and dairy—range between 50 and 75% in most countries, although evolutionary adaptations can have an important effect. Good examples are the indigenous Swiss mountain dwellers and the African nomadic tribe called Masai, who, by consuming most of their daily calories from milk and milk products for thousands of years, have developed the genetic adaptations for the immune system to tolerate the proteins in milk that cause mild to severe allergic reaction in close to 75% of the world’s population, with the most extreme proportions of 90-95\% in the Chinese and other Asian populations that have never, throughout their history, consumed milk products.

The other two classes of foods that are established as inflammatory—highly inflammatory—even if they rarely cause intolerance or allergic reactions, are insulin-stimulating carbohydrates and omega-6 fats. In the case of these substances, it is not inflammation triggered by a reaction to them of the immune system. Rather, they themselves trigger inflammatory biochemical pathways: several hundred inflammatory pathways! These foods should therefore be eliminated from the diet: all simple and starchy carbohydrates, and all vegetable oils. Nuts and seeds, which contain omega-6 oils, can be had whole in small quantities. Olive oil is mono-unsaturated and is the best vegetable oil to use for salads. No omega-6 rich vegetable oil should be used.

I don’t think it’s necessary nor useful to discuss the inflammatory effects of industrial chemicals because we already know that they only cause harm and should be eliminated from our food supply, avoided at all costs in all their other forms by everyone who is even superficially concerned with their health.

This is our first conclusion: to minimise inflammation, it is essential to eliminate inflammatory foods; and the most inflammatory classes of foods are dairy, grains, insulin-stimulating carbohydrates and omega-6 oils. To overcome or prevent inflammatory disease conditions, arthritis but also all others, we have to stop eating these foods. It is as simple as that. And although it is true that we could potentially supplement with adequate types and amounts of enzymes to try to ensure that all types of proteins found in these foods are actually broken down properly during digestion in order to avoid triggering an immune response, it does seem silly to eat or drink something that we know cannot be metabolised correctly and which is, for this reason, harmful to the organism, but still try to mitigate the harm it causes by taking a supplement of those enzymes needed to digest it that do exist even if our body’s genetic and evolutionary makeup doesn’t produce. This reflection applies to dairy and grain proteins to which we are intolerant. It doesn’t apply to insulin-stimulating carbohydrates or omega-6 fats, because these seldom cause allergic reactions in people, but are nevertheless universally inflammatory.

The second principle is to consume anti-inflammatory foods. It should not be a surprise to find out that the most anti-inflammatory foods (think of them as soothing to the body), also tend to be the most alkalising: raw, green, chlorophyl-rich plant foods, and especially green vegetable juices. The most anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant fat is the miraculously beneficial, highly saturated (96%), and medium chain triglyceride-rich (50%) coconut oil. Hence, without any additional considerations, we already know that an optimally anti-inflammatory and healing diet should be based on mostly raw vegetables and salads, in particular green ones, green juices, and lots of coconut oil from all coconut products.

Also not surprisingly, we can have as much of these nutrient-rich foods as we want, and the more the better. This, it turns out, is an extremely useful selection criterion to determine the level to which something can be good or bad: how much of it we can eat, and what are the consequences, if any, of having increasingly larger quantities; is there an upper limit in the sense that above a certain amount we can expect negative consequences, or is there only a lower limit below which therapeutic value is not noticeable? For what concerns green juices, greens and coconut oil, I would say that there are only lower limits to the minimum we should all intake in order to be perfectly healthy, and no upper limits within what can be considered reasonable through the body’s auto-regulation mechanisms of satiety and digestive function.

For instance, we can drink a 250 or 500 ml of green juice, and that’s great. We can drink 1000 ml and that’s much better. We can drink two or three litres of green juice per day, and that is truly amazingly therapeutic, something that would be done during a juice cleanse. For coconut oil and milk, we can have one or two tablespoons per day, and that’s really good (apparently enough to slow down cerebral degeneration). We can have five to seven tablespoons per day, and that’s far better (apparently enough to reverse early stage dementia and Alzheimer’s). We can have as much as 200 or 300 ml (between 13 and 20 tbsp) of oil per day, and that’s better still. In the case of coconut oil and milk, eating such large quantities amounts to a lot of calories, all from fat which makes us feel really full and not willing to eat anything. This is the body’s natural hormonal messaging system to prevent over-eating and it works perfectly well in this case. It also works well for protein. Only for sugars and starches does it not work so well because we evolved having very few carbohydrates and thus didn’t have to develop the mechanism to avoid overeating them—what pretty much the whole world is doing nowadays.

Most nuts and seeds can be considered as superfoods because of they are very concentrated sources of minerals, antioxidants, unique phytonutrients, vitamins, as well as fat and protein. Because they are seeds, they also have anti-nutrient—phytates and enzyme inhibitors—without which they would not keep for months on end as they do, and would spoil much more quickly. These are not as strong as they are in cereal grains, which have can keep for thousands of years, as they have in some pyramids, and then sprout after soaking in water for a while. This is nature’s very clever way to ensure dry seeds retain the nutrients needed to grow the plant when the conditions are suitable. But it implies that we must do something to them before we can consume them and know that they are wholly beneficial and health-promoting rather than only partially so.

The solution is simple: soak the dry seeds or nuts in water for 24 hours to hydrate them and activate the biological mechanisms responsible for sprouting—to get the seed ready to produce a new plant by making inactive the enzyme inhibitors and phytates—and making all of its nutrients fully available. Soaked nuts and seeds can definitely be eaten hydrated, and are much more filling that way because they hold as much water as their dry weight (they double in weight and volume when fully hydrated), but they can also be dehydrated after having soaked for 24 hours, and be preserved for much longer than the couple of days they can in the fridge before going bad when hydrated. This is what I do at home: 24 hours of soaking with rinsing and changing of the water a couple of times in between, and 24-36 hours of drying in the dehydrator at 45 C to keep all enzymes alive.

Roasting or otherwise heating the nut or seed also neutralises the anti nutrients, but this also destroys the enzymes, making it a dead food that will require the pancreas to produce the necessary enzymes for digestion, as well as cause digestive stress and acidification. Nonetheless, roasted nuts are nutritious and delicious, and thus great to have once in a while. Either way, sprouted or not, nuts and seeds are by their nature nutrient-rich concentrated food and should generally only be had in relatively small quantities (a handful or two). Doing this will also prevent excessive intake of omega-6 fats that make up about 50% of their weight, even if whole nuts and seeds have their own anti-oxidants that give additional protection from free-radicals in the body.

Having a somewhat different status as food, but being naturally most anti-inflammatory, are the trio of ginger, turmeric and garlic. Some may have difficulty digesting garlic (as is the case with onions as well), but ginger and turmeric are generally very easy to digest and actually digestive aids. It is important in the treatment of arthritis to consume them often, even daily, and in liberal amounts. Ginger is very easy to have in relatively large quantity by cold press juicing it in your daily green juice (that’s what we do), which guarantees you a good therapeutic amount on a daily basis. For turmeric, it is also possibly to find it fresh in some places, but it stains everything that it comes in contact with. Mostly for this reason, we take it in capsules, where it can even be concentrated further to be more potent still. The beneficial compounds in turmeric are most effectively absorbed when taken with plenty of fat (coconut fat is perfect).

Animal protein other than from dairy—eggs, meat and fish—is important for the body but also highly acidifying and therefore inflammatory. In addition, the proteins need to be completely broken down first by the acidic gastric juices in the stomach and then by the digestive enzymes in the intestines in order for the amino acids of which they are made to be available to the brain and other organs, but also prevent partially digested proteins from finding their way into the bloodstream and causing additional inflammatory immune responses.

Therefore, we have to eat only small quantities of the highest quality grass-fed or wild caught animal products, give the organism plenty of time to cleanse the metabolic byproducts of their digestion, and, I recommend, supplement with digestive enzymes when eating animal foods. In fact, I recommend taking digestive enzymes whenever you eat cooked foods: we do not want to get anywhere close to exhausting the pancreas’ enzyme-producing potential, because enzymes are far more important for all other molecular repair and rebuild processes than they are for digesting cooked food, and we need to keep them for these purposes if we aim to live healthy for a long time.

This is our second conclusion: to minimise inflammation and maximise repairing and rebuilding of damaged tissues, it is essential to consume the most powerfully anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense and anti-oxidant foods. The diet should therefore be mostly raw, primarily green vegetables, green juices, special anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger, turmeric and garlic, unlimited amounts of coconut products rich in coconut oil, some sprouted nuts and seeds, and small amounts of clean animal flesh products accompanied with plenty of time for metabolic cleansing on a continual basis. The supplements most important in treating and reversing arthritis are organic silica, collagen complex (Reverse Aging), whole food vitamin C (from The Synergy Company), magnesium (L-Threonate; both from Mercola), B12 (Thorne), the fat soluble vitamins A-D-K (DaVinci), turmeric extract (Organic India and Gaia Herbs), niacinamide (Thorne), and the universally needed but universally deficient iodine (in Lugol’s solution). In addition, it may be really beneficial to take high doses (50000 IU/day) of vitamin D3 for at least three and maybe up to six months or more, in order to set the body on its course to intensive healing and recovery from years of arthritic degeneration. This has been found to be very effective in some people. Supplementing with proteolytic enzymes is also very important to accelerate healing and repair of damaged tissues.

Incorporating these principles and specific recommendations into one’s life, not as a special diet, but as a comprehensive way of taking care of this amazing organism that is the human body mind, will not only treat, reverse and cure arthritis to the greatest extent, and maybe even completely depending on the level of degeneration, but will do the same for all inflammatory conditions, which underlie all degenerative diseases. In addition, the immune system will grow to be so strong that no infectious diseases will be able to take hold or develop within your body: never get a cold, never get a flu, never catch anything at all.

Finally, there are two crucially important factors which are not related to diet, and that in many ways can overshadow all other efforts to heal and remain in optimal health: lack of sleep and psychological/emotional stress. They are more than important: they are foundational. Without good sleep and minimal stress it is impossible to become and remain vibrantly healthy, no matter what else we do or don’t do.

This shouldn’t be understood to mean that if we don’t sleep well or are overstressed there is no point doing anything else. On the contrary! It is all that much more important to do everything else we can. However, it means that if we are already doing everything else, then without correcting the conditions causing us stress and preventing us to get enough restful sleep, we will never reach our optimal health potential.

Having said that, you can be sure that they go hand in hand: optimal nutrition and biochemistry promote less stress and better sleep; better sleep and less stress promote more balanced biochemistry, digestion, cleansing, and cellular rebuilding and repairing. They are the two sides of the same coin, one that is measurelessly priceless: optimal health.

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Intensive natural healing

It is always very difficult to find out what’s wrong, to find out what’s causing our health problems, to find out what is the reason for the stroke or the heart attack we just had, the diabetes or the cancer we were just diagnosed with. It is always very difficult as long as we think of the body in terms of a collection of separate parts pieced together; as long as we think that it is possible for the arteries supplying the brain or the heart to have a pathology that is not shared by every other organ and tissue; as long as we think that it is possible for the pancreas, the prostate or the mammary glands of the breasts to be defective in their function independently of every other cell throughout the body. The moment we see this, we recognise the absurdity of this point of view and the obviousness of the inter-relation of every cell to every other cell, tissue, organ and system.

There is only one whole body mind, and everything that happens to it affects everything else that takes place within it.

Looking at things from this new perspective, there are always only two possible alternatives: healthy or diseased, ranging from one to the other on a continuous scale with every possible point in between along the line. From this perspective, every medical intervention or treatment that is not intended to correct or remedy something acute—to fix a broken bone, to save someone whose kidneys or liver just failed, to stitch up a wound to prevent the loss of too much blood—but instead attempting to address a chronic disease condition—treating heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, etc—is bound to fail.

The failure comes from the misunderstanding that stems from the misguided premise that views the body as a collection of parts working to specific ends more or less independently of one another. If we are to ever overcome our health problems and thrive throughout a long and happy life, it is this basic premise—this misguided and erroneous premise—that must be thrown out and replaced by the clear understanding that there is only one whole body mind, and that everything in it affects and is affected by everything else.

We are sometimes, maybe most often, faced with a major health issue that is acute because it is an end point to a degenerative disease condition that has been developing over decades throughout our entire life. Stroke and heart attack are good examples. Sometimes, maybe most often, it is these events that shake us up enough to move us into action, and if we have the luck to have been exposed to sensible information, we can have the chance to begin anew and change the course of the rest of our life, steering it towards recovery and optimal health.

When an event of this kind happens—when we have a stroke or heart attack—we must act fast to recover as quickly as possible and reduce as much as we can the possibility of having another one within weeks or months, something that could easily be fatal. The fact is that this is usually quite likely to happen, and it’s therefore important to take it to heart.

How can we take the most important and extreme measures to reverse this course of progressive degeneration and set ourselves on the course to recovery as quickly as we can? What would I suggest should be done with the greatest sense of urgency based on the understanding that it is our life that is at stake? What are the most important and effective ways to help the body heal and repair itself?

Cleanse, detoxify, heal the gut because everything that circulates in the body comes and goes through what circulates in the bloodstream, and everything that circulates in the bloodstream comes and goes through what enters the intestines. It is in the gut that everything about our health starts and ends, where all nutrients are absorbed and most metabolic wastes are discarded. This is why it must be the foundational focus of the healing process.

There is no better way to cleanse, detoxify and heal the gut than to drink fresh green vegetable juices while at the same time getting a series of colonics: the hydro-colon therapy cleans stuff out of the gut, the juice cleanses, alkalises and nourishes the blood and body. Doing these separately is very good. Doing them together is great. Give yourself two weeks—fourteen days—during which to do this. Every day drinking between two and three litres of fresh green vegetable juice, and every other day getting a colonic (on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for example).

For the juice, you can make it or buy it, but it must be cold pressed in a slow masticating juicer, and it must be free of sugar, i.e., containing only green watery, fibrous and leafy vegetables. Any amount of sugar will fuel the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts like candida, and one of the most important aspects of this gut cleansing and healing is the elimination of the candida which undermines the function and health of our gut and our entire organism. In many modern cities there are small cold pressed juiceries where it is possible to buy very good quality all-organic green juice. Doing it at home is less expensive but requires you to do the work. You can also make some yourself and buy some as well (that’s what I tend to do).

In addition to the juicing and hydro-colon therapy, there are three kinds of supplements that should be taken: probiotics (Prescript-Assist is what I take), L-Carnosine (Paradise Herbs is what I take), and enzymes (I’ve used pHi-Zymes by Baseline Nutritionals and Heal-n-soothe by LivingWell). The probiotics replenish and heal the flora, carnosine helps heal the lining of the gut and glycated tissues, and the enzymes promote accelerated repair of damaged cells. They should all be taken three times a day, morning, noon and late afternoon, always on an empty stomach. Take each time one capsule of probiotics and two of L-Carnosine.

To avoid being too hungry, but also to ensure an important intake of the miraculously healing coconut oil, you should have a coconut milk based smoothie, pudding or ice cream: a small glass, two or three times per day. And to make sure you have a good intake of salt and minerals, you should either put unrefined salt in the green juice or eat cucumber and celery sticks with salt, as much as you feel like depending on taste, once mid-morning and once mid-to-late afternoon. Sometimes you may want to drink salty green juice, and sometimes you may prefer to eat salty, crunchy veggies. Just follow your inclination.

(See the work of Dr Norman Walker for more details about the importance of colonics and juicing.)

Enzymes are proteins with specialised functions. They are the things that do stuff in the body. Most of us have heard that enzymes are made in the pancreas and are needed for digestion because they break down the nutrients into their constituents: starches are broken down into glucose by amylase, fats are broken down into glycerol and free fatty acids by lipase, and various proteins are broken down into amino acids by various proteases. These building blocks of foods can then be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream and carried all over the body to where they are needed. But enzymes also do practically everything else that needs doing, and, in particular, heal and repair damaged cells and tissues.

All raw foods contain enzymes, some more than others. Fresh juices which contain a high concentration of minerals and nutrients, also contain a high concentration of enzymes. Because the more enzymes are available, the better it is for the body to heal and repair itself. Hence, our strategy for recovering from this stroke, heart attack we just had, is to flood the body with enzymes. The fact is that in western countries, most people live on processed junk food that is not only totally devoid of minerals and micronutrients, but also completely dead and devoid of enzymes. If we don’t survive on processed junk food, then we typically hardly ever eat anything raw. Therefore, even if the food we eat is not as bad as processed fast food, it is still cooked, dead and devoid of enzymes.

Eating this way leads to two major problems. The first is that the pancreas is continuously manufacturing enzymes in a desperate attempt to cope with the digestion of cooked and dead food, and over time, like within a few decades, begins to get exhausted and eventually becomes unable to produce any enzymes. It typically also stops being able to produce insulin at the same time, just because it is simply exhausted. The second is that because all enzymes are used for digesting processed and cooked dead foods, there are hardly any enzymes available for anything else that needs doing, healing and repairing.

In our healing programme, to flood the body with enzymes, we—in addition to drinking all this juice loaded with enzymes of all sorts—will supplement with more enzymes. There is no upper limit to the amount we can take, and the more the better. It is really just a matter of what we can afford and are willing to take on a short, medium and long term basis. It is important to start slowly and increase gradually. This is to allow the body to adjust to the presence of more enzymes, but also because they will immediately start their cleanup of the body, breaking down scared and dead tissues that inevitably accumulate over time, as well as both benign and cancerous tumours. The breakdown products are toxic and need to be eliminated quickly. Hence part of the importance of the initial 14 day juice cleanse with intensive hydro-colon therapy.

The amazing thing about enzymes is that they know exactly what to do, what to break down, what to build up, what needs help repairing and what needs help healing. This can be considered a miracle of nature. But it is just life: the self-organised life of living organisms that has been evolving and having its means and methods refining themselves over the 4.5 billion years of evolution on the planet. Self-organised, synergistic and symbiotic co-dependent emergence and evolution. Miraculous and amazing, but from the perspective of an enzyme, a chloroplast or mitochondria, it is utterly simple, obvious and straight forward: adaptation for improved survival.

(See the work of Drs Cichoke and Gonzalez for more on enzyme therapy.)

Iodine is an element that is needed in every cell. According to statistics from the WHO, 97% of the world’s population is iodine deficient. And according to David Brownstein, M.D., a physician who has spent a good portion of his medical career studying iodine, testing for it, and treating his patients’s deficiencies of salt and iodine, the figure is probably closer to 98 or even 99%. In any case, this means that we can conclude that everyone should be supplementing with iodine to ensure the body an appropriate supply.

Iodine is found in the highest concentration in the thyroid gland, mammary glands, and then other glands of the body. For all glands, but especially for the thyroid and breasts, it is simply crucial. Brownstein has treated with total success a large number of women suffering from fibrous cysts or cancerous tumours in the breasts, and a large number of both men and women suffering from thyroid-related dysfunctions using basically only iodine supplementation and dietary modifications (including, most importantly, increased unrefined sea salt intake). He states his belief that most if not all cystic breast disease and cancers, and that most if not all thyroid problems, regardless of whether they are hypo or hyper thyroid dysfunctions, are caused by iodine deficiency, and are always corrected with appropriate supplementation.

One of the reasons why iodine deficiency is so problematic is that because it is so important in its role in every cell, and because it is part of the halogen family of elements (F, Cl, Br, I, At), it is replaced in the cells by other much more abundant but toxic halogens like fluorine, chlorine and bromine. All of these being common industrial chemicals far too abundant in our environment, water and food, and that find their way into the body, slipping into those slots in the cells intended for iodine. It is only by supplementing and providing the body with the adequate amounts it needs, that these other halogens can be gradually replaced by iodine and excreted from the body.

Brownstein recommends using Lugol’s solution, which is sodium iodine and iodide dissolved in water. It is generic and inexpensive, as it has been around for almost 200 years (first made in 1829), and it is a safe and effective way to replenish iodine stores. For most people (as it was for Brownstein himself and for me) it will be necessary to take 50–100 mg per day for about a year. It should be taken in water or juice on an empty stomach. I took it with water for many months before starting to put it in the green juice, in which the taste cannot be detected. I use a 15% solution (18.75 mg per drop) and took between two and four drops per day (37.5–75 mg; two drops at a time, once or twice per day).

After almost a year, I felt two days in a row an immediate surge of energy and light butterflies in the stomach, which I knew were caused by the iodine stimulating the thyroid because I had read about it. Therefore, reacting to it with such sensitivity, I knew that I had finally replenished, after all these months, the iodine stores. Now, I take one drop in my green juice, which sounds like an infinitesimally small amount, but it is important to maintain supplementation because iodine is needed every day by all cells and it is water soluble making it easily excreted with the urine. It has been estimated by iodine researchers that the body needs a minimum of 12.5 mg per day. Therefore it is best to take a little more than that; one drop of 15% solution which provides 18.75 mg. Iodine is of fundamental importance. Supplementation with it is essential, especially in a detoxification and healing programme.

(See Brownstein’s book for more on iodine, and The Guide to Supplementing with Iodine, for additional details about supplementation)

Magnesium and sodium bicarbonate support the cleansing, detoxification and—very importantly—alkalisation of the gut, blood, tissues and organs of the body. The easiest and most effective way to get these into the tissues is to have a 60 minute bath with one cup of nigari flakes and one cup of baking soda. You should do this every other day (Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, for example) for the first two weeks. This will help pull out accumulated acid, chemical toxins and heavy metals. It is very pleasant and relaxing to lie in a hot bath for an hour reading a book, listening to music or just lying there quietly, adding hot water to maintain a comfortably hot temperature. It is also an essential part of the detoxification programme. After the first two weeks, you can reduce the number of baths to one to two per week.

(See the work of Drs Dean and Sircus for more on magnesium chloride and sodium bicarbonate.)

Eating for rejuvenation and optimal health is a matter of choosing between health and life or sickness and death. After these first two weeks, you will start to eat more solid foods, keeping the juice as the pillar of your new way of nourishing and taking care of the body. In fact, every day the focus of the first half of the day will be to hydrate, cleanse and alkalise by drinking green juice, one litre in two 500 ml portions, at around 9–10 and then 11:30–12:30. Lunch around 14 will be a green smoothie made of avocado and/or coconut milk, together with other green leafy veggies (kale, celery, cucumber, spinach, etc), and coconut water for the liquid part. You can add salt, black pepper and/or cayenne, other spices, superfood powders or extracts, making the smoothie as nutritious and tasty as you can using your resourcefulness to come up with new ideas and recipes.

Having a smoothie of this kind provide lots of enzymes and nutrients, essential oils and excellent fats, together with the naturally occurring fibres but because they are chopped up and blended smooth, they are very easy to digest and thus cause very little digestive stress; this is second to juicing which removes all the fibres for maximum absorption of nutrients and minimum work by the digestive organs.

In the late afternoon, have another green juice if it’s possible. You should drink one to two litres of alkaline water per day, whenever you feel like it. (You can either buy it, making sure the pH is above 8, or you can add alkalising drops to your high quality filtered water. I use Young pHorever’s PuripHy.) Remember that water and juice intake must be balanced with salt in order to hydrate well and not dilute the blood sodium levels and causing the kidneys to excrete more water. We want to drink lots and eat lots of salt in order to super-hydrate. For each litre of water/juice you need about half a teaspoon of salt.

Stop drinking around 18 or so, approximately 45 minutes before dinner: a big leafy green salad of your choice (baby greens, baby spinach, romaine, oak leaf, kale, mixed lettuces and greens) with some nuts and seeds, plenty of cold pressed organic olive oil or some kind of nut or seed butter dressing, and with this big salad, have a small amount of grass fed meat or wild/organically raised fish every other night (one day on, one day off).

That’s it. This is how you should eat for all the months during which you are recovering until you are in perfect health and perfect shape. You can eat like this for the rest of your life. This is more or less what I do. Some variations, will include creamed vegetable soups with coconut milk in the winter (cauliflower, brocoli, celery, spinach), cold soups like gazpacho in the summer, different kinds of salads (celery-fennel, red cabbage, white cabbage, chopped up cucumbers, tomatoes and red peppers in the summer, soaked nut and seed parsley salad, etc), and different lightly steamed vegetables like brocoli, romanesco, cauliflower and green beans. Of course, you are welcome to experiment in this way depending on the season and on personal taste, mood and circumstances.

Supplements that you should take as soon as you start eating, some with lunch and some with dinner, are the following.

With lunch:
(2) Liposomal Magnesium (L-Threonate; Mercola)
(2) Liposomal Vitamin C (Mercola)
(2) Krill oil (Mercola)
(1) Astaxanthin (Nutrex Bioastin 12 mg)
(2) Turmeric extract (Gaia Herbs)
(1) Cinnamon extract (Stop Aging Now)
(1) Tulsi extract (Source Naturals)
(1) Vitamin B12 (Thorne Research Bio-B12)
(2) A-D-K (DaVinci)
(2) Niacinamide (Thorne Research)
(2) Synergy7 (Stop Aging Now)
(2) Zinc (Source Naturals OptiZinc)
(1) Ubiquinol (Mercola)
(1) Huperzine A (Source Naturals)

With dinner:
(2) Liposomal Magnesium (L-Threonate; Mercola)
(2) Liposomal Vitamin C (Mercola)
(2) Turmeric extract (Gaia Herbs)
(1) Cinnamon extract (Stop Aging Now)
(1) Vitamin B12 (Thorne Research Bio-B12)
(1) A-D-K (DaVinci)
(2) Niacinamide (Thorne Research)
(2) Zinc (Source Naturals OptiZinc)
(1) Ubiquinol (Mercola)
(1) Iron bisglycinate (Thorne Research; depending on blood test results)

You will have noticed the obvious absence of some classes of food products that are eaten by most people most of the time: there are no sugars of any kind and no starches, both of which are known to increase the probability of cardiovascular events by their instantaneous triggering of more than 300 inflammatory pathways, all of which cause the blood to thicken and become more viscous; there are also no dairy products, which are highly acidifying and usually the cause of negative immune responses from mild to severe intolerance or allergies; and there are no commercial foods or drinks, all of which should simply be avoided by everyone for their lack of nutrition and chemical toxic loads. These are detrimental to our health in several ways and therefore have no place in a healing programme or in a diet for optimal health and longevity.

You will also have noticed that there is a strong emphasis on green juices and green vegetables, coconut fat from coconut milk, and just enough healthy and clean animal protein and fats to provide the body with everything it needs to thrive. It is perfectly fine to have berries either on their own or with coconut milk, as well as 80-85% organic chocolate once in a while (and not later in the day than about 15). You can have organic green tea in the morning (until about 12), but stop drinking coffee (if you’re a big coffee drinker, you have to do this gradually). The adrenal glands—the very important stress and sex hormone producing glands—in this day and age are almost always overstimulated from our busy and stressful lifestyles, and therefore usually dysfunctional to a greater or lesser extent. They also need to be healed and for this, they need a break.

You should continue the probiotics, L-carnosine, and enzymes as long as necessary to regain total health. You can continue indefinitely. You should continue the iodine supplementation with 50–100 mg per day for a year (might be anywhere between 8 to 12 months), after which you should reduce to one drop of 18.75 mg, and maintain this indefinitely. You should continue all supplements for as long as the healing process continues, and will benefit from taking them to the end of your days, reducing the quantity to once per day instead of twice (dropping the evening supplements with dinner), and remembering that there are only benefits from taking more depending on the circumstances in your life and your body’s needs. Of course there are plenty of other supplements that we can be of benefit, but the ones listed are those that I consider most important.

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Reversing diabetes: understanding the process

The fundamental problem, the cause of all the complications associated with diabetes, is the chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels. Independently of the fact that each individual, each one of us, has a different tolerance to carbohydrates, a different metabolic response to the presence of glucose and insulin in the blood, there are basically only two ways that blood glucose can be elevated: the first is by the consumption of sugar or starch that finds its way into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall; the second is by the stimulation by stress hormones of liver glucose production whereby the glycogen reserves are broken down and the resulting glucose released into the blood. Therefore, in order to most effectively bring down chronically elevated blood sugar levels, it is essential to eliminate insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, but it is also essential to eliminate chronic stress.

The sugar

The vast majority of the millions of type II diabetics that constitute the body of what is now generally considered to be a diabetes epidemic in many western countries, have developed the condition primarily from the consumption of dietary insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, from eating high-sugar and high-starch diets over the course of decades. The process of growing insulin resistance due to chronic consumption of carbohydrates is described in several other posts (like, for example, We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, A diabetic’s meal on Air France, and Cure diabetes in a matter of weeks). It is for this reason that the same vast majority of type II diabetics responds extremely well to the elimination of these carbohydrates from their diet, whereupon glucose levels drops, insulin levels drop, the cells gradually regain insulin sensitivity, and the tissues and organs gradually recover from years or decades of the toxic environment created by continuously being exposed both to glucose and insulin. Naturally, the recovery process depends intimately on how long and how bad things were before implementing these dietary changes, but it happens in more or less the same way in every person.

The stress

The tendency, in many western societies, especially in North America, to create and generate in all sorts of ways very high levels of stress in most spheres of activities in our life, and, unfortunately, also thrive on this stress, often for years or even decades, in order to be highly productive, successful, and therefore important, or at least, make ourselves feel and believe that we are, is extremely bad. This, compounded with the fact that most of our standard western diets are very high in insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, makes the evolution towards of type II diabetes faster, more pronounced, and much more harmful. As a consequence, there is without a doubt a non-negligible fraction of diabetics that suffer from both a high intake of sugary and starchy foods, as well as high stress levels.

In the extreme, however, it is definitely possible to develop diabetes uniquely or primarily due to chronically high levels of stress. The most important, and indeed, very important difference between elevating blood sugar through diet or as a consequence of stress hormones, is that the former is naturally corrected by the secretion of insulin, which helps put aways the sugar either as glycogen or as fat, whereas the latter, the presence of high levels of stress hormones, simultaneously induces insulin resistance in order to keep the glucose in circulation as long as possible. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint because under stress, under a fight or flight situation, we need lots of glucose in the blood and we want it to stay there to allow us to respond physically to whatever needs to be done: to run, jump, climb, fight, survive. The problem is that our high levels of stress are not only chronic, but they are not associated with a situation in which we need to have access to high levels of sugar in the blood in order to respond to the stressor physically with our muscles. And so, glucose remains high and circulates, insulin remains high but is not effective, and from this, all our blood vessels, tissues and organs get damaged: glycated from the glucose, oxidised from the free radicals, and literally corroded by the insulin.

This clearly implies that chronically high levels of stress are far worse than a high carbohydrate diet, and explains in no uncertain terms why high-stress professionals—even low-carb eaters—can not only suffer from chronically elevated blood sugar levels and the full array of damaging consequences, but also develop diabetes, and almost inevitably, heart and artery disease, because they all come from the same place: high stress leads to high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones; high levels of stress hormones lead to high glucose and insulin resistance no matter what is eaten because it comes from the liver; high glucose levels and insulin resistance leads to artery disease which leads to heart disease, and it also leads to type II diabetes. This is why, for those high work volume and high stress high-strung high-achievers, it is essential to eliminate all insulin-stimulating carbohydrates, but it is crucial to significantly reduce, and ideally, eliminate chronic stress. (We have looked at many of the physiological effects of stress in The kidney: evolutionary marvel and in At the heart of heart disease.)

The physiological consequences

As every diabetic knows, or at least should know, the consequences or complications associated with the condition of diabetes are horrific. What is very unfortunate is that it appears as though many doctors do not understand the biochemical and physiological connections and chains of  reactions and responses that develop and grow more sever over time as a consequence of the underlying chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels (as you may remember from your reading of Why do diabetics have high blood pressure?). What happens in the body when levels of blood sugar and insulin resistance stay high? Let’s follow this through:

High blood pressure, atherosclerosis and heart disease

The most immediate consequences are the rise in blood pressure and increased damage to blood vessels from glycation: the elevated levels of glucose that the kidneys have evolved to keep in circulation causes a rise in osmolarity (blood concentration), which the kidneys try to counter by retaining water in order to keep the blood from getting too concentrated. Since blood pressure is mostly a function of the amount of water in the blood, this causes the pressure to rise. Because glucose is meant to remain in minimal circulating concentrations or otherwise be quickly cleared from the bloodstream by pancreatic insulin shuttling it into cells, long-lasting elevated sugar concentration leads to the glycation of tissues, which is the damage of protein or fatty structures of the cells due to the glucose molecules “sticking” in the wrong places and in the wrong way. This, in combination with the higher blood pressure, is the perfect recipe for much increased damage to the blood vessels, especially the large arteries in which the pressure is greatest, the increased production of cholesterol and lipoproteins for cholesterol transport and damage repair, and the consequent plaque buildup termed atherosclerosis, which eventually (sooner than later) leads to artery disease, heart disease, and heart attacks from the occlusion of vessels bringing blood to the heart muscle (the coronary arteries).

Kidney disease

Even though it is the kidney that regulates the blood pressure and retains water in order to keep the blood from getting too concentrated with the increasing concentration of glucose, the higher blood pressure puts great strain on all of its micro filtering units, the nephrons, whose function is to filter out acidic metabolic waste from the bloodstream and get rid of it through the urine. The nephron works optimally under optimal conditions, but optimal for it, which means ideal blood pressure: not too low, but especially, not too high. It’s a self-regulating system in that if we are relaxed and at rest, then breathing is slow, heart beat is slow, blood circulation is slow, blood pressure is low and the kidneys are under little strain. As we get moving, through exercise, for example, then breathing is faster, heart beat is faster, blood flow is faster, blood pressure is higher, and the kidneys filter a larger volume of blood per second in order to eliminate as much of the acid that is building up from the activity and that needs to be eliminated in order for the muscles to continue working in ideal conditions.

With chronically high blood pressure, the kidneys are continually under stress and the nephrons get damaged. However, because there are millions of nephrons in each of the two kidneys, and it has been estimated that we can live with only 1/3 of the nephrons in only one of the two kidneys, this problem of the gradual deterioration of kidney function is not really considered as a big issue until the kidneys fail (or little time before), at which point it is far too late, and the situation is irreversible.

In addition, insulin resistance—to any degree—promotes the break down of muscle tissue, because as soon as sugar levels drop after a few hours after a meal or snack, during the night is the most apt example, since the cells cannot use fats for energy, the muscle tissue is broken down and constituents of its proteins made into glucose. This leads to chronically high levels of circulating creatinine that, as a metabolic waste product, must also be filtered out and eliminated by the kidneys. This happens in everyone with insulin resistance, and the amount of muscle breakdown is a function of the degree of insulin resistance. In the case of extreme insulin resistance as is seen in type II diabetics, the process is far more pronounced. The excessive stress on the kidneys inevitably leads to deterioration, nephron dysfunction, and eventually to failure. (You can read more about kidney function in The kidney evolutionary marvel.)

What makes things even worse is that most diabetics/heart disease sufferers have elevated lipoprotein (and cholesterol) levels due to the excessive inflammation and speed at which tissue damage is taking place in the blood vessels and all over the body. This, as you all know, has been wrongly interpreted and widely promoted as a major risk factor for heart attacks. The “treatment” of choice for these patients are a lifelong prescription for statin drugs. Very unfortunately, not only do statin drugs not confer any health or longevity benefits, but they accelerate the speed at which muscle breaks down, causing even greater amounts of creatinine to make its way into the bloodstream, and thus creating a heavy additional load on the kidneys. Is it any wonder that the rise in kidney disease closely reflects the rise in diabetes but also in statin consumption? If you’ve been taking statins, don’t get overly worried: physiological degradation is a slow process, and it is rarely too late to make the intelligent choices and changes that will help stop and reverse the disease process, and in time allow the body to heal itself.

Systemic acidosis

The way in which the kidney regulates blood pressure upwards is by secreting different hormones that prevent water from being eliminated, that thicken the blood, and that contract the blood vessels. In most people, the majority of which is chronically dehydrated, there is already a shortage of water and therefore a dehydration response by the kidneys; the elevated sugar concentration makes this far worse, of course. And under dehydration conditions, the means by which the kidney can retain even more water, as much water as it can, is by increasing the concentration gradient in the interstitial medium through which the nephron passes in order to pull as much water out of the filtrate as possible.

Increasing the concentration gradient is done by keeping and concentrating sodium and uric acid. It is more important to retain water than to eliminate uric acid, because water is primordially important for all body functions. Consequently, urea and uric acid levels rise, gradually but consistently over time. Because acid cannot accumulate in the blood, whose pH must absolutely be kept pretty much exactly at 7.4 (7.35-7.45), but because, at the same time, it cannot be eliminated by the kidneys under the given circumstances, it is stored away in the tissues all over the body: joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and organs. Chronically high levels of uric acid in the blood lead to the condition known as gout. The buildup of acid in the tissues leads to pain, inflammation, arthritis, cartilage breakdown, bone demineralisation and osteoporosis, and a slew of other undesirable consequences, including increased susceptibility to all forms of infections: yeast, viral and bacterial, and severely depressed immunity. (You can read more about acidosis and alkalisation in A green healing protocol, Detoxification, and Such a simple and yet powerful natural anti-inflammatory.)

Maybe the most critical point about acidosis in how it relates to diabetes is that the pancreas and its precious beta cells, those that produce the insulin, are extremely sensitive to pH, and simply cannot function when the blood and cellular environment is acidic. The cells simply stop functioning because of the overload of acid that is not excreted and not neutralised. This makes the pancreas more and more dysfunctional over time, and eventually leads to exhaustion and the complete inability to secrete insulin or do any of the other functions that it is intended to perform. Something very similar happens in the liver, and, in fact, everywhere else, when chronic acidosis defines the internal environment of the body.

Pancreatic exhaustion

The distinction between type I and type II diabetes is usually highlighted by calling the first insulin-dependent diabetes, and the second insulin-resistant diabetes. Type I diabetics are usually identified and diagnosed as children or young adults because their pancreas does not produce insulin, and are then “treated” by having to inject themselves insulin after they eat for the rest of their lives. Naturally, over time, from the continual and usually excessive exposure to insulin, their cells become insulin-resistant, and they subsequently develop all the same problems as type II diabetics, whose condition is, in a way, exactly the opposite, in the sense that they suffer from chronic hyper-insulinemia, because their pancreas that senses the elevated glucose concentration in circulation, produces more insulin in order to clear it out and store it away. The problem is that the cells are not sensitive to the presence of insulin, and therefore do not take in the sugar. The pancreas is then forced to produce and secrete more insulin, and on it goes. Amazingly, type II diabetics are also “treated” by insulin injections, which increase insulin levels even more, and increase insulin resistance even more, obviously making the situation far worse. Eventually, the pancreas of the type II diabetic gets completely exhausted, and loses the ability to manufacture and secrete insulin. At this point, the type II becomes a kind of type I. Interesting how this goes, isn’t it.

The pancreas’ main function is not to secrete insulin, even though in our diabetic-centric worldview it is certainly considered as such. This is one of its functions, but not the most important. By far the most essential is the production and secretion of enzymes, the specialised proteins that break down foods but also do everything else that needs to be done, especially tissue building and repair throughout the body. The third essential function of the pancreas is the concentration and secretion of sodium bicarbonate in the small intestine following the movement of the pre-digested chyme from the stomach into the small intestine. This is also extremely important because all absorption and digestion in the intestine must take place in an alkaline environment, compared to the acidic environment required in the stomach when protein is present. Pancreatic exhaustion from the over-production of insulin for years on end, therefore spells disaster on many more fronts than just insulin and glucose metabolism. It spells disaster for all digestion and absorption processes, and all enzyme regulated activities, which basically means everything, really. This is very serious.

Liver dysfunction

The liver does an amazing amount of vital work, most of it incredibly complex. This includes filtering the blood from all sorts of toxins, both biological and chemical in nature, and breaking those down for elimination; it includes the manufacture of cholesterol and lipoproteins, vital for survival, but the details of which are so intricate that they are still not completely understood after a century of study; it includes the transformation of excess glucose into glycogen and into fat for storage; and in includes the manufacture of glucose from liver-stored glycogen to continually adjust the levels of glucose in the circulation depending on the body’s needs, or more specifically, on the hormonal and biochemical environment. The distinction may appear subtle, but it is quite important in the sense that it is really the hormones and biochemistry of the blood that regulates the function of most tissues and organs, especially those of the vital glands like the liver, pancreas and adrenals, and there is hardly anything more disruptive and unbalancing to the hormonal and biochemical makeup than chronically elevated glucose, stress hormones and acid levels.

Under such conditions, the liver must manufacture an inordinate amount of glucose from the glycogen stores that it itself must also replenish, but also from the broken down muscle tissue. At the same time it converts as much as it can of the glucose into fat for storage, but unfortunately, insulin resistance makes it impossible for the triglycerides to be used, and they are therefore left in circulation for longer than they should before eventually being stored in our fat cells. To top up the list, the free-radical and glycation damage to the vessels and tissues require the liver to also manufacture an inordinate amount of cholesterol and lipoproteins in an attempt to repair these damaged cells, which is no small feat, (you can read more about cholesterol and lipoproteins in But what about cholesterol? and in Six eggs per day for six days: cholesterol?). All of these processes are perfectly natural. However, they are not meant to be running in overdrive for years on end. It is no surprise then that imposing upon the liver to cope with this, eventually leads to dysfunction, deterioration, exhaustion and failure.

Towards a working solution

This is definitely not the end of the list of the complications and physiological consequences that develop from chronically high circulating glucose and insulin levels, but they are some of the most important. Also, it is essential to understand the process by which these consequences first arise and then grow in severity and into the disease process over time. It is, however, infinitely more useful to know what to do in order to maintain a biochemical and hormonal environment in which none of these various dysfunctions and complications can arise if they haven’t yet, or how they can be stopped and reversed if they have.

It shouldn’t be surprising that these are the same, and that they are keys to any optimal health plan, simply because the cells, tissues and organs that make up the human body function, or rather, should function in the pretty much the same way in everyone, allowing for small differences in some of the details. For example, the fact that different people have different tolerances to carbohydrates does not change anything to the consequences of chronically elevated glucose levels on physiological function. It only changes the details relating to the thresholds and time scales involved in developing the same problems. The same goes for vitamin D: the fact that different people require different amounts of vitamin D in order to remain healthy does not in the least alter the basic fact that virtually all complex living creatures depend on it for life. So, yes, everyone is different, but, at the same time, everyone is the same.

No sugars, no starches, no dairy

The first step to take is to eliminate from the diet foods that cause glucose and insulin levels to rise. For this, we must

  1. Eliminate all simple sugars: that’s basically anything that tastes sweet, including sweet fruit, because all simple sugars will elevate blood glucose levels almost immediately after consumption;
  2. Eliminate all starchy carbohydrates: that’s all grains and grain products (at least 90% carb), beans (typically more than 70% carb), potatoes (virtually 100% carb), and other starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, yams, taro, etc, because the starches they contain are broken down to glucose by enzymes in the digestion process; but also sweet root vegetables like carrots and beets, which are just full of simple sugars (you’ll know this if you’ve ever had carrot or beet juice?)
  3. Eliminate dairy: that’s all milk products, which, even those low in sugars like hard cheeses, cause a rise in insulin levels. Besides, most people are allergic or intolerant to dairy products, whether they are aware of it or not.

And aside from just glucose and insulin levels, as we discussed in At the heart of heart disease, insulin-stimulating carbohydrates are highly inflammatory, triggering more than 300 inflammatory pathways. So, excluding them from our diet not only brings about plenty of positive metabolic and physiological changes, but it is, as far as I am concerned, a requirement to make those positive changes happen.

Drop the stress

For those people to whom we referred to earlier that suffer mostly from the chronically elevated stress hormone levels, it is crucial to eliminate the causes of stress, ensure long hours of high quality sleep, and incorporate exercise and activities that effectively reduce stress levels, as well as supplements that can help with that. Obviously, the most important sources of stress for most professionals are psychological ones. But what is also well established is that the level of stress that is experienced (i.e., the amount of stress hormones secreted and in circulation) depends entirely on each person’s outlook and attitude. Therefore, it is this—the attitude and outlook—that are the most influential factors in generating or relieving stress on a daily basis.

Having said this, it is also obvious that going to a remote holiday house on sandy beach without access to phone or internet communications, and making a point of simply relaxing, going for walks, swimming in the sea, reading good books, watching good films, taking naps, eating healthfully and sleeping long and soundly every night, is inherently far more conducive to eliminating stress than the usual school year and work day conditions. What we must find a way to do is to function well in all circumstances with minimal stress, and most importantly, without chronic stress. It is chronic stress that is the problem; not relatively short periods of high stress. And stress, it shouldn’t be surprising, is also happens to be extremely acidifying (haven’t you ever noticed the strong, acidic smell of underarm stress sweat?).

Very helpful in this is taking Tulsi in the morning and at lunchtime (only during the day), and valerian root before bed. But exercise, conscious relaxation, and modifying outlook and attitude towards a more open and relaxed position are definitely most important.

Lower blood pressure

Lowering glucose levels will automatically lower blood pressure. Lowering stress will also automatically lower blood pressure. Biochemically though, the most important muscle relaxant—and this most definitely applies to the smooth muscle cells that line the blood vessels—is magnesium. Therefore, magnesium baths, oil and oral supplementation is essential. On the other hand, calcium is contractile and unfortunately, much more present in the foods we eat. Therefore, most of us are magnesium deficient but also over-calcified. Hence, minimising calcium intake is also very important. (You can read more about these topics in Minerals and bones, calcium and heart attacks, and in Why you should start taking magnesium today.)

Proper mineral balance, especially sodium and chloride, are essential for blood pressure regulation. Eating plenty of unrefined sea salt with meals (and with drinks) is also crucial. Naturally, we seek balance, and salt intake has to be balanced with water intake, and this leads to optimal kidney function. (You can read more about water, salt and physiological function in How much salt, how much water and our amazing kidneys, Why we should drink water before meals, and in Water, ageing and disease)

Support the kidneys

The kidneys want to maintain optimal blood pressure; regulate water, sodium and mineral content of the blood; and clear out metabolic wastes, mostly uric acid. To have them do what they are trying to do as best they can, we must very simply provide plenty of water, plenty of unrefined salt rich in sodium and all the other essential minerals, plenty of alkalising sources in drink and food, minimise glucose levels and minimise creatinine levels. The importance of alkalising the body intensely at first and continuously thereafter cannot be overstated with regards to the proper function of all the vital organs discussed here, and everything else really: every cellular process and every enzymatic action; everything depends on this.

Rejuvenate the pancreas

The pancreas senses and responds to glucose in the blood by manufacturing and secreting insulin. It responds to the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines by manufacturing and secreting sodium bicarbonate and digestive enzymes. To rejuvenate the pancreas, we need to not only give it a break, but help it recover. For this, we need to minimise glucose levels in the blood, and thereby minimise the need for it to manufacture insulin; maximise intake of enzymes to minimise the need for it to produce them; and, especially in light of what we discussed under acidosis, we need to maximise alkalisation, including through oral and transdermal absorption of sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride, with a focus on chlorophyl and chlorophyl-rich foods and drinks.

Cleanse the liver

The liver’s most taxing function is the breakdown of toxins (all substances foreign and dangerous to the body). Another taxing function of the liver is the manufacture and recycling of cholesterol and lipoproteins that, as we said earlier, are in production overdrive because of the excessively fast free-radical and glycation damage to the lining of the blood vessels, as well as the damage these cause everywhere else in the tissues of the body, accompanied by the chronic systemic inflammation this leads to (you can read more about systemic inflammation in Treating Arthritis and At the heart of heart disease.)

To help the liver, we must therefore first stop ingesting chemically manufactured medications, and we must eliminate sources of toxins and chemicals from the things we eat and drink; from the air we breathe, especially from those toxic cleaning products we use; and from all the chemicals we absorb through the skin in soaps, shampoos, lotions and creams. Second, we eat and drink to minimise inflammation and internal tissue damage, therefore minimising the strain of excessive manufacture of cholesterol and lipoproteins. And third, we must take regular toxin cleansing and alkalising baths with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride. This simple therapy is the most effective means of detoxifying the body from chemicals and toxins or all kinds, including the most notorious radioactive isotopes that can make their way into our bodies from nuclear weapons, spills and power plant accidents through the air, water and food. Here again, chlorophyl and chlorophyl-rich foods and drinks are essential.

In conclusion

The basic conclusion is the same as what we have come to whenever we discussed type II diabetes: while it is a devastatingly damaging condition that affects every metabolic and physiological function of the body, it is incredibly easy to prevent, and even after many years of deterioration for the diabetic sufferer, it is relatively easy to reverse the condition and cure the disease, including the beta cells of the pancreas, by understanding the disease process thoroughly, and by adopting an appropriate healing protocol. Here, we have detailed several of the key problems or complications that stem from chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels, with specific discussion of the ensuing dysfunction in some vital organs, and highlighting the crucial importance of considering the effect of stress in addition to the effects of dietary insulin-stimulating carbohydrates.

You might have noticed that a discussion revolving around overweight, obesity and fat metabolism is missing, maybe conspicuously so. This is not an oversight, but a conscious move towards a focus on the underlying causes of the metabolic, hormonal and physiological natures of the disorder instead of the superficial and rather inconsequential repercussions of it that take expression in the form of excess body fat. The only point I want to mention about this is that by correcting the causes of the disorder, excess body fat stores will melt away on their own. Some help from supplements and hormonal manipulation through diet and timing here and there will be useful. But, the point remains that if the body is in optimal biochemical balance, then physiological and metabolic functions will also be optimal, and no excess body fat will remain, no matter how young or old we are, and no matter what our genetic makeup happens to be.

The overview of the basic strategy for preventing and overcoming diabetes should make it clear that what it implies, although in some aspects quite specific and targeted, is very simple in that it relies mostly on drinking clean water, eating unrefined salt and clean foods, especially those that are chlorophyl-rich, eliminating damaging foods, chemicals and toxins, alkalising and detoxifying with sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride, and finally, using a number of important supplements to correct deficiencies and restore optimal biochemical balance. In a subsequent post we will formulate a detailed programme that incorporates all of the elements and strategies discussed here in general terms, together with some additional considerations about details like the timing and amount of food, drink, exercise and supplements.

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