Going Against the Grain

Internally, your body houses an ecosystem that contains more microbes than human cells. This is normal, or at least common. You don’t express disease from these “germs” as long as their numbers are kept in check. But if they are given an environmental edge, they will overgrow and cause disease.

Acne, for instance, is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria and fungi that are normally present on the skin. Strep throat is caused by a germ that normally grows in the throat. Most “infections” are actually overgrowths of germs that are normally present rather than pathogenic invasions from outside the body.

What gives them an environmental edge is changes in environmental parameters such as pH, oxygen concentration, nutrient availability and temperature. Leaving meat out at room temperature is a good example. Just by allowing meat to be exposed to room temperature allows germs already present in the meat to grow to numbers that can cause disease if ingested.

This is why thyroid hormone is so important; it controls the body’s ability to maintain an environment that keeps pH, oxygen, blood glucose, and temperature at levels that discourage germ overgrowth.

Nutrient availability is also a key factor in controlling germ overgrowth. The more sugar that is available, the easier it is for pathogenic microbes especially fungi to overgrow.

Grains are high in carbohydrates. So when you eat grains, even whole grains, you increase the sugar load in the bloodstream and invite yeast overgrowth. White bread and most breakfast cereals, for instance, raise blood sugar levels even more than eating sugar itself! Whole grains raise blood sugar less than refined grains, but they still raise blood sugar to unnaturally high levels.

Some people are plagued by chronic or recurrent illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, asthma, vaginal yeast infections, ear infections and food “allergies” throughout their early lives. In many others, the symptoms of gradually increasing levels of fungus and bacteria don’t start to manifest until thyroid levels start to decline around age 27. This is when the human body starts to “go bad,” like meat left at room temperature.

I firmly believe that by eating grains you accelerate this process.

For children with chronic or recurrent infections, allergies or asthma, it is imperative to immediately stop grains and other unnatural exposures to sugar, and to shift to a diet high in lean protein, nuts, fresh fruit and minimally processed vegetables. It’s also important to eliminate or at least minimize dairy products, starchy vegetables (potatoes, etc), excessive salt and sweet treats.

Essentially, we’re talking about the so-called “Paleolithic” diet advocated by Colorado State researcher, Loren Cordain. In his book, The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, Dr. Cordain explains that grains were not a part of the human diet until about 10,000 years ago, when people began to settle and farm. Refined grain foods were not a reality until about 200 years ago. For the longest stretches of our evolutionary history we ate as hunter-gatherers do: meat and fish, wild-foraged vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Professor Cordain argues pretty convincingly that our prehistoric ancestors probably did not have the cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases that plague our current society. They were very physically active and their diets were simple, with relatively low carb loads—a pretty good recipe for basic health (of course, leaving out the hunting accidents, encounters with feral beasts, and periodic famine).

The Paleo Diet emphasizes lean meats (especially game), organ meats, fish, shellfish, fruit, nuts, vegetables seeds, wild greens and wild mushrooms, and strongly discourages all grains & cereal based foods, milk and dairy products, starchy vegetables, legumes, salt, fatty meats, and refined sugars of any sort.

Cordain and the Paleo Diet have their critics, who typically argue that the hunter-gatherer lifespan was pretty short, and that early humans generally didn’t live long enough to develop our diseases of aging. Cordain counters that many more hunter-gatherers lived into old age than we give them credit for, and further that their adult lives were free of the chronic degenerative diseases of today’s society, all without the “aid” of modern medicine. I’d also ask Cordain’s critics to explain the increasing incidence of things like obesity, diabetes, “food allergies” and autoimmune diseases in teens and young adults.

So in the main, I’m supportive of the Paleo approach. I’ve seen its benefits in my own life and in the lives of my patients.

Be aware that dark-skinned people are more predisposed to hypothyroidism, and women are more predisposed than men. In this regard, dark skinned females have 2 strikes against them, so it is important to instill this pattern of eating as early as possible.

Once yeast overgrows, it will eat up sugar meant for the brain. This encourages the brain to seek sources of quick sugar fixes, essentially leading to a sugar addiction. How many of you have experienced this yourselves? Or seen it among loved ones or patients? Yeah, I thought so!

A person will not overpower the brain’s desire for sugar, so the addiction becomes harder to break the longer it is allowed to continue. For females, the addiction becomes more powerful at puberty with the increase in estrogens.

Longterm, this chronic overgrowth of yeast and other germs is what creates an internal environment that leads to diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, bone loss, autoimmune disease etc. Even non-life threatening diseases such as depression, heartburn, erectile dysfunction, vitiligo, psoriasis, and migraines are related to the same processes of inflammation and oxidation—what I call “oximation”–caused by the negative environmental impact of too much sugar, declining hormone levels, and overgrowth of yeast and other pathogens.

I know that many holistic physicians consider whole grain foods to be part of healthy eating patterns. I beg to differ. There are very strong reasons to eliminate or at least greatly restrict intake of grains, even whole grains. I had to learn this lesson the hard way, from my own illnesses.

I welcome your feedback, thoughts, personal and clinical experiences!

To read more of Dr. Mitchell’s approach to treating common chronic diseases become a Holistic Primary Care Premium Web Access subscriber, and search “Roby Mitchell” in our archives.

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