PODCAST: Why We’re Moving On From Podcasting

Thanks for joining us for episode 138 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your questions and feedback.

Today’s podcast comes with a big announcement. This will be our last episode of The Ancestral RDs Podcast after over four years of recording.

Although we’ve decided to take an indefinite break from the podcast, we have much more planned for 2018!

We invite you to join our conversation today as we explain why we decided to take a break from the podcast and share the exciting projects we have in store as we move into new chapters of our businesses.

We’re very grateful for having the experience of bringing you the podcast. We’re especially grateful to our listeners and guests who have helped shape it into what it has become.

We’re hard at work bringing you fresh content in new ways and we hope you’ll continue to join us!

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • [00:02:18] The reasons behind our decision to take a break from the podcast
  • [00:23:17] Things we’ve enjoyed most about the podcast and what the experience has taught us
  • [00:35:16] What we’re working on for 2018


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 138 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey everyone!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

Today is going to be a much different episode than usual because we have an announcement to make. We’ve decided that after over four years of podcasting, we’re going to be taking an indefinite break from recording The Ancestral RDs Podcast. But we didn’t want to just end the show abruptly without taking the time to give you all a proper closing. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today. So Kelsey, we need to explain to our loyal listeners why this is going to be our last show for either a while or possibly forever.

Kelsey: I know. It feels so crazy. We’ve been doing this for so long at this point, it just feels like second nature. But I think that’s honestly a good reason why we’ve kind of decided that at least for now we want to take a break. Because for me I think it’s feeling a little too comfortable and I feel like it’s not everything it could be and I wanted to take a step back from it and think about if it’s the right thing to move both your and my businesses forward and if it’s really serving our listeners. So I think taking a step back and sort of thinking about how I want it to look if we’re going to come back to it is a really good idea.

Laura: I think maybe what we can do is explain what even triggered this thought process. It’s not just that it was the end of the year because right now we’re recording in December. I know this episode comes out in somewhere in mid-January. So we’re already into 2018 in podcast publishing world, but we’re still in 2017 in the past right now.

I think the thing that triggered even the thought process for me was if you’re listening and you know anything about podcasting, or if you run a podcast, or if you have followed other podcasters, you might have heard a little bit about I guess it’s an iTunes update that happened in the Fall and a bunch of people that do podcasts lost a lot of their regular listeners and downloads. I didn’t necessarily realize that until we had looked at our stats from starting in like September through the end of the year and we had lost like 80 percent of our downloads for some of our more popular episodes. At least more than 50 percent of a drop from our typical audience and then close to 80 from our peak audience.

When I saw that I was like, oh my gosh! What are we going to do? Because we just spent the last couple of years really trying to make this a good way to grow our audience, and to get more people hearing our message, and that kind of thing. When we saw that hit, it was kind of like well, we’re either going to have to make some really big changes to how we do the podcast and really shake it up to get that listenership back, or basically we’re just going to have to stop. Because if we were just going to continue doing what we’ve been doing for the last year or so, which I feel like the last year we’ve taken it a little bit more…I wouldn’t say more seriously, but we’ve done a lot more prep, we’ve done planning for the episodes. I think we’ve done a little bit more work preparing.

Kelsey: We’ve stepped up our game.

Laura: Yeah, just to make it a better show, make it more concise. Although concise is I guess not best word for our podcasting style. But we had already just put in all this work and we were seeing what seemed to be good results because we were growing our audience. When this update thing happened and we lost all these people, it just felt very discouraging.

Kelsey: Like were having to start over, basically.

Laura: Yeah. I feel like when you’re running a business, a lot of times the work that you do, you have to be really selective about what you’re going to do. You can’t just like do everything and you can’t do things just because you think you have to. You really have to pick and choose what you’re going to spend your time doing.

I think something that both of us were experiencing that kind of got even worse after that listenership hit that we had is that we’re pretty busy, and we have a lot of stuff going on, and we both have hopes and dreams and everything for what we want to see our businesses do in the next couple of years, and the podcast takes up a really big chunk of our time. We have made it so that it was taking up less time than it used to, but it was still a decent amount of time. I think also just the mental energy that went in to creating the show…..

Kelsey: And the tech energy I’d say, just doing interviews with people. If you’re listening to this and were an interviewee on our show, you know that there can be a lot of tech issues that come up that you really just can’t do anything about and it’s so time consuming to get through that. Sometimes you have to reschedule with people or it takes an hour or longer than you thought it would. It’s very, very time consuming from the tech aspect, never mind the actual production and content aspect too.

Laura: Right. And then with the production and content, trying to pick which questions we’re going to answer, and then preparing the answer to the question. It just is a lot of work.

I think I’m definitely not upset or I don’t regret doing it for the last four years and I think it was really great to be able to do it. I think you and I both learned a lot about how to speak and how to explain things in a way that is more concise, maybe than the most concise ever.

Kelsey: We’re getting there.

Laura: Right. But just being able to speak a little bit more eloquently. I remember when we first started our podcast on Chris’s website, I was like so terrified.

Kelsey: Yeah, it was scary.

Laura: There were episodes I was like sweating, and nervous, and stuff. So I think it’s cool that we’ve gotten to a place where with podcasting I feel like we both feel pretty comfortable. I only occasionally get nervous and usually it’s like if we have a big guest on the show or something. But it was just a really good experience to be able to learn how to do it.

It’s just we got to the point where this last couple of months we were like are we still doing this for the right reason? And now that we saw that big hit to our audience, we’re like do we really want to do what it’s going to take to get that audience back?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Because I hate to say it, like I know the people listening are probably those of you who have listened to us for a long time. This might be one of the few shows that you download on a regular basis. We’ve really appreciated your support and your listenership. But part of running a successful business is doing things that grow the business. And so if our podcast is really just kind of like hovering with the same people over and over, it’s not the best way to spend our time. It’s tough because you want to do what people want.

It was funny because after we had made the decision to cut the show, and I know I’m rambling, but we made the decision to end the show, I think the week after I had like three different people, clients actually be like I love your podcast, and I’m so glad you do it, and I sent it to my friend!

Kelsey: You’re just like, this is heartbreaking. I know. I had the same experience too. It’s like as soon as you make that decision, it’s like all of these things come out from the universe….

Laura: Like are you sure you want to do that?

Kelsey: What are you thinking? But I think at the same time that that did happen, I felt like it was the right decision. Even though I was getting all these nice messages and things, and just hearing about our podcast from other people, and it kind of makes me question whether this is the right decision, at the same time in my heart I really did feel like it was the right call.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: I think those words of praise about the podcast that I was hearing from people just served to say like hey, we did a really great thing for four years and we helped a lot of people. And it’s not like this content is going away either. You’ll always be able to access these episodes because as far as I know we’re going to keep The Ancestral RDs website up and it’ll still be on iTunes and everything. So this stuff is not going away and I still feel like it’s going to help people as they discover it. But to continue making new episodes every week for us just felt like a lot of effort and like we said starting over which didn’t necessarily feel like it was going to move our businesses in the right direction.

Laura: Another thing to think about is that if we’re not doing the podcast, that doesn’t mean we’re not creating content. I think that was one of the things that both of us were struggling with is that we were working so hard on creating content for the podcasts that it was like by the time it came to creating like maybe a blog post or any other sort of content that we would like to put out to the world, it’s like you only have a limited amount of time and energy to do this kind of stuff every week. You and I think have not been the best at getting help for this kind of stuff.

Kelsey: True.

Laura: We had help for like the tech side of things for the content creation. But I think a lot of the businesses that have content that comes out like clockwork, a lot of those people have other people helping them, doing the research, like setting up what they’re going to be talking about, and then they just like show up and talk about it.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: We were doing everything.  I just feel like we got to a point where we wanted to do other things and the podcast was the thing that was preventing us from having the mental energy and the time to be able to do these other things.

I know that the people who listen to the podcast regularly are probably not happy to hear this announcement, but I’m hoping that you will keep your eye out on our personal websites for the kind of stuff that we’re going to be putting out.

This isn’t necessarily forever goodbye, donezo. It might be that we decide to come back to it at some point. I don’t want to have people expecting that just because we don’t know what we’re going to do.

Kelsey: We might not.

Laura: And there’s always the possibility that maybe there will be a different podcast that we’ll do or something like that. It’s not necessarily that we’re just like disappearing off the face of the earth and we’re not going to be putting content out anymore. It’s just we need to figure out a different way to put that content out that aligns better with our personal businesses and also allows for growth in a better way than what we’ve been doing so.

It’s interesting because I worked with a couple of business coaches this year and I just had one of my last two I guess coaching sessions with them. It was almost like a recap session where we were going over what this year was for me, like what kind of things I accomplished, what things need to change. I thought it was really interesting one of the things that he had said to me right in the beginning of the call was that the thing I need to think about while I’m planning for 2018 is that what I did to get me here in my business at the end of 2017 is not going to get me where I want to go next year.

I thought that was really good advice because it’s like it’s really easy to just get stuck in this autopilot like we do our podcast, and I do my clients twice a week, and I do all these e-mails, and then it’s Friday. It’s like I didn’t create anything new. I didn’t do anything that was growing my business.

I think both of us have just realized that we need to do work that gets our message out to a broader audience. And for whatever reason, the podcast has not gotten us there. And again, I think it was moving in that direction. But just with that that iTunes thing, it just kind of like felt like a blow to all of the work we were doing.

Kelsey: Very discouraging, like you said before. It just sucks. It plain sucks. But I think maybe it was just a catalyst to move us in the right direction. At least for me, I am hoping to do more blogging and I’ve been trying to do a little bit more than I have in the past in the recent months. Maybe that means like one article a month, but it’s better than no articles a month.

I hope to continue with that and ramp up my content production schedule too because I really like the blog format. It takes me a long time to write, which I think is one of the reasons I initially was more excited about podcasting. But at the same time, I feel like the amount of research and explanation that you can do in a blog post is a lot better for at least for me the type of content that I’d like to put out into the world for the time being.

That might change over time, but I really think that a lot of my ideal type clients like those pretty heavy research posts. Specifically when it comes to gut health, there’s just so much research out there and it’s a really cool topic to explore. So it’s been pretty fun to do that as well and I feel like I’m almost like coming back to it after a long hiatus of maybe not digging into the research quite as much. I’m excited to do a little bit more of that and just have more written content on my site. It’s probably not going to be every week like the podcast was at least in the beginning, but ideally I think eventually I might get there.

Laura: Yeah. I feel like blogs are interesting. I don’t know if they take more work than podcasts, but I think you can get a little bit more perfectionist with a blog post and then not hit publish, basically. Whereas with podcasting, I mean basically once we’re recording it’s like, here we go!

Kelsey: This is it!

Laura: It’s one of those things where I think that was one of the things I liked about podcasting is that it was just you do some prep, we put some bullet points about what we want to talk about, maybe find some articles that we want to talk about. But then once you’re going, it’s just you do it, it takes an hour, and then you’re done. Versus blog posts can be one of those things where you just like rewrite it, and analyze it, and want it better, and all this stuff. That was one reason why I’ve enjoyed having the podcast as being one of our primary content options.

I don’t know what that means for me as far as what my 2018 content is going to look like because I do agree that blog posts are really nice. One thing that you always have to remember as a business owner that I always forget is that the kind of content you like to create is not necessarily the content that your ideal clients like to listen to, or read, or whatever.

Kelsey: Totally.

Laura: It’s funny because when I think about it, I don’t listen to podcasts really. I mean occasionally I do like if I’m on a longer drive and I want to listen to something, or if there’s maybe like a walk I’m taking and I just want to have something to listen to that’s not music, I will listen to that. But I don’t subscribe to any podcasts. I don’t listen to anything regularly. I think some people make content that if they offer a transcript, I’m going to read the transcript instead of listening to the podcast.

Kelsey: Right, exactly.

Laura: It’s just funny because when you think about it that way, there’s probably a big chunk of people that we’re not reaching because they don’t listen to podcasts. That’s another reason why I think we wanted to explore other alternative content avenues because it’s like maybe we’re missing… there’s like 80 percent of the people out there that would be interested in hearing what we have to say, but they don’t listen to podcasts. Maybe we have the 20 percent that do, which is awesome, but at some point we’ve got to kind of branch out and do other things.

Kelsey: It’s good to just see what people respond to too. We have some really great, dedicated listeners who are probably listening to this episode. But maybe we had some people that started listening and they kind of dropped off, and they wish we did more blogging, or did more videos, or Instagram, or whatever.

I feel like it’s important to just experiment with what works. That’s something just as a business owner I feel like is really important to remember. You just have to try stuff. And some of it is not going to work, or some of it’s going to work for a while, but then times change and you have to adapt.

I feel like at least for me right now, I’m so grateful for everything that the podcast says has done for us and I’m so happy we could help other people learn about this stuff, but I’m really ready to change at this point and just kind of like try other things and see what sticks. I feel pretty open to what that might look like. My initial plan is certainly to start with blogging, but who knows? It could go anywhere from there. I feel like that’s sort of how you feel as well.

Laura: Yeah. Well part of the challenge is that technology is changing so much and it changes really fast. That’s another reason why shaking things up is really important because it’s like if you just get used to doing something over and over, and technology is changing, and then the way that you used to reach people isn’t really effective anymore, then you’re going to just kind of like get stagnant. Maybe the people who know you and have been following you for a long time will still come back to you, but a lot of times you will start to kind of fade into the background because you’re not competing with other people’s messaging.

When I say competing, I don’t mean like we’re trying to compete. You and I don’t try to compete with each other for example. But I think you and I do want to compete with some of the messaging out there that we don’t agree with, some of the things that are being talked about in the field of health and nutrition that we think is wrong. I think we want to make sure that our message is getting out there and not being drowned out by the people who are keeping up with the way tech changes and being more proactive about following those changes so that their message is what’s being seen.

I know for Facebook for example, this is something that I feel like I really need to figure out because Facebook just kind of like confuses me as far as how to actually get people to see your stuff other than just paying for it.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: This is something that I’ve thought about and my coaches this year have encouraged me to start doing next year to do videos as content. I think that from what I’ve seen just being a user of Facebook, I definitely noticed that most of the content that comes up on my page when I’m just scrolling through my news feed is video.

And it’s one of these things where it’s like obviously Facebook is preferring to show video, and I will admit the thought of doing video is really freaky to me just because If feel like we’re going back to square one where we felt podcasts were scary. Now I’m like oh great, now I have to reteach myself how to do a style of content that is… video is like the next level and video makes me uncomfortable. There’s things about video that make it more challenging because like right now I’ll admit I’m sitting in my pajamas.

Kelsey: Same.

Laura: That doesn’t matter because nobody can see us. Whereas if I do a video, I have to get…I don’t want to say dressed up, but I’m not going to sit there and a pair of sweats with like a messy bun on the top of my head, and no makeup on, and that kind of thing.

I think with video there’s a little bit of a barrier there that I’m like I really don’t want to get dressed and do my hair or anything like that. But it’s one of those things where you don’t want to just look like a slob on video, so doing a little bit of self-care is going to be part of that.

But it’s one of those things where a combination of the effort that goes into creating a video and then just the comfort level. I’ve done videos in the past and they kind of make me feel just nervous and I trip over my words, that kind of thing. Obviously we had the same issue and we started the podcast, so I’m sure I can get over it.

Kelsey: Right. It’s just something you’ve got to get over. But yeah, it’s tough to start something new.

Laura: Yeah. I think just knowing that podcasts may not be the best way to get content out to people and then also that there’s people that don’t listen to podcasts that are missing the opportunity to learn content, I think those two things were another big reason why I thought taking a break from podcasting would make sense.

Kelsey: Yeah. We’ve got to just try stuff out. I know, I’m like inherently afraid of video as well. So I totally feel you on that. I keep reading things that’s like yeah, video is the way to go for social media. But I’m like, ugh, I don’t want to do video.

Laura: I know, it’s terrible. It’s funny, whenever I talk to my male colleagues or people that are just doing online business in some way, I’m like I’m so jealous. You guys just get to like shower, and maybe put some stuff in your hair, and you’re like ready to go.

Kelsey: Right. I wish.

Laura: And I’m like I have to plan my workout schedule around if I’m going to be on a video because my hair takes so long to dry and I’m not going to show up to a video being like sweat covered and just gross and stuff. It’s like it would be so nice.

To be fair, arguably I could just show up post shower, no makeup if I wanted to if that was something I was comfortable doing. But for whatever reason, I just don’t feel like that’s something I’m ready to do just being like, this is me. I just showered and I’m in my sweats, and hair is a mess, and no makeup, and now I’m going to talk to you about nutrition.

Kelsey: Right. Hey, maybe people would love it. But yeah, it’s about your comfort too, and I feel the same way. I’m not ready to do that quite yet.

Laura: I thought what we could talk about is just kind of thinking about the last four years and what we’ve enjoyed about podcasting because I don’t want to talk about it like it’s terrible, and we’re so done with it, and we’re glad that it’s over. I think we did have a bit of a bittersweet feeling today being like it’s our last episode! With podcasting, what was something that you enjoyed about doing it for the last four years?

Kelsey: Gosh, it’s such a big question. Honestly I think the most fulfilling thing for me has been hearing from listeners because I’ve gotten a lot of clients that have been listeners, and I’m sure you have as well. And those typically I have to say are like my favorite people ever because I feel like they get me. It’s always funny to hear from them too because they’re like I feel like I know you already. I’ve listened to you for so long and this is really great to actually speak with you one on one. So that to me has been like a huge, huge draw of podcasting and one reason why I’ve really loved doing it over the last four years.

And just to be able to, for people who don’t become clients, to be able to help them work through a problem that they’re not getting coaching on otherwise I think is really awesome. Because when you’re reading a blog, it’s a little harder to do that coaching piece when you are just like talking somebody through something, and I think there’s a lot to be said for that. So I’m really happy that our content will live on forever and be able to help people as they discover it now because to me that’s something that I really enjoy knowing is that there are people out there that maybe I never hear from, but that our content has really helped them work through something amazing.

Laura: Yeah. I’ve heard feedback from people on things like Instagram or Facebook where they said that they solved a health problem because of our podcast. I feel like we know that there’s people out there that maybe haven’t reached out to tell us that too, so I definitely agree that our podcast has had a positive impact on at least several people, I’m hoping a decent number of people.

But like you said, it’s nice to be able to have almost that relationship established before we work with someone that’s been listening to our podcast. So that’s been cool whenever a client has that background of knowing us, and knowing how we talk, and knowing what our philosophy is, that kind of thing and so they are not surprised when they start talking to us and they’re like wait, what? You don’t believe in doing like a ketogenic diet? Or whatever. I definitely agree that just being able to help people in that way has been really cool.

I would say one of the things I’ve enjoyed about podcasting beyond what you mentioned is… I have two things I would say. One, being able to do some interviews with people that were really cool and actually learning some stuff from those interviews that I didn’t know before. I think that’s one downside about ending our podcast is that we’re basically not going to have that platform to share other people’s information through anymore. That’s something I want to think about, like how can I still offer that because there are so many awesome practitioners and health experts out there that maybe they don’t have time to run a podcast, but they can be on other people’s podcasts or on other people’s websites so that they can get their message to more people.

That was something that’s been really cool. I know we’ve had a lot of interviews that have been really popular. I think some of our more popular ones were like Dr. Laura Briden and Jolene Brighten. Those two women I think we had some really significantly high downloads for those episodes.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I’ve had clients tell me that they were so appreciative of those episodes because they learned really important things. I think having that platform to share other people’s work has been really cool.

And then I would say the other thing that I’ve appreciated about podcasting is the fact that it’s push us outside of our initial comfort zone. Back in 2013 when we started podcasting just having so much…I don’t want to say fear necessarily, but there was a lot of nerves. There was a lot of like how are people going to respond to this and is this going to be good? Just a lot of what ifs.

Doing this for four years I think really has taught us how to speak better, how to share a message more effectively, what people are looking for when it comes to content, making sure that we’re not necessarily only looking to make people happy, but also taking into consideration what their preferences are and what makes it easier for them to learn. I think it’s been a really good learning process and a great way to just develop our ability to share information with people in a more effective way.

When we were talking about the video thing a minute ago, on one hand I’m like I definitely feel a little angsty about the idea of doing it. But then on the other hand, that’s how we felt with the podcast. It might just be the next logical step to move to video and then get used to it and then maybe now that I’m comfortable talking on video, maybe I can do more public speaking or something like that.

It’s definitely from a professional development perspective been really helpful and really positive and. I’m glad we did it because honestly I think we’ve learned how to talk to audiences better, we’ve learned how to talk to individual clients better, we’ve gotten to learn about topics that we did research for and then be able to describe that to people. I feel like it’s been a great learning experience for us.

Like we said, we’re not sure if it’s going to be done forever. But it is something that we may have at least for the time being maxed out how much benefit we’re getting professionally from the podcast and so I think it’s time to see what other kind of new adventures that our business can go on, and what kind of things we can learn, and how we can stretch ourselves a little bit more.

Kelsey: Yeah. I would add to that too, I might get a little sappy here, but you it’s been really great to talk to you for the last four years too. This was kind of how our whole other business started. Paleo Rehab would not exist basically if we weren’t doing this podcast together I think. It’s been really great to get to know you and your business and create a business together over these last four years. It’s just been super fun.

Laura: Awe, Kelsey, your making me sad. Well the good news is Kelsey and I still collaborate on things.

Kelsey: Yeah. We’ve got Paleo Rehab going.

Laura: Yeah, and we have some other projects in the works hopefully for the next couple of months of this year. So I know that you and I are still going to be chatting, and still going to be complaining about our pets doing weird things, and our excitement over our new husbands and everything.

It’s funny because I feel like one thing that was tough for us was figuring out how to incorporate some of that chit chat into our podcast. We were like that’s part of what we actually enjoy about podcasting and we would get such mixed reviews about it. Some people would say I love it and it’s so nice to get to know you. And then other people would be like can you guys just shut up about yourselves and just give us the information? I think that was a big reason why we moved the updates the end of the show because we wanted to still offer them, but then not annoy people that didn’t want to hear it.

But it’s just hard because some of the more popular podcasts that I’m aware of, like I know…what’s the name of the new one? It used to be The Paleo Women. What is it now? The Well-Fed Women Podcast?

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: I’ve listened to them a few times and I’m like, wow, they do a lot of chit chat. I hate to say this, but some people I think are a little bit more naturally entertaining.

Kelsey: Right. Maybe we don’t have those personalities. It’s fine.

Laura: That’s fine because it doesn’t mean that that makes us bad people or bad podcasters or something. But it’s like there are some people out there that I think they get a big podcast audience because of the entertainment value. I don’t know if you and I are the most entertaining people. That’s not to be like mean or rude or anything. It’s the just the facts right.

Kelsey: It’s the truth.

Laura: Everyone needs something different. I think our skills tend to be more translating evidence into practical recommendations. Whether or not that needs to be entertaining is TBD, but that might be a reason why the podcast hasn’t been necessarily as successful as other podcasts are because maybe the people listening to podcasts want someone who’s partially entertaining them.

Kelsey: Right, which would make sense.

Laura: Yeah. I think I’d feel the same way if I’m listening to a podcast that’s not super entertaining, I may not keep listening to it. Whereas something like a blog post because they’re reading it and they can kind of do a scan and they can look for the information that they need, they don’t necessarily need to be entertained. They just want to be educated. I think if we can figure out how we can best play on our educational skills and not necessarily rely on needing to entertain people, I feel like that will be a great way to share our content and get a bigger audience because we’re doing things that more closely align with our skills as opposed to trying to fit a round peg into a square hole or something like that.

Kelsey: And you get a play to your strengths. Again, that’s something that I feel like I’ve learned kind of over and over through owning a business is you don’t need to be like other people who are successful. You have to make your success yourself by playing to the things that you are really good at.

Laura: I feel like podcasting, we’ve gotten better at it for sure. I think we’re a lot better than we were when we first started. But I don’t know if we’re ever going to be the kind of people that people listen to to just enjoy hearing people joke about things.

I was trying to remember who else I was thinking of. I always think of Liz Wolfe as being someone who I would listen to just because she’s funny whether or not I learned anything.

Kelsey: Just a lot of fun to listen to.

Laura: Right. And so it’s tough because it’s like I don’t want to compare myself to Liz. I don’t want to be like I need to be like Liz and like figure out how to quote old movies or “A Christmas Story” and that kind of thing.

Just recognizing that certain mediums are more I guess more friendly to certain types of personalities and not being mad about it, but just being like what is the best way for me to share content? Is maybe writing my skill that I should get into more? So it’s tough.

I mean I feel like with running a business, you’re always kind of tweaking things, and playing around with stuff, and experimenting, and trying to figure out what is the best way to reach people. It may be that podcasting is a good thing for us to do, but it might just be a different context or maybe we need to re-evaluate how we run the show. I know our shows tend to go a little long, so if we ever got back into it, maybe we would do short ones. There’s still a lot of what ifs that I don’t think we have answers to and the only way we’re going to discover those answers is if we get a chance to do something different for a bit.

Kelsey: Yeah. Maybe this is a good segue into just talking a little bit about what our plans are for 2018 even though it technically when you guys are listening to this is already 2018. We’re still sort of in those planning stages at the moment. It’s basically mid December when we’re recording this.

I know I talked a little bit about before that blogging at least for me to start off with is going to be where my focus turns. I’m going to use the time that I was using to podcast to focus more on that. But another thing that I’m really planning to do next year, or this year, is to focus on getting my Build Your Biome program out to more people because I just haven’t had the time or the resources to devote to it in 2017. I feel really excited about the possibility of sharing that with more people because I feel about that kind of how I felt about our podcast, which is just that it’s so helpful and I want to get it into as many hands as possible.

To do that you have to put in the effort to market it effectively and make sure it’s reaching the right people. That’s a hard thing to do and it’s a learning process too. It’s not something that’s just like inherently in your brain that you know how to market this kind stuff. For me that’s like a big thing that I want to focus on in 2018 is figuring out how to market that program to reach the people that I feel like it should reach.

Laura: It’s funny because I’ve had a couple of clients of mine do your program, not necessarily that I was like telling them to do the program. I think because of our podcast, a lot of times we’ll have people that do both of our things. I had a client recently tell me that she did the Build Your Biome course, and that it was awesome, and that it like basically finally helped her get rid of her SIBO. That was really cool.

Kelsey: Oh good!

Laura: Yeah, because she had come back to me after a couple of years that we hadn’t been working together and she has some other things we’re working on now, but she had done the course specifically because…I don’t even remember if we diagnosed her with SIBO when we were working together because it was probably 2015 the last time I was working with her. I was joking with her because she listens to the podcast, and maybe she’s listening now, but she was saying congratulations on your wedding! I was like I think last time I talked to you, I didn’t even know my husband at that point.

Kelsey: That’s funny.

Laura: But yeah, she has said she had done your online program and that it really helped her. I think that’s what’s really cool about having online programs is that you can reach people with content that you might not have otherwise. There’s people that maybe can’t afford to do the one on one. Or maybe they’re working with another practitioner one on one, but they want another person’s feedback or information on something. It’s just nice to able to have those products available because it allows for your information to get to people that maybe wouldn’t get it otherwise.

Kelsey: Yeah, I agree. You’ve got your Get Your Period Back program and I think you’re thinking about creating some other ones too, right?

Laura: Yeah. I feel like the Get Your Period Back program was kind of a… I don’t even know how to describe it. I feel like it just kind of came to me as a topic I could do a program on and it was a pretty big push to get it out pretty quickly. Whereas I feel like the other programs that we’ve worked on either together, or on other people’s programs, or for our own program, like we did so much more planning, and crafting, and redoing things, and we did a beta program, and then we redid it.

It’s just like this one I think during the course itself when people were taking it, I was like a week ahead finishing content or the next week. To be fair, I don’t think I’m going to do that quite so narrowly next time.

Kelsey: Yeah. You’re like maybe I learned something with this.

Laura: Or if I do that, I need to do it and not be also doing 12 clients or 15 clients a week or something. Because that was I think the most stressful part of the year for me was trying to keep all the other aspects of my business going and then I also have to get all this content done on a weekly basis. I was working on Saturdays, I was working on Sundays. There was this one time that Josh and I were going on a trip and I got up at like 7:00 in the morning to work on it and then we were driving and I was working on it while we were driving in the car using my phone as like an Internet source.

Kelsey: Oh gosh!

Laura: I was like this is a little crazy. For argument’s sake, I probably wouldn’t do it that way again. But I will say that it was really cool to be able to get the content out so fast because I think something that both of us struggle with is just that perfectionism, which can be good in some ways, but also it just slows you down so much and it makes you want to have everything perfect before you put it out to the world. This was like, okay, it’s just got to get done. And I’m not saying I didn’t do a good job because obviously I was working like seven days a week on it. But I also feel like sometimes you just have to have that push to put it out there.

Kelsey: For sure.

Laura: So that was one cool thing about doing it that way. But I am excited to see what happens with the people who went through the program because it’s always interesting when you do an online program for the first time and it’s like well I know this stuff works when I’ve worked with one on one people. Let’s see how it works when it’s a group program.

The other challenge is that the amenorrhea thing, it can take a while before that the changes actually lead to results. It’s a six week program, but I’m not saying people are going to get their period back in six weeks after going through the program. So I’m going to have to check in with my class that finished. I guess it was around Thanksgiving that we finished, not even that long ago. I’m probably going to check in in the next couple of weeks or so just to find out how they’re doing, if anyone did get their period back from the recommendations in the course yet. Once I get some feedback there, I might also find out if there’s anything that they felt like they needed additionally and I might end up making some changes to the course.

But ultimately just want to have a really solid course that is effective. Efficacy is tough with the group online courses because it’s like you know that the recommendations work, but whether or not the person is able to implement based on the structure of the program is always the challenge. Just trying to figure out if that way of working with people is as effective and if it is actually helpful because sometimes people really do need that handholding from a one on one relationship and you can’t do that in an online course. It’s just a matter of figuring out how do I maximize the way that that course works for people while also understanding that there are limitations to any sort of virtual coaching course.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. Same thing with my program where it’s like it’s an eight week program, but most people are on antimicrobials for at least six weeks or two months, sometimes even three months. It’s like yeah, you might feel better, but maybe not fully better. Especially for yours where it’s like a very definitive yes or no to an answer, I think it’s a good idea to check back. It’s always fun to see I think for online programs, like wow, this really helps a lot of people. I knew it would, but it’s always great to just hear back from people. I love hearing that your client had a good experience with it too. Always great to hear those stories.

Laura: Do you have any other programs that you’re going to create or are you going to mostly focus on spreading the Build Your Biome course to more people?

Kelsey: I have this idea in the back of my brain, we’ll see when or if it ever comes to fruition. But basically something along the lines of like a pregnancy prep course that incorporates gut health because it’s such a huge piece of preparing for a healthy pregnancy. That’s something I’ve been working on a little bit more with my one on one clients and I really like that area. It wouldn’t be a fertility course necessarily. It could be for somebody who’s having fertility problems, but the main audience I think would be for people who want to get pregnant and they think that they will be able to get pregnant, but they want to do everything in their power to ensure a healthy child and give them the best start possible is kind of where I’m thinking of going with it.

That’s really been like just a little a little spark of an idea in my brain that I’ve been thinking more about, but I have no solid plans for putting that into practice anytime super soon. But it’s something eventually I’d like to get on the market.

Laura: Nice.

Kelsey: Yeah. What about you?

Laura: I would say I have a couple of different things that I’m toying around with. I would like to have another program. I’m not sure what that would look like if it would be another thing like Get Your Period Back where it’s kind of a standalone course that people can just download and use at any time or if there would be something more of like an upper level program that’s more of  a group coaching type of thing.

I have a concept in mind that I’m still playing around with, but it would almost be more of like a total life coaching program that maybe could be done online. I think the best example of something similar that I can think of is Steph Gaudreau from Stupid Easy Paleo has her six week online Harder To Kill course that she offers. Mine would be something similar to that where it’s like just basic health and mindset and that kind of thing.

There would probably be some fundamental differences. I think something that makes me a little different than not only Steph, but then a lot of other people in our field is just my religious beliefs. I’m still trying to decide if that’s something I want to start incorporating more into my business than what I’ve been doing which is basically just like occasionally I’ll do an Instagram post or something that’s like relevant.

I’m still trying to flesh that out because on one hand I don’t want to alienate people that aren’t Christian because obviously I work with tons of people who aren’t Christian and I don’t discriminate against people who aren’t Christian. But the other the other side of the question is that one of the things with doing anything in a business is you’re supposed to figure out what makes you different than other people.

I think that’s something that makes me a lot different than what already exists out there. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s going to be a component of it or not and if that’s something that I want to create a program that has that as like part of the program itself as involving that, or I just want to create something that’s more general and still do the Christian stuff with my social media, and blogging, and that kind of thing, but not make it like a component of the program. I’m still trying to figure that out.

Kelsey: It’s a tough question.

Laura: I know and it’s hard because like I feel like religion is such a hot button issue. It’s not as simple as like I really like weight training and that’s what makes me different because most other people like to do running, or something like that. It’s something that it can be a little bit alienating for people that aren’t religious and that’s why I’m a little hesitant about making it a huge component of my business.

But the other side of that is that I do work with a lot of Christian clients and I think that perspective because it’s such a deep… I’m trying to think…

Kelsey: It’s like a value. I don’t know I know what you’re trying to say.

Laura: Yeah. It’s like a level of belief that it really does affect all the decisions that they make. It affects their mindset. It affects what they prioritize. It’s so foundational that I’m like I know that the people who are Christian need that as part of their health equation.  I’m just trying to figure out how I want to offer that, if that’s something I want to create as part of my next program, or if it’s just kind of like sprinkled in here and there. Still trying to figure that out.

If somebody is listening and they have a feedback about that. If they are thinking I would love that! That’s awesome! Please do that. Let me know because I think part of the problem is a lot of times you and I are trying to figure out what we should do based on what we’re hearing from clients or like what we’re seeing out there, but we don’t necessarily know for sure if people are going to like it. If you’re listening and you’re like yes, I would love a Christian health based program to go through, then please tell me because I’m definitely thinking about it.

Kelsey: I’ll say just hearing you talk about it, I’m like I could totally see that being really popular. It niches you. You have like this subset of people that is a perfect fit for that program, which I think is really great. When you’re trying to sell something and when you’re trying to reach the right people, if you can just speak to those people and know that they’re going to resonate with what you’re saying, it makes such a big difference. And like you said, because that’s such a foundational piece of someone’s life, I feel like you’re right, it goes into all other aspects of how they live their life. I like the idea. I’m not even Christian, but I think it’s a cool idea.

Laura: Yeah. It’s one of those things that I have this problem where I try to make everybody happy. I’m working on it. I’m a recovering people pleaser. But the thought of doing something that would totally alienate like half the people that follow my work or something, it does make me a little nervous.

But on the other hand, like you said, if you’re not speaking to somebody specific, then you’re not really speaking to anybody. That’s another challenge is like how specific do I need to be? And would my non-Christian clients get annoyed if I was doing more of that? Maybe not.

That might be a little bit of like self-limiting thoughts or anxieties that I have about like I said the topic of religion being so…. it’s like one of those things you’re not supposed to talk about basically. Although I will say from a Christian perspective, it’s like the main thing you’re supposed to talk about. There is that level of conflict in my brain. But just trying to figure out what am I going to create? What gets me excited? What is my message? That’s all the kind of stuff that I still am figuring out.

I feel like you and I being somewhat younger, you’re younger than me, but I even think when I look at other people that I admire their business, they’re all like mid 30s, upper 30s.

Kelsey: I know. I think we have to check ourselves sometimes. You’ve got time.

Laura: I know. It’s not that I want to be slow, and not do things, and be too cautious or anything. But I also feel like I need to give myself a break. If these people I’m watching are just kind of getting their message really solidified, they’re eight years older than me. It’s like well maybe I don’t have to have all my life figured out right now.

Kelsey: Very true. I agree.

Laura: That’s some of the stuff I’m thinking about. This is another kind of like project that I can’t really give a ton of details about, but I’m still trying to figure out if I can do some kind of content on carbs because I think even though you and I talk about it so much on the show, for whatever reason, it’s still not out there.

Kelsey: Yeah, as a main stream topic.

Laura: Yeah. I’m thinking is there some way I can make that into a product because there’s so much to this low carb keto stuff coming out right now. I’m not bashing that, and there’s I think a role for that, and I’ve worked with clients and I’ve put them on keto diets. So I’m not a hundred percent anti keto. But I also think that because that’s the main message getting put out right now as far as I can see, there’s no balance.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I feel like there is a space for the other side of the carbs question to be explored and to be talked about. That might be something I do also and still trying to figure out details of that or what that looks like. My potential ideas are a lot less solidified than yours.

Kelsey: Oh please. Mine are not solidified really either.

Laura: I know you and I are both going to be continuing working with clients. The other thing that I had mentioned earlier in the episode was my business coaches that I worked with this year were encouraging me to start doing videos more often. With the time that we’re going to have not recording the podcast, I’m hoping to basically just do what we used to do with like setting up a topic, and making our bullet points, and that kind of thing and actually doing just a short video on that instead.

Kelsey: Sweet.

Laura: I’m putting it out there to make me do it because if I admit it to the people who are listening right now, that’s going to put some level of pressure on me to actually follow through. But like I said, I just feel like I’ve seen that being really the way that social media and content is going and I don’t want to not do it just because I’m scared. That might be something I end up putting out more frequently.

I don’t know when that will happen because I do have to kind of figure out what my schedule is going to look like and how that’s going to work. But I will hopefully be doing that next year.

Kelsey: You will be doing it next year.

Laura: I will be doing it next year. I’m going to be doing it. I’m going to be doing it when this podcast episode comes out.

Kelsey: There you go.

Laura: on’t want to commit to that actually.

Kelsey: You’ve got a deadline now.

Laura: Oh no! I hate deadlines.

Kelsey: I think we’ve both got some really cool stuff on the horizon that we’re very excited about and we hope you guys listening are really excited about it too even though it’s different for sure. We’ve been joking that it’s kind of an end of an era with ending this podcast. It feels a little weird, a bit bittersweet. But in many ways we feel like it’s the right decision and we hope that you’ll stick with us.

Laura: Yeah. Well, is that the end?

Kelsey: I know. How do we end this? It feels so dramatic.

Laura: I know. It’s so funny because it’s like such a random episode number. Number 138. But we have really enjoyed having you guys follow us along. And those of you who are regular listeners, we hope that you understand our decision and that you don’t feel like we’re abandoning you because we definitely don’t want you to feel that way.

If you have been listening to the show for a while and you have any ideas about any content or any things that you would like to see from us since you have been such loyal listeners, we would love to hear from you. You can use our contact tab. We might have to change it a little bit instead of having people submit questions. But for now, if you want to use it the way it is and just write in there what you like to see or what you need help with, it will help us figure out what kind of content we should continue working on.

We might even use some of the questions that have gotten submitted to guide some of our blogging. Pease feel free to keep submitting topics that you’re interested in or questions that you have because we do want to keep answering those questions for you. It’s just going to be a different format.

But otherwise, it’s been great talking to you, Kelsey.

Kelsey: Yeah, you too, Laura. This is so sad.

Laura: I know. Well we’re going to go cry and release emotions about the ending of the era of podcasting for us, or at least just for now.

Kelsey: For now.

Laura: But we hope you all have a wonderful 2018 and we hope that we will still be a part of it in some way.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: A Sustainable Approach To Macro Tracking With Emily Field

Thanks for joining us for episode 137 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are excited to be interviewing Emily Field!

Emily Field is a real food dietitian who teaches women a balanced eating approach so they can finally break up with depriving diet behaviors and nonsense food rules for good. Through flexible dieting, and tracking macros, and tailoring nutrition around effective exercise, her clients are stronger, leaner, and more confident than ever before. They are typically enjoying more food and stressing less about their eating habits. You can learn more about Emily at EmilyFieldRD.com.

Tracking macros is an effective way to reach body composition goals. Oftentimes just thinking about strictly tracking everything you eat is just overwhelming, especially in social situations.

Emily Field joins us today to share a sustainable approach to tracking macros while cultivating healthy eating habits. With flexible dieting, Emily makes macro tracking a sustainable part of daily life that’s compatible with changing situations.

Join us to hear how tracking macros is a better approach than tracking calories, how it can help you have more food freedom, and who flexible dieting is a good fit for.

Emily is also sharing practical tips that you can use today such as tools to get you started tracking, how to split up macro amounts during the day, and tips for eating in restaurants.

Here is some of what we discussed with Emily:

  • [00:03:49] Emily’s journey to specializing in flexible dieting
  • [00:06:03] Definition of macros and flexible dieting
  • [00:09:08] How flexible dieting can help you have more food freedom while improving your metabolism
  • [00:13:08] Why tracking macros is a better approach than tracking calories
  • [00:20:11] Who flexible dieting is a good approach for
  • [00:23:27] How to begin tracking macros
  • [00:29:51] Tips for eating in restaurants and how it’s okay not to track 100% of the time
  • [00:36:24] Tools to get you started getting a macro prescription
  • [00:39:03] How to split up macro amounts during the day
  • [00:41:44] Emily clears up the controversy after her interview with Business Insider
  • [00:45:46] Emily’s Macros Made Easy program

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 137 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my co-host Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hi everybody!

Kelsey: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com and Laura over at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.

We’ve got a great guest on our show today who’s going to share her insight into flexible dieting and how it can help you reach your body composition goals. We’re so glad that Emily is joining us and we think you’ll really enjoy this episode.

Laura: If you are enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that way you never miss an episode. And while you’re in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: But before we get into our interview, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

You know that we’re all about nutrient diversity here at The Ancestral RDs, which is why we’re really excited about the products at Dr. Cowan’s Garden. Dr. Cowan’s Garden makes nutrient dense, organic vegetable powders that can be added to your food to increase your nutrient diversity in an easy and delicious way. These powders are a perfect way to get valuable added nutrients if you aren’t eating as many plants as you’d like. In fact, Dr. Cowan’s Garden even uses some vegetables that are difficult to obtain like sea vegetables, perennial greens, and wild ramps. The vegetables are cooked to reduce anti-nutrient content and then they’re dehydrated on low heat to preserve their nutrients. Finally, they’re stored in Miron jars which prevent light from penetrating so the powders remain flavorful over time. Want to add more nutrient diversity to your diet? Use code “Ancestral RDS” at drcowansgarden.com for 20 percent off your order.

Kelsey: Welcome back, everybody! Today we are so pleased to have with us Emily Field. Emily Field is a real food dietitian who teaches women a balanced eating approach so they can finally break up with depriving diet behaviors and nonsense food rules for good. Through flexible dieting, and tracking macros, and tailoring nutrition around effective exercise, her clients are stronger, leaner, and more confident than ever before. They are typically enjoying more food and stressing less about their eating habits. You can learn more about Emily at EmilyFieldRD.com.

Welcome, Emily!

Emily: Thanks for having me!

Kelsey: I’m super excited to talk to you today because I think this is a topic that a lot of people possibly don’t know about I think it can be a really effective tool to helping people achieve their goals in a way that’s manageable and gets them to their goals faster than they would otherwise.

I want to know a little bit more about your journey to becoming an RD that kind of specializes in macros and flexible dieting. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Emily: Sure. I know a bit about your past and being an RD being taught in a traditional way, but I didn’t learn much about macronutrients in school or like even manipulating them to help somebody achieve a certain health goal. So it was much later in my career that I kind of arrived at this.

Actually it’s funny because I read a lot of Laura’s articles on Chris Kresser’s website and listened to Chris Kresser’s podcast. It probably changed the trajectory of my career back like four or five years ago. What I learned from that is to embrace whole real foods and really shaped my understanding of Paleo and whole real foods, and balance, and things like that. I started to use some of the tools that Chris Kresser had on his website and I started to shape my understanding of what real food nutrition should look like with my clients.

The natural progression for somebody is once they are embracing whole real foods and then once they’re starting to feel really good in their skin, there’s kind of this next level, this curiosity. Like things are going really well, so what’s next? It kind of just naturally falls into helping somebody understand how much to eat. And that’s where flexible comes in. It’s about the amounts and what balance of foods they should have in order to achieve the results they’re looking for.

Kelsey: Makes sense. You sort of went through your own version of that process yourself which led you to realize that this was a really awesome tool that you could use not only with yourself but with your clients too.

Emily: Absolutely. When things are going really well…we obviously want to rule out when somebody is struggling with sleep issues, skin issues, digestive issues, like they’re really struggling with energy and stuff like that, we want to get them feeling good. And then at this the next progression, the next step is oftentimes look at how much and then where we can push their metabolism, and where we can push their athletic performance, and different things like that.

Kelsey: For people who maybe are not familiar with these terms macros and flexible dieting, can you explain to us what that means exactly?

Emily: Sure. Macros stands for macronutrients and those are the big nutrients that make up all of our food, so the proteins, the fats, and the carbohydrates. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates contribute to calories. They contribute to the energy that we get from our food and all our food is made up of those three things.

Flexible dieting is just the approach or the method in which you would track the food that you eat and how much protein, fat, and carbohydrate comes from those foods, and manipulate your diet in order to get a certain amount of protein, fats, and carbs throughout the day. Does that make sense?

Kelsey: Yes. Like Laura and I always talk to our clients and we’ve talked on the podcast before about, if you’re trying to increase your carbs for example, a lot of people don’t know what that means beyond just like maybe having another serving of whatever carb they’re having at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

But when you’re flexible dieting, I think at least to me the main difference is that we assign numbers. It’s a little bit different than just kind of looking at it on your plate, although that’s the eventual goal is to be kind of better at eyeballing things I think so that you don’t have to track so much and be logging things on My Fitness Pal all the time. But I think that it’s a really good tool to get people to be able to know exactly what amount of food and what amount of carbs, fat, and protein really works well for them to achieve their goals.

Is that sort of your end goal for a lot of your clients too where eventually you want them to just be a little bit better at eyeballing things so they know kind of what they’re aiming for in terms of numbers but how that looks on their plate?

Emily: Absolutely, yeah. I don’t imagine my clients or even me tracking my food forever. I dip in and out and a lot of my clients that have let’s say graduated working with me, they’ll dip in and out of strict tracking for whatever reason. Maybe strict tracking comes back when they’re wanting to get ready for a physical event. I work with some Olympic weightlifters and getting down to a weight class is really important to them. So they’ll tighten up their eating habits and go back to tracking, which just means that they’re dialing in their nutrition to make sure they’re getting enough fuel for their workouts but not anything extra. Or maybe they’re jumping up in a weight class and wanting to put on some math. I mean it’s different for everybody.

But you’re right. We just don’t have a really good understanding of what 20 grams of carbs looks like, or what 10 grams of fat looks like. When you start tracking your food and start tracking your macronutrients, you can get a really good picture of what does half an avocado provide you, or what does a small sweet potato provide you. That can be really helpful.

Kelsey: Yeah. What you just said sort of jumped out to me as something that for some people can probably feel a little bit too controlling. I think that’s something that a lot of people do struggle with where maybe they were calorie counters in the past and they’ve kind of like yo-yo dieted over the years and things like that. Maybe there’s a fear of food eventually because there’s maybe even disordered eating in their past. This kind of tracking, can this work for somebody who has some level of a fear of food, or calories, or those sort of things? Can this work for them?

Emily: I absolutely think so. Obviously I’m going to judge every client as they come in just to see where they’re at. Maybe we’ll take the approach in a different way depending on how riled up they get about numbers and tracking their food because they do have to know a little bit about themselves and where their triggers are.

But by and large most people are eating more because they feel more food freedom when they track macronutrients. And the reason why is because when you have three little numbers to be looking for instead of a sweeping number of calories, you actually end up feeling better on the…I still call it a diet, but I usually say the words eating pattern.

Because you’re having a balance of macronutrients in some way, your blood sugar actually ends up being more balanced which oftentimes means less snacking….and then just definitely better energy and higher kind of drive and motivation. We’re not having these like blood sugar lows. If you’re too low calorie, we all know the situation where you’re feeling hangry and just tired. That’s just no mindset for starting a new eating pattern and new diet.

What I find is after somebody starts tracking their macronutrients and they are looking to hit certain specific goals or even ranges of goals, they’re just generally feeling better and their energy is up so it doesn’t feel like white knuckling it through a diet anymore. It feels a lot better.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think this is something that Laura and I see a lot with our clients and I assume you probably do as well where a lot of people, especially women, although this certainly happens with men too, but they tend to not eat enough. I do think that once you get like a macro prescription and you start tracking things, you sort of see what you might normally eat and how that compares to what you probably should be eating. And for a lot of people, it feels like a ton of food.

But you’re right. They end up feeling so much better because their meals are balanced first of all so their blood sugar is a bit more balanced, but also just eating enough in general makes a huge difference. Is this something you see a lot?

Emily: Absolutely. I think the main comment I get after week one or week two of somebody really trying to hit numbers or ranges of macros is that they feel fuller, they have more energy, but they’re like how do I eat this much food and how am I going to lose weight by eating more?

Unfortunately that’s just the messaging that we get from all over that we need to eat less and move more. You’ll hear me say it here and I’ll say it everywhere; that only makes you tired, and cranky, and hungry, and frustrated, and overtime will slow your metabolism. That’s why there’s this pervasive yo-yo dieting of jumping down in weight and then just piling back on after you’re done with that diet. You’ve slowed your metabolism down. I love flexible dieting because it protects your metabolism, if not improves metabolism, and just makes you feel overall much better.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. When we’re thinking about I guess calorie tracking versus macro tracking, I would assume both could probably get you to your goals. I wouldn’t necessarily say that you’re going to feel as good going through it tracking both those things. But can you kind of tell us a little bit of the difference between the two and why you feel like counting macros is a better approach?

Emily: Well I like to say that your body is counting macronutrients whether or not you are. You need a certain amount of protein, fat, and carbs every single day. If you have more or less of something, it’s going to come in the form of piling on some weight, body fat, storing the extra calories as body fat if we don’t need it, or not recovering while we’re not getting enough protein. There’s consequences good or bad to not meeting your macronutrient needs.

When we’re tracking calories, you certainly could lose weight. But I think by and large most people are interested in trying to lose unwanted body fat and then protecting that lean muscle that they built or that they’re trying to build through exercise. And they’re really interested in more… I assume that your clients are similar to mine, just looking for a leaner physique, looking to fit in their clothes better, looking to have more energy. You can absolutely guarantee that with macronutrient tracking vs. calorie tracking because you might be losing weight, you’re under eating your needs certainly, but you’re just losing weight, and we don’t know where that weight is coming from. Versus in macro tracking we can honestly say if you are losing weight or you’re taking measurements, you’re losing body fat, that unwanted body fat, and  preserving the lean muscle mass.

Kelsey: Got it. And of course that’s going to make a huge difference in body composition for a lot of people. And you’re right, even though we all say we want to lose weight, really what we’re saying is we want to change our body composition by losing fat mass. Right?

Emily: Yes.

Kelsey: I think that’s really, really wonderful. I would add too, and I kind of hinted at it before that for a lot of people I think when they’re only tracking calories, you can end up sort of not balancing blood sugar well and maybe not eating enough protein or not eating enough of some certain amount of macronutrient. Not only are you then just losing weight and potentially muscle mass versus fat, but also you tend to if you’re not eating enough of any of these particular macronutrients, you’re not going to feel great either.

Emily: Yeah. I like to put it back on my client and ask them how they would feel looking at a plate of 500 calories worth of let’s just say like gummy bears, which might be even just like a handful, a large handful of them versus 500 calories of another carb food like broccoli.

Most people that are coming into macro tracking have a good background of like what whole real food looks like and what they should be eating. It’s not a mystery what they should be eating as far as like food choices go. So they might automatically go towards broccoli. But they’re going to feel a ton different and fill up in a totally different way if they’re shaping their calories around a macronutrient like that versus a food like gummy bears.

Kelsey: Right.

Emily: Kind of not making sense there in my head, but you know what I’m trying to say is like 500 calories can take any form and in a candy bar, it takes up no room in your stomach. And yes, you might lose weight by having a candy bar every day in a calorie deficit. But if you’re not meeting your macronutrient needs for the rest of the day, you’re not going to feel as great and your blood sugar could spike and dip and do all these erratic things that don’t make us feel great.

Kelsey: Right. Exactly. Wasn’t there some professor who ate like Twinkies all the time and he showed that you could lose weight on that, which proves that definitely calories do matter, but you’re not going to feel good at all. I can’t imagine he felt good eating Twinkies all the time.

Emily: Yeah. I think his write up was super interesting because his family meal time was so much different and he was missing out on so much because we forgot a lot of times when we’re dieting or changing our eating pattern that food is so much more than just nutrition and just fuel. It’s a social event, a cultural thing and it relates to a lot of different areas or life. He definitely commented on yeah, I lost weight and that’s the proof. But weight isn’t what we’re looking for. Most people are looking to change their body composition to look and feel leaner.

Kelsey: I think you bring up a really good point about just the social and cultural aspect of food. Just bringing it back to what we were talking about before with people maybe with a history of disordered eating or something like that where there is that inherent fear of food at least somewhat still.

I think that kind of being able to look at their food and know what they should be eating and kind of have this less fear around food and more food freedom as you put it, I think that can really help to improve other areas of their health including their social life because they don’t feel like they can’t go out to eat anymore because they won’t be able to stick to whatever plan that they’re trying to do or they just don’t know what they’re getting into at a restaurant.

With the type of meal tracking and flexible dieting they you teach with your clients, is eating out a part of that? Can people do that in a way that still kind of sticks to whatever plan they’re trying to do?

Emily: Yes. We have a lot of strategies to help you make better choices at restaurants because we all know restaurants are two or three times as many calories as maybe we would have at home just because of extra cooking oils, and seasonings, and sauces, and different things like that. So chances are you can eat exactly right off the menu in very rare occasions. Rarely are you going to find somebody that has the calorie needs to be able to house like a 1500 calorie meal in one sitting.

But that said, we can definitely make changes to what you order. I would always recommend no matter if they’re flexible dieting or not that you choose which food you’re going to eat before you go because you have a more mindful decision about that food and what you’re going to be eating.

Certainly my clients are not giving up their social life. They’re not not going out to eat. They’re not bringing food scales to the restaurant either. I don’t want to give that impression you have to weigh and measure your food 100 percent of the time in order to see benefit or see the results that you’re looking for while tracking.

Kelsey: Awesome, yeah. Who is a perfect fit for macro tracking and flexible dieting? Is there any types of people that you can think of that really would do well with this?

Emily: Yes. Probably the people that resonate with the information most are going to be chronic under-eaters, whether they know their chronic under-eaters or they’re accidental chronic under-eaters. When I say this, I mean somebody that’s been restricting for a long time and maybe they’ve been told by a coach or a trainer that they just need to eat more and they feel powerless in that. They feel like I just don’t know how to do that because I need some structure, I need some guidance.

That’s what flexible dieting does for them. They know their metabolism might be damaged or they know they could be able to do more with their athletic performance, but they need to be eating more food and they just feel paralyzed to do it because they’re scared to gain weight. For those people I think it’s a great choice.

I think certainly yo-yo dieters. I would consider this your last effort to improve your metabolism. It will definitely improve your metabolism if done right because we kind of slowly add food back in in a way that makes you feel comfortable so that you’re not gaining weight but even almost always losing body fat at the same time. Those yo-yo dieters that want to not feel like they have to resort to 200 calories or even less in order to lose weight.

I’d say somebody who has specific performance goals like weight lifting, endurance sports, any sport really if you want to make sure that your best fueled for your activity, and best recovered from that activity, and to perform do those four, five, six day a week practices. Flexible dieting could be great because it helps give you those targets to hit to make sure that you’re eating enough.

I’d say a lot of my clients are those people that have great nutrition. They are meal planning, they’re prepping, they’re choosing great things when they’re out, they have a good meal routine, but they’re just kind of looking for a next level and they’re curious where they could push their body, which I think is a super fun place to be. We may do fun things with macro tracking that involve carb cycling, and intermittent fasting, and maybe pairing certain nutrients on certain days according to the activity. So it just provides that kind of next level approach if you just kind of want to take it up a notch and you’re curious how far you can push your body.

Kelsey: Interesting. I love that you said under-eater are kind of a really great fit for this because I totally agree. I think we’ve hit on some of those points as to why and I would say the biggest one probably is just that it makes you feel a little bit more comfortable increasing your calories and obviously your macros over time just because there’s kind of a plan in place. It doesn’t feel like just doubling your meal sizes and trying to like force yourself to eat a bunch more.

I like that you mentioned there’s kind of a slow progression that you can go with if it feels a little scary and you can do it in a way that increases your metabolism slowly over time so there isn’t like this massive weight gain as you just jumped to a much higher calorie level.

I want to talk a little bit more about what this looks like exactly. So if somebody is thinking this is resonating with me, maybe I want to start tracking my macros.  What does that even mean? What does that look like on a daily basis? You mentioned weighing and measuring things. Let’s talk about kind of what somebody has to do in order to actually track their macros?

Emily: As a very beginner if you’re curious about starting and want to just know what next steps would be, I’d say just download an application to your phone like MyFitnessPal or FatSecret. Both of those are my two favorite for tracking macronutrients. These are apps. I would just encourage you to spend two weeks tracking everything that you eat as best you can, as accurately as you can in the app without changing anything. I just would like for you to see where your macronutrients fall at the end of the day on average. Maybe there’s a typical calorie and macro range you hit on weekdays and there’s a typical calorie and macronutrient range you hit on weekends. It’s just all for insight.

Then when it comes to tracking and then also trying to hit targets, it means that you’re maybe looking over your day and making small changes to breakfast. Maybe for a beginner let’s just start with breakfast. Maybe you’re manipulating up the protein a little bit because you notice by the end of the day it’s not that high. It’s maybe your lowest macro.

Maybe it’s making small changes to dinner to have lower carb because that tends to be one of our biggest meals, our heaviest meals. Maybe you want to dial back the carbohydrate and that comes from just eating a little less than the serving size or choosing less starchy carbohydrates and grains and more non starchy carbohydrates like unstarchy vegetables.

Those are the small things that you would do in the beginning. Certainly you’ll want to get a macronutrient prescription. That means that this is either set by a coach, or an online calculator, or you can even use MyFitnessPal in the beginning just to kind of like get you thinking about this.

But you’re going to want to put it in your current weight, and your height, your activity level. Find a calculator that takes into account a bunch of different measures and see what it spits out for you. What are the recommendations that it spits out for you for you to maintain your weight, or lose weight, or gain weight, or whatever according to your goals.

You’re going to be starting to manipulate your typical eating pattern, the one that you’ve been kind of logging over the last two weeks or so to fit the prescription that you’ve been given. And it doesn’t happen overnight. I think you’ve had some experience with this, right, Kelsey? You’re kind of tracking and manipulating your decisions around food to kind of hit these goals by the end of the day.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. I love that you recommend that people just kind of take stock of what they’re currently eating and what that macro breakdown looks like first because I think that’s really eye opening for a lot of people. I know that when I have clients do this, sometimes they’re really surprised. They’re like oh, I’m really not eating a lot of protein or I’m eating way less carbs than I would have guessed I was.

It basically kind of leads them to almost make the decision themselves of where things need to go up or down.  I’ll kind of just lead them in the direction that I think would work for them. But often they’re thinking the same thing from the beginning too just because they’re looking at that thing like oh this is different than I really thought it would be.

Emily: And then comes the fun part where I think we talked a bit about the yo-yo dieters and the chronic under-eater where they almost have this mentality of all or nothing. They’re either on their diet or off their diet. What I love about flexible dieting is that I totally disregard the terms first of all and say there are no good and bad foods. It’s just simply food. I want people to start getting used to making the choice to have treats, and sweets, and restaurant food as they wish, but like build it into their day.

So when they start to get more comfortable with this, and they are eating really well…and I’m sure in the beginning when anyone starts something they eat really, really whole nutrient rich foods and they are feeling great. Because it’s that all or nothing attitude, and they feel afraid to maybe build in a Snickers bar, or like ice cream, or going out to eat, or whatever. I always encourage my clients especially if it’s in the beginning to continue to track and just know how much that’s contributing to your macronutrients. And then the next time you go and do it, try building it in your day little bit better.

I think the thing that actually ends up happening first is people’s initial reaction is just to stop tracking if they don’t have a planned meal, or didn’t have their meals set out for the week, or they had a happy hour come up. They just stop tracking. And that’s not the point. I want you to see what those foods and those drinks do to your macronutrients. I guess it can vary. But like for a lot of people, it’s not really blowing your calories or macros out of the water as much as you thought they were.

Kelsey: Right, right. I’m laughing at myself because I’m one of those people sometimes. I do the same thing that you’re mentioning too, like I kind of go through cycles with tracking. I’m trying to get back into it right now for example because there’s some fat that I’d like to lose.

Our listeners probably know that I went through some pretty significant health issues last year, kind of gained a good bit of weight from being in a moldy apartment and not feeling great with that situation, and not being able to exercise a whole lot. I keep kind of going through cycles of tracking to lose a little bit of weight at a time.

But I’m one of those people that tracking is just not where my brain wants to go. If there is something like I go out for drinks or something, it just becomes so overwhelming to track that because I’m not at home, I don’t have my measuring cups, or scales, or whatever so.

Can you give us some tips for people who maybe are like me who when they go out to eat they tend to just not track stuff because it feels too overwhelming?

Emily: Yeah. I’d say there are a couple choices that you have. The first one is like I’ve said this before is to look at the menu before you go and pre-log the food that you think you’re going to have. This kind of not only holds space for you to eat around that and allow for that in the context of your whole day and still keep you on track with your goals.

The second choice would be to eat whole real food when you go to that restaurant. Instead of having an endless, bottomless chip basket, we’re really getting our nutrients and our calories from foods that fills up and make us feel good. Those are going to be your real food proteins, and your nutrient rich carbs, fruits, and vegetables, and some fats that you can definitely recognize well that’s in the form of like hard boiled eggs, or avocados, or coconut, butter. Stuff like that instead of in the example of chips, it’s very hidden fat. It’s deep fried food. You can’t really see that and it really doesn’t fill us up that much.

You can try to estimate what you had at the restaurant because you can recognize what’s on your plate. After tracking I’m sure you become…most my clients would say this, they have a much better understanding of what a serving of protein looks like in a 3 ounce form, or 4 ounce form, or 5, or 6, or something like that.

Just like kind of casually logging those foods after the fact can be really helpful just to know that you are not blowing your calories completely out of the water, or that you did and just to kind of leave it alone and just to start over the next day.

The third thing would just be…. if you truly get triggered at restaurants or it’s an event or a social thing and it’s all about the social and not a lot about the food and you don’t really care, it’s perfectly fine to ditch tracking in those situations. You just kind of have to level set with yourself about your goals.

That’s my role as a coach is just to kind of play that on each shoulder just saying this is your life and go free, be, do whatever you want to enjoy it. And food included, and social events included. But that means that you might be a little slower on the fat loss, which is okay. That’s life.

So unless you’re trying to compete in something that requires you to be at a lower weight class, or you’re in bodybuilding, or figure shows and things like that, I’d say there’s absolutely room for you to skip tracking on a night if it feels too overwhelming and you just want to enjoy yourself.

Kelsey: Yeah. I’ll say I am by far not the best tracker that has ever lived, by far and. But just doing it even like 80 percent of the time can get me to my goals. I tend to go in cycles like I said before where I’ll lose a little bit of weight, so maybe like five pounds at a time. Not nothing of course and it still takes me a good amount of time to do that, but I also feel like I’m not being so strict and so controlled with my eating. There is room to go out for a night or go to Thanksgiving and not worry about tracking all of that stuff.

Because for me the social aspect of food is really fun and really enjoyable and I don’t want to be that person who’s like worried so much about needing to track everything that I am eating in a social situation. It’s just like not where my brain wants to go.

I love that you mention that maybe the fat loss might be slower. It can still happen. It might just take a little bit longer, but you can also kind of build in that untracked social food time

Emily: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean the whole point of this is to find a sustainable eating approach. This is just one tool for you to use. I think for many people unfortunately, we’re really inundated with quick fixes and quick fixes require you to be extremely rigid. That’s what you think of as a diet and that’s not any way to live obviously because it hasn’t panned out for your long term. That’s why I love flexible dieting because it’s absolutely sustainable and manipulatable to your lifestyle.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely I’ve found for myself and certainly for my clients too that like we were saying before, once you start tracking a little bit…and just to kind of go through what that looks like first of all: When I’m at home, if I can, if it’s a meal that has pretty separate pieces that are easily trackable, I’m weighing some stuff either cooked or uncooked depending on how I want to measure it just what makes more sense, or measuring things with cups, and teaspoons, and all that kind of stuff just a track that. Just so people get a sense.

But once I’m doing that for a couple of weeks, it becomes very, very clear as to how much I’m eating even when I’m not tracking. My clients have the same experience. I assume yours do too where they just start to just understand what should be on their plate if this is the goal that they’re trying to go for. I think that’s a really great tool to have.

Obviously for somebody with some degree of a disordered eating history, I think it can be triggering. That’s why it’s important to have that conversation with your client, like you were saying, Emily, to just sort of figure out where they’re at with that, and if it would be triggering, and if it is the right approach for them in the first place, or if they need to do some work on their mindset and things before they get to the point where they might be able to do that appropriately.

But I think for most people being able to kind of see what their macronutrient levels look like once they’re tracking for a little while is so helpful because then eventually we can move away from tracking at least all the time and there can be untracked meals, but we at least have some sense of what we’re doing.

Emily: Yeah. There is no longer this like all or nothing attitude and like I’m off my diet, or I’m on my diet. And that’s what I love. We are all ultimately looking more towards intuitive eating and mindful eating. We want everybody to be doing a little bit more of this and I think this can be the bridge to that for sure.

Kelsey: You mentioned that there’s a couple…like you can just use an online tool to get a least an initial macro prescription. Do you know any of those websites off the top of your head that we could link to for people to kind of just get started with this?

Emily: A really easy one would be IIFYM.com. IfItFitsYourMacros.com is what that stands for. That’s what you oftentimes see in the world of macro tracking. IIFYM. That’s one that you could start with.

I tend to see that clients who do this one are going to see a very high carb kind of number come back to them, which is completely fine. That’s what it’s there for. Just do the prescription, see where you’re eating, and compare it those goals are. Typically the protein is right on par. And so that would be your first point of change I think in your diet would be to increase your protein to hit the goal.

Another one that’s just a simple one is on bodybuilding.com. You can just google search. I can find you the exact link, but bodybuilding.com, in Google just add macro calculator to that. There’s a couple other ones that are under certain coaches that I follow.

But by and large, if you don’t want to start with a calculator, maybe use the calculator to find a calorie number that you should be hitting. And then I usually take that and I say well what’s 25 or 30 percent of those calories, and find how many grams that would be in protein. Or in MyFitnessPal you actually can put in your calorie level and then kind of play with the proteins, fats, and carbs percentages. That is a really good place for beginners. You can just dial it up in MyFitnessPal to say I want 25 percent of my calories really becoming from protein, and I want 40 percent of my calories to really be coming from carbs, and then the leftover as fat. That can be a good way to start as well.

Kelsey: Got it. We’ll link to both those links you mentioned. Obviously too you can work with a coach like Emily, or I know Laura and I work with macro tracking in our own practice too. So if you feel like that is a little overwhelming and you kind of want somebody to take into consideration your exercise habits and any health conditions that you have, it’s always great to work with somebody one on one as well just because it can be personalized.

Emily: That’s the difference between working with a coach and having an online calculator. Just knowing what your food preferences are can shape your macro prescription, or what health history you have, and different things like that.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. When somebody has a macro prescription, let’s say they’re not working one on one with someone, they just kind of got it off a calculator, do you recommend that pretty much all of their meals look fairly similar in terms of the macro ratios? Or are there people where it might make sense to have like way more of a certain macro at a certain time of day versus another?

Tell us a little bit about how somebody can either determine if they should be splitting it up differently, or if you just recommend for most people when they start to just kind of split it up equally throughout the day.

Emily: I think it helps for the beginner to split it up equally throughout the day just as they are starting to learn what portion sizes look like and what their macronutrient prescription feels like. What I recommend you do is just take your individual proteins, fats, and carbs and divide by how however many meals you like to have in a day, so three or four is typical for most people, and then those who act as your checkpoint macro. You’re trying to aim for these smaller numbers in each one of your meals in order for you to hit your totals by the end of the day.

Once you’re really comfortable with that and things are going really well, then it might be fun to play with maybe spiking your carbs before a heavy workout and then maybe having a heavier carb meal after your workout as well so that you can feel really great and fueled, have more sugar in the blood when you work out, and then definitely replenish those glycogen stores after a workout.

That’s highly individual. It’s also kind of slanted towards the sports that I usually work with which would be CrossFit, and weight lifting, and different things. But there are other sports and different activities that maybe you would want to do in the more fasted state. So maybe you would save your carbs for a couple of hours after your workout or maybe later in the day if you’re a morning workout person. Does that make sense?

Kelsey: Yeah, totally. So for the beginner it sounds like just kind of split it up equally throughout the day and then see how you feel there. And then as you get more advanced or if you’re doing particular sports that kind of lend themselves to either more carbs or less surrounding them, you can play around with them at that point.

Emily: Yeah, it’s highly individual. Back to this food freedom and like tuning into yourself, the power of macro tracking is that ultimately once your metabolism is healthy, and you’re at a comfortable weight for you, and we’re really just manipulating your body composition, we’re just aiming for the totals to add up at the end of the day. So there’s a lot of things that we can do in the context of your whole day whether that’s split up into smaller meals, or have larger meals, or more meals spiking of the blood sugar and stuff, there’s kind of some freedom for you to enjoy kind of what you want at those times.

Kelsey: Cool. I want to ask about… because recently there’s been a lot of articles coming out that that quote you about burgers and fries. I want to hear from you about this because I think it was kind of fun to see all those articles come out, but I think that maybe your words were a little bit twisted so I want to get the real scoop from you. Tell us about this situation, and kind of what you meant, and what the message you really want to send out to the world is.

Emily: Thank you for bringing it up because I think if anybody hears this interview and they go and google Emily Field, RD, that’s like what’s going to come up. But essentially I was interviewed by Business Insider and the woman was asking me all about my approach to blood sugar regulation and kind of balanced eating and we just briefly touched on macronutrients. Essentially I was trying to teach her that similar to what we’ve been saying is that if you have balanced meals with kind of an equal proportion of proteins, fats, and carbs or at least buffering those carbs that you eat with some protein and fat, you’ll have balanced blood sugar throughout the day.

Balanced blood sugar as we all know leads to better energy and fewer hangry episodes. We just feel generally better. And that’s really the root of macro tracking and it’s kind of where it starts. We want to have that mastered before we start manipulating amounts.

We were talking about fast food. We were actually not even talking about fast food. It got manipulated on the Internet into big news that I said something about fast food. We were just talking about maybe better choices and she was asking me, so it kind of makes more sense you would have want to sit down to a burger or two burgers instead of a burger and fries because the fries represent a huge load of carbohydrates that you may not need, and essentially that would spike your blood sugar and bottom you out a couple hours later leading to the roller coaster blood sugar that we are trying to avoid. And I agreed with her. Yeah, I mean in certain situations it might be completely up your alley to have one burger or two burgers instead of a burger and fries because of the balance of those macronutrients and that relationship on blood sugar.

Kelsey: Yeah, got it. Okay.

Emily: So what ended up happening is the headline became “dietitian recommends two burgers instead of a burger and fries”, and then the picture was like In-N-Out Burger, and then that just erupted into McDonald’s. It was just all over the place.

Kelsey: I think the underlying message there is important, which is just that I think honestly like you said in certain situations it could be up someone’s alley to do that and probably in other situations it might not. Let’s just cut out the fast food part of this and just think more in terms of like how much carbohydrate somebody might need and what they want to buffer that with whether that’s protein, or even some fat, or both of those things together.

Everybody’s a little bit different and you kind of have to just see sort of like what your personal blood sugar… I was going to say tolerance, but that doesn’t make sense. But basically how your insulin sensitivity is, how your body is responding to carbs, and how your body responds to carbs plus this amount of protein, or this amount of fat, or both together and just kind of make your own choices or work with somebody who can help you determine what the right choice for you would be.

For some people that’s going to be eating the equivalent of two burgers, or some people they’re going to need more carbs. I think that for most people, you’re right, like having a little bit extra protein there is going to make more sense than having extra carbs.

So I just wanted to ask you about that because I’m sure like you said if people are Googling your name, that might be what’s coming up for them so I wanted to give you a chance to just talk about that a little bit. Thanks for explaining that.

People are probably kind of riled up about macros now and thinking maybe this is a cool thing for them to jump into. I know you have an awesome course called Macro’s Made Easy. Can you tell us a little bit more about that if somebody might be interested in joining that?

Emily: Certainly. Macros Made Easy exists as a course that you can jump into at any time of the year as a self-study version, meaning all the tutorials, the videos, the cheat sheets, the guides are available on instant download. Or you can participate in Macros Made Easy Live which is essentially all that in a month long form where I walk you through lesson by lesson with you in a group setting hosted on Facebook.

This is coming from my public health background and my Public Health Master’s recognizing that everybody has different learning styles and maybe you’re the type of person that just wants to get their feet wet with macro tracking and they want to know the ins and outs of kind of taking it to the next level. Maybe teaching it to yourself is the best way for you to learn and so Macros Made Easy DIY is what you need.

Other people just really need handholding through it and maybe need to work through and problem solve. Maybe they’re more on the beginner end of the spectrum. That Macros Made Easy Live just offered a couple times a year is the option for them.

But essentially Macros Made Easy, the point of it is to help you make macro tracking a sustainable part of your day because nobody actually talks about that. I recognize that there are a ton of coaches that prescribe macros. You can find anything and everything on the internet about how to track macros, so that need is covered. But people aren’t really talking about how to fold it into your day sustainably.

If you’re the head of household and you’re prepping meals for the rest of your family, or if you’re the only one tracking macros and nobody else in your family is, you want to eat out, you want to learn how to build and treats, it covers all the what if and how to situations that come up and all the questions that kind of bubble up to the surface when you start tracking.

It’s great for the beginner tracker and also for the veteran tracker who just kind of wants to take it to the next level, and learn how they can teach it to their clients, and different things like that. I’ve loved offering it over the last year. It’s kind of gotten a few facelifts since March when I first launched it and I’m just loving the content that’s there right now.

Kelsey: Awesome. I think it’s a great course. And you’re absolutely right, there’s a need in the market, or there was a need in the market for something that talks about like how to actually do this in a way that makes sense for most people. Because yeah, you can like be really, really strict about it. That’s sort of what probably is covered and when you do Google this kind of stuff, you’re seeing this is like what I have to do every single day. There’s no flexibility in it necessarily because just I’m sticking to this macro prescription and it really inhibits my ability to eat out or like plan for my family and all these situations where it’s too strict necessarily for that to work.

I love that you’ve created this program and I think it really helps to allow people to make these changes in a way that feels, like you said, sustainable for them, and it feels like they can make it work no matter what their lifestyle is right now, and they can really fit in to their current situation. It’s an awesome program.  We’ll link to it for anybody who’s interested. Do you know now when the next live course will be? I think you’re running one right now.

Emily: I’m running one right now. It’s the last one of 2017. I am looking at some time toward the end of quarter 1 in 2018, but I’ve just got a lot on my plate and a lot of really cool stuff coming up so I’m not exactly sure.

If you’re on my email list or you visit my website and click on “Work With Me” you can learn more about the course and sign up to get notified when I run another one, which is what you want to do.

Emily: Perfect. We’ll link to the course itself, we’ll link to your website so people can get on your newsletter so they can know when the next live one will be going out.

But I just want to thank you for chatting with me today. This was awesome! I think hopefully people got a good overview of what macro tracking looks like, and how to do that, and how to get their prescription and get started with it. If they want to learn a little bit more and dive deeper, they can check out your course.

Emily: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me!

Kelsey: You take care, Emily.

Emily: Thank you.

PODCAST: Optimizing Diet And Lifestyle For Healthy Pregnancy With Ayla Barmmer

Thanks for joining us for episode 136 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are thrilled to have Ayla Barmmer back with us!

Ayla Barmmer, formerly Withee, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, CEO and owner of Boston Functional Nutrition, an integrative and functional nutrition practice based in Concord, Massachusetts. Her practice is known for its big picture approach which starts with a thorough whole person assessment and uses cutting edge research to help individuals create effective, meaningful change even with the most complex of cases.

Ayla’s primary specialty is women’s health with a special emphasis on fertility nutrition. Through simple tailored diet and lifestyle interventions she has helped 90 percent of the women she’s worked with conceive and go on to have healthy pregnancies. She is also the co-host of Real Food Radio which relays practical information about how to support your health naturally and live a life you love.

In addition to her nutrition work, Ayla is also a mom to her one year old son and enjoys biking and hiking with him and her husband. You can learn more about Ayla at BostonFunctionalNutrition.com.

Diet and lifestyle are key to a healthy pregnancy. While many of us know this, it can be overwhelming to decide what to follow among the array of conventional and alternative recommendations.

Ayla Barmmer is back with us today to share an overview of diet and lifestyle factors both women and men should focus on during preconception. If you are already are pregnant, we still have you covered as Ayla shares her insight into optimizing diet and lifestyle for healthy pregnancy.

Just some of what Ayla will be sharing is key nutrients that optimize egg and sperm quality, how gut health affects pregnancy, and the importance of minimizing environmental endocrine disruptors.

You also won’t want to miss hearing the benefits of a natural approach as Ayla disproves the long held belief that infertility necessitates medical intervention.

This episode is sure to take the guesswork out of prepping for healthy pregnancy as Ayla provides practical tips and busts some myths along the way.

Here is some of what we discussed with Ayla:

  • [00:04:33] Areas of health Ayla focuses on for preconception
  • [00:07:13] How far ahead before pregnancy you should begin optimizing reproductive health
  • [00:08:20] Addressing nutrient deficiencies before pregnancy
  • [00:15:14] Stressors that affects fertility and pregnancy
  • [00:18:50] Ways to reduce stress levels when preparing for pregnancy
  • [00:22:48] How gut health affects fertility and pregnancy
  • [00:28:50] How weight loss before conception can affect fertility and pregnancy
  • [00:34:57] The importance of minimizing environmental endocrine disruptors
  • [00:39:33] Nutrients that optimize egg and sperm quality
  • [00:44:19] Benefits of the natural approach to infertility versus medical interventions
  • [00:49:15] Tips you can start implementing for a healthy pregnancy if you already are pregnant
  • [00:53:12] Information about the Nourish Your Fertility online program

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 136 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey guys!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

We have a great guest on our show today who’s going to be sharing her insight into optimizing your diet and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy. We’re so glad Ayla Barmmer is joining us and we think you’ll really enjoy this episode.

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer on an upcoming show.

Laura: Before we get into our interview for today, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

You know that we’re all about nutrient diversity here at The Ancestral RDs, which is why we’re really excited about the products at Dr. Cowan’s Garden. Dr. Cowan’s Garden makes nutrient dense, organic vegetable powders that can be added to your food to increase your nutrient diversity in an easy and delicious way. These powders are a perfect way to get valuable added nutrients if you aren’t eating as many plants as you’d like. In fact, Dr. Cowan’s Garden even uses some vegetables that are difficult to obtain like sea vegetables, perennial greens, and wild ramps. The vegetables are cooked to reduce anti-nutrient content and then they’re dehydrated on low heat to preserve their nutrients. Finally, they’re stored in Miron jars which prevent light from penetrating so the powders remain flavorful over time. Want to add more nutrient diversity to your diet? Use code “Ancestral RDS” at drcowansgarden.com for 20 percent off your order.

Laura: Welcome back, everyone! We’re so pleased to have Ayla Barmmer here with us today. Ayla Barmmer, formerly Withee, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, CEO and owner of Boston Functional Nutrition, an integrative and functional nutrition practice based in Concord, Massachusetts. Her practice is known for its big picture approach which starts with a thorough whole person assessment and uses cutting edge research to help individuals create effective, meaningful change even with the most complex of cases.

Ayla’s primary specialty is women’s health with a special emphasis on fertility nutrition. Through simple tailored diet and lifestyle interventions she has helped 90 percent of the women she’s worked with conceive and go on to have healthy pregnancies. She is also the cohost of Real Food Radio which relays practical information about how to support your health naturally and live a life you love.

In addition to her nutrition work, Ayla is also a mom to her one year old son and enjoys biking and hiking with him and her husband. You can learn more about Ayla at BostonFunctionalNutrition.com.

Welcome back to the show, Ayla! I know we had you here I think it was a couple of years ago at this point.

Ayla: Hey Laura and Kelsey! Thanks for having me back.

Kelsey: I’m always excited to have a fellow Massachusetts person on the show even though I don’t live there anymore. You’re super close to where I grew up. I grew up in Harvard, Mass. It’s just a couple of towns over.

Ayla: For sure. Yeah, I live right near Harvard. It’s beautiful there. I’m born and raised here.

Kelsey: Nice. We’re really excited to have you here. I think for today we’re going to kind of take a little bit of a different approach than we did last time with you on the show and talk a bit about just general pregnancy prep and how women and men actually can prepare for pregnancy in the near future.

We have a lot of first of all clients that I think both Laura and I work with one on one that are kind of going through this process. But also our listeners too are people who are thinking about becoming pregnant soon and they’re not sure how far in advance to start working on any of this stuff or if they can just start trying right away.

We’d love to hear from you in terms of how that works in your practice and just your thoughts on that in general.

Ayla: I love to talk about that.

Kelsey: I guess a good place to start is just some of the areas that people can focus on and sort of optimize to basically make their chance of conceiving a healthy child as good as possible. Are there some favorite areas that you tend to work on with your clients that are considering becoming pregnant in the near future?

Ayla: I should say it is it is ideal if you have…and I could talk about a few of the reasons why, but if you’ve got at least at a minimum three months prior to trying to conceive, but ideally six or more. That’s when you ought to start thinking about some of the changes you can make and doing some of this prep work ahead of time.

It’s ideal when I have clients coming who have been longer term clients that I’m working with and they’re telling me that that’s in their future, or I have someone who is saying three, six, nine months down the road we’re thinking about a pregnancy and we can start working on balancing things, optimizing reproductive health, all of that. That’s ideal.

The kinds of things that we’re going to look depending on the timeline will be things like gut health, nutrient, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, nutrient deficiencies, how balanced the diet is. I definitely also take really an integrated approach. I mean I really think probably similar to you guys, health requires a whole body approach. We’ll look at sleep, stress, all of those areas and how they influence reproductive health and ultimately pregnancy outcomes as well.

Kelsey: Before we jump into those a little bit more deeply, you mentioned the timing of things. At least three months, but ideally more like six or nine months prior to becoming pregnant is when you start this. Can you tell us a little bit more about why that is?

Ayla: One thing that’s important to know is that both our eggs as well as sperm develop fully in about three month cycles. From a cell to a fully formed sperm, egg ready for ovulation, that takes about three months, so it’s 85-ish days. That’s why I like that the bare minimum, but we can really influence chances of conceiving as well as the health of the embryo, and the health of the baby, and ultimately the health of the pregnancy if we have about that amount of time.

I’d also say that nutrient deficiencies take time to replete, too. If we discover some of those, then we’re going to want to come up with a targeted approach to make sure you’re in the best place possible for conceiving. There’s some very common nutrient deficiencies that I see as a result of medication use, environmental factors, genetics. A couple good examples would be key fertility and pregnancy nutrients like folic acid, folate, and B12, just to name a couple.

Kelsey: I guess let’s start there then because this is something that is definitely something I work on with my clients who are thinking about becoming pregnant because to me it’s like one of the most obvious places to begin. If we can make sure that somebody has proper nutrient stores of things that they should have for general health, never mind pregnancy, I think that’s a great place to begin.

Do you use any sort of functional medicine type testing to take a look at somebody’s nutrients? Or are you basing this off of symptoms that you see in that person, or medications you know they’ve been on, things like that?

Ayla: Sometimes it has to do with timing and budget I will say. Ideally speaking if I have enough time with someone, so someone is going to see me at least three months, but ideally six, nine months ahead of time, then I’m going to be running a functional lab testing so we can get a lot more targeted. Actually even if you’ve got a shorter timeline, sometimes that can be a faster road like targeting what needs to be repleted. It’s just a test for it so that you’re not guessing and you know.

It’s important because if you’re truly deficient or even borderline deficient in a nutrient, you’re not going to replete it in my opinion just by diet alone. This is where I think you really do need to kind of pull in some supplements. Maybe even a basic prenatal or basic multivitamin is not going to cut it either if you’re really deficient in something.

I run things like either SpectraCell Micronutrient or there’s a great new test by Vibrant America. They’ve got one that looks at extracellular and intracellular vitamin and mineral status, so a really complete picture of what’s going on.

But if I don’t do functional lab testing, there’s definitely signs that point to potential issues. I almost always with all my clients these days are running genetics to take a look at their ability to metabolize, convert, and utilize nutrients, important ones like for example folic acid, folate. I’ll look at that. If you’re compromised there, then that’s a good sign that you’re probably going to need more of certain nutrients.

And then also medication use. I’m sure we’ll get into talking about a kind of a favorite topic of mine, hormonal birth control. If you have been on that for any length of time and also another whole handful of medications, there’s a good chance that you need more of certain nutrients as well.

Kelsey: Got it. You mentioned a couple important ones like folate. Can you talk a tiny bit about why those certain nutrients are really, really important when it comes to pregnancy in particular?

Ayla: I think folate gets pointed to a lot because of its critical role in preventing neural tube defects. We’ve known that for a long time. It’s why historically they started fortifying the food supply with folic acid, particularly your processed grains and things like that. That fortification in that synthetic kind of folic acid is different than the natural form of folate that’s just in your spinach, for example.

It can be problematic for people that are compromised in converting, that have the MTHFR enzyme mutation. That’s a common mutation. It decreases your ability to convert synthetic folic acid into its usable form. It doesn’t just relate to neural tube defects, folate is a critical component to the health of follicular fluid and also to egg quality. You definitely see with deficiencies in that, I’ve noticed this in practice and it’s also in the research, you definitely see impaired fertility with higher rates of infertility with folate deficiencies.

Kelsey: If people didn’t listen to our fairly recent episode with Dr. Ben Lynch, definitely go back and take a listen to that because it goes a little bit more into depth than what Ayla is talking about here. It’s really good to get a baseline understanding of all of this genetic stuff, which I know can be a little bit complicated.

That’s absolutely something I’ve seen as well. You really have to pay attention to that stuff especially when it comes to fertility and pregnancy and all of that.

Okay, so folate…any other common ones that really play a huge role in pregnancy, and egg quality, sperm quality, all of that kind of stuff?

Ayla: This is kind of a collective group, but antioxidants, particularly coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is largely generated by our body. We produce that, but sometimes in the cases of fertility and pregnancy prep, supplementing with it makes sense.

Just big picture wise, this is a really common group of nutrients that I see deficient or inadequate, usually really quite deficient when I run testing despite maybe having a diet that’s fairly rich in antioxidants.

It can be because of chronic stressors. That’s a big bucket that can include a lot of things, but chronic stress is just blowing through those antioxidants. Our body has to prioritize really functioning right and reproductive health always gets kind of the last priority really. If there’s somewhere else in the body that’s really in need of lots of good antioxidants and all that kind of support, it’s going to take resources away from reproductive functioning.

I focus a lot on folate and I actually focus a ton on antioxidants. Particularly the ones in the research that are really helpful for prepping for pregnancy is coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, things like that.

Kelsey: Interesting. That makes a whole lot of sense.

I think we can probably jump into this next topic of stress which you mentioned as one of those things that’s a really, really great topic to focus on when you’re starting to think about getting pregnant. Because like you said, if your body is stressed out with other things going on, that becomes the priority and fertility is definitely the last thing the body wants to focus on in that case. Let’s talk a little bit more about stress. How does that play a role in fertility and pregnancy?

Ayla: Again kind of broadly speaking, I mean another reason why you may want to give yourself a little bit of time to prep before you try to conceive is, I see it all the time in practice, it is extremely stressful just mentally and physically to have cycles keep going by where you’re not conceiving. You were ready and you wanted a baby like yesterday and it’s not happening. That’s an added pressure. Another good reason to try to see if you could plan a bit and do a little prep work prior to trying to conceive.

The issue with stress is that it takes resources away from reproductive functioning. That’s kind of the broad theme here I guess is to make sure that reproductive function is not turned down to prioritize other areas of the body, other needs in the body.

Chronic stressors, the biggies that I see, the big ones are blood sugar management. Even if you have a normal A1C, you have a normal fasting blood sugar…although a lot of people have kind of like functionally abnormal levels there. Even if you don’t have diabetes you don’t have it in your family, we’re just talking about basic blood sugar management throughout your day, like balanced meals, not being on kind of a blood sugar roller coaster. That’s a real underlying chronic stressor that can drive hormonal imbalances and you see things like elevated testosterone levels. That’s typical with that. But without going down that rabbit hole too much, I would say blood sugar management is a big one.

Gut health is a big one, so microbial imbalances, that can be a real chronic stressor. We can talk about that. And then ongoing nutrient deficiencies as well as what we classically perceive of stress which are lifestyle kinds of thing, too little sleep and just stressors in your life.

Kelsey: It’s kind of funny because I was like we’re moving onto other topics. But you’re right, all of those fit into the category of overall stress. Most of us think of stress as like just this psychological piece, but really it’s anything going on in or outside of the body that causes some kind of dysfunction and therefore becomes a stressor on your body.

Things like the health of your gut, your microbial balance like you mentioned, and nutrient deficiencies, of course those are super stressful for the body to have to deal with. If it’s dealing with that like we said, there’s just way less resources available for fertility and reproductive health at that point.

Ayla: Yes, exactly.

Kelsey: Let’s just say you’re kind of preparing your body for pregnancy and thinking about stress, what are some of the ways in your practice that you are helping women and potentially men…I’m not sure how much you work with men, or the women you work with, their partners. But what kind of things are you recommending to them to help to reduce their stress level as they’re prepping?

Ayla: If we talk about just more like classic stress that we think of, like just everyday sort of things versus internal stressors, sources of inflammation, I love small strategies that can be used throughout the day and start to be integrated as well as like big strategies. I often will have people pick a little thing and a big thing.

The little things I think of as really effective are breathing techniques. There is a fantastic, simple technique that is just unbelievable at activating your parasympathetic nervous system and just calming down that cortisol production. It’s called 4-7-8 breathing. You guys may have heard of that.

It’s basically a very simple technique. You inhale to a count of 4, you hold it for 7, or maybe just couple of seconds. People don’t love holding it that long. And then you exhale slowly about twice the length. So 4-7-8. It becomes really like second nature and you can incorporate that while you’re driving and in just various situations. I love that kind of method.

I do a lot of looking at the different buckets in your life and what needs more attention and reprioritizing rather than just trying to fit in healthy behaviors. A theme that came out last week as I was just talking to clients was how do I make breakfast work on the go? What can I take with me in my car? That kind of thing. But what we end up talking a lot about is how can we make breakfast not happen in the car? How can we take that out as a stressor? I think it’s looking at all of those big buckets and reprioritizing a little bit.

Kelsey: It makes sense. Obviously this is something that Laura and I talk a lot about in our Paleo Rehab program with people. Even though that’s not necessarily a fertility program by any means, but it really feeds into that just because stress is such a big piece of it. And Laura, I know you just had your Get Your Period Back program start and I’m sure you talk a whole lot about stress in there, right?

Laura: Yeah. I mean I have a whole week dedicated to it and I feel like I just scratched the surface on it. It’s one of those things where it’s like it could be its own program for sure.

Kelsey: Yeah, easily. Let’s talk a little bit about gut health because you’ve mentioned it a couple times here. Obviously this is a topic I’m very intrigued by and I work a lot with in my own practice. It’s been something I’ve been looking into a little bit more in terms of how it actually connects to both fertility, and pregnancy, and hormone health.

It’s kind of amazing how big of a role it plays. I feel like it’s hard to be surprised these days with what gut health feeds into. But it was actually a little bit surprising to me to learn about all of the different ways that the microbiome actually changes throughout pregnancy.

Talk to us a bit about how you are working with your clients in terms of gut health to help them prepare for a healthy pregnancy.

Ayla: This is huge. I agree, I think it’s really astounding when you really look into it what got health really does to fertility and pregnancy outcomes. I think the biggest one area to highlight that people may not realize is the role that gut bacteria play in hormonal balance specifically. I’ll give one example. The most common thing that I see in practice is estrogen dominance. That is heavy periods, a lot of bloating before your period, it’s like tender breasts.

This estrogen dominance is something that happens very frequently in men as well. We can talk about some of the reasons, the environmental reasons why if we get into that, and detox. But there’s a lot of factors that come into play. Estrogen dominance is super common. We usually discover that on a DUTCH Complete test. I love that test. But you can go based on symptoms as well, some of the ones I mentioned.

With estrogen… its safe removal from the body, it has to be packaged up, it has to be detoxified partially by our liver, partially by our gut. In our gut, this is a key area where our beneficial probiotics, gut bacteria will help package up and assist kind of in the removal of conjugated estrogen, the estrogens that have been packaged up neatly by our liver and are ready to be gotten rid of through our stool because that’s really where they’re ultimately excreted, the excess of what we don’t need.

Our bacteria are responsible for that. But when there is unhealthy bacteria, and there’s a large range of that. I’ll see that on stool tests and also just again based on symptoms. That impairs estrogen metabolism. That impairs that step. Some unhealthy bacteria actually make the enzyme beta-glucuronidase which de-conjugates, like breaks estrogen back out of that nice little package and then reactivates it and gets recirculated.

This is one of the reasons why women and men can be estrogen dominant. It’s because of their gut health and that impairs fertility because it messes with the ratio to progesterone and will impair conception and ultimately pregnancy. It really does put you at a higher risk for miscarriage, frankly.

Kelsey: Yeah. This is something that I have an article about if anybody wants to dive a little bit deeper into the mechanisms that we were just talking briefly about in terms of how that actually works to elevate your estrogen levels. I’ll link to that in the show notes if you guys want to read it.

But that is huge. This is something that I see a lot. Laura, I assume you see it a lot. I mean estrogen dominance is one of those things that I just think is so, so common. Like you mentioned Ayla, it’s just one of those things that just puts you at such a higher risk of having all sorts of fertility issues.

If you and your partner are trying to conceive, I do think that first of all, a DUTCH Complete, that kind of test which looks at your adrenals and your hormones is a great test to get. It will just give you an overview of kind of how your stress levels are, and how much cortisol you’re producing, and your overall hormonal…I don’t want to say breakdown, but it kind of shows you how your hormones are going through their normal….What is the word I’m looking for?

Ayla: Kind of metabolic pathway and how they’re metabolized.

Kelsey: Yes, exactly.

Ayla: The DUTCH test really measures metabolites and it’s so helpful for figuring out if you are actually using the proper channels. There’s ways to push the right estrogen detox channels short term and long term. Obviously the longer term or even shorter term is to help repair your gut.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. Another cool way that gut health feeds into this is that basically any sort of dysbiosis or imbalance of gut bacteria that you have at the beginning or prior to pregnancy basically just gets worse because the natural cycle of microbial balance in pregnancy is actually for the bacteria to become slightly dysbiotic towards the end of pregnancy. If you start off with already dysbiotic flora, it basically just gets even worse than it would normally in pregnancy. There’s been a lot of research that kind of shows that obviously this is not what we want and it has some detrimental effects on pregnancy outcomes.

One of the biggest things that actually tends to kind of correlate with dysbiotic flora is being overweight or obese prior to pregnancy, too. That’s another reason why your starting weight is actually quite important. It’s sort of like a chicken or the egg kind of question. Does obesity or overweight come first and that’s what makes the gut bacteria imbalance, or the other way around? But the end goal here of course is to get balanced flora and be at a healthy weight prior to pregnancy which will then make sure that your gut bacteria doesn’t get to dysbiotic as you go into pregnancy.

That was something I learned recently that was one of the things I was like, wow! My mind was kind of blown by that. I didn’t know that bacterial colonies change so much naturally during pregnancy, but also of course that if you start off in a dysbiotic place it’s only going to get worse over that time.

Ayla: I completely agree with you. But just one note about the weight piece. This is just one of my own little sort of pet peeves. But the one kind of nutrition recommendation it seems that a lot of practitioners are giving their clients in terms of pre pregnancy prep is weight loss. I just would caution listeners, you’re going to really hurt your chances of conceiving as well as put the pregnancy at jeopardy, you could definitely get into nutrient deficiency issues and various things if you try to be too aggressive with weight loss. I just see so many women kind of crash dieting in that pre pregnancy prep that I would avoid that.

Kelsey: Right. Because oftentimes there’s that that idea of a time crunch, too. They’re like I really want to start trying in three months, so I need to lose X amount of pounds by then. You’re right, it’s kind of basically the opposite of what we’re trying to do otherwise, which is to really nourish a woman before she conceives. Basically losing weight tends to be the opposite of that where you’re just taking things away, you’re restricting and that goes against a lot of the things that we’re really trying to do in that time period.

Ayla: Right. Losing weight to fast, that can be a more contributor to that chronic stress that we were talking about earlier.

Kelsey: Right. Let’s say a woman does have to lose some weight or feels like she would like to before she conceives what. Obviously this depends on how much weight somebody has to lose, but I would imagine that that of course extends the time period in which you would like to kind of do this preparation period.

Ayla: Yeah. It does because I like to see changes in body composition. In my practice I have an InBody body composition machine. Those you can sometimes see at gyms and things like that. I really prefer to monitor composition and make sure that muscle is not being broken down, it’s actual body fat that’s lost. You can only go so fast and continue to lose body fat while preserving lean body mass. There just is kind of a limit to that.

If I am working with someone on that, we’re going to kind of work on it in two methods. It’ll be changing body composition through blood sugar management and balance nutrient dense meals. So kind of achieving multiple things at once.

Kelsey: Makes sense. I think this also feeds into another area that people start to get concerned about when they’re thinking of getting pregnant, which is detoxification and kind of the environmental factors.

Just from what I know about weight loss, I would think, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that when you’re losing body fat, potentially you’re kind of mobilizing stored toxins that usually are stored in our fat stores. Is that necessarily going to be an issue for somebody who wants to get pregnant imminently?

Ayla: Yeah, it definitely can be. I was wondering how deep I wanted to go want to go to bring that up. But yes, almost whenever I have somebody who is losing weight, then we’re kind of supporting the detoxification pathways as well.

I mean our body as a protective mechanism will package up toxins and store it in the fat if it can’t keep up with the demands. If your liver and your gut are not keeping up with the demands on it, then it’s going to store it. When it gets recirculated, any of these toxins from heavy metals to organic pesticides, and chemicals, and things like that, that recirculation is what’s damaging. It is proven in the research to affect both male fertility as well as female fertility.

Some of these things do cross the placenta. Whenever you’re thinking about pregnancy health, it’s kind of the health of the mom as well as what crosses the placenta, so it’s a risk to the fetus as well.

It’s a time where if you’re losing weight, lots of antioxidants, binders. I use some of that kind of stuff in practice, like an activated charcoal. Sometimes it just depends on the situation. That’s short term, by the way. Chlorella or greens, things like that.

Kelsey: Got it. Would you recommend that a woman stops losing weight at a certain point before she actually starts trying to get pregnant? Or do you have some clients who tend to still sort of be losing weight when they get pregnant?

Ayla: Sometimes there’s a bit of overlap, but I do. I say let’s put the stop on the weight loss about a month or two prior, although there’s a good argument to be made that three months prior. We don’t want to be affecting the quality of eggs, the quality of sperm.

If you are losing weight and that’s releasing toxins, that’s using resources. That’s using antioxidants to process those. That can be taking away from protecting the egg and protecting the sperm. They’re both very sensitive to oxidative stress. That’s a real theme that I would drive home with clients is that we’re trying to protect them and keep them as healthy as possible. It prevents the risk of miscarriage and also just increases the chances of actually conceiving.

Kelsey: With environmental factors and these toxins that we’re talking about, are there any specific ones that you’re either testing for or basically just assuming that people are overloaded with that you are focusing on detoxifying?

Ayla: Yeah. It’s tough here because a lot goes into play. First of all, no matter what, I am talking about these environmental toxins with all my clients. This is something that if we’re talking like pre pregnancy prep, you can start doing now and is very wise to do is to clean up the environmental endocrine disruptors. Those are the primary ones.

I would say the big areas to do that would be looking at personal care products. In our podcast as well as my fertility work, I call it the 4 Ps. It’s plastics, pesticides, pollution, and personal care products. Kind of the four big buckets that you can focus on.

While you cannot insulate yourself from everything and it’ll be overwhelming to try to do too much, you can kind of hit the big low hanging fruit in each of those areas. Actually we did a podcast just on the 4 Ps, like the big things that you can really focus on in each of those areas.

It’s amazing how little the industry is regulated. It’s like 13 chemicals, additives to personal care products that are actually banned in the U.S. I think it’s 1500 or more in the EU. Nothing’s been changed since the early 1940s. It’s like a one page document.

There’s this feeling that if the product is on the market it, should be safe. It’s not necessarily so. There was there was a big study that I can also send you the link to that looked at just how profoundly pesticides in produce are really affecting fertility as well.

Again talking pre pregnancy prep here, at least focusing on the Dirty Dozen, the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and avoiding those, but ideally speaking trying to eliminate as many sources of pesticides as you can from produce primarily.

Kelsey: Awesome. Well we’ll definitely link to that. Not only the pesticide study, but also the episode you guys did on that topic. I think that’s something that obviously you can go down this like crazy rabbit hole of driving yourself insane trying to avoid these things. But I think there is a happy medium that avoids the big stuff and you can still kind of use products and things that you like, not just things that are completely natural and whatever. I think there’s a happy medium that people can find that really keeps them as safe as possible while still not driving themselves crazy. So we’ll link to that.

I think it’s a really important topic to cover because it’s one of those things that plays a huge role and I think some people actually probably underestimate the role that it plays and maybe other people overestimate it. So it’s good to find that that line that kind of gives you the best of both worlds.

Ayla: Yeah. Just to kind of summarize so that I think it’s clear how this all kind of connects is you’re trying to minimize the inputs from your environment. And again, perfection is not possible or necessary. But in combination with minimizing inputs, you also optimize your gut function. Take a look at that pre pregnancy. What’s going on there and what can you do to optimize your gut function? Can you increase the antioxidants in your diet and other good liver and gut supporting foods to help with dealing with what is coming in? And sweating, too. Getting in some good sweat whether it’s sauna therapy, or obviously exercising, that’s another way that our body detoxifies.

Trying to just make sure your systems are getting rid of what they need to properly so that it’s not a stressor that’s affecting your reproductive function.

Kelsey: Awesome. You mentioned egg quality and sperm quality a couple of times already. I want to just dive a little bit deeper into that. We’ll throw the guys in here too because obviously we’re talking sperm quality here as well as a quality. What kind of like dietary and lifestyle changes are you typically recommending to just optimize the quality of egg and sperm?

Ayla: Actually it’s pretty straightforward. For sperm, some of the biggest nutrients are zinc, selenium, vitamin E, and other antioxidant. But zinc and selenium seem to be really key as well as omega 3 fatty acids, so that fatty acid balance.

There’s been some good research, albeit it was funded I think primarily by the walnut industry, but it was looking at walnuts which have a nice fatty acid balance to them in a handful of those daily. Which I like that concept because in addition to seafood, that’s a really easy thing to do. Honestly based on what I’ve seen in the research and everything, I’m having a lot of the men that I’m working with do that.

So more fatty acids, more selenium and zinc rich foods. Definitely I’m prescribing that couples go out and have a date night with oysters. That’s an awesome thing to do and those are great for both men and women. And reducing alcohol consumption as well. That’s key. You just can’t get around it. I’m never anyone’s favorite with that.

Kelsey: Right. If you’re prepping for pregnancy, hopefully they’re kind of at least knowing that that’s in the cards, that the alcohol is about to come out.

Ayla: I’d say for men though too, the alcohol. It just has a big impact.

Kelsey: Right. They’re not necessarily expecting it, unfortunately. Got it. That really helps.

I’m not at the point right now where I’m considering getting pregnant in the near future really. For me I’m like, oh yeah, I guess I never really thought that much about the actual egg quality. It’s like I know you can do all these things obviously to optimize your chances of conceiving in the first place, but then you do obviously have to think about the quality because that’s the thing that’s going to going to end up as your baby. You need to think about that right from the beginning too, which I think is something that maybe obviously me and possibly other people don’t necessarily think as much about as we’re starting to consider pregnancy.

Ayla: I think there’s kind of this notion, like I know I thought before I really got into this, you’re told like you are just born with all of the eggs that you have throughout a lifespan in your ovaries. You just sort of imagine these eggs that are formed and there’s nothing you can do. And the reality of our eggs, actually it’s a journey to become an egg that’s actually ovulated and ready for conception. It starts really as like an ovocyte in the ovary and it goes through this journey where it gets to the follicle. All along that it’s subject to assaults along the way. There’s things that can impact the quality of it in the actual development of it.

There’s a lot of women who struggle with knowing they ovulate, but they’re still not getting pregnant. It may be very early miscarriages, unfortunately, or just not have a conception occur. That could be why.

I mentioned just zinc, selenium, reducing alcohol. There’s actually some herbal approaches for men. Ashwagandha is really effective for improving sperm health and morphology, things like that. But then for women, Vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, those are two real key ones. Folate as I mentioned for the follicular fluid, and vitamin C. I’d say those are my top ones.

Kelsey: Nice. That helps. Is there any specific product that kind of combines all those things? Or are you tending to really just prescribe them individually?

Ayla: Honestly you do of need to do it individually. Because for example with vitamin E, you often see d-alpha-tocopherol only used in products. But I always recommend looking for something that includes full spectrum vitamin E, so the mixed tocopherols in addition to the d-alpha. It’s a little hard and sometimes you have to piecemeal some of these things together to get the dose, like the quantity that you’re looking for. Like for vitamin E, it could be 800 to 1,000 IUs of the mixed tocopherols. It’s hard to get it all in one.

Kelsey: You just busted a myth here about the fact that we’re kind of just born with our eggs and that’s basically what they are and what we’re dealing with for the rest of our lives so any other myths you can think of that women or men hear about pregnancy or fertility that you would like to bust for us?

Ayla: Yeah, I think just broadly speaking is that infertility requires a medical intervention. That if you’re not ovulating, you need Clomid. If you can’t conceive, you need IVF or IUI. And the reality is, and I really like to drive this home for people, is that across the board, and there’s research to this and not just only what I see in my practice, a natural approach and getting to the underlying issue doesn’t take longer than some of the medical interventions. My 90 percent success rate is within six months.

Kelsey: Awesome.

Ayla: That’s compared to IVF success rate which hovers around 40 percent and it’s not clear as to whether or not that’s actually to a healthy baby or just conception. You haven’t gotten to the underlying issue, you’re at an increased risk of miscarriage and that kind of thing.

I think the misconception is that a natural approach will take forever and that you don’t have control. Even though there’s a lot of possibilities for what could be going on with you individually, the interventions once you kind of figure that out are really straightforward. A lot of this is not really complicated or difficult things to attain or do. It sometimes could be just minor tweaks. I hate to see people just invest the type of money, and mental, and physical, and emotional health sacrificed to some of these medical interventions.

Kelsey: Plus if you’re working on your own health, these root causes that are leading you to not be able to conceive in the first place, it’s not like you aren’t doing anything for yourself at that point. It just kind of a drain, like IVF and all these things, I just I hear it’s no fun to go through that process first of all. It’s stressful in and of itself. Whereas with the natural approach, you’re actually improving your own health throughout this process which is something that’s going to stick with you for the rest of your life, never mind your child’s life too, which I think is a really cool aspect of doing it the natural way.

Ayla: Absolutely. I’m sure that Laura maybe has seen or heard this too, but I can’t tell you how many women with hypothalamic amenorrhea and anovulatory cycles that are being funneled right into IVF. It’s just so unfortunate because their bodies are not ready for a pregnancy and that’s the reality of it. But with some minor tweaks really, some basic interventions, you can be.

Laura: That’s something that I talk to my ladies in my Get Your Period Back program a lot. There’s a lot of impatience a lot of the time because for some of them they haven’t been getting a period for maybe it’s been years at this point. It can be really challenging to say I know that you want to go do, like you said, the Clomid, or I’ve even had people ask me about like getting leptin injections, that kind of thing.

I almost feel like you can’t try to sidestep all the nutritional stuff and expect that you’re just going to have like a normal, healthy pregnancy and that there’s no long term impact of skipping the nutrient replenishment phase of the approach. Because like you said, maybe 90 percent of people will get it back, and get their fertility, and have a healthy pregnancy with the natural approach. And for that 10 percent who need the medical approach, they probably still needed the natural approach on top of that as well.

Ayla: Exactly. Really understanding what your cycle is like, I mean back to kind of pre pregnancy prep, if you’re thinking about pregnancy and you’re on hormonal birth control pills and you have been for a long time, pill, or IUD, or whatever, consider getting off those on the earlier side. That’s not a real period – a hormonal birth control period. That’s just a steroidal hormone induced bleed. But understanding what your cycles look like, if you’re actually ovulating. It can take time to get that that signaling between your pituitary gland in your ovaries going again. Give yourself some time to get your natural cycle back.

Kelsey: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I want to switch gears slightly here just before we wrap up because I kind of envision that some of our listeners minds might be going here, which is we’ve talked a lot about all these different factors that feed into fertility and reproductive health. I feel for some of the some people listening to this it might feel a bit overwhelming, like holy crap, I didn’t realize there was so much to think about if I even want to consider getting pregnant! For some women, they may be listening to this and they’re already pregnant, or they’re trying already and they haven’t thought about this prep at all.

For people who maybe are pregnant or possibly get pregnant earlier than they were intending to, or it or something like that, should they be stressing about all this stuff that we just talked about today? Or what can they do to at least at this point now that they are pregnant make sure that they have the healthiest pregnancy possible?

Ayla: Yeah that’s a good point. I think it’s just it’s all about prioritizing. Really I mean your body is amazing. Its ability to protect your baby, your fetus, is pretty profound. The number one thing I’d say is make sure you’re eating enough and that you’re getting in some good nutrient density.

The biggest thing that I see and the biggest concern with my pregnant clients is they’re so worried about gaining too much weight during the pregnancy, and those frequent weigh-ins that you get at your checks. It’s even a very common topic that comes amongst RDs in some of our groups that we’re in you guys have probably seen. Just worried about gaining too much.

I think while it can be somewhat of a valid concern and you’ve got to monitor a little bit, it’s way overdone. I mean I’m encouraging a lot of my clients even avoid getting on the scale especially if they have had any sort of history with disordered eating or diet kind of mentality. Not even getting on the scale and just let your body do its thing.

Focus on eating enough nutrient dense foods. You can kind of check in with that by using one of my favorite tools, Cronometer. You can enter in a few days and kind of see what you look like for nutrient density and overall balance. It allows you to plug in if you’re pregnant or not, or breastfeeding, and it kind of accounts for that. That’s one of my biggest strategies.

But I would also say a couple of low hanging fruit things in your environment. If you’ve got the Glade Plug In car scents or candles around, those I might tell you to ditch. Those are a big source of kind of endocrine disrupting chemicals that can be problematic. Take a look at some of your beauty care products. Start with just like your lotion and shampoos, things like that. I often talk to women about that, the things that touch the most surface area on your body.

That’s what I would do. Take a look your environment a little bit, make sure that you’re not overly worrying about the weight gain during pregnancy, and getting in some good nutrient dense foods.

Kelsey: Love it. I love that you mentioned that your body is just so good at protecting your unborn baby. I think it can be very easy to get super stressed about all this stuff that you hear about that maybe you feel like you should have done or something like that prior to getting pregnant. But it is freaking amazing what the body is capable of doing. Trust in that and do the best that you can now that you know you’re already pregnant. I think is a really great approach.

Ayla: Yeah, absolutely.

Kelsey: I know you have a fertility online program. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that and kind of who that might be a great fit for?

Ayla: Yeah. First and foremost, obviously this is what I do one on one in practice and I have a very specific model that I work with people both locally and abroad, throughout the U.S. and abroad with fertility. That’s pretty much exclusively what I do; women’s health and specifically fertility work now, hormonal balancing, that kind of thing.

I do that and then we also have a program called Nourish Your Fertility. We are launching the second round of that program in the New Year in early 2018. It’s kind of a DIY option. It covers all of these big bucket areas that we talked to briefly about today and it gives you the top priorities and top strategies that both myself and my co-creator Nicole Holovach, she’s also an RD and fertility specialist, that we use with our clients in practice. Basically we walk you through in an eight week module exactly what to prioritize and do so you don’t have to feel overwhelmed and not know what direction to take.

That’s called Nourish Your Fertility and there’s actually a private Facebook group that you can join, too. That’s actually kind of a growing community and a fun one to start learning about some of this pre pregnancy prep stuff.

Kelsey: Awesome. If people want to learn more about you, where can they find you online?

Ayla: You can find me at BostonFunctionalNutrition.com. I know it’s a mouthful. If you’re curious about just talking through your case a little bit, just get a perspective understanding a little bit more about like how I work with clients, or if the Nourish Your Fertility program might be a good fit for you, then I have 30 minute whole health strategy sessions that you can book easily on the site so we could just hop on a call.

Kelsey: Awesome! Well thank you so much for being here, Ayla. I think this was a really great overview of things to start thinking about if you are considering becoming pregnant soon. Hopefully it can help our listeners out there who are thinking about this and are maybe a little bit overwhelmed by all the stuff that you can read online about what you should be doing and shouldn’t be doing. I love your approach. It’s very similar to mine in terms of pregnancy prep. Thank you so much for being here and answering all of our questions today!

Ayla: Thanks for having me, Kelsey and Laura!

PODCAST: Our Tips For Staying Healthy While Enjoying The Holidays

Thanks for joining us for episode 135 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

It’s the time of year where holiday food and stress of the season can easily derail healthy eating and lifestyle habits. But going in to the season without setting intentions can actually be more of a challenge to a healthy enjoyment of the holidays than trying to stick to a diet while surrounded by holiday treats.

Today we invite you to take a little break from hustle and bustle and join us as we share our tips for staying healthy and minimizing stress over the holidays while still enjoying yourself. Listen and relax as we share what we have found to work best for ourselves and our clients.

Some of what we’ll be chatting about is how to navigate the sea of holiday food choices that can interrupt daily eating habits as well as tips for facing the challenge of turning down food offered at gatherings.

Most importantly, we share the importance of setting intentions. You’ll hear how intention setting can reduce the inevitable holiday stress and help you be more present in your enjoyment of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • [00:04:09] Our plans for the holidays
  • [00:13:56] Minimizing the stress of the holidays to enjoy it without feeling like you’re missing out
  • [00:19:04] Navigating through the holiday food choices and interruption of normal eating habits
  • [00:32:09] The challenge of saying no to a food when offered by family or friends
  • [00:40:29] The importance of being conscious of your enjoyment or lack of enjoyment of a food
  • [00:50:34] How setting intentions for the holidays can help reduce stress
  • [00:01:09] Our intentions for the holiday season

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 135 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my co-host Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody!

Kelsey: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com and Laura over at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.

Over the next 30 to 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insights into solving your health challenges with practical tips and real food.

Laura: If you are enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: Today on the show we’re going to be sharing our favorite tips for staying healthy over the holidays without missing out on enjoying yourself and your time with friends and family. But before we get into the question for today, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Welcome back, everyone! We’re doing something a little bit different today since we’re publishing this episode right around the holidays and we wanted to give our perspective on how to maneuver what can be a pretty challenging season for health habits. We wanted to help you do this in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling deprived or unhappy.

This episode will probably be a little bit more casual than our usual episodes since we’re going to be sharing our personal experiences not only with ourselves but also just some client experiences that we’ve had. We’re going to talk about what we feel works best for our clients or for our personal selves rather than sharing a ton of evidence or having a ton of prep work done for the episode.

But we’re hoping that you will enjoy the more laid back chat since like I said, it’s coming out right on the holidays. I think sometimes at least I feel around this time of the year that I don’t really feel like cramming my head full of a bunch of science information. How about you, Kelsey?

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like this is a good season to focus on just overall health, and relaxation, and time with friends and less about all the science and control I guess I would say

Laura: Just to get this episode kicked off, I think we wanted to talk a little bit about what our plans are since we recording this in early December only a couple weeks away from Christmas, which, Kelsey that’s what you celebrate, right?

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: Okay. I’m sure we have people listening who have other holidays like Hanukkah or other holidays around this time of year that might have already happened. We apologize for missing your holidays, but we’re trying to at least sneak in before Christmas and New Year’s Eve when I think a lot of people are having at least one of those times that they’re surrounded by food, or alcohol, or whatever other kind of challenging atmospheres that they might be in.

Kelsey, I know that you’re heading up to, you said Massachusetts for Christmas?

Kelsey: Yeah, I’ve got family there. My husband I are high school sweethearts, so we actually both have family in Massachusetts in the same small little town so it makes a little bit easier. But my dad and my stepmom actually moved to Medellin, Columbia like three months ago which is pretty crazy. But luckily, they’re actually going to come up and visit in Massachusetts while me and my sisters and all their boyfriends and everybody is all there, so it’s going to be big happy family in Massachusetts.

But it’s always a little stressful for us because…us meaning myself and my husband… just because we have three families that we need to visit with essentially while we’re home and that can be a lot especially for the shorter holidays like Thanksgiving where you only generally have a couple days that you’re there.

At least for Christmas we tend to have a little bit more time. It’s really like a week or so that we end up staying there, but it can be a lot to try to visit with three families and just split your time kind of equally and nobody gets upset that you’re not spending enough time with them. I know at least for me it’s a bit of a stressful time, but also I intend to make it a really nice time that I get to spend with my family and really enjoy that time and be present with them, too.

Laura: Yeah. I almost feel like it’s a double edged sword with having all your family in the same area because on one hand it makes it easy and you can see everybody. But then on the other hand, you have to pick who you’re going to see, and what time you’re going to see them, and who you’re staying with, and it’s like hopefully nobody gets sad or upset that you’re spending more time with someone else. You have to be very cautious about equal opportunity to see people. Right?

Kelsey: Yeah. And it’s like we end up with basically a schedule happening, which is a little silly, but I guess it just has to work out that way. But I think it’ll actually be nice. We’re hoping to visit my dad and my step mom in Colombia at some point obviously, and that’ll be nice to just, you’re right, like go somewhere else where they’re the only people there so we can just spend all of our time with them. So that makes it a little bit easier.

But of course like you said, it’s more difficult in some ways obviously because you have to travel to see particular families. Once everybody is spread out it’s going to be a little crazy, too. I’m not sure which is crazier. But at least for this year, we’re all in the same place together so it’ll be easy in that regard, but difficult in regards to scheduling and everything.

Laura: Do you drive up to Massachusetts?

Kelsey: Yeah, it’s like a four and a half hour drive from the city. It’s not bad at all, so that’s nice. I really don’t like to have to fly over the holidays not only because it’s super expensive, but just because it kind of means are you going further if you’re flying. Driving four and a half hours is not bad.

Laura: We’re flying because my husband’s family lives about 10 hours from us, which for me is just too far to drive. I mean if we had a lot of time, like if we had a week or something that we could spend, then maybe it would be okay. But right now we only have a few days for my husband to get off from work. It’s like we don’t want spend 20 hours total of a four day trip in the car.

Kelsey: Right, that’s no fun.

Laura: We’re going to be flying up into Detroit. Even though his family isn’t in Detroit, that’s the closest direct airport that we can fly into, and then they’re about a two hour drive from the airport. I think our trip ends up being like probably a five or six hour start to finish from our house to theirs. And this is our first married Christmas.

Kelsey: I was just going to ask if that’s the case. I was trying to remember.

Laura: Yeah. Luckily, well I guess luckily, my parents don’t really celebrate Christmas. I think our intentions going forward are to spend Christmas in Ohio which I think is fair because my parents live in the same… I mean they’re moving to a different town right now, but they’re going to be 30 minutes away instead of like 10 minutes away now. We have access to them year round whereas we only will see my husband’s family a couple times a year. I think we’re going to end up spending Christmas with them on a regular basis.

Kind of like you, my husband’s got two sets of parents so we’ll probably end up having a schedule as well. I think he tends to be a little bit more laid back about scheduling things, so I’ll let him figure out what we’re doing and I’m just going to tag along and be like we do this on this day and this on this day.

Luckily he got a chance to go up to see his parents and his sister over Thanksgiving because he went up to go deer hunting with his dad. I didn’t go with him because I was like if you going be deer hunting, I’m going to not have anything to do so. Not that I wouldn’t potentially go hunting, but from what I’ve heard, it’s not a very social experience. You’re kind of just stuck up in a tree stand for four hours in the 20 degree weather.

Kelsey: Sounds exciting.

Laura: I think it will be interesting because we did do Christmas with his family last year, but that was when we were engaged. It was a little bit different because he was still in Ohio, I was down in North Carolina so it was kind of like partially me visiting him and then also seeing his family. This year it will be us visiting his family together.

I think it will be fun. It’s one of those interesting things where my family doesn’t really do Christmas anymore, significantly at least. His family is super into it so I’m trying to get back interested in Christmas stuff.  I’m not a Scrooge, I promise. I’m not like anti-Christmas. I just feel like I don’t get that excited about it.

I’m kind of awkward in the sense that I don’t really like getting gifts because I feel I’m a hard person to buy for. My husband would agree with that that I’m very difficult to buy things for just because I feel like I have very specific tastes about stuff. I always feel really awkward if somebody gives me something that I don’t really like and I’m like what do I do? Do I just like give it away or keep it? Or are they going to expect that I use it? Because I always have that kind of issue with my mom when she buys me things that I don’t really like. She knows going in that I’m probably not going to like it and I’m trying not to be a jerk. But on the other hand, I’m like I don’t like to have a bunch of random things that I don’t use around the house, so it’s just gets a little a little tricky. I’m trying to get more excited about Christmas this year since my husband loves it so much.

Kelsey: I love Christmas! Whenever I meet people who are just like eh, Christmas. I’m like how do you even exist? I love Christmas! Christmas is my favorite!

Laura: It’s ironic because my Christianity is such a massive part of my life. You would think that I’d be super into it. I’m sure once I have kids, I’ll be more into it. But I think for me, the spirit of Christmas in the way that our country celebrates it or really like beats it into the ground, I kind of just get sick of it because I don’t really think it is actually aligned with what the original purpose of Christmas was.

Kelsey: Yeah, fair enough.

Laura: Everything is like buy this, buy that, spend money, go get your kid these awesome gifts, and have people give you gifts and pretend that you like them.

Kelsey: You’re like I’m not into it.

Laura: Right. What I was going to say is I feel like this is kind of a good transition for our conversation today because the other thing that I don’t particularly like about Christmas or this holiday time in general is all of the change in routine and also just like the insane amount of junk food that is around that people just almost expect you to eat and to have with them, and that kind of thing.

Also I think as a dietitian, I’m sure you get this same experience where people also like feel weird eating that stuff in front of you. And they talk about it and they’re like don’t look at what I’m eating. I’m like I really don’t care, I promise.

Kelsey: Yeah, I could care less.

Laura: It’s like you always are the dietitian at the holiday party that everyone’s like just stay away from them because I don’t want them to see what I’m eating.

Kelsey: I hate that.

Laura: Like I said, we’ll be talking about this today where there’s all this food available, and I say junk food because it’s like things that I wouldn’t really consider nourishing like pie, and cookies, and eggnog, and all this stuff that you don’t have to have in your diet to be healthy. It’s not like I’m saying you shouldn’t eat too much turkey or something. When I say junk, I don’t mean something that absolutely shouldn’t be eaten. It’s just if you eat a ton of it, either you don’t feel well or you’ll put on a lot of weight over the holidays. And that’s no fun either if you put 10 pounds on in a month.

So just trying to navigate the food that’s available, the expectations from other people about the food, like how much you turned down, how much you eat. It turns into this thing that I think can be really exhausting for a lot of people. And that’s just considering the food, not even considering a lot of my clients who are parents, the amount they have to do to get their kids’ gifts, and wrap the gifts, and do the traveling, and plan to see family, and all the stuff. It turns into one of these things that I feel like people, they put a lot of pressure on themselves and a lot of obligations on themselves to do things perfectly and a lot of times I think it ends up causing people to just not even enjoy it.

That’s I think the challenge with the holidays in general and Christmas and all that is how do you go into it in a way that is really enjoying what it’s supposed to be for, like spending time with family or friends, or just having that social experience without it being this like disordered eating, binge eating, binge and restrict cycle, exercise after the day you ate all the food, and spending tons of money because you feel like you have to buy the perfect present, that kind of thing. All that stressful stuff that comes along with the holidays, how do you minimize that and then still enjoy your time without feeling like you’re missing out on something?

Kelsey: Yeah, I definitely agree. It’s a real struggle. When I talk to some of my clients, there’s a lot of stress that goes into the holidays and it’s really important to just think about it a little bit ahead of time.

I’m not like a big planner or a control freak and I don’t like to make my clients feel that way either. But I do think there’s something to be said about just kind of thinking a little bit about the situations that you might be put in and how you can mitigate some of those stressors or triggers, things like that to help you go through the holiday season feeling just relaxed about it and like there’s nothing that you need to be worried about or adding additional stress onto yourself for.

Laura: Yeah. I think when I talk about not really enjoying Christmas, I think that is what I’m trying to mentally get over is the expectation of it being this crazy stressful, like trying to do all this stuff perfectly kind of time.

For me, I don’t think I have that same level of perfectionism around the holidays that I’ve seen some of my clients have. But I felt like for me it ends up being… I don’t know, it’s tough. People always are surprised when I tell them that I’m an introvert and just trying to interact with either my family or my husband’s family, which I’m still getting to know them even though I feel like I know them decently well, just being in that experience and then also trying to navigate all this food, and exercise, and lifestyle stuff that’s happening, I feel like that’s the reason that when I think about the holidays and just like oh my gosh, I don’t feel like doing this right now.

Especially because I feel like that for me, and I feel like you may have this experience too where the end of the year has this weird burst of activity and then December and early January get kind of quiet for our work. For me, I almost feel like this time of year I’m more looking forward to having a break from work than any of the actual Christmas associated things.

Whereas my husband, he’s like a garbage disposal when it comes to food. He doesn’t ever have to worry about eating too much.  I think the stuff that I worry about with Christmas isn’t even something that crosses his mind. That’s probably why he enjoys it so much because he’s like, what’s not to like about Christmas? You get gifts, you get to see your family, you get to just hang out, you get time off work. I’m like yeah, I can see why you would think that was super fun. I want us to all have my husband’s attitude about the holidays where it’s all just fun and enjoyable and we don’t have to worry about all this stuff.

Kelsey: Yeah, for sure. Let’s go into this episode with that idea. Let’s all celebrate Christmas like Josh.

Laura: I’ll tell him what we said. I’ll be like we’re all trying to be more like you, Josh.

Alright so let’s talk about our most common things that we’ve heard either our clients or ourselves struggle with. Because I know before we got on this this podcast, Kelsey and I were trying to figure out what we were going to talk about because on one hand we definitely see this happening a lot with our clients where they struggle during this time for different reasons and so we have their experience to work from. But then our own personal experience, it can be a little tough because both of us feel that we don’t really struggle with this stuff anymore. And Kelsey, I think you were saying you didn’t really ever struggle with it. Is that true?

Kelsey: Yes. I consider myself very lucky in that regard. I have never struggled a lot with this idea of needing to be strict with my diet or control my diet in any way and so I’ve never really gone into the holidays thinking about all these situations where food is going to be offered to me and like what do I do, and can I eat this stuff? Is it going to totally throw off my goals? Luckily, I’ve never really dealt with that. But of course I hear it a lot from my clients. I think you were saying that you’ve kind of dealt with that in the past, but it’s something that you’re at least five or ten years removed from at this point.

Laura: Yeah, maybe not ten as far as like being fully over that kind of stuff. But I would say my challenges with…saying the word binge is weird because I don’t really feel like I had like a binge problem. It was just around certain times of the year that I would let myself not worry about nutrition because I had been so conscious about it. It’s like giving myself permission to not be conscious about it then kind of led to a swing in the other direction where I would eat everything, and drink a ton of alcohol, and just be like I’m going to have anything I want because today’s my celebration day. And then most of the time I’d feel awful the next day.

For me, I think getting to a point where I wasn’t really restricting food on a daily basis that when I get to the holidays I just I feel like I have what I want and I don’t freak out about it and I don’t binge on things.

When I say I don’t binge on things, I’m not saying I don’t eat more than maybe I would on a normal basis or I wouldn’t do what I consider overeating because I think being aware of what overeating is, is not the same thing as having any sort of disordered thinking around food or  disordered tendencies.

I think all of us know there’s days that we overeat. It happens.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s one of those things where there might be some occasions where I feel like I ate too much and I’m really full. I don’t beat myself up or feel bad about it.

Kelsey: You’re just aware of it. You know it happened and that’s it.

Laura: Yeah. For example, this isn’t really a holiday example, but my husband and I were helping my mom and dad move this past weekend and they took us out to a kind of late lunch. I guess it was like 3:00 or something. I got this like humongous burger that had like a gluten free bun, a salad on the side. I had a cocktail with it. I was just like I’m going just eat something really awesome right now. I was pretty full after that and then the rest of the evening I kept thinking do we have to make dinner? I kind of don’t feel like it. I’m not even hungry. I ended up just not eating dinner because I was so full from that late lunch.

I would say that was a situation where it wasn’t like oh I ate too much, I need to not eat now. It was more like I’m so full, I don’t even feel like eating. Normally I wouldn’t skip dinner, but I wasn’t even hungry. I wasn’t hungry until I woke up the next day.

That’s a situation where it might throw off my normal habits. Like if I eat a huge dinner the night before, I might not have breakfast right away when I get up because I’m not hungry. But that shift in routine I would say is totally different than looking at it as an opportunity to earn back the calories or however people think about it.

Kelsey: Right, where you’re like I had a giant lunch, so I’m going to skip dinner to make up for that. I have definitely had experiences like that, too. Even just this past weekend I hung out with two different friends and I spent a lot of time with them because my husband was filming some stuff. We went out for lunch, and dinner, and breakfast, and had a bunch of cocktails, which was a pretty unusual for me especially over the course of like an entire weekend for two days basically. I don’t even know if I ate any meals at home this weekend, which is pretty crazy.

But yeah, it throws off the routine, but in a way that I can just be aware of and I’m not necessarily changing anything on purpose because of what I ate over the weekend. But this morning, I was not hungry right away so I waited a little bit and I had some really small little breakfast. Probably I’ll have big lunch because I’m getting hungry at this point.

But it’s just a matter of awareness I think and just noting the things that you’re eating and how full you are. Like you said, you skipped dinner just because at that point you weren’t hungry, which makes sense. It’s not a way to kind of force restrictions on yourself outside of those places. I think is just really important to notice that and be aware of it, but not necessarily change anything on purpose because of anything that you’ve done.

Laura: I think the mindset piece is so important because if you look at the actual behavior, the behavior could be the same. Like for example, the skipping dinner thing, I could have like you said, skipped dinner because I felt guilty about eating a ton at lunch and was trying to correct what I did, or I felt guilty, so I’m like I’m just not going to eat.

I see this happening really frequently with people with exercise as a punishment for what they ate. You think about something like Thanksgiving, there’s all these gyms that will do workouts on Friday that are extra hard to “burn off your Thanksgiving meal”. If that’s your mentality that you have to like make up for what you did at a meal, I think that is a hundred percent different than listening to your body and feeling like okay, I had a late lunch and I ate a lot, and I’m really full still and I don’t really want to eat dinner. I’m just going to skip it because it’s like I don’t feel like making myself eat if I’m not even hungry.

Or with the exercise, it’s like well I generally work out on Fridays and I’m just going to do my normal workout and not have it be this thing where you have to atone for the food that you ate or that you have to make a change because you’re worried that you did something wrong or something.

I know it can sound subtle because like I said, the actual objective behavior might be the same. Like maybe you normally work out pretty hard on Fridays or maybe you normally listen to your appetite when it comes to eating and if you’re not hungry, you don’t force yourself to eat. Even that arguably could be coming from a disordered mindset if you’re not actually doing it for the right reasons.

I think just being able to be very honest with yourself about why you’re doing something and if it’s like I’m doing it because I feel guilty versus I’m doing it because my body is telling me this is what it wants, I feel like it’s completely different.

It’s tough because like I said, the behavior is the same, but the actual reason behind it is totally different. I think that reason will then impact your choices later because if you feel like you have to punish yourself for bad choices, you might either not enjoy the food or not even eat it because you don’t want to have to do the punishment later. Or you might overeat it because you’re like well if I’m going to punish myself, I might as well just be stuffing myself full of this food because this is my one chance to have fun.

Kelsey: Right. Exactly. As I’m thinking about this past weekend, I’m like I think I ate two meals a day for these days where I was never eating at home, which like makes sense to me because I can objectively look at the meals I ate and be like yeah, I probably ate way more calories than I would normally eat at my typical meals when I’m eating out, so it makes sense that I’d be full longer. It wasn’t anything that my friend and I consciously thought of. It was just like well we’re not hungry until way later in the day because we had like a ginormous brunch.

I think you’re right. The mindset piece is really important even though it doesn’t necessarily change what actually happens. Because I’m sure if somebody who was really concerned over their calorie intake ate a giant brunch, they probably like I’m going to wait until dinner because I know I shouldn’t be eating lunch because my breakfast was so big.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: But that mind set piece is huge. I feel like it’s kind of hard to describe why it is so important. You’re right, the behavior itself doesn’t actually change. But I think what you mentioned before is true is that it can potentially change behavior in a positive way in the future just because your mind is sort of in the right place, it’s not coming from a place of restriction and control.

Laura: Yeah. I think with the holidays, what I’ve found to be very helpful for myself other than the fact that I just don’t have a lot of restriction in my day to day life…and when I say restriction, I don’t mean that I just eat whatever all the time, because I do try to eat things that make me feel good. I try to eat in a way that supports my training so I’ll eat more on the days that I’m working out because I know I have a training session to fuel. I try to eat high protein because that keeps my blood sugar steady. It’s not like I have just no concept of what I should be eating at a meal. But I’m not like neurotically avoiding things because some internet person said this food isn’t good for you or anything like that.

When I go into the actual holiday environment, which if it’s at my family’s or like with my parents because my mom’s a dietitian as well, I feel like the food tends to be the same level of quality that I would normally cook so I tend to not think about it as much. But then when I’m in a situation like Josh’s family is much more just normal American family. They don’t have this ridiculous Weston Price, Paleo diet understanding the way that my family does. So when I’m in their house or if I have food around, like food that they have made, normally the meals themselves are normal. I’d say it’s the desserts that start to get like a little crazy in my experience, I mean they just have I would say much more of a normal Christmas type environment where people are bringing cookies, and making all sorts of different desserts, and all the different kids have the specific dessert that they want so of course there’s like enough for everybody to have everybody’s favorite dessert, that kind of thing.

For me, it’s like going into that environment if I had been the way that I was in my early 20s where I was always restricting…and when I say restricting, I don’t necessarily mean like calories, but just types of foods, even just being like strict Paleo or doing like very low carb or something like that. When I actually had those experiences, like let’s say I was at my husband’s family’s house and I was like I’m not going to restrict anything today, I’m going to eat whatever I want, I would have ended up just eating so much of everything.

Going in the last couple years to these kind of environments, I almost feel like I just don’t care about the food. It doesn’t have this draw to me where I’m like oh my gosh, I’m just thinking about it all the time and I need to have it, and thinking like if I don’t eat that, I’m not going to have a good time, that kind of thing. Just being able to be a little bit more aware of here’s the food that’s available, does any of that actually look appealing to me?

It’s funny because my husband, because like I said, he’s a garbage disposal. He can eat anything and he usually does eat anything. He’ll eat stuff and then he’ll be like you should try this, it’s really good. I’m like that’s not really my thing. He really likes sugar cookies, for example. I’m just like not into them. I’m like whatever, it’s like a sugar cookie. Who cares? So he’ll be like you should try this. Once in a while I’ll take a bite just to be like let’s see if this is that amazing. And I eat it and I’m like it’s not even that good. I mean it’s good, it’s not like it’s a total piece of crap, but it’s not….

Kelsey: It’s not something exciting for you.

Laura: Right. It’s not something that I even really want. I wouldn’t have chosen it.

Being aware of what your actual desires are and deciding if you even want something I think can be even challenging. Actually I think this is one of the biggest issues I run into with my clients is the concept of turning food down when it’s offered or when it’s available, which is kind of what I’m touching on here.

If my husband offers me something or my mother-in-law offers me some dessert that she made, it’s like do I want this? And if I don’t want it or if for whatever reason it wasn’t something I felt like I could eat from a health perspective, how do you turn that down? Because I think a lot of people associate food with love essentially. Do you feel like you have that issue?

Kelsey: It really depends on the context I feel like. You were talking about before how you consider yourself an introvert, and I’m the same way. Luckily, my family and even my husband’s family I feel they’re sort of at this comfort level where I feel like I can just be myself entirely. That to me is like the important piece of when I feel comfortable as an introvert. As long as I don’t feel like I need to be kind of putting on airs in any way, that’s where I feel my best in that I can hang out with people for a long amounts of time and it doesn’t feel draining to me.

And so with those people that I feel really comfortable with, I would say I don’t necessarily have that issue of feeling bad turning food down. But certainly in a situation where I am not super familiar with the people or like if it’s at a party and I’m acquaintances with those people, then that’s something I deal with a little bit more in those situations.

It’s always been I have to just think about whether I really truly want something or am interested in trying something. And if I’m not, then I’ve just learned to say no thanks. If that person is getting offended by that in any way, that’s not necessarily on me.

Laura: It’s funny you mention that you have a harder time with strangers. I feel like for me, I’m one of these like outgoing introverts is what we would call ourselves. I don’t have an issue turning stuff down because I’ll usually be fine telling someone why. If somebody offers me something, half the time I’ll just be like no, I kind of get stomachaches when I eat that kind of thing. I feel like that tends to be a much more gentle way of saying no than being just like no, I don’t want that. Or even just being like that looks so good, but I don’t feel good when I eat that kind of thing. That’s generally my strategy for turning things down.

I don’t really feel like Josh’s family is like this where they’re like pushy because I know there are some people whose families are like oh come on, just eat it. Sometimes there’s people who actually either they’ll shame the other person into eating it or they’ll themselves feel bad because the other person is not eating it. So they’ll be like now I feel bad eating it because you’re not eating it. That can be tough because then you feel bad that you’re making the other person feel stressed or whatever about the situation.

Or if they’re like oh come on, it’s not that big of a deal, you can go on your diet tomorrow or something kind of snarky like that, that can be I think more challenging than just turning something down to somebody who’s more reasonable.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But if somebody is giving you a hard time about it, the way that I look at it is that that’s their problem and it’s not your job to make them feel better. And so just keeping that in mind when you go into that kind of situation because I know a lot of people have that experience where they’re in a situation where somebody is either sarcastic about it or kind of takes it on themselves and then they feel bad about what they’re doing. I feel like just remembering that it’s that person’s responsibility to deal with their own stuff and to not put that on you to fix their emotions by eating the food that they offered you.

That can get a little complicated just because it’s like what’s the person’s underlying motivation for giving you a hard time about it? But I think if you can always just be really firm in your decisions and remember that it’s not your job to make them feel good about themselves or good about their choices, and obviously not saying something like I’d never eat that, that’s so bad for you or something rude like that. But if you say no and that’s it, it’s just like you can’t ignore your own needs and desires to make somebody else feel good, if that makes sense, in that situation.

I mean obviously there’s times where you do things to make somebody feel good that is some level of self-sacrifice. But if it’s a food that you know is not going to make you feel good or you don’t even want to eat, that’s not something that you need to do.

Kelsey: Yeah. I would also add too that I think a lot of people, myself included, have somewhat of a hard time turning food down if there’s not some specific reason. Like you were saying, when you turn something down you might say like it just doesn’t sit with me well or it doesn’t make me feel good. I think people need to get more comfortable with just saying no thanks, I’m good. You don’t have to explain anything to anybody.

Of course if you do have a reason, I do think it can kind of help to lighten the situation so that the other person doesn’t feel anything. But again, you don’t have to worry about that person’s emotions necessarily.

But I think all of us can get better about saying no to things in all aspects of our lives not even just this, but especially here too. You don’t have to explain yourself to anybody who’s offering you something. You can just say no, I’m good, thank you.

Laura: Yeah, and I think having an excuse in your back pocket if somebody presses you for it can be helpful. Let’s say you’re doing like a gluten free, dairy free diet because you have an autoimmune disease or something like that. You know going in you’re not going to be eating anything that has those things in it, which obviously gets rid of a lot of the types of desserts and stuff that you would normally see at a party or a gathering. I think what Kelsey said about just saying no and not needing an excuse to be able to say no because maybe you just don’t want it, you’re allowed to not want something. Being okay with just saying no and seeing what happens, because maybe nine times out of ten the person is like okay and just like goes and offers it to somebody else. But then if they really push you, then having some kind of explanation even if it’s not the truth, you don’t owe anybody like a deep medical explanation as to why you’re avoiding something.

If you feel strongly that the food is not something that you want or something that would be harmful to your health, then you can share why you’re not doing something with someone. It’s not like you have to keep that stuff yourself or like just eat it because they’re forcing on you.

I think the only challenge is when you think about people who have actual eating disorders and how their family might react if somebody is turning down food. But I think that goes a little beyond the scope of this conversation today because I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there that they turn everything down and they don’t really eat anything. That’s more of like a concerned relative that is worried about their health versus if you’ve eaten a meal with your family and then dessert is being passed around and you don’t take any, you should have the right to say no without having to explain yourself.

But having an explanation to give if somebody is basically annoying you about it or kind of like pushing you I think can just make it a little bit more comfortable because you don’t have to think on your feet and be like what am I going to say, I don’t even know, why am I turning this down?

Kelsey: Yeah. And for me too for the holidays especially when there’s all sorts of stuff going around, I think it can be really useful to if I am interested in eating something, but I’m not sure if I’m going to like it or whatever, just like take it and try a little bit and then decide if I want to continue eating it or not, or if it’s not worth it to me.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. That’s something that a woman named Jill Coleman that I follow, her website is Jillfit.com. She always talks about the one….or the first bite rule I should say. Basically what that rule is is anytime you’re eating something that’s a pleasure food like a dessert or something like that, if you’re not sure you’re going to enjoy it or if it’s like you’re trying to eat in moderation and not just pig out on something because it’s available, then the first bite rule is essentially every time you take a bite of that food, you evaluate if you’re still enjoying it the way you did when you ate the first bite.

I can use an example of this that happened recently. My husband will occasionally buy soda, not often, but he does sometimes get one if we’re out. We went to Target yesterday, I think it was. We were doing like mad search for a newlywed’s Christmas ornament, which was like the most ridiculous thing. It was so hard to find one.

But anyway, when we were at the mall we both realized that we were thirsty and so he wanted to get a soda. I’m like okay, whatever. He has a soda like a couple times a month. I don’t have to be Miss Debbie Downer Dietitian wife or whatever. He got a Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper is one of those sodas like I actually really like the way it tastes. I asked him if I can have a sip of it. I had a sip and I was like oh my gosh, this is crazy how many flavors. This is just like insane. And then I had another sip and I was like okay, the initial shock of all the flavors has kind of worn off and now it’s just kind of starting to just tastes like sugar water. Then by the third sip or something I was like okay, I don’t want this anymore because it’s like now it just kind of tastes like sugar, like I’m drinking liquid sugar.

Kelsey: Some nasty syrup.

Laura: Right. It’s a bit of an extreme example, but it’s one of those thing where you can kind of apply that to any dessert that you’re eating where maybe the first couple of bites taste really good and you’re really enjoying it, and then halfway through you’re like I’m kind of over this flavor. This is not really enjoyable anymore. That’s the point where you want to stop.

I think a lot of times people are not even aware of that even happening where you’re not really enjoying it anymore. You’re just eating it because it’s in front of you or because you associate the food with something that’s enjoyable.

I always think about Oreos as a good example of this. Oreos are a cookie that I think at least I look at them as something that everybody loves Oreos and they’re awesome, like they’re so appealing. The last two or three times that I’ve tasted an Oreo, which honestly I can’t even remember the last time that was, I take a bite and I’m like this is disgusting. This doesn’t even taste good. It’s like sugary cardboard.

Kelsey: I’m going to admit, I love Oreos. I can’t agree here.

Laura: I think that might be the first time we have a stark disagreement on our show. But that’s I think a really good example of something where I try it, but I think it’s gross. I’m not going eat the whole thing. Whereas someone like you might love it and eating an Oreo is your treat for the holiday or whatever that you’re going to have once in a while because you know it’s probably not good to eat all the time, but it’s like you really love them.

You can have a bite and decide you don’t like something and stop eating it. You don’t have to eat it just because…like if I was sitting next to you and you had Oreos and you’re like oh my gosh, this is so good, and I was like I don’t like Oreos. They’re not good, I’m not going to eat one.

I don’t know why it’s so easy to think about…like if you don’t like green beans or something, nobody’s going to write or eat green beans unless you’re like five years old eating with your parents. But if you have a dessert in front of you that you’re like I don’t really want that, everyone’s like oh it’s so good, you have to have it.

It’s one of those things where I think if you can just get a really good level of awareness of the experience of eating the dessert and keep checking in with yourself as you’re eating it, which part of that is just enjoying it more because you’re actually paying attention what you’re doing and not just like housing essentially.

Kelsey: Totally, yeah.

Laura: But the other part of that is like I said, sometimes even really good dessert, you get through half the piece that you took for yourself and maybe you’re just like this is too much now and I’m kind of not enjoying it anymore because it’s too sweet. So just being able to be aware of that, and again, maybe you eat the whole piece and you enjoyed the entire thing, and it was amazing, and you just loved it. You don’t have to stop eating it, but you definitely shouldn’t be eating something that you don’t enjoy if it’s something that’s not like for a health reason.

Kelsey: Absolutely. I think the portion size here comes into play a lot because like you were saying, if you have something in front of you, you have a full piece, or a whole cookie, or something like that, most people are just like oh I have this, this is the portion size. I’m going to just eat this portion size. But I think this idea of checking in with yourself as you go through that eating process is huge.

I always think of like pecan pie for this for example where I freaking love pecan pie. But it’s one of those things that is so like sickly sweet that it’ll taste great for a couple of bites or maybe like half a piece of pie, and then by that point I’m like wow, I’m so done with this. I really don’t need any more and honestly eating more of it is going to make me not like it.

I think making sure that just because you have a certain size of a piece, or a cookie, or whatever does not necessarily mean you have to eat that whole thing. You want to enjoy it. You don’t want to get to the end of a piece of pecan pie, like I hate pecan pie now because I just forced myself to eat it.

Laura: I’ve ruined pecan pie for myself.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly.

Laura: Yeah, it’s tough though. It’s one of these things where it’s like I really think when you go into a situation with these kind of deserts and other people are enjoying it, I almost feel like there’s the social pressure that you should enjoy it, too. Because I’ve been in that situation like I said with even just Josh, or like for a small group for church, or going to this family’s house for a holiday, and all of them are like these are so good, these cookies or whatever. Maybe that’s just the kind of cookie that they like and I don’t like those kinds of cookies. I don’t necessarily need to eat them because everyone else says that they’re good. But I think a lot of times people will actually do things because everyone else is enjoying it whether or not they’re enjoying it themselves.

That’s where that awareness piece comes in. It’s like you said, you don’t want to eat something that you’re not enjoying just because it’s in front of you or because other people are eating it. It can be tough. I feel like sometimes it’s like a hindsight thing where you eat it and you’re like oh gosh, now I feel like my stomach is so heavy with all that sugar.

But I mean at the end of the day if that happens, it’s whatever, it’s a learning experience. And again, you’re not going to beat yourself up and be like I’m so stupid for eating that or now I have to go to a CrossFit workout the next day because I ate too much pie. It’s like that doesn’t feel good, I think next time I’ll be a little bit more aware of what I’m doing and not just eat it because it’s there and because it’s served.

So trying to use everything as a learning experience and not beating yourself up because you did something that doesn’t feel good is really important. Even like the goal of health, I feel like people can really be very moralistic about…and I don’t know if moralistic is the word.

Kelsey: I know what you mean.

Laura: Basically it’s like I’m doing something that’s healthy, I’m a good person. And then if you do something that isn’t healthy or makes your stomach hurt or something you’re like I’m stupid or I’m bad because I did that.

I hear this kind of language with my clients a lot where they’ll say I was bad and I had this, or I cheated and I had that. I’m like you’re not being bad. You’re making a decision, and maybe it wasn’t a good decision, and maybe you don’t feel your best afterwards, but you’re not a bad person for making that decision.

So just removing the result of the decision from what type of person you are in this whole situation, I think it’s really important. I think it can be really subtle that you’re having that mentality, but just being aware of it is the first step.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. Of course like the worse that gets over time, it really messes with your mindset in ways that probably are not even super obvious. But as a dietitian working with people where I see that a lot, and I’m sure this is probably true for you too, Laura, I feel like I can pick up on that in somebody just the way they talk about food. I’m like this is tied in with how you view yourself as a person so intimately that I know this is something we have to unravel. It can be really hard to unravel that. The earlier you can kind of recognize those symptoms, I think basically the earlier you can start to work on that, the better because it can become really difficult to pull that apart.

Laura: I think we had a couple other things. Obviously we don’t want this episode to be insanely long. I did warn everyone that we were going to ramble a little in the beginning, but I feel like I did a little bit more than you.

I think one last thing that we should cover is this concept of what a person’s intentions are going into the holidays because obviously it can be stressful for a variety of reasons. Even in the best relationships and family, just dealing with all the family stuff can be stressful.

Like you said, both of us are going to have to manage schedules for example with our weekend. Even if our relationships are amazing, just having to deal with the coordination of travel can be stressful. Most people do have some level of stress.

And then a lot of people have not so great relationships with their family that they still need to see that person or they’re just going to interact with people that they don’t really like to spend time with. There can be a lot of emotional stress around the time of the holidays.

Kelsey: Or may not have people…like I have some friends who their parents live in another country. They are not going to see them. I think that can be really tough, too.

Laura: Yeah. Being lonely or on Christmas itself where a lot of people are with their families and nothing’s open and you have nothing to do, sometimes that can be a little sad or lonely and makes you want to pig out on ice cream or something because you’re bored and you’re sad that you’re alone.

There’s a lot of different things that can happen that make the holidays stressful. Even just dealing with a lot of other stressed out people. I feel like going into public in general, like went to the mall yesterday to hunt down this freaking ornament that took forever to find. When I say this ornament, I don’t mean we had a specific one in mind. I mean finding an ornament that was specifically a newlywed’s ornament was shockingly difficult for some reason yesterday. But even just being at the mall and being at Target and stuff, you can just kind of like sense the anxiety in the air of everybody. Everyone’s a little bit like stressed out and a little bit irritated with the other people around them. I just feel like in general in our country around this time of year, it gets a little edgy.

Kelsey: For sure.

Laura: We know that everyone is going to be experiencing some level of stress, unless you just don’t interact with anybody during the next month essentially from the beginning of December. What we want to really emphasize in this conversation today is what the holidays are all about because that we kind of touched on a little bit when we first got on the call when I was admitting my distaste for Christmas is that if you let yourself get sucked into the negative issues that happen during this time of year, I think this time of year can really suck.

If you get caught up in needing to be the perfect mom, and have all the Christmas gifts perfectly wrapped, and make your kids happy, and make your in-laws happy, and make your sister happy, and like this person isn’t coming for Christmas and I’m mad about it, or like just all the different things that can happen that are negative during the holidays; if that’s all you’re focused on or all you’re really considering is like all the things you have to do, and all the obligations you have, and oh my gosh, we didn’t get a photo for the Christmas card and now if we do that…it’s just like the level of craziness that can happen, which I actually think really a lot of it ends up falling onto the woman especially in families that have children.

I was just reading an article about this the other day that I can try to share a link to if I can find it where they were talking about like the emotional responsibilities of women during the holidays and how basically women take it upon themselves to create the perfect Christmas experience for their families. A lot of times it’s super stressful.

Just being able to have more clarity about what the reason for all of this stuff is because like I was saying, for me being a Christian, I definitely look at it more like what is even the purpose of Christmas? What are we celebrating? Whether or not Christmas is like a legitimate Christian holiday, I won’t even go down that track. But just like what is the reason and what is the deeper purpose of Christmas?

And for people who aren’t religious that celebrate Christmas, I mean it really ends up coming down to the same kind of stuff where it’s like family, being grateful for things that you have in your life, and blessings, and that kind of thing.

I just want to make sure that we’re coming out of this conversation with we’re not just talking about how to be on a diet basically or how to like maintain your healthy habits. Which to be fair, yes, it’s difficult. But I think what can really be the root of the difficult nature is if you don’t have your priorities set before you’re going into the holidays.

Kelsey: Absolutely, yeah. I know for me just because you touched on that you’re a religious person, I’m not. But I celebrate Christmas and I love Christmas. But I feel like part of the reason that I love Christmas is because I try to be very intentional about it every year in that I go into it trying to think about just that I’m really excited to spend time with my family who I love. And yes, sometimes it can be a little bit stressful, but to me it’s so worth it to be able to spend time with them. It’s one of the only times where it’s like all of us together, which is so great.

For me, that is always my intention and the highest priority for me is just like spending quality time and being present with my family and my friends that I’m seeing over that time and just enjoying the really social aspect of Christmas. Because for me, Christmas tends to be a very…or just like holiday season in general for me and tends to be a very, very social time and I really enjoy that, but obviously it can be exhausting. But if I go into it with this idea of being present and really enjoying the time that I have with my friends and family, I find that I love the season so much more.

Laura: Yeah. Like I said, we’re in the beginning of December right now so we’re kind of getting into the season. For me, my mindset over the last couple of weeks despite the fact that a lot of times I feel kind of irritated because I’m like I don’t like that the whole world shuts down and everyone’s obsessed with it, and it’s like we’re all arguing about whether the Starbucks cups have the word Christmas on them or whatever.

The last couple of years have been a little bit like I just want to like shut myself in the house and not deal with all the stuff. And this year just seeing how excited my husband is about stuff, and we’re excited to see his family, and he’s going to go… well I keep saying he’s going to go home, we’re going to go to his home. We’re having our first Christmas tree together. It was my idea to go get an ornament to have together, that kind of thing.

My attitude is like listen, I don’t think I’m ever going to be the kind of person that’s just like obsessed with Christmas, loves it. I am not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I have friends that love it. They’re playing Christmas music on the day after Thanksgiving and I’m like Christmas music is only for December 25th and maybe the 24th.

But just having that attitude of like maybe I’m not that big into Christmas, but my husband is and his enjoyment of the holiday season in general is important to me. So not only do I want him to have a good time and to support his ability to enjoy his traditions and get involved in those traditions, but also to kind of like reset what my experience has been with Christmas and be like here’s my chance to kind of start something new.

Maybe the last couple of years Christmas hasn’t been the most exciting or the most enjoyable holiday. A couple of the last Christmases in maybe the last five years or so I was alone because my parents were up in New Jersey and I was down in North Carolina by myself and so there was some loneliness. All my friends were dating or married or something and I was single for up until like a year and a half ago basically. Just having that experience of just wanting it to be over.

This year because I’m like now I have somebody to spend it with and we’re going to go see a family that is really excited about it and this will be fun. It’s almost like I have to talk myself into allowing it to be fun because I think my personality is such that I’ll get a little stubborn about well I don’t like about Christmas, so I’m just going to tolerate it.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Like I said, it’s been very intentional for me to go into this situation being like I’m going to enjoy this. And that doesn’t mean I’m going to like eat 500 sugar cookies because that’s what my husband is doing, but it does mean that I’m going to put up a tree, and we’re going to do presents, and I’m going to bite the bullet and make a Christmas list for his family. Because I’m like I’m not five years old, I don’t need a Christmas. But that’s what they do in their family. Just being like not bratty about it I guess is my best way of describing it and being open to just experiencing what Christmas is like with my husband and with his family, that kind of thing.

So that’s my experience. But that might apply to other people listening where maybe they have had bad experiences with the holidays or maybe they don’t have the best relationships. Like you were saying, you’re excited to go see your family and stuff. I definitely am empathetic with certain experiences where you’re not excited to see family and you don’t really want to be interacting with people either extended family or even immediate family.

Just because you’re not excited to have the experience, doesn’t mean you can’t look for things to enjoy or to be grateful about, or to just not freak out about. Because I think that’s the other thing, is like you can just be neutral as opposed to feeling angry or bitter. Or like the whole loneliness thing, I mean just using the opportunity to just have like a DIY spa day, paint your nails, that kind of thing. It doesn’t have to be like this really sad thing where you feel like you’re focusing on being lonely, you’re focusing on not having good relationships with family, that kind of thing. I’m definitely rambling.

Kelsey: But I love the idea of resetting your expectations especially if you have had some negative experiences with the holidays in the past. I think that is a really nice thought and just sort of going into it neutral, not trying to force yourself to be in a great mood or be overly excited about things, but also not going into it actively not liking it. You go in neutral expecting the best and you just try to make it as enjoyable of an experience as you can. And if it’s not, that’s okay too. It doesn’t have to be this grand time, and it’s probably not going to be for many people. But I think going into it with this idea that things can be different is a really good idea.

Laura: Yeah. I think that does apply to the food situation because I think people tend to go into the holidays on autopilot in a lot of ways. Like you were saying, maybe someone like me, I’ll just use myself as an example where generally not super excited about Christmas and have had some potentially negative experiences around Christmas. I could go on autopilot and just be like cranky and annoyed and we go to Josh’s family’s house and I just sit there with my arms crossed, that kind of thing.

That is something I know a lot of people do. They just kind of do what they’re used to. It’s a very standard way of human behavior where it’s unless you’re actively choosing to be different, you’re probably going to do what you’re used to and what you’re normally doing every year. Having that intention to…I mean you said making are expecting the best. I would almost argue that you should just not expect anything because if you’re expecting the best and it turns out not the best, then you might feel sad or disappointed or it could almost reinforce your negative thoughts about the experience. Whereas if you just go and being like it is what it is and I’m going to do what I can to enjoy myself. And if Aunt Susie is awful to me again this year, then I’m not going to be upset about it because it’s not like I’m expecting her to be a new person or something like that.

The same thing goes with the food where it’s like well I could just go on autopilot and eat all the food, and wake up the next day and feel terrible, and then go on a ten mile run to punish myself for it because it’s what I do that every year.  Or maybe this year I’ll go in with the level of mindfulness around the food that I’m going to practice this idea of eating what I want, eating things that I enjoy, and stopping when I’m not enjoying it anymore, and paying attention to my hunger signals, and all this stuff and just see what happens and saying I’m going to try something different. And if it works, then great. If I struggle, then maybe there’s a learning experience or maybe I’ do better next year to follow my intention as I had gone in.

Because I think a lot of times if you’re around your family, a lot of times your intentions can kind of get blown out of the water because you’re like back in your typical old habits. I don’t know if you feel this way, sometimes if I’m around my family I start to feel like we’re in high school again or something.

Kelsey: Yes, for sure.

Laura: It’s just doing your best to try to stick to the intentions that you set realizing that you’re probably not going to be perfect about it, so don’t expect perfection. But if you go in without any sort of plan or intention or anything, then you can pretty much guarantee you’re just going to do what you’ve done every year.

Kelsey: Yeah, totally. I mean obviously everybody make your individual intentions as well. But I think that just as a whole for everybody, it’s not a bad idea to just intend to go into the holiday season with just being in neutral. I think that’s a great place to be. That way there’s no expectations like you were saying of good or bad and you just let it be what it is.

Laura: I won’t apply that to my husband. I won’t tell him to not be excited.

Kelsey: Yeah. If you’re already super excited, you’re allowed to be super excited.

Laura: Yeah. I think we’re talking more about the people who are stressed and worried about what they’re going to do going into Christmas. At the end of the day, that was what we talked about like way in the beginning where we were saying that you and I don’t even really think about it that much anymore. That’s the kind of neutrality that I think we’re talking about. We’re not saying just go into Christmas having no excitement and just like no emotions whatsoever. It’s more just not going in with this expectation of things being really hard or expecting you’d have a binge and restrict episode, or that kind of thing. It’s tough.

On that note, Kelsey, I’m going to put you on the spot. What’s your intention for the holidays?

Kelsey: My intention I would say just to go back to the whole family idea is to really just be fully present with my friends and family over the holidays when I’m there because I always wish I could see my family more. My family is really, really close. Sometimes, you’re right, we go into this feeling in a high school mode where we can all kind of like go into our older kind of bad habits and yell at each other. Even though we love each other, we’re one of those families that we just like say how it is.

Laura: So you’re saying you’re from the Northeast, basically.

Kelsey: Yes, exactly. I think for me it’s just to really be present and be my best self and not fall into old habits where maybe I’m not acting the way that I’d like to act around my family, and just being with them fully presently and being my best self.

Laura: Kind of being aware of when you start to act like 15 year old Kelsey.

Kelsey: Exactly. How about you?

Laura: I would say mine are to maybe what I was saying before about like open to new experiences type of intention where I’m almost looking to see the occasion through my husband’s eyes and just see obviously he loves it and I can see what he loves about it and create new traditions or create new experiences as a newlywed as someone who now has a new family essentially. I know you said you’ve been with your husband like 15 years or something at this point?

Kelsey: Eleven years. A long time.

Laura: I forgot you’re younger than me. But, I mean 11 years, that’s a long time. I’m sure you kind of feel almost at this point like his family is your family to the sense that you’ve known them for so long, there’s no surprises as far as getting to know people.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: For me, even though I’ve spent time with my husband’s family, I don’t feel like they’re my family yet. They’re Midwesterners so obviously they treat me like I’m their family. But being from New Jersey, I’m a little bit more slow to get integrated into the family situation.

My intentions are to first of all support my husband’s enjoyment of the experience. Even if something seems silly to me or is like I don’t feel like doing that, I’m still going to be supportive of his enjoyment and just not be a Scrooge about stuff that I’m not super into. But then also just being open to letting things be different, and letting things be new, and experiencing what this new I guess expectation of what Christmas is like, settle into what our life is like as a newlywed. Which I almost feel like that’s almost everything in the first year of marriage is. Like this is how I used to do it and now I have to learn how to do new things. It’s not bad, it’s just it’s a lot of change.

Kelsey: It’s different.

Laura: I think it can apply to Christmas as well.

Kelsey: Yeah. I really like that and I hope that everybody who’s still listening to us ramble on is thinking about your intention as well. Laura and I are saying it out loud, so maybe you and your partner or you and a friend can say your intentions out loud or if you just want to write it down. But just like getting it out into the world in some way and not just keeping it in your head I think is a really good idea because it kind of just makes it a little bit more real, I think at least.

Laura: Definitely.

Kelsey: Put it out into the world. Whatever your intention is for the holiday season, put it out there.

Laura: Awesome. Well I think once in a while people can handle our rambling. It is the end of the year after all.

Kelsey: Yeah, we’re losing it.

Laura: We were joking before we got on the call. We were like we don’t want to talk about nutrition anymore. We just want a break from having to think about it. And so that’s what you get with a podcast where we’re like mentally just ready for a break.

Kelsey: Over it. Exactly.

Laura: On one hand, hopefully that doesn’t sound like we don’t care. I almost think it’s good to follow health experts that don’t take it too seriously, if that makes sense. Because it’s like I personally get a little turned off when people treat nutrition and health like it’s the most important thing in the world.

Kelsey: You can get so into the weeds with it, like you can drive yourself crazy.

Laura: Right. Hopefully those of you who are still listening appreciate our attitude about health because I just feel like what we talked about today especially with the intention setting is so much more important than whether or not you had too much sugar on Christmas or something.

Kelsey: For sure. Yeah, I agree. Hopefully you guys enjoyed it. And as always, if you have a question that you’d like us to answer, you can go to TheAncestralRDs.com and leave us a question in the contact tab.

Laura: But otherwise, I guess we will see everybody here next week and we hope you all have a great holiday!

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Vegetable Oils: Is Total Avoidance Necessary?

Thanks for joining us for episode 134 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“Hi Kelsey & Laura! I love your podcast and am so grateful for the wealth of knowledge you both share. I appreciated your breakdown of the myths surrounding sugar and I wondered if you could do a similar episode about vegetable oils. It’s thrown around that they are toxic in the same way sugar is called toxic and I wondered if there can be room for any vegetable oils within a healthy, real food diet, or if you recommend excluding them 100%?  I’m referring to grape seed, canola, sunflower, etc. rather than olive or coconut oil. Here are my two specific questions:

  1. Do variations like organic, expeller-pressed or first cold-pressed make vegetables oils like canola, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed healthier, or do those processes not make a difference? I’m not talking about olive or coconut oils here.
  2. I recently read Laura’s blog about how it’s possible to overdo it with the anti-inflammatories. I know that the major concern with these vegetable oils is the inflammatory process, but is a little inflammation from vegetable oils really something to be super concerned about, or is it something a healthy, resilient system with plenty of antioxidants can keep within equilibrium? Thank you.”

With the conflicting opinions about the health effects of vegetable oils in the conventional and Paleo nutrition spheres, it’s no wonder there’s question as to if they should be included in our diet or avoided at all costs. This is an episode not to be missed as we address the claim that vegetable oils are toxic and discuss whether or not they have a place in a healthy diet.

Just some of what you’ll learn is why polyunsaturated fats are considered problematic and the various ways vegetable oils are processed.  You’ll also gain an understanding of why some omega 6 fats are actually required for health and how the consumption of omega 3 and 6 fats differ between American and traditional cultures.

Not only will you come away with practical strategies for minimizing vegetable oils without obsessing over total avoidance, but also tips on what kind of oils are best to use when needed.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • [00:07:48] How polyunsaturated fats differ from other types of fats
  • [00:10:33] How polyunsaturated fats are prone to oxidative damage
  • [00:06:13] The problem with the processing of vegetable oils
  • [00:18:01] Why plants are being bred to create high oleic oils
  • [00:20:30] Cases where using a high oleic oil may be a beneficial option compared to other omega 6 oils
  • [00:25:59] The difference between how a cold pressed and expeller pressed oil is made
  • [00:30:40] How some omega 6 fats are actually required by the body for health
  • [00:37:15] How the consumption of omega 3 and 6 fats differ between American and traditional cultures and guidelines for how much polyunsaturated fat should be in the diet
  • [00:44:10] The importance of Vitamin E when consuming polyunsaturated fat
  • [00:46:55] Strategies for minimizing polyunsaturated oils without obsessing over total avoidance

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 134 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey everyone!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

Over the next 30 to 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insights into solving your health challenges with practical tips and real food. Stick around until the end of the show where we’ll be sharing some updates about our business and personal lives.

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer on an upcoming show.

Laura: Today on the show we’re going to be answering two questions about vegetable oils; whether or not they’re toxic or inflammatory and if there are any plant food oils that can be included in a healthy, real food diet. This is an important topic for both ancestral health newbies as well as those of us who have been eating this way for years, so we’re excited to dig into it. But before we get into our question for the day, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

You know that we’re all about nutrient diversity here at The Ancestral RDs, which is why we’re really excited about the products at Dr. Cowan’s Garden. Dr. Cowan’s Garden makes nutrient dense, organic vegetable powders that can be added to your food to increase your nutrient diversity in an easy and delicious way. These powders are a perfect way to get valuable added nutrients if you aren’t eating as many plants as you’d like. In fact, Dr. Cowan’s Garden even uses some vegetables that are difficult to obtain like sea vegetables, perennial greens, and wild ramps. The vegetables are cooked to reduce anti-nutrient content and then they’re dehydrated on low heat to preserve their nutrients. Finally, they’re stored in Miron jars which prevent light from penetrating so the powders remain flavorful over time. Want to add more nutrient diversity to your diet? Use code “Ancestral RDS” at drcowansgarden.com for 20 percent off your order.

Kelsey: Welcome back, everybody! Here is our question for today’s show:

“Hi Kelsey & Laura! I love your podcast and am so grateful for the wealth of knowledge you both share. I appreciated your breakdown of the myths surrounding sugar and I wondered if you could do a similar episode about vegetable oils. It’s thrown around that they are toxic in the same way sugar is called toxic and I wondered if there can be room for any vegetable oils within a healthy, real food diet, or if you recommend excluding them 100%?  I’m referring to grape seed, canola, sunflower, etc. rather than olive or coconut oil. Here are my two specific questions:

  1. Do variations like organic, expeller-pressed or first cold-pressed make vegetables oils like canola, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed healthier, or do those processes not make a difference? I’m not talking about olive or coconut oils here.
  2. I recently read Laura’s blog about how it’s possible to overdo it with the anti-inflammatories. I know that the major concern with these vegetable oils is the inflammatory process, but is a little inflammation from vegetable oils really something to be super concerned about, or is it something a healthy, resilient system with plenty of antioxidants can keep within equilibrium? Thank you.”

Laura: I thought this was a really good question. It’s funny because I think with the vegetable oil question, there’s always so much back and forth about it both in just the conventional nutrition world and the ancestral or Paleo nutrition world. I feel like both sides of the equation…I would say both sides of that question are maybe not 100 percent accurate, which I feel like happens a lot with a lot of the types of questions.

I think that kind of applied to sugar as well where on the one side the Paleo community is like nobody should ever eat sugar at all for any reason, even fruit sugar you should be moderate with. That kind of thing. And then there’s more of that conventional dietetics type approach to sugar where it’s like everything in moderation, and white sugar is fine, and that kind of thing. I feel like there’s always like a middle ground between those two perspectives. That is the way I see a lot of these questions and I feel like you’re probably the same way.

Vegetable oils are a little tougher because they are one of these things that on the one hand most of the conventional medical and nutritional guidelines in this country actually support high amounts of omega 6 and polyunsaturated fats. I’ll talk about what those are in a second. But on that end, they’re basically saying eat lots of those, eat as many as you can, most of your fat should be coming from polyunsaturated fats, cook with vegetable oil and canola oil, that kind of thing. They’re basically pushing those oils on more of the conventional side of the equation.

And then on the Paleo, and Weston Price, and all those other ancestral health side of the nutrition question, they’re often saying don’t ever use those, and they’re terrible for you, and the woman who asked this question said that they’re toxic.

I just want to kind of talk about why people say polyunsaturated fats are toxic, why they’re something that should be avoided. I do want to answer a little bit about the question what processes make one of these seed oils better or not better, and then also just getting into the inflammation discussion a little bit.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to cover everything that this person is asking just because honestly this could be like a 10 page article or something like that covering all the different components of the question and also like if you’re going to use those oils, when is that appropriate, what kind of oils should you use? That kind of thing.

I’m just going to give a very basic overview of the way I perceive the question because I don’t want to over-complicate things. I feel like that’s one issue in the nutrition world is that people will make all these really complicated rules about food because people like to know black and white answers about should I eat this? Should I avoid this? I don’t necessarily think we need to understand 100 percent of everything about these foods to understand how to incorporate them into our diet or how to not incorporate them.

First obviously we have to describe what polyunsaturated fats are. A lot of times you’ll see these abbreviated as the term PUFAs in some of the articles that you’ll read online. Polyunsaturated fats are found in high amounts in our modern vegetable oils and industrial seed oils; things like soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, anything that’s like a seed oil or some kind of vegetable oil. Obviously avocado or olive oil doesn’t count towards these.

But polyunsaturated fats essentially, just without going too deep into the biochemistry, fatty acids have either double bonds or single bonds between the carbons on their tails essentially. Saturated fats have all double bonds. Monounsaturated fats have one single bond which gives them some amount of flexibility at room temperature so that’s why they form an oil versus a solid fat. And then polyunsaturated fats have multiple unsaturated bonds or single bonds.

The type of polyunsaturated fat is going to determine how many bonds they have that are unsaturated, at what point on the tail are they unsaturated. That’s why when we talk about omega 3 versus omega 6, we’re actually talking about the position of the single bond in that fatty acid chain.

That’s just like I said very scratching the surface of the biochemistry behind those fats. But I just think it’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we discuss polyunsaturated versus monounsaturated versus saturated.

These oils are not called high oleic oils. That means that they’re pretty high in polyunsaturated fats. I will talk in a few minutes about what high oleic means, just because it is becoming a more popular term. But if you don’t see that word “high oleic” then you can assume they’re pretty high in PUFAs.

The reason that PUFAs are considered to be a problem in the Paleo or ancestral health community is because they’re generally highly unstable. That just means that they’re prone to faster oxidation or oxidative damage and that just means that they’re able to be damaged by free radicals.

And again, I’m not going to go deep into the biochemistry of this because I don’t think it’s that important to understand. It’s not that it’s not good to understand, it’s just that for the context of a short podcast I don’t need to go into the level of detail. If you want I will put links in the show notes about various resources you can check out for more information. Chris Masterjohn is a great person to read or listen to his podcast if you want to learn more about PUFAs.

Long story short, just the number of single bonds means that they’re more prone to oxidative damage. A lot of times oxidatively damaged oil is going to be one that changes colors. It’ll go from like a clear light yellow to brown if it’s gotten really damaged. If you’ve ever smelled a rancid oil, that’s something that most people at least know…well, actually I don’t know. I wonder if people know what rancid oils smell like.

I think of that as being something that’s obvious, but I just realized…this is kind of like a side note, but my husband and I had gone to eat at Moe’s, I think is what it’s called, a couple of weeks ago. We only went there because we were both starving. We had no other options. It was just like whatever, let’s just go. I figured it would be like Chipotle, which I was very wrong. Maybe it was just this particular location, but I was not pleased by the quality of the food.

He had gotten chips on the side of his meal. I’ll usually have some corn chips. I’m not totally opposed to eating that kind of stuff. I might have a couple of chips with salsa or something like that as part of the meal.  I had like one or two of them and I was just like these smell funny. I kept smelling the bag. I’m like I think these are rancid, I don’t really think these are good to eat. My husband smells them and he’s like I don’t smell anything wrong with them. I was like well we’re throwing these out. I don’t care if you can’t smell it. I think these are bad. You can have a few because I am not going to nag him or tell him can’t eat something, but I’m like we’re not keeping these. We’re going to throw them out once you’ve had what you wanted for the meal.

It is funny because I feel like I talk about rancidity as being something you would think people know what that smells like or what that looks like. But I actually think maybe they don’t. I don’t know if it’s just because people are used to eating more rancid foods, unfortunately.  I know my husband before we were together probably ate a lot of fried food. He still has eats fried food than I would… if I had total control of his diet, I would not have him eating this much, but it is something that a lot of people eat a lot of.  I don’t know if everyone knows what rancidity smells like.

Kelsey: I know. To me it’s like one of those smells that I feel like I can just pick out of anywhere. It’s like oh yeah, I know exactly what that smell smells like. But I think you’re right. A lot of people probably do eat some stuff that is at least fairly rancid on a somewhat regular basis. So yeah, of course to them it may just seem kind of normal.

Laura: Yeah. If something gets like a bacterial overgrowth and smells really bad, that’s totally different than rancidity. It just depends on why it’s turning rancid. If it’s just sitting on a shelf, it’s actually a fairly slow process. It could get like a little rancid and you maybe wouldn’t notice it. I know I’ve had nuts before that smelled a little off and I’m like are these rancid? Maybe I should throw them out, I’m not sure.

So it’s not like it’s just black and white, like all of a sudden within a day it’s all gone rancid and it’s bad. It can be like 10 percent rancid or something because it’s just about the oils that are getting oxidized. If it smells clearly rancid…I’m trying to think. Rancid I would probably describe….

Kelsey: I know. How do you describe it?

Laura: Maybe like a sour kind of smell.

Kelsey: I almost would describe it as sort of like a musty-ish smell. It’s hard to describe.

Laura: There should be some kind of education. This is way going off on a tangent, but I’m thinking we learned food safety in dietetics school and it was all about like temperature and just how to prevent something from getting bacterial overgrowth, that kind of thing. As far as I remember, I don’t remember ever getting taught what rancid smells like and I think that would be a really important thing to know. That’s kind of a side note just because I feel like people just don’t… like people eat things that are rancid all the time and they don’t even realize it.

But rancid is really bad because it’s going beyond just a more inflammatory oil that is more prone to damage in our bodies. It’s actually consuming something that’s already been damaged and so you’re already incorporating these fatty acids that have damage to the fatty acid chain and your body can actually use those as part of its structure. There’s a lot of different things that can happen when you’re consuming oils that are already damaged by free radicals. We don’t want to be eating rancid oils.

Obviously most of the oils that people are eating are not rancid, so it’s not like it has to be rancid to cause problems. But you can imagine that if these oils go bad faster outside of the body and they get oxidized faster, than you can imagine that they would get oxidized faster within the body as well and more damaged by free radicals.

The nice thing about the other fats like saturated fats and monounsaturated fats is that they’re much more stable. They don’t really oxidize, certainly not nearly as easily. I think it would take a lot more for something like a monounsaturated fat to become oxidized.

If you think about olive oil, olive oil can be stored for a really long time without going bad. You just compare that to something like a nut or seed oil that actually if it wasn’t processed, it might go bad even faster. That’s why in the Paleo and ancestral community, we would consider saturated and monounsaturated fats to be less inflammatory, more healthy, better for us to be eating.

The other problem with PUFAs especially in these oils that we’re talking about is a lot of times they’re highly processed. There’s a video that I can link to in the notes, I’m just going to make a note to myself. But there is a video about how it’s made when it comes to the industrial seed oils. It’s like that series “How It’s Made” and they have different food products that they look at. They have one for, I don’t know if it’s soybean oil or canola oil. It’s one of these oil.

Kelsey: I think it’s canola.

Laura: Yeah, I think you’re right. You can actually see the process that the oil goes through to be produced and sold. It’s actually kind of scary how much processing goes into it. They’re like bleaching it and deodorizing it and all this crazy stuff.

It’s like compared to other oils…like butter is you milk a cow, and you skim the cream off, and then you churn the cream, and then it’s butter. My general way of describing it to people that don’t know the biochemistry behind the stuff is like if you can identify how to make that oil in your kitchen, then it’s probably a good oil to eat. If you couldn’t think of how to make it, then you probably don’t want to eat it. If you think about something like corn, I have no idea how to make oil out of corn in my kitchen. I don’t even think it’s possible unless maybe there’s some special technique that I’m not aware of. Whereas making oil from olives or nuts and seeds, you can press those. Maybe you don’t get a ton of oil out of them, but you can actually fairly easily extract oil from those items. And again with dairy fat or animal fats, those are very obvious as far as how to get the fat into your actual solid or liquid form. That’s kind of a more practical way of thinking about omega 6 fats and why they need to go through so much processing.

Now I had mentioned that high oleic is a way that a lot of these oils are now described and they’re being bred that way. That just means the oil is high in a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Some oils like olive oil are actually naturally high in oleic acid. Something like an olive oil or an avocado oil might actually have oleic acid naturally. But a lot of these other plants like soybeans or sunflower seeds, they’re being bred to actually contain high amounts of oleic acid. The main reason that those oils are being developed is because all the concern and the rightful concern about partially hydrogenated trans fats has led to the need for a different type of shelf stable fat to be used.

We were mentioning how polyunsaturated fats are pretty unstable, they get rancid really easily, which if any oil is sitting on the shelf for too long, it’s going to go bad. For the processed food industry, they need oils that they can use that aren’t going to go bad because otherwise their packaged foods have a much shorter shelf life. They’ve put a lot of effort into developing these high oleic oils so that they can be used in processed foods and that way they will also have a longer shelf life. They won’t go bad as fast. They won’t need to use those partially hydrogenated trans fats as an oil so they can actually say that they’re healthy, that kind of thing. So there is a lot of benefit to the food industry to be using those high oleic oils.

These oils are also often used in restaurants as a like a deep frying oil and that’s because it retains its flavor a lot longer despite the repeated use of the oil compared to those other omega 6 fats. I don’t know if you’ve worked in a restaurant before, Kelsey.

Kelsey: I have.

Laura: I’m sure you’ve seen the vat of oil that they’re dipping fried foods into.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: We won’t go into the problems with that in general, but those oils, they’re used over and over until they start to go bad. A lot of times the color changes where the restaurant will say they’re starting to get a little brown, let’s throw them out and replace them. Restaurants like to use these high oleic oils because those oils last a lot longer with the higher monounsaturated fat content and that way they can use an oil that might only last a couple of days in a fryer in a restaurant can then maybe last a week or so and that can save a lot of money.

Generally I would say that high oleic oils are not as bad as just regular high omega 6 oils. If you’re comparing something like a high oleic sunflower oil compared to just the normal sunflower oil or maybe something like corn oil or soybean oil, that kind of thing, you are better off using the high oleic oil. So if there’s any reason that you would need to use a seed oil in cooking or some kind of product, then using a high oleic oil is a good idea.

I know that for example there’s a mayo company that I use. I want to say it’s called Sir Kensington. I don’t use it all the time. I had been using it before Mark Sisson came out with his mayo and then I kind of switched over. But I still use the Sir Kensington stuff. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just was trying the Mark Sisson stuff. I don’t use that much mayo in my food in general so I have a lot of it let. But the Sir Kensington mayo uses high oleic sunflower oil in their product. So that is a situation where it’s not like we’re deep frying with the oil. It’s in a cold product that’s being kept in the fridge. It’s one of those things that at least until the primal mayo was available, it was actually not a bad option.

But when we’re talking about like deep frying oils and we’re having fried chicken in high oleic oil as opposed to the normal oil, I don’t know how much benefit really you’re getting just because of the high temperature and just the problems that can come from high heat cooking with starches and proteins, that kind of thing.

Kelsey: Right. It would probably make more sense like you were talking about for the restaurant in terms of being able to use it longer rather than any health benefit for you as the person consuming it.

Laura: Right, exactly. I don’t want people to think that because the restaurant is cooking with this oil that it’s somehow making the food healthy. It’s just maybe making the food less bad. But usually in products, it just depends on the product. Like I said, if it’s something that’s like deep fried in the oil, there’s damage that comes from cooking anything at that high of a temperature regardless of the oil that you’re using. Whereas if it’s just an oil mixed into something like a salad dressing or a mayo, then that’s going to reduce the potential problems from that oil from a health perspective. That’s just one thing to keep in mind as far as like how do these oils come into our diet and is it something we need to avoid 100 percent?

Kelsey: I would imagine those oils, the high oleic ones are still just as processed as something like canola oil in general. Do you know if they’re using like specific…I assume they’re using specific plant breeds to get the higher oleic content, correct?

Laura: With the high oleic oils, I know that the sunflower oils are ones that a lot of the health food industry really likes. I was at the Weston Price Conference recently and there was a high oleic sunflower oil company that was advertising, or like they had a booth and they were kind of promoting themselves as a good oil option for people in the Midwest because sunflowers can grow really well in the Midwest just the way corn can. They were basically saying like we’re a healthy oil, and it’s sustainable, and it’s this naturally occurring oil for this local area. Which I think actually makes a lot of sense because we think about something like avocado or olive, there’s a lot of parts of the country that don’t necessarily grow that kind of food.

If we’re going to need an oil like that, then yeah, using some kind of high oleic version is definitely better. Now I will say I do think that there’s a chance… and I have to double check this, but there’s a chance that these foods could be GMOs. Now if it’s organic, then it can’t be. That’s why looking for an organic either cold pressed or expeller pressed high oleic oil, that’s probably going to be your best bet if you’re looking in the grocery store and you need an oil like that.

The reason why people might want to have an oil, and actually I’ll talk about this a little bit more later, but there would be some benefits to using that kind of oil. Again, mayo is a great example of one that using olive oil in a mayo usually doesn’t usually taste very good. There may be some practical reasons that having a good quality high oleic sunflower oil for example might actually make sense, but it’s not something you’d be using all the time. It’s not something that you need to be replacing other fats with. I just like to look at it as an option.

Again, I don’t know what the potential for GMOs is in the high oleic products. Obviously things like soy, they use a lot of pesticides on if it’s not organic, so that’s another thing that people may have concerns about. I don’t like to be a total fear monger, but if you have the option of avoiding pesticides, I think it’s a good idea.  I feel like I forgot your question.

Kelsey: I forgot my question, too. Oh, I was talking about how they make these.

Laura: I do think that that question is answered by if they’re advertising it as cold pressed or expeller pressed I think.

Kelsey: That makes sense.

Laura: I have to look up what expeller pressed means.

Kelsey: At least cold pressed would be generally less processed.

Laura: Cold pressed is like the way they make olive oil, especially virgin olive oil. They make coconut oil like that as well. I can get a link to describe what the difference is. But basically a raw cold pressed, they’re still going to use some level of mechanical pressing, but they don’t get any heat there because basically anytime you’re doing a mechanical grinding of an item, you can create heat because of the friction.

I believe the cold press is like the first pressing where basically they don’t use any friction that would lead to heating of the oil. Whereas if it’s just expeller pressed, there’s a pretty high amount of pressure and so that pressure and friction and that kind of thing can cause some heat.

I would say with the high oleic oils, that’s probably not that big of a deal because again it is a high monounsaturated fat so the heat is not going to damage it as much as it would be if it was a normal polyunsaturated fat. But hypothetically if you’re really trying to avoid damaged oils, then doing a cold pressed oil is going to be better than expeller pressed, which is still better than the chemical processing that a lot of these other vegetable oils go through.

It’s kind of like a spectrum. Organic cold pressed, high oleic sunflower oil would be an example of an oil that probably is fine to have as oil in your diet. But if you’re doing like non-organic, non-high oleic and chemically processed vegetable oils, which is honestly the way most Americans are eating these oils, that stuff has probably already got some damage to it by the time you’re actually eating it.

That’s kind of like a very basic overview of the different variations that this person asked about. And it’s funny because I think something like coconut oil people are very weird about it needing to be virgin, cold pressed coconut oil versus it being expeller pressed. I think the expeller pressing or the refining of the coconut oil is really just taking out some of the flavor. So it’s not like it’s causing hardcore damage to the coconut oil.

I just wanted to add that little tidbit in because I think sometimes a lot of people don’t like coconut oil from a flavor perspective. I’m kind of like that. It depends on the meal, but a lot of times I don’t like cooking with coconut oil because it just makes it taste like sunscreen. But if you use like a refined coconut oil for a recipe, it generally doesn’t have any flavor. Which again, I don’t even use a lot of that, but it is something that can help you use coconut oil as a cooking oil without it totally changing the flavor of your food. So just something to think about.

But anyway, I think just understanding the different processes that these oils go through whether or not they’re using chemical processes, or if they’re just doing a heat intensive pressing, or if it’s cold pressed or whatever, the main thing I want to think about when I think about foods we should be eating versus avoiding is first of all, is it actually that bad for you?

Something like high oleic oil is not going to be as bad for you as high omega 6 oil. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal to have some of it. But the other way I like to think about it is why do we need these oils at all? Is there any reason that these oils are not replaceable with something that’s a little bit more natural, something that would have been in our diets before genetic modification and industrial processing was an option?

So again, I’m not saying you should never touch it or that it’s horrible for you. But I’m also thinking do we really need them? Is this something that you can’t use a different oil to get the same benefit from?

Now just as a little detour, I do want to make sure people understand that we do actually have need for some omega 6 fat in our diet. We have some basic fatty acid requirements. A small amount of omega 6 and omega 3 fats can qualify for that. But it’s not like you can 100 percent avoid those foods and be healthy because our bodies can’t create these foods on our own. So we do actually have to have some level of dietary omega 6 fat intake to actually have a normally functioning body. But honestly, if you’re eating a whole foods diet, there’s no way you can actually avoid these fats.

Kelsey: I don’t even think it’s possible that you would be able to do that.

Laura: Yeah, I mean you’d probably have to be on like a really low fat diet and maybe you’re only using coconut oil to cook with or something like that. Honestly, that is not totally outside the realm of possibility if you think about like people who are doing really restrictive Paleo type diets like the original chicken…actually no, if you eat chicken you’re getting omega 6 fats.

Kelsey: Right. You’d have to be like vegan only using coconut oil or something.

Laura: Yeah. It would probably be pretty hard because then you also would not be eating nuts or seeds.  Realistically getting zero grams of omega 6 fat in our diet is probably not going to happen. I think the only time that that really happens in the real world is if somebody is on either a tube feed or TPN, so total parenteral nutrition in a hospital basically they’re getting like an I.V. of nutrition. And so when you have those formulas that somebody might be getting, which honestly for a tube feed, they’re usually using vegetable oil anyway. So honestly the TPN is probably the main place where an omega 6 deficiency might come in.

But long story short, we need some in our diet for good health and most foods have some. A lot of foods have some I should say, maybe not most, but anything that’s got fat in it is probably going to have at least a little bit of omega 6 fat in it and that even includes some of the animal products that we eat.

One especially important type of omega 6 fat is called arachidonic acid. That one is found in many animal products like liver, egg yolks, poultry skin, butter, meat fat. Anything that’s a fat from an animal is going to have some arachidonic acid in it.

There is some theory…when I was doing some research on this topic looking into arachidonic acid, there are some websites out there that say arachidonic acid is inflammatory, and that it’s bad for you, and that you should avoid it for all costs. I feel like that’s totally misunderstanding the purpose of arachidonic acid because yes, our bodies do use arachidonic acid to initiate inflammation. Which that makes it sound like it’s an inflammatory fat, but being able to initiate the inflammatory process is actually an essential function of our immune system especially when it’s fighting off pathogens.

So if we can’t initiate inflammation, we’re in big trouble. We would probably die from infection before anything else. When we’re thinking about inflammation, we have to remember that some inflammation is good. I’ll put a link to this in the notes, but the person who asked this question was mentioning that she had read the article I wrote about inflammation and why we do need some of it. So just understanding that inflammation is not totally bad and we want some inflammation, we just want controlled inflammation.

Arachidonic acid is one of those polyunsaturated fats that not only initiates the inflammatory response, but it also actually allows the body to turn off inflammation once it’s run its course and it’s no longer necessary. So essentially let’s say we get an infection, we need to mount an inflammatory response to get rid of that infection. Once the infection is gone, our body can then resolve that inflammation. Arachidonic acid is involved in both the initiation and resolution process. If we were 100 percent avoiding omega 6 fats and arachidonic acid, we would actually be in a lot of trouble.

Arachidonic acid is actually also used to make things like our cell to cell junctions that form physical barriers which helps protect us against toxins and pathogens, especially in our gut. That’s something that could actually benefit leaky gut rather than cause it, which is something that I saw again when I was researching for this question. I saw some blog articles on there saying that our arachidonic acid consumption would actually cause leaky gut, which I don’t think that’s accurate. I mean certainly if you were eating tons of it, maybe that’s possible. But I think in a normal whole foods diet arachiodonic acid from animal products shouldn’t lead to leaky gut.

Kelsey: Right. They’re probably referring it to in the case of a standard American diet type of deal I would think.

Laura: Well, actually a lot of the blogs I saw were more talking about it as a reason we shouldn’t eat animal products.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Laura: They were like kind of vegan friendly.

Kelsey: I see.

Laura: I think just making sure people understand that there are some omega 6 fats that do play a really important role in our immune system.

Something else that’s really interesting that I was talking to Chris Masterjohn about at the conference last weekend that I was at, we were talking about the gut immune system and how your gut immunity is actually figuring out whether or not your body should have an immune response to the food proteins that you eat.

Our bodies have to learn tolerance of any food that we’re eating and if we don’t have any arachidonic acid, we actually can’t have that learned tolerance to food and or gut immunity. That’s really important because a lot of people that deal with food intolerances think that avoiding the food is the only thing that is important in that situation. There’s actually a lot of nutrients that help our body learn that tolerance for foods compared to just the kind of standard intolerance that it has.

That’s again kind of another rabbit hole that I’m not going to go down. But it’s one of these things where there’s a lot of foods that maybe you think are bad for you because it’s an inflammatory thing, but our bodies use these processes for its immune response in a normal way, and so we don’t want to be 100 percent avoiding them.

When we look at the research of traditional cultures, we’re seeing that most of the cultures that were free from things like heart disease, and chronic illness, that kind of thing, they generally had about 2 percent of their total fat intake from polyunsaturated fats or PUFAs, and that includes both omega 6 and omega 3 fats. Now that doesn’t cover all traditional cultures. It’s just a large majority of the ones that were studied that didn’t have these chronic diseases.

We could also look at cultures like the Inuit have diets much higher in PUFAs, especially omega 3 fats. The only problem there is that in the Inuit and these cultures that eat really high omega 6 and omega 3 diets, I should say really omega 3 is where we’re seeing these issues, but these cultures actually have genetic variations that allow them to have a higher tolerance for a high PUFA diet. There’s some research that I can put into the notes as well about that.

But basically these cultures that eat a ton of fish, like fatty fish is their protein source, they can tolerate these omega 3 levels because of a genetic difference. The research I was looking at showed that the Inuit population, like 100 percent of them had this genetic variation that allowed them to tolerate high omega 3 intake, whereas the white population that they were comparing them to maybe less than 10 percent had the genetic variation.

This is definitely another article or blog post that we could talk about. I do talk about this in my inflammation article. But basically high omega 3 intake is not great for us either in general. I don’t want people to think that they should be totally avoiding omega 6 fats and eating tons of omega 3 fats because really total PUFA intake should probably be around 2 to 5 percent of calories. And again, that’s the combination of both omega 3 and omega 6. That if we were looking at a 2000 calorie per day diet would be about 11 grams total of polyunsaturated fat. Now again, if you get a little bit more than that, it’s not that big of a deal because some foods are pretty high in PUFAs.

For example, if you wanted to get 11 grams of total polyunsaturated fat, if you ate an ounce of walnuts which are a pretty high PUFA nut, that would be your polyunsaturated fat for the day that would give you five percent of your calories on a 2000 calorie diet.

Obviously if you’re eating some higher PUFA foods, you’re going to have a couple of these that are higher. But we’re looking at foods that do contain some level of omega 6 and omega 3 fats but they’re not crazy high in them, then you can get a normal amount of PUFAs from a reasonable quantity of food.

So for example, 5 ounces of salmon plus 2 ounces of almonds would be about close to 11 grams of polyunsaturated fat, which 2 ounces of almonds has a decent amount and 5 ounces of salmon is a pretty good amount, too.

I think generally if you’re just eating whole foods, and eating some omega 3 rich foods a couple of times a week, and eating some nuts and seeds maybe an ounce or two a day, you shouldn’t be getting a ton more polyunsaturated fat in your diet than about 5 percent of calories.

We have to also think about what our culture and what our medical culture in this country is promoting and how that affects our food supply. We can compare this 2 to 5 percent range to the American Heart Association recommendation which is that we should get 8 to 10 percent of our daily calories from polyunsaturated fat as a minimum.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: They actually say that up to 15 percent could be healthy so it’s at least double if not triple the amount of polyunsaturated fat. If we’re just looking at 10 percent, it would be about 22 grams of polyunsaturated fat total on a 2000 calorie diet. If it was 15 percent, it would be close to 30 grams.

Kelsey: You basically have to eat some kind of like industrial oil that get to that.

Laura: Yeah, essentially, I mean unless you were just eating tons of fish everyday.

Kelsey: For every meal.

Laura: Right. You would be needing to use a high PUFA oil in that situation. The AHA says that they have evidence that this improves cardiovascular health, but from what I’ve seen in terms of general reviews of the evidence, people have done blog posts on this kind of thing, the evidence is mixed at best.  If we were giving them the benefit of the doubt, we could say there’s some evidence that higher polyunsaturated fat intake could be helpful, but there’s also studies that show that it’s harmful.

Ultimately I don’t think there’s any evidence that is helpful and to force yourself to a higher level of polyunsaturated fat intake using industrial seed oils is probably not a good idea. It probably could cause some issue with cardiovascular disease, and inflammation and excessive free radicals.

Kelsey: Right. In a case like that probably because there’s mixed evidence essentially, probably best to refer back to our ancestors and traditional cultures and look at those levels, which as you said the AHA levels are double if not triple those levels. It makes me a little nervous.

Laura: Right. They’re at least triple because a lot of those cultures were getting 2 percent. Even if you’re going up to 8 percent, which is the minimum guideline, that’s 4 times the amount.

The difference between our diets and a lot of these traditional diets, or one of the primary differences I should say is just the number of options we have. A lot of these traditional diets, they didn’t have like mixed nuts they could just go to the grocery and buy. If you think about how much energy and effort it takes to get nuts into your diet, it’s just like you would never be able to eat several ounces of nuts a day realistically. Compare that to our diets where we can go to the grocery store and get a ton of salmon, and almonds, and walnuts, and that kind of stuff all at once and have a lot of PUFA in our diet.

Also we have to think about the fact that their calorie expenditure is probably a lot higher in these traditional cultures. They might have been eating like 4000 calories a day and so 2 percent of their diet might have been 15 to 20 grams of PUFA.

There’s a lot of variables. I don’t want people to think that like if you have an ounce of walnuts, you’re going to overdo your PUFAs for the day. It’s all relative and really the point is just to say that you can get a good amount of normal polyunsaturated fat intake with some higher PUFA containing whole foods and you don’t have to worry about getting extra in your oils.

Something else we have to remember about PUFAs is that we need vitamin E in order to protect the PUFAs in our diet from oxidative damage. A lot of foods that are rich in PUFAs actually have a lot of Vitamin E in them. Something like walnuts for example are a good source of vitamin E. Almonds, any nuts and seeds are going to have some vitamin E in them. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and it’s found in many of these PUFA rich foods.

But the question is how much of that vitamin E actually makes it through the processing of the super rich oils? Because Vitamin E is somewhat easily damaged and so a lot of these PUFA rich oils, maybe not canola oil which does tend to be a little higher in vitamin E, but some of the ones like soybean oil, corn oil, that kind of thing that don’t have any vitamin E in them, there’s nothing protecting the omega 6 fats from that oxidative damage.

I would say that we want to make sure that we’re getting a good amount of Vitamin E in our diet to help protect against any sort of oxidative damage that comes from these PUFAs both in the oils themselves as well as the oxidative damage that might happen in our bodies since Vitamin E is a really potent and important antioxidant in our general antioxidant system. That’s another reason that the foods that have these omega 6s in them are going to be better for us than the oils because we have a lot of these foods containing vitamin E as well.

Now just to kind of like play my own devil’s advocate here, I do want to make the point that occasionally having even some of these like crappy industrial PUFAs oils in your diet is not the end of the world. I know a lot of people, like they won’t eat at Whole Foods hot bar for example because the food has been cooked in canola oil for example.

I’m not suggesting that you should buy crappy vegetable or canola to cook with at home, but if you want to eat out ever anywhere unless it’s like this super advanced restaurant that’s cooking with butter, and lard, and coconut, all that kind of thing, you’re going to get exposed to these oils. I would say it’s really not worth being socially isolated simply to avoid ever consuming these oils.

Some of you listening might think that’s ridiculous to say, but I’ve seen this in people that I’ve worked with that they won’t eat out because they’re afraid that they’re going to eat some of these oils. Listen, I understand if you don’t want to be eating deep fried food at a cheap restaurant or going to McDonald’s and getting French fries, I totally understand. You don’t have to do that to enjoy yourself and to have a social life. But generally if you’re eating out, you’re going to get exposed to it. The concept of 100 percent avoiding it at this point in our food supply situation, it’s just not going to happen.

I would never tell someone that they should 100 percent avoid it because I don’t think that’s reasonably possible. But there are a few practices that we can use or strategies that we can use for avoiding omega 6 oils. especially the industrial process omega 6 oils and only getting those omega 6 fats from food sources like nuts, and seeds, eggs, chicken, that kind of thing.

The first would be pretty obvious and that’s just to cook with monounsaturated fats or saturated fats at home. Personally I usually use a combination of butter, olive oil, and avocado oil depending on what the dish is. I’ll use coconut oil on occasion if it’s like Thai food or Indian food, that kind of thing. But a lot of times it’s avocado oil if I don’t want any flavor to get into the food that I’m cooking, or I’ll use olive oil if I’m doing like an Italian, or European, or Mediterranean type of dish. I’ll use butter if it’s just like a food that doesn’t really need to have a specific flavor.

Kelsey: That’s exactly what I do, too. I’m with you on the coconut oil thing, too. Not my favorite. It doesn’t do it for me. But yeah, those are the three that I tend to have stocked at home. Between the three of them, I mean I have no trouble making everything that I want to.

Laura: I would say for things like salad dressings or any dishes that call for a liquid oil that doesn’t have a lot of flavor, olive oil is an easy one to put in salad dressing. A lot of times that works well. Avocado oil honestly does not have much flavor at all so I usually use that if I need something that’s flavorless.

I had mentioned before that the cold pressed or expeller pressed high oleic sunflower oil is probably another good option there. I’m not totally sure in which situation that you wouldn’t be able to use avocado oil in place of that, but there may be some recipes that it’s not really a good substitution and so having some high oleic sunflower oil in your pantry as an option there might make sense for you depending on what kind of recipes you’re using. I personally don’t have any, so I’m not really sure what recipes….

Kelsey: I’m only thinking this because I was recently talking about this with my sister because we were talking about Thanksgiving and what we want to make. We were thinking about doing a carrot cake and a lot of the carrot cake recipes call for a liquid oil. We’ve tried to do it with just like melted butter and it doesn’t do it. I’m kind of thinking I’m not sure avocado oil would work in that particular situation, but maybe that high oleic sunflower oil might not be a bad choice.

Laura: Yeah, it’s one of those things where if you’re using a recipe and you need to replace a vegetable oil, the high oleic sunflower oil is probably a good option. Again, I’m not a chef and I really don’t use recipes very often so I’m not totally sure, but it’s totally reasonable to think that that would be a time where having a sunflower oil would be helpful.

Again, I had said before it’s not a bad oil to use especially if you’re not using it at super high heat. How often are you really using it? If you’re only using it a couple of times a month, you’re probably fine whereas if you’re using it every day, that might be a problem.

Another way to minimize excessive omega 6 oils is to not have tons of nuts and seeds, so limit your consumption of those nuts and seeds to a couple ounces a day. Most people don’t need to eat a ton of nuts and seeds for good health.

I know we’ve talked about this before that when we went Paleo we were both over-consuming nuts and seeds. It’s probably really common in the Paleo newbies. But I think that’s one of those things that most people don’t need and probably don’t benefit from, so keeping the nut and seed consumption to just a couple ounces a day at most. I personally don’t even eat nuts and seeds any more. I occasionally do, but it’s not really something I’m eating a lot of.

If you’re going to get nuts, then make sure they’re dry roasted rather than oil roasted, or of course you can do raw nuts as well. But if you get oil roasted, they’re generally going to have some of those omega 6 industrial seed oils on them. I’ve even seen cottonseed oil on nuts before, which is kind of gross.

When you’re eating out, try to avoid deep fried foods, so things like corn chips, fried chicken, fried fish, donuts, anything that’s like dipped in oil basically to cook it. And again, I don’t totally avoid corn chips. I get corn tacos or like corn hard shell tacos when I’m out at a Mexican restaurant, that kind of thing. That’s going to be one of those eat at the frequency of which supports your health. For some people that might be never. For some people having it once a week might be fine. I just wouldn’t be eating them all the time or having them in the house very often.

That comes my next recommendation, which is to eat out only a couple of times a week if possible, maybe even less. I know for us… well I shouldn’t say this because I feel like I’m eating out more often recently because I’ve been so busy. But generally we try to eat out no more than two times, two meals a week I should say. Generally we have like one date night meal and then maybe we do something like some kind of takeout or something like that if it’s a night that we didn’t have time to cook.

There’s people that eat out like seven times a week or fourteen times a week, that kind of thing, and they’re going to have a lot more exposure to omega 6 oils. If you’re not eating out that often, when you do eat out having some corn chips is probably not a big deal.

Kelsey: There’s a lot of people that when I work with people who live in New York City and kind of have like these high profile jobs that they’re eating out so much basically for every meal. They don’t even use their kitchen at home essentially. And for those people, then we’re thinking a lot more about their exposure to industrial seed oils.

But I, like you, we tend to eat out like twice a week, three times a week max. I think that’s fairly reasonable for us and our health goals and everything.

Laura: Right. And again, if you’re eating out more frequently, it’s not the end of the world. You just have to be a little bit more conscious of the foods that you’re choosing because if you’re eating fried stuff all the time when you’re eating out, that’s going to be a lot worse than if you have it even a couple of times a month, once a week, that kind of thing.

What can help is if you’re sticking to things like baked foods, steamed foods, broiled foods when you’re eating out. Like for example, I mentioned Chipotle as a place that sometimes we’ll go get Chipotle because we don’t feel like cooking. It’s an easy, cheap option that generally is not that bad.

If I wanted to get a tortilla, and the chips, and some of the meats are a little bit higher heat cooked, that kind of thing, you’re going to have some more of these potentially omega 6 oils or rancid oils because they might be frying things, they may be cooking things in oil. Whereas I usually go for the barbacoa at Chipotle which I’m pretty sure is like a slow cooked, like wet prep method for meat. And I’ll get like a burrito bowl which they have the beans, and the rice, and the veggies, and all that. But as far as I’m aware, there’s really no time where any of that food gets fried.

If you have to eat out, you might want to try sticking to foods that aren’t fried, that aren’t sautéed in oil and you’re just sticking to something that’s like I said with the barbacoa meat that’s probably slow cooked in general. There might be some oil added to it, but I would be surprised since most beef has enough fat in itself to get fat that you need. So that’s one strategy. And that can go for things like seafood restaurants where they give you the option of frying or broiling scallops or something like that, then choosing the non-fried option is going to be better.

And then just generally minimizing the use of processed and packaged foods is going to be helpful.  I feel like most of our listeners probably already know this, but the more shelf stable something is, unless it’s like an epic bar or something like that that’s made out of meat or a lot of these nuts and seeds bars, they’re fine, it’s just that they shouldn’t be sitting on the shelf in your pantry for like years and then eat them later.

We want to keep our use of processed and packaged foods minimized. Obviously having these packaged snacks is necessary for a lot of people, but I wouldn’t make like a large proportion of your calories from that. Trying to eat freshly cooked food as often as possible is always going to be better than something that’s shelf stable. So just minimizing any sort of like processed and packaged chips, or cereals, or just things that are just generally using ingredients that are processed in a way that helps them maintain their shelf life, not really something we want to be eating a lot of.

Again, I feel like I’m preaching to the choir with a lot of these recommendations. But if you can do all of that and then once or twice a week you eat out, or maybe you go to a restaurant once a week and then you get Whole Foods hot bar with canola oil once or twice a week, it’s really not that big of a deal and it’s not worth panicking about.

The cool thing is I’ve seen at least at our Whole Foods, they do have some of their foods that are cooked in olive oil and they’re usually like a Paleo version of something. I know that they’re actually getting the message that people want the olive oil or hey want a non-high PUFA oil as part of the cooking options with the hot bar.

Kelsey: That’s good.

Laura: But until that becomes a thing that Whole Foods does, it’s not that big of a deal. I just want to make sure people aren’t freaking out about like I said getting a little bit of canola oil or something in a Whole Foods meal because in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not going to kill you. It’s not toxic in the sense that any amount is like a poisonous amount. It might be toxic in the way that water is toxic if you have too much of it or sugar is probably something you don’t want to be having a ton of either. But in small reasonable quantities, I would not call omega 6 oils toxic.

Laura: I think you brought up a really good thing before about that at least at this point it’s practically impossible to not be exposed to them if you’re doing any amount of eating out. Like you said, it’s not worth socially isolating yourself.

I think the reason maybe you feel like you’re preaching a little bit to the choir here is because all of this is fairly common sense, yet a lot of people are really fearful of consuming too much of these oils. But if you’re doing all of these strategies that Laura just mentioned, you’re not getting too much of it. You’re getting a normal amount that is just kind of impossible to not get if you’re living a somewhat normal life. And in the scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal.

Laura: That episode was way longer than I was expecting.

Kelsey: It’s a lot to talk about.

Laura: Sorry. I apologize guys. I feel like, again, this topic could be a multi-page blog post.

Kelsey: Yeah, it probably could.

Laura: It could probably be a book, honestly, to be fair. I just wanted to give my two cents on it and I would imagine, Kelsey, you’re on the same page with a lot of what I said. Again just want people to be taking everything into context and realizing that, okay, maybe you don’t purchase the food to have in your pantry and you don’t cook with it at home, but when you’re out once in a while, not the end of the world if you had some extra omega 6 fats in your food.

Hopefully that helps answer the question. We appreciate you following along. Next we have some updates.


Kelsey: Laura, you were at the Weston A. Price Conference recently and I know that was a big thing for you. You had a full day seminar that you did so I want to ask you and see how that went.

Laura: Yeah. Well it was definitely kind of a big step into public speaking. I had done this seminar last year in like a small group setting. Maybe there was like 30 people in the room and I was sitting while I was doing it. It was kind of open for questions every section, so I had kind of a less structured time to be spending with people and got a chance to find out what they wanted to learn, that kind of thing.

Whereas this year I was on a stage and there was probably, I don’t know, several dozen people in the audience. I don’t know exactly how many because I feel like I was too nervous to really like pay attention to how many people were listening to me.

Kelsey: Yeah, like I don’t want to know.

Laura: I’m like let me just pretend like I’m up here talking to nobody or talking podcast mic. I had a 6 hour total time block which was like 10 to 12, and then 1:30 to 3, and then 3:30 to 5.

Kelsey: That’s pretty crazy.

Laura: Was it 6 or was it 5. Maybe it was 5 hours. Well anyway, I kept saying it was 6 hours. Well to be fair, people came up to me and asked me questions during the break, so I will say that I talked for 6 hours.

Kelsey: Fair.

Laura: It was really good. I thought it was going to be a lot harder than I was expecting. No, that doesn’t make sense. I thought it was going to be harder than I experienced, not that I was expecting because that doesn’t make any sense. I was definitely nervous going into it. I didn’t sleep very well the night before because I was amped up. I kept telling myself that it didn’t really matter if I bombed it. I know that’s kind of terrible to say, but really I mean if I if I totally screwed up, the worst thing that was going to happen is that people just like left and went to see a different talk. I was kind of using that as a reason to not be that panicky about it, which actually I think helped just reminding myself that it didn’t matter if I screwed up. It didn’t affect my self-worth or my career or anything like that.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But the other thing that was kind of cool is that I just feel like we’ve been talking about these topics for so long that it started to really just be stuff that I knew what I was going to say about different things. The topic was called “Stress Proof “and it was basically just going through a lot of what we cover in our adrenal fatigue program. I’d say more of what we cover in module 1 than anything else because a lot of the talk was…at least the first half of the day was really focused on like busting the myth of adrenal fatigue, explaining why that term isn’t really accurate, explaining how the original three stage model isn’t really the way things work, and how we can have so many different types of cortisol patterns, and how even a saliva is not enough to see what’s actually happening at a deeper level. That was like the first two hours.

And then the second part of the afternoon, like basically after lunch I was really talking more about the practical things that impact our body’s stress response. I covered some of the stuff that this guy Dr. Thomas Guilliams covers in his book that I have on the HPA axis. He talks about the four different types of stress. I covered the different areas that our body can experience stress from and the diet and lifestyle factors that impact that.

Definitely a pretty comprehensive overview, but…I didn’t rush through it, I think I just scratched the surface of a bunch of different things and gave some amount of practical guidelines. But I definitely wasn’t able to give an actual plan the way we give in our program. I did talk a little bit about under-eating and how that can cause disruption in the HPA axis and gave some like really basic guidelines about how to figure out how much they need to eat.

I got really good feedback. I heard people liked it a lot. I was proud of myself for getting through it and feeling like I actually did a good job and that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. I feel a little bit more capable of doing public speaking or seminars in the future. Not that I have any plans for that, but that could always be something I add to my repertoire of business activities. I think it just went better than I was expecting.

And then it was nice because I had the talk on Friday, and it was the whole day on Friday basically. And then basically from Friday afternoon on I could just enjoy myself which was really nice because last year I was talking on Monday, so I was still a little bit like anxious the whole weekend.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I think it went well. I’ll see if they invite me back for next year. Maybe they’ll want me to do a different topic or something like that, but I did enjoy it more than I thought I would and it went better than I thought it would. I’m kind of just glad that it’s over now because I was feeling very, I don’t know, just anticipatory stress leading up to the weekend. And then the weekend itself was kind of intense. I just I didn’t sleep very well when I was there, and stayed up kind of later than I would usually, and got up a little earlier, and there was jet lag. Just travel in general can be stressful. I got home from that and was just like half dead for a couple of days.

Kelsey: Right, like I’m done.

Laura: Yeah. I’m still recovering because it was only a little over a week ago. I actually got home a week ago today. I’m just glad Thanksgiving is coming up because I’m like I need a break!

Kelsey: Yeah, you need a break.

Laura: Anyway, if anyone’s listening that was there, I would love to hear your feedback about it if you liked it, if you thought there was anything I could improve on. Obviously constructive criticism is always helpful. I do think if you say it in a nice way, it can actually help me get better at what I’m doing as opposed to the people who are like I hate your voice, I can’t listen to you. Whereas other people will say if you don’t use filler words as often, like the word “like”, or “I think”, that kind of thing, you would be more credible, which is a totally applicable recommendation.  I would love to hear feedback if you were there, if you liked it, if you think I should do it again or anything like that.

But yeah, I’m just kind of glad I did it, glad it went well, and glad it’s over.

Kelsey: Yeah, I bet. It’s pretty interesting that they do like these daylong seminar type things because for every other conference that I’ve been to, it tends to be like one-ish hour for each presentation. I imagine these seminars are, first of all a lot more work goes into that to put a presentation together for you and I mean that’s just a whole different ballgame from a public speaking perspective. That just takes like a lot of stamina, and energy, and focus. Most people can probably get through a one hour talk fairly easily even though it terrifies a lot of people, but to do five or six hours of that in a row is pretty incredible. So yeah, you should be very proud of that.

Laura: The nice thing about the prep is that I did it last year. I only spent a couple of hours updating it and just mentally preparing for it. But there was like 160 or something slides in the presentation. It was pretty full and it did take several long hours to get the original presentation put together. Most of the conference was shorter presentations, but the first day there was a couple of longer seminars.

A topic like stress, honestly, like I said, I barely scratched the surface of the different things that I covered. It was more like just an overview.

Kelsey: Right, it’s huge.

Laura: You could do a whole weekend on it and you would probably never get through all of the information.

Kelsey: Very true.

Laura: Anyway, I’m glad I did it. Maybe they’ll have me do it again next year and then I can just rinse and repeat or I’ll come up with a new topic. But I feel more capable of doing the public speaking now than I did before.

It was funny so I was talking to my trainer about this. I feel like one of the reasons that public speaking was so terrifying to me before is because when you do public speaking in like middle school, or high school, or even college or grad school, a lot of times they’re giving you topics that you’re learning and presenting on within a couple of weeks. It’s not something that you’re talking about day in and day out for three years before you give the presentation. When you go into something not having a ton of expertise in the topic, then yeah, you’re going to kind of feel freaked out and somewhat nervous because you’re worried you’re going to be wrong, or not know what you’re talking about, or forget what you’re supposed to say.

Whereas going into this situation, I was like even if I don’t remember what I was supposed to say on that slide, I can make something up that is pretty close and is something I might have said in the past.  I say make something up, I’m not lying.

Kelsey: You’re talking on the spot.

Laura: Right, exactly. Coming up with something to say that wasn’t maybe exactly what I had intended, but it still works. It just felt a lot less challenging because I already kind of knew, oh, this topic? I talked about this two days ago with a client, and like I could use client stories, I could use my own stories, that kind of thing. It worked a lot better.

Just something to think about if people are afraid of public speaking. You might be surprised it’s not as hard if you actually know the topic pretty well. Just something to think about if anyone is like I want to do speaking about X Y Z.  If you’re a nutritionist and you want to do some public talks, I think if you’re doing it on a topic you’re comfortable with, you may be surprised it’s not as hard as you think.

Kelsey: Yeah. I actually did a couple talks. I think it was last year. Yeah, last year. And I actually really liked it. I would like that to be a bigger part of what I do. I found it kind of fun. Once you get over that initial freaked out piece of it, it’s like oh yeah, I know what I’m talking about.  I can do this, this is not that bad.

Laura: Definitely. Anyway, I was glad to be there and maybe I’ll be at the next one. I feel like the Weston Price Conference was less scary than doing like AHS or something like that because people aren’t going to grill you about things. But who knows? Maybe I’ll go to one of those conferences in the future.

But I was hoping to do a quick update and so I will stop talking. It was a longer episode than we were expecting. But hopefully it was enjoyable for you all.

Like I said in the beginning of the podcast, if you want to get these updated episodes as they are published, then you should subscribe to us on iTunes. We also have an email list that goes out to people that are subscribed. You can go to TheAncestralRDs.com to get signed up for that. But otherwise, we’re so glad to have you here and we will talk to you all next week.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Genetic Variants and Your Health With Dr. Benjamin Lynch

Thanks for joining us for episode 133 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are excited to be interviewing Dr. Benjamin Lynch!

Dr. Lynch is a Naturopathic Doctor who received his Cell and Molecular Biology degree from University of Washington and his ND from Bastyr University. His passion for identifying the cause of disease directed him towards nutrigenomics and methylation dysfunction.

Currently he researches, writes, and presents worldwide on the topic of MTHFR and methylation defects. You can learn more about Dr. Lynch and his work at www.DrBenLynch.com. Dr. Lynch is also the founder and president of www.SeekingHealth.com, a company oriented towards disease prevention and health promotion. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife and three boys.

The investigation of genetic variants that may contribute to health conditions is an increasingly popular topic of discussion, most notably MTHFR. With methylation support being a hot issue and the focus seemingly being heavy on supplementation, it may surprise you that this is not the best approach.

Join us for a fascinating discussion with Dr. Benjamin Lynch as he provides clarity on how genetic variants play a role in overall health.

As Dr. Lynch explains how the focus should be on treating the individual as a whole instead of attempting to treat a variant, you’ll learn the best way to support yourself if you have gene variants.

Just some of what you’ll hear is why the fear surrounding MTHFR is not necessarily warranted, how to tell if your methylation is impaired, and what genetic testing is and isn’t useful for. You’ll even learn why certain supplements can be helpful for some, but make matters worse for others.

This is also an episode not to be missed if you’re planning for pregnancy in the near future as Dr. Lynch shares tips for preconception and pregnancy, and covers the topic of prenatal vitamins.

Be sure to catch info on how to get your free bonuses when you preorder Dr. Lynch’s new book Dirty Genes!

Here is some of what we discussed with Dr. Lynch:

  • [00:04:14] What led Dr. Lynch to study nutrigenomics and methylation defects
  • [00:07:29] Explanation of genetics and methylation
  • [00:10:44] Where methyl groups are found in the diet and how you many not being getting the methyl groups you need despite a healthy diet
  • [00:15:44] How MTHFR is not necessarily a bad thing
  • [00:18:59] Signs that you may have MTHFR variants
  • [00:22:22] Why 23andMe will not tell you how well your methylation pathway is working
  • [00:24:31] What testing to identify gene variants is and isn’t useful for
  • [00:32:41] The best way to support yourself if you have gene variants, and why supplementation is not a first strategy
  • [00:40:22] Exercise induced asthma as an example of how to use supplements to help implement lifestyle modifications to address MTHFR, and the importance of being able to access methyl groups
  • [00:44:45] How methylation plays a role in sleep and why supplementation with SAM-e can either help or make symptoms worse
  • [00:50:33] Tips for planning for pregnancy and how Optimal Prenatal differs from other prenatals

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 133 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my co-host Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.

We’ve got a great guest on our show today who’s going to share his insight into how genetic variants play a role in our overall health. We’re so glad Dr. Ben Lynch is joining us and we think you’ll really enjoy this episode.

Laura: If you are enjoying our show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question on the show, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: Before we get into our interview, here is a quick word from our sponsor:

You know that we’re all about nutrient diversity here at The Ancestral RDs, which is why we’re really excited about the products at Dr. Cowan’s Garden. Dr. Cowan’s Garden makes nutrient dense, organic vegetable powders that can be added to your food to increase your nutrient diversity in an easy and delicious way. These powders are a perfect way to get valuable added nutrients if you aren’t eating as many plants as you’d like. In fact, Dr. Cowan’s Garden even uses some vegetables that are difficult to obtain like sea vegetables, perennial greens, and wild ramps. The vegetables are cooked to reduce anti-nutrient content and then they’re dehydrated on low heat to preserve their nutrients. Finally, they’re stored in Miron jars which prevent light from penetrating so the powders remain flavorful over time. Want to add more nutrient diversity to your diet? Use code “Ancestral RDS” at drcowansgarden.com for 20 percent off your order.

Kelsey: Welcome back, everybody. As you might be able to tell from my voice, I came down with a nasty cold yesterday so you guys are going to have to forgive me for sounding a little bit ridiculous today.

I’m very excited to introduce Dr. Benjamin Lynch as our guest today! Dr. Lynch is a Naturopathic Doctor who received his Cell and Molecular Biology degree from University of Washington and his ND from Bastyr University. His passion for identifying the cause of disease directed him towards nutrigenomics and methylation dysfunction. Currently he researches, writes, and presents worldwide on the topic of MTHFR and methylation defects. You can learn more about Dr. Lynch and his work at www.DrBenLynch.com. Dr. Lynch is also the founder and president of www.SeekingHealth.com, a company oriented towards disease prevention and health promotion. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife and three boys.

Welcome, Dr. Lynch!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great to be here, Kelsey!

Kelsey: We are super excited to have you! I know obviously based on your bio here, you’re a Naturopath by training and you hinted at the fact that the reason you became so interested in genetic mutations was because you were thinking more about the cause of disease. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you got to where you are right now in terms of what you’re studying?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: A lot of hours. You have to have a passion to push you towards learning. For me, naturopathic medicine provides a phenomenal foundation for looking at causes of disease. It does a great job, but it’s not complete enough without looking at the human genome because what I learned in naturopathic medical school was here’s a problem, here’s a disease, and these are the natural ways to treat it versus here’s a patient, this is what they’re struggling from, here are the things that you should consider for the patient.

It’s a little bit different, but it’s a huge difference. Instead of treating the disease with natural treatments, you’re supporting the individual with natural treatments. It’s a huge difference and you cannot do that without looking at the human genome. I mean you can, I’ve learned now which questions to ask to see which genes are kind of not working very well and which ones are working too hard. But that took me basically a decade to figure that out. You can skip that by looking at genetics.

Kelsey: Right. Would you say that figuring out what genes are having trouble, would you classify that as like root cause medicine, or functional medicine as some people call it?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: I wouldn’t call it functional medicine. Functional medicine is basically naturopathic medicine, the root cause medicine. Yeah, possibly. But we’re ending with the word medicine and that I’m not a fan of. I believe looking at the human genome allows less guessing. There is a term “precision medicine” out there. But that to me sounds surgical. It sounds like you’re really, really gone down one rabbit hole and you’re treating one gene versus still the whole patient.

I have named my teaching as strategic medicine, and here I am saying that I don’t like the word medicine. But we do have to cater to those who are thinking of it this way, which is 99 percent of people. I would say looking at genetics the way I do allows you to go in and strategically evaluate what is going on with the patient and then strategically provide interventions that make a huge amount of progress with very little potential for side effects because you understand what’s going on very, very well.

Kelsey: Yeah, makes sense. We’re talking about genetics here and I think a lot of us in our audience especially has heard this term methylation all over the place. Can you do a little bit of explaining about what you’re talking about when you’re talking so much about genetics, and then what methylation is specifically.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Genetics is basically the hardware that you’re born with. I don’t really mean to insult the beauty of our human bodies, but we are basically a computer and we have a ton of hardware in our systems. We’ve got our heart, we’ve got our cell receptors, we have our nerves. We are an amazing electrical being where there’s a lot of vibration going on here as well. But that’s the hardwired system.

The wires, the walls, insulation and windows, the doors, kind of all that that you have. But you are the environment inside the home. I mean we all live in homes, but every home is different. The contents of that home is different. Some homes are cleaner than others. Some ages are different. The foods in your fridge are different. The hobbies that you find throughout the homes are different. And that’s where the epigenetics comes in.

Genetics are basically the hardwiring of how your body is going to function. It’s the home. It’s the new house that you purchase and it’s yours. But the epigenetics of how your genes are working, the environment of how your genes are working is basically how you decide to utilize your body. It’s things that you do, how you decorate your home, what you put in your home. Methylation is one part of that. Methylation is the switching. One component of methylation is the switching of turning your genes on or off. We think that we always want our genes on and that’s a good thing. But no, we don’t.

We have skin on our arms and inside that skin of our arms is a nucleus. Inside the nucleus is DNA for every single gene in our body. But most of those genes are turned off in our arm because we don’t want to grow a heart cell in our arm, right? It wouldn’t make any sense. Methylation is controlling how our genes are communicating…well, not communicating, but working. Either their on or they’re off, and methylation does that.

Methyl is basically the simplest compound available. It’s a carbon and three hydrogens. It moves around and it will bind to things. As it binds to things, it’ll either turn them on or off, or it’ll change their structure.

One thing that we know of, everybody knows is serotonin. Serotonin through a few steps, one of those is methylation, serotonin becomes melatonin. Another one is uracil.  Uracil is an RNA base. We have RNA produced and then it needs to be switched over to DNA and that requires methylation. Uracil to thymine, that requires that CH3 to dock onto it and you get thymine.

It does hundreds of reactions in the body plus turning on and off your genes. It’s very, very important.

Kelsey: Got it. These methyl groups, are these things that we have in our body all the time or are we getting them from our environment?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great question, great question. Methyl groups are provided by our diet. The carbon and three hydrogens can be recycled around, but they have to be incoming through our diet. You hear the word methionine, and methionine is an amino acid. Well it’s a methylated amino acid. There is a methyl group on it…methio, right? Methionine. We hear about methylcobalamin and methylcobalamin is vitamin B12 that’s found in our red meats and our liver. And then we hear about methylfolate and methylfolate comes from our leafy greens and also liver. So these are all coming from our food.

A lot of people also are unaware about choline. Choline is a really important methyl donor. Even though it doesn’t have the word methyl in it, it’s kind of the backup to individuals who don’t eat a lot of vegetables. But it doesn’t do as comprehensive a job for people’s methylation as methylfolate and methylcobalamin which are the vitamin B12 and folate. The choline is found in meats mainly and also some vegetables as well. But it’s very high and in eggs.

Kelsey: So as long as you are eating a decent amount of meat and you’re getting a good amount of vegetables, would somebody get all the methyl groups that they could possibly need or are there other things to consider here?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: That’s another great question. Let’s look at that way; you go to work every single day and you’re making money. You save the money and you put it in the bank and you’re stocking it up. You keep some money in your wallet. So the wallet with your money in it is kind of your active methylation and the bank is housing your stored available methyl groups bound as SAM-e or something else.

But you can deplete your wallet and you’ll need to go to the cash machine and pull money out of the bank. But sometimes that cash machine doesn’t work. You forgot your code, or the card is busted, or the magnetic stripe is not working. The SAM-e, the money, can be available…and SAM-e is the number one metal donor in the body…but it can get stuck and trapped.

Even if you’re using the right foods, you’re consuming the right foods and living a fairly healthy life, there are many reasons why your methylation is not working the way it should be so it’s stuck despite you eating very well.

Kelsey: Another term I’m sure a lot of our listeners have heard before is MTHFR and mutations with MTHFR. They think that they need to be taking tons of methylated B vitamins to sort of offset that. But I think there’s a lot of confusion about that. Is that what you’re referring to here when the cash machine doesn’t work is these defects?

Dr. Ben Lynch: They can be. They can be genetic polymorphisms like MTHFR, yes. A genetic polymorphism is basically very, very common. It’s not a scary thing. It’s just a slightly altered way how our gene is working compared to the majority of the population usually.

You might have blond hair, I might have brown hair. It’s not bad. It’s just different right. MTHFR I used to think was bad, and it’s not. There are benefits to it. Years ago I had a sinking feeling when I had MTHFR show up on my genetic test along with my kids’. Like, crap, we’re in trouble. But we need to start first of all getting rid of that mindset and say well what’s the benefit? How do we support it?

Indirectly I would say MTHFR would be kind of acting as a bad debit card or somebody hostaging your bank. But I would say more along the lines of heavy metals, nitrous oxide which is laughing gas, various other medicines, oxidative stress. Hydrogen peroxide is actually produced by our body in order to trigger our immune system to work in order to kill bugs and infections.

You probably have some increased hydrogen peroxide levels right now, Kelsey, in your system to try to combat the infection that you have. And as a result, your methyl groups in your body are a little bit stuck. But it’s done on purpose. It’s not a bad thing it’s just how the body is working.

But heavy metals and laughing gas, yeah, they can make it stuck.

Kelsey: Interesting. Okay. So let’s go back for a second because I love what you just said about MTHFR not necessarily being a bad thing. I have to admit that this is something that I thought. Granted I don’t know a ton about methylation, so I want you to educate both me and our listeners about what you mean by that.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: This kind of goes into the concept of what I call a dirty gene. I don’t even like the term for MTHFR being born dirty. It’s being born different.

Genes like MTHFR and the variations that we all are born with, they’ve been selected for thousands of years; multiple, multiple, multiple times throughout our evolution. Our ancestors have been selected to have the MTHFR and they pass it down to us.

You and I would not be talking right now, the listeners wouldn’t be listening to this if MTHFR was deadly. I mean natural selection would have said alright, this isn’t working and you couldn’t reproduce and you couldn’t have kids.

So then you have to back up and say well why is MTHFR so prevalent in the population right now? There are many reasons, but I’m not going to get those. MTHFR is the last gene in your folate pathway. A lot of people don’t understand the folate pathway, and that’s fine. But MTHFR, its job is to make methylfolate which goes to support your methylation. MTHFR, its name is methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.  So there is the word methyl in it and it supports the production of methylation and that’s what it does.

But there is other forms of folate that do other things like we talked about earlier of uracil going to thymine. That’s pretty important. You got to have your RNA going to DNA, so that’s really important. That uses a different type of folate. That uses more folinic acid.

So if you just have a bunch of folate going through MTHFR and making a whole heap amount of methylfolate to support your methylation, well what if you’re not getting that much food? What if you’re not getting enough vegetables? What if you’re not getting enough leafy greens, or liver, or meat? Then you are going to be deficient in your folate and what’s going to happen is your DNA is starting to get damaged.

You have to understand that there’s various forms of folate and they do different things. It’s like if the only thing you did was clean one bathroom in your house and you have two, the other one I wouldn’t want to go visit.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: There’s a direction that happens. There’s a bifurcation, if you will, in the folate pathway and MTHFR helps slow that down so you get more of your folate going to support your DNA repair than you do to support your methylation. And there’s benefits to that.

Kelsey: Okay. You mentioned that you can kind of ask certain questions to identify maybe what genes might not be working very well. I want to talk about if you do have issues with methylation, so let’s say you have some of these MTHFR defects, how does that typically show up in a person? What sort of symptoms would they have? Can they tell that they have any sort of defect?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Well first we have to define defect. Again, defect sounds bad, right? If you go to the store and there’s a defect in your clothing, it’s marked down. That’s kind of how it is. So first of all, it’s an alteration.

The way to see if your MTHFR is different, or any gene, is first you have to understand what these genes do. So what’s the function of MTHFR? Its job is to produce methylfolate. What is methylfolate? It supports methylation. Okay, well if it supports methylation, what’s a very, very common thing that can be a problem if my methylation isn’t working very well? High homocysteine. If my homocysteine is high, what can happen? Oh my gosh, a whole bunch of things.

For example, if someone is exercising…and listen up on this one because this happens often. If you’re running on the treadmill, or you are playing soccer, or whatever sport you want and you tend to get red in the face and it stays red for 20, 30, 40 minutes, an hour after you exercise, that’s a sign that your methylation isn’t working very well.

What’s happening is when you’re exercising, you are producing a bunch of hydrogen peroxide and you’re using up a lot of other nutrients and your methylation support goes down. As your methylation sport goes down, then your histamine levels go up. If your histamine levels go up, you get red in the face, you get exercise induced asthma, you get huge amounts of perspiration more than the average bear, and then you’re the basketball player that nobody wants to guard, right?

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Or you’ve got asthma itself, or you get eczema, or worsening of eczema. You can get irritable, you can get insomnia. I mean histamine plays a ton of roles and exercise will flare it for various reasons because its job is to increase blood flow. It should go down normally. You should be able to exercise, be red in the face, sweat, and be able to get rid of that huge amount of sweating and the red face probably within about 10 15 minutes I imagine.

Kelsey: Wow! That’s probably ringing true, that statement. I know at least I sort of fall into pieces of that myself. I know that I have some MTHFR alterations as you say. Now I’m forgetting which ones I have. My family, we did the 23andMe test, which I want to ask you about, too. But we determined that pretty much all of us have some sort of methylation alteration there. Obviously it sounds like it’s a pretty common thing to deal with.

First question I guess I’ll start here, is the 23andMe test a good test to look at your methylation?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch. Is it a good test to look at your methylation? No. It’s a good test to look at what genes in your methylation pathway might be slower, or faster, or altered in some way. It shows you susceptibility of how your methylation could be. It’s not showing you how your methylation is.

Kelsey: Got it.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch. That’s a big thing. You brought up a great point, Kelsey, of how you’re wondering and thinking, you know what? That that does ring true to me sometimes and for some of the listeners, and for me as well. But you know what? I bet if you ran today…I mean I wouldn’t recommend it because you don’t feel good. But you would be more prone to sweating and more prone to a red face and difficulty breathing than if you weren’t sick. And that is because you’re making a bunch of hydroxide dealing with this infection and your methylation is naturally slower anyway.

Kelsey: Got it. So methylation is not always the same.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: It changes, I mean I would say multiple times a day. It’s changing constantly and depending on what you’re eating, depending on how you’re stressed out, depending on what chemical you just breathed in. It’s not some static thing that you’re born with.

So 23andMe, will it look at your genes in your methylation pathway? Yes, such as MTHFR. But it won’t tell you how it’s working. And that’s the biggest problem that people are thinking about because they get the genetic test back and they’re like oh God, look I have MTHFR and how do I fix that? And it’s like well you don’t fix the gene itself, you fix the individual.

Admittedly I went down the wrong road for a number of years and I finally woke up to the fact that it doesn’t work when you start trying to treat the gene. It just doesn’t because you have to treat the person.

Kelsey: Would you say that identifying any gene alterations is even worth it? Or would you rather look at methylation itself? And how do you look at methylation?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great question. First of all you have to be ready for what you’re getting into. I mean you’re looking under the lid of who you really are in terms of susceptibility. Let’s talk about personality type for a second. A lot of us tend to be born with this with a certain personality; a type A, driven, gung-ho type of person. A person who is more carefree, laid back, and chill, extroverted, and likes to go do things. We tend to be a little bit cranky and go off on people easier. We’ve been that way our whole life and it takes us a long time to calm down. So genetically we are kind of pre-programmed for these things. That’s just kind of who we are. But you have to be ready to dig into and be comfortable to define that.

I got a little bit derailed, so just remind me, ask me your question again just make sure I hit it right.

Kelsey:  Sure. I was just asking are tests like 23andMe that actually look at the genes themselves, do you feel that they’re worth it or does it make more sense to just look at that ever changing degree of methylation that’s going on?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Well I would say priority number one would be to always look at the variables in how it’s always changing, and your lifestyle, your diet, your mindset, your environment, the supplements you are or aren’t taking, the meds that you are or aren’t taking. These override genetic testing completely.

I’m a huge proponent of genetic testing, massively in favor for prevention. I do not like people using genetic testing to see what problem is present and trying to fix it. That will not work unless yet unless you have a serious condition like celiac disease, or some mitochondrial disorder, or cystic fibrosis. Then genetic testing is very useful. But I mean come on, if you have celiac disease and you’re eating gluten, not always, but it’s pretty significant. Right?

Kelsey: Yeah. There’s bigger problems to be dealt with.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Bigger problems will be dealt with and these things are spotted usually at a younger age and you do genetic testing typically at a younger age. Now celiac disease can be stealthy and problematic. If you are diagnosed with Celiac, yeah, you need to avoid wheat gluten completely.

However most of us do genetic testing because we want to see what roadblocks, if you will, we have or what issues that we have. And then you get your genetic test back and you say, oh I have MTHFR, I have APOE, I have these other things, and you try to keep fixing those particular genes. If you have MTHFR, you take a bunch of methylfolate. No, no, no, no. It’s not how it works.

Kelsey: I was just going to say that in my own practice I’ve had tons of people come to me and they’re like oh my gosh, I found out I have MTHFR defects. What are we going to do about this to make sure that whatever condition I’m dealing with isn’t being negatively affected by these defects? Sorry I keep saying defects. Alterations! I’ve got to catch myself on that one now. I think that’s a really common misconception that people feel like this is not about prevention necessarily, it’s about treatment. I agree with you that that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah, it doesn’t. I forgot one of the terms that’s commonly used. Let’s call them variations. They’re called variants. That makes more sense than alterations. That’s what the term is out there as well. I kind of lost myself on that one. They’re variants, variants from traditional population.

Back to your question. Yeah, MTHFR, you don’t treat the SNP. You don’t treat the variant. You treat the individual. I did want to go back and say that one great, great way to use genetic testing is to look at genetic testing to see where you should need to optimize yourself.

For example if you are tending towards irritability or anxiety, you do genetic testing, you’re like oh that explains it. That really helps me out. Then there’s ways to support those genes through lifestyle, diet, and various supplements. And you have to do these lifestyle changes. I mean you have to unless you want to go away being a grump, and irritable, and using that excuse like oh I’m genetically that way. Well yeah, but you can do something about it, I’m sorry.

Kelsey: Yeah that makes sense. It’s almost like if you do have some sort of tendency towards some behavior or symptoms, you were saying anxiety, or like for me I was diagnosed a little bit later in life like maybe in my late teens with exercise induced asthma, so you can kind of see what may have played a role in somebody developing those conditions. Am I understanding that correctly?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Exactly, exactly. If you and I were sitting in a room and you had your genetic test in front of me, you’re just like hey Dr. Lynch, here’s my genetic test. What do we do? I would pick it up and say I’m glad that you got your genetic test and I would set it aside and say we’ll look at this in a moment.

I would just do your typical history as any doctor would, hopefully, and you would tell me your main complaints. But I’d also want all your symptoms, all of them. Exercise induced asthma, what else? If you have any eczema, if you have any insomnia, do you get irritable? When you get mad does it take a long time to calm down? You would share all these things with me. I wouldn’t preempt any of them.

Then I would bring the genetics back and I would say, okay, well let’s look at your susceptibility for these problems, shall we? And I’d say look, you do have MTHFR, you do have COMT, you do have a glutathione deletion, and your malB is slow, your malA is slow, your NA2 is slow, your DAO is slow so you’d be a very, very high histamine susceptibility and thus exercise induced asthma risk is quite high.

And then I would say well that’s fine. What we’re looking at here is a road that is not completely paved with multiple lanes. You’ve got a one lane road, probably gravel or dirt with some potholes and you have to drive a bit differently. We can also get a different vehicle with better suspension so you’re not getting bounced all over the seat and make your passage down this gravel road for histamine pathway more comfortable.

It happens all the time. Just because you get exercise induced asthma doesn’t mean you can’t get it to go away. And just because you have these genes that are increasing your susceptibility doesn’t mean we can we cannot improve them. You can and I do it all the time.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think this is where a lot of people get tripped up. They find out they had the genetic defects or the variants and then they try to find somebody to work with to help, as I think you mentioned before, like support all of the systems that kind of play a role in how those genes are either turned off or on, or how much methyl groups they’re producing, if that makes sense. What do people do about this stuff? I think it’s just really confusing for a lot of people to see these results and then they just have no clue what to do with it.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Well let’s say you come home and there’s a brand new piano sitting in your living room. A brand new piano and you have always wanted to play that piano. You go over there and you start playing it and you just suck. You just suck and then you don’t want to play the piano anymore.

So what do you do? Well you hire someone and you learn even how to sit at the piano, and you learn what the black keys are, the white keys are. You learn the basics, you learn the fundamentals. In basketball or any sport, you learn first what the objective of that game is and you learn the fundamentals; the passing, the shooting, the defending. You have to learn the basics before you can even run a play.

The problem is everyone is wanting to play Bach or Beethoven right away from this genetic test or they’re wanting to run plays right away. I tell you, I’ve seen many, many kids’ basketball teams trying to run plays, they can’t pass the ball. If you can’t pass the ball, what’s the point?

So I’m a firm believer in the fundamentals and this is a long way around saying you have to start there. You need to step back and you need to start at the basics. You need to remove the layers of dirt and grime and things which are contributing to problems.

Look, genes do work. That’s what they do. Genes perform a certain function and they have various jobs. If one gene is working, is available to do work, it’s going to be able to work for you. Now if another gene is kind of born with eight fingers instead of ten and you tell it to tie shoelaces or something, a lot of times, multiple times, take these hundred pairs of shoes and tie them, it’s not going to work very well. It’s going to get stuck. Any time a gene gets overwhelmed, you get a symptom.

The best way to support yourself when you get a genetic test back is to think am I doing all the basics in life right? How’s my stress level? How’s my sleep? How’s my diet? How’s my environment? What supplements am I taking? Am I using the cheap ones because I want to save a couple of bucks? Or am I using the ones with the really good nutrients and formulations? Am I eating fast food or am I eating whole foods?

Kelsey: Right. Laura and I talk about what we call low hanging fruit a lot. Like deal with the basics first before you move on to all these really complex things that you can go down rabbit holes easily for, but you shouldn’t.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great example. You’ve got a fruit tree. Pick up the fruit that’s on the ground first. Don’t even go for the low hanging fruit. Go for the stuff that’s on the ground and clean, and then you go for the low hanging fruit, and then you get the ladder out and you go higher. I love that example. Well said.

Kelsey: I have a question, which I’m sure a lot of our listeners are asking themselves right now, too, which is about supplementation. Would you consider supplementation just in terms of like specific nutrients or things like that, not the quality like you were saying before, but would you consider supplementation in general as part of that low hanging fruit?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: No. No, I would not.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: No. In fact in my book Dirty Genes I did not talk about supplements until basically page 270 or so.

Kelsey: Okay.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: First you need to understand how genes work, and what they do for you, and the roles that they play. And then you need to learn how they get dirty, meaning what performed them to not do their work so well? Where do they start getting sloppy? What are they burdened from? And what vitamins and minerals do they work with and where can you get those in your food? That’s what I like to do first. Because if you start supplementing and you’ve got still a lot of trash around or a lot of work that you’re doing, then that’s not very effective.

Let me give you an example. A buddy of mine, I was drinking and I was telling him about this supplement that I wanted to make to prevent hangovers, which I never did because I later learned that if people do not get hangovers they are more prone to become alcoholic. So even though I knew the science and biochemistry of this, I never made it because I didn’t want to produce a bunch of alcoholics. I couldn’t live with myself.

So what he did is he took my recommendations and he felt a lot better from drinking. I met him again down his house about a month later and he’s like Ben, God this is great because I can drink more now. I was like that wasn’t the point. That wasn’t the point! Then he was taking all these nutrients to be able to consume the alcohol. So he was using the vitamins to continue a lifestyle habit which wasn’t entirely appropriate. I mean having alcohol every now and then is okay. Drinking too much isn’t. And so he found that if he could take all these nutrients, he could drink more, and so he did.

And then we had another conversation because I was like dude, you can’t do that. It’s still a mitochondrial toxin. You’re still hurting yourself. He took it to heart. And then a couple months later he decided to cut way back, I mean way back. And so what happened was he started getting auditory hallucinations.

Kelsey: Wow.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: I told him, I said look, you started taking too much methylfolate. It’s helping you now because you’ve got dirty genes. But you start reducing your alcohol intake, you take all that methylfolate, there’s not as much work for your MTHFR to do anymore from the alcohol. So you’re going to have to reduce your dose. Even though he heard auditory hallucinations, he remembered the fact that okay, genes do work, I was drinking a lot of alcohol, I had a supplement to kill that hangover and be able to drink more. I’m not drinking so much anymore, but I’m still taking all these nutrients which are now pushing other genes to do other things which is making me kind of crazy right now. Solution was remove the vitamins.

I really want people to try to hit their lifestyle and diet first. Yeah, you can use vitamins to support you along the way. But in the ideal world, want people changing first. But that’s not always possible.

Kelsey: Yeah. Talk about some scenarios where you just said it’s not always possible. Sometimes people have other things going on and it’s tough to make those lifestyle changes, but they need some relief in the meantime. So are there situations where you might give some supplementation just to support somebody through a rough time like that?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Oh for sure. All the time. I’m talking about the ideal world here. It’s tough. I mean we have work, we have kids, we have significant others, we have the environment that we live in. There’s a lot of variables here. But just know that there is a lot of things that you can do to support before supplementation.

I’m prefacing this because I know a lot of people have problems. I mean I have problems, I have symptoms. It’s very easy to reach for that supplement bottle than it is to actually say okay, I’m going to go to bed on time.

Kelsey: Oh yeah. Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: But for example, exercise induced asthma. I want to talk about that again. We all want to exercise. Okay, well, not all. But many of us want to exercise and we do exercise. And we do have this exercise induced asthma. We do get this red in the face and that sucks. It’s a problem. So what do you do for that? Well you can take liposomal glutathione. I like the liposomal form because the glutathione gets right inside your cell and supports it right away.

If you take liposomal glutathione in the morning and you take some methylfolate and methylcobalamin prior with a lozenge prior to working out along with some electrolytes, then you go and you train, you’re going to have a lot less exercise induced asthma or may even go away.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah, because the glutathione is to neutralize the hydrogen peroxide. That’s its job, right?

Kelsey: Yeah.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: So if you get too much hydrogen peroxide like we said in the beginning, then your methylation gets dirty and it slows down. So if you take glutathione, which its job is to eat up that hydrogen peroxide, then your methylation can keep working. And then if it can keep working, then your methylation is there to break down the histamine and so your red face and your asthma. And you can take a little bit more methylfolate and methylcobalamin and possibly even some creatine prior to training because that also supports your methylation.

So you’ve taken the methylfolate, and methylcobalalmin, and creatine to support methylation, but you’ve also taken liposomal glutathione. Because we talked about also can we go to the bank… if we have money in the bank, can we always get it? No, we can’t. The liposomal glutathione helps keep your access to the bank. You can take the methylfolate and methylcobalamin to support your methylation along with creatine. But if you don’t take care of the hydrogen peroxide, it doesn’t matter that you took those nutrients. They won’t work.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think a lot of people do that and I’m guilty of it myself in the past. I find out I have these methylation issues and I’m just like downing methylcobalamin and folate just hoping that’s going to help.

But I love what you just said about the access piece of it because you’re right, if you don’t have that access, then what the heck is the point? You’re just wasting your money on all those supplements, too.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: A lot of people do this. I just had a colleague of mine call me up and he’s like Ben, my homocysteine is 25. I don’t get it. I’m taking a whole bunch of choline. I’m taking a bunch of trimethylglycine, which is a great methyl donor for homocysteine. I’m taking a bunch of methylfolate, and methylcobalamin, Vitamin B2, zinc. I’m doing the work. It’s not going down. I was like are you taking any glutathione? No. So he took the glutathione and he goes within 20 minutes…he emailed me after that recommendation, he goes oh my God! He goes this severe depression just lifted for first time in a month within minutes.

Kelsey: Wow! That’s incredible.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah. This is a very well-known health professional. We all struggle and we have to understand if you’re missing one little piece of the puzzle, you’re stuck.

Kelsey: Yeah. Right, exactly. You were talking about with exercise induced asthma as one of these places where you might want to supplement to kind of help somebody do a behavior that is one of those low hanging fruit. Another one I can think of is like sleep issues. Does methylation play a role there?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Big time, big time. Every night when my two boys go to bed…my oldest I don’t even ask because he just sits there on his phone. He’s nearly 15 now and it’s up to him. I can’t baby him. He’s going to do what he does. He does well in his sport and school so far, so I guess whatever he’s doing works. But I don’t ask him.

But my 12 year old and my 9 year old, I say do you need any support tonight to go to sleep? And they lay there, and they look at the ceiling, and they kind of roll around a little bit, and they’re like, no, I’m good. And other nights they’re like oh yeah, dad, for sure. Give it to me. What happened there?

Its’ like well why don’t I just walk into their room and give them for something for sleep? Well if they’re already exhausted and they’re already going to fall asleep on their own, then I don’t need to give them anything because I’m going to make it very hard for them to wake up the next morning. So they tune in. I’ve taught them to listen to their own body and say okay, do I need something right now to fall asleep? And they’re quiet for a moment usually when they think about it and then they give me the answer.

After they give me an answer, then they have two options that I have for them. One is SAM-e which is the body’s main methyl donor. SAM-e’s job is to clear histamine. Have you ever bought an anti-histamine over the counter and it says do not operate while driving machinery because it causes drowsiness?

Kelsey: Yes.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: High histamine will do the opposite. It increases alertness and you don’t want high histamine at night. SAM-e will process histamine. It will also help get rid of dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, which you don’t want too much at night. You want to be calmed down. And it also converts serotonin to melatonin. SAM-e is like the wonder sleep support for people IF they can access the methylation and their money at the bank. If their debit card magnets stripe isn’t working very well because of heavy metals or hydrogen peroxide levels, low glutathione levels, and so on, they take the SAM-e, it will make them worse.

A simple test for people to see if the methylation is working if they’re laying in bed staring at the ceiling, and they take SAM-e and they fall right away, sleep within 20 minutes, and they wake up the next morning and are like I slept like a baby, it was amazing! That shows your methylation is working.

On the flip side, they take the SAM-e because they can’t fall asleep at night and they get pissed off because they’re like Dr. Lynch said it would work. I’m staring at the ceiling, I’m more irritable, more pissed off, I can’t sleep, now I’m even worse off than before. That’s a sign that your debit card isn’t working and you can’t access it and you probably need some glutathione. You might have some medications blocking it. You might have some heavy metals blocking it or various other things. So it was a good cheap test for you. I’m sorry that happened, and you can neutralize it with niacin. So you take niacin 50 milligrams every 20 minutes or so. You might flush. You might get all hot and burny from it, but goes away when you’re lying down, you’re not running around. That will help eat up the SAM-e that you just took.

That’s a very great way to support methylation. The other one was Optimal Sleep. My kids were using that for a long time, too. They would take one capsule even though the serving size is three. That that would help their sleep a lot. SAM-e helps you fall asleep. Optimal Sleep helps you also fall asleep, but stay asleep.

Kelsey: What’s in that?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Optimal sleep has 5HTP. It has vitamin B6. It’s got magnesium malate. It’s got phosphatidylserine which breaks down cortisol. It has ashwagandha. It’s got some zinc. I think that’s it.

But now if someone has migraines and they’re very, very irritable and they have what I call a dirty or a slow malA, than Optimal Sleep won’t be beneficial to them because they already have too much serotonin. If you give them 5HTP then that made even more serotonin.

If this sounds like oh you lost me, I explain this in great detail in the book Dirty Genes. It explains what malA does. It explains what nutrients you can take, lifestyle changes you can do. It’s a very easy read and there’s quizzes in there that tell you if your malA is fast, or slow, or dirty, or so on. It’s a fun read, too.

Kelsey: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. And that’s coming out in January I think, right? We’ll include some links to lead people too. I assume you probably can preorder that?

Dr. Benjamin: Yeah, you can preorder it on Amazon and then you go to DirtyGenes.com, there’s a bunch of bonuses that you get with it. You can go to DirtyGenes.com and click through there and you can see there’s Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound, and these other places. Or you can just get it on Amazon and you can go to DirtyGenes.com and enter your order ID, name, and email and you get a bunch of bonuses that come with it.

Kelsey: I’m going ask one last question before we wrap up today because I know there’s a lot of listeners that we have that are thinking about having children soon and I know methylation plays a big role there. I’m wondering if you can give us a little bit of information. I’m sure you probably talk about it in your book potentially, but just give us some information about what people can do if they’re thinking of getting pregnant in the near future.

Dr. Ben Lynch: Love this question. This is my next book, Kelsey, is preconception and pregnancy because this is my passion. I wrote Dirty Genes first because we’re all a bit dirty and we need to clean up our genes before we get pregnant. So that’s the reason why it’s next and not first.

So what you do to support pregnancy is first you know even if you just fell pregnant and you don’t have time to prepare anything, you do not want to take folic acid. Folic acid we hear about on the news, and folic acid awareness month, and all this nonsense. It helped us for a long time, but we have better access now.

You want to take real folate. You want to take methylfolate and folinic acid. You want to support with choline we talked about earlier, too. Ninety percent of women, Kelsey, are deficient in choline.

Kelsey: Wow!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Ninety percent. If you have adequate choline, if you’re taking…they did a study and the equivalent that they found for humans based upon a mouse study is about 800 milligrams of choline daily, which is quite a bit. I think there’s like 150 milligrams of choline in one egg. So it’s a lot of choline. About 800 milligrams of choline a day while you’re pregnant, the baby all throughout its life may not lose any memory abilities at all its whole life.

Kelsey: Wow!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: They supported these mice and they gave them choline during pregnancy. Let me back up. The mom was given sufficient choline during pregnancy. She’d had her babies and the mice went on and they never got memory deficits their entire life. The other ones were deficient and choline. You want to support in choline as well.

And you want to be able to burn additional fuels like fat, which a lot of us cannot do. We talk about a ketogenic diet all the time, but it’s not just about being keto, it’s about being able to burn fat as fuel. So carnitine is really useful.

Carnosine is a very powerful antioxidant which nobody talks about, but they found that carnosine levels were low in women who were pregnant and who had autistic children later on. The autistic children were also low in carnosine.

All of these compounds are in Optimal Prenatal, which is a formula I did over a period of three years of research. It just recently won the Women’s Choice Award For best prenatal, which I was really honored to receive.

Kelsey: Yeah, I use that with my patients.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Excellent. What are you seeing? Good outcomes?

Kelsey: Oh yeah. I mean as I’m sure you know you know miscarriages are unfortunately pretty common and especially so with methylation issues. This seems to really help.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch. Yeah. It’s amazing. I mean woman after woman who has had recurrent miscarriages will get on Optimal Prenatal and they’ll get pregnant and they’ll carry to term. I’m sure there are a few women who still struggle with this and it’s not the magic bullet, but it definitely helps many women. And it’s really upsets me because all it was a prenatal. That’s it.

Miscarriage is so common. I mean I think I looked it up on Google. How many times miscarriage is Googled a month and it’s like almost half a million times or something.

Kelsey: Wow.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: And that’s not good.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: And so if you can reduce at least say even 40 percent of those or 50 percent of those with just a change in a prenatal, that’s messed up. I mean it’s beautiful that it can do it, but it’s also frustrating that people don’t know this.

Just yesterday, Kelsey, I also looked up what are the requirements by the FDA to call something a prenatal and what do you call a prenatal vitamin? What are the requirements? And I can’t really find anything. To call something a multivitamin you need three or more vitamins to be called a multivitamin. So when you go out and you buy a prenatal and it says prenatal on the bottle, you expect that the FDA has got some regulations and some requirements, right?

Kelsey: Yeah, you would hope.

Dr. Benjamin You would hope. And the requirements for multivitamins to have three or more vitamins, are you kidding me?

Kelsey: Right. That’s nothing.

Dr. Benjamin: It’s nothing, it’s trash! Women say oh I take a prenatal gummy. Well you’re banking on the term that’s used by that supplement company and it says prenatal in it, but a prenatal gummy is not giving you anything. It’s also like I also can’t take a prenatal that has more than one capsule. Well if it’s a one capsule, it’s also not enough. It’s not easy.

Optimal Prenatal, we have it in a in a powder form, too. We also have in a chewable. But the best one by far is the Optimal Prenatal Protein Powder. It’s the most comprehensive because women can’t eat most commonly because of nausea and vomiting and they just have lack of appetite. Taking a vitamin is the last thing you want.

Kelsey: When you’re nauseous, forget it.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Right. It’s kind of funny, I take this most mornings. Probably about three to five times a week I’ll take Optimal Prenatal. It’s not that I’m trying to get pregnant. It won’t work for me. I love the combination of nutrients that are in it and it works well for me. If I’m feeling really good, maybe I’ll take half a scoop versus a full scoop.

Kelsey: We’ll definitely link to that because like I said, I think we have a lot of listeners who are either pregnant right now or thinking about getting pregnant and they’re starting that process of kind of preparing for that.

I think first of all your book Dirty Genes which is coming out is going to be a great first step to not only understanding that, but like getting those basics in line first and then you can add on that Optimal Prenatal as you’re preparing and as you are pregnant as well for a really good combination.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah. And to further support, there’s no iron in our Optimal Prenatal. People always ask why don’t you put iron in it? Iron competes with calcium and so you can’t do that. I mean it looks good on the label, but in reality with your biochemistry it doesn’t work. You have to take iron separately, so you just take iron with your dinner and you can also adjust it as you need to. So know that iron isn’t in there.

You also want to support your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is found to be low in pregnant women who also have children with a higher risk of autism because the children can’t fight infections and their immune system isn’t balanced so their vitamin D levels are low. Help your developing baby with sufficient vitamin D also.

Kelsey: Perfect. Well I have to say, Dr. Lynch, this was really fascinating not only for me, but I’m sure for our audience as well. Thank you so much for joining me today!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: My pleasure, my pleasure.

Kelsey: We’ll have to have you back on when you get your preconception and prenatal book going because I’m sure we could talk forever about that as well.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: For sure. We can we can talk forever even before. I’m happy to do so!

Kelsey: Well everybody, look forward to Dirty Genes which is coming out in January 2018. We will post the link to the preorder page so you can get those bonuses. Dr. Lynch was just talking about.

Thank you so much, Dr. Lynch! It was really great to speak with you.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: A pleasure, Kelsey. Thank you!

PODCAST: Elimination Diets: When And How To Use One

Thanks for joining us for episode 132 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering following question from a listener:

“I would love for you to touch on the topic of elimination diets. I am seeking to heal from an autoimmune condition which has caused lichen planus, weight gain, and digestive problems. I’m using the AIP model for healing my gut and reintroducing foods, but I feel that it’s taking forever and I’m struggling to know how accurate my responses are to the new foods I’m reintroducing. I’ve struggled with eliminating foods and feeling restricted, especially in social situations. Thanks!”

Elimination diets are often used as a strategy to uncover foods that may be triggering symptoms when trying to heal from many health conditions. While elimination diets can be helpful for short term symptom management, they are not a long term solution and can actually cause more problems in the long run.

Join our conversation today as we share how we deal with elimination diets in our practices and provide you with a sustainable, long term approach to healing beyond food restriction.

Some of what we’ll be discussing is why focusing on root causes of illness before beginning a strict elimination diet will provide the most improvement, and we’ll tell you the main offender foods that are starting points on an elimination diet.

We’ll also cover the crucial but often overlooked factor of maintaining appropriate macro and micronutrient balance as well as calorie intake when experimenting with elimination diets.

As you learn when to use an elimination diet and how to implement one according to your needs, you’re sure to come away with a new perspective on the role of elimination diets as part of a healing journey.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • [00:06:09] How where you are in your healing journey is a deciding factor in considering if you should begin an elimination diet
  • [00:08:12] Why it’s best to begin dealing with some of the root causes of an illness before starting an elimination diet
  • [00:16:35] How short term elimination diets can help with symptom relief
  • [00:18:24] Which foods are considered main offenders and good starting points to remove
  • [00:22:20] Why working with a professional can help take the uncertainty out of elimination diets
  • [00:23:55] How consistency in a health intervention is more effective than inconsistently trying multiple things
  • [00:29:28] How modified elimination diet and reintroduction of foods after investigating root causes can lead to discovery of a personalized diet and determine if further elimination is needed
  • [00:33:49] The importance of maintaining appropriate macro and micronutrient balance as well as calorie intake
  • [00:46:46] How skin conditions can take long to notice improvement
  • [00:50:49] How food isn’t always the most important factor, and the other lifestyle factors that contribute to illness and healing

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 132 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey everyone!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

Over the next 30 to 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insights into solving your health challenges with practical tips and real food.

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying our show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Laura: Today on the show we’re going to be discussing elimination diets, and when and how you should use one in your healing journey. But before we get into the question for the day, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Welcome back, everyone. Here is our question for today’s show:

“I would love for you to touch on the topic of elimination diets. I am seeking to heal from an autoimmune condition which has caused lichen planus, weight gain, and digestive problems. I’m using the AIP model for healing my gut and reintroducing foods, but I feel that it’s taking forever and I’m struggling to know how accurate my responses are to the new foods I’m reintroducing. I’ve struggled with eliminating foods and feeling restricted, especially in social situations. Thanks!”

Kelsey: This is a really good question and I’m glad somebody asked this because I feel like at least for me, and I’d be curious to hear about you, Laura, I know that my kind of feeling the way that I practice with elimination diets has really changed a lot over the years.

When I first started practicing I used to with pretty much everybody that came in, I would have them just get on a strict Paleo or just normal Paleo type diet right off the bat to just like get them on some sort of quote “elimination” type diet so that we could get started with that process. But that’s changed a lot for me over the years. I’ll talk a little bit about how that’s changed in more detail later in the show. But I want to hear from you, Laura too, like has that changed at all for you in terms of how you practice?

Laura: Yeah. I think in general my perspective on food has changed a lot in the last few years. Not that it’s changed radically. I mean it’s not like I’m like promoting veganism or something like that, but I think just my overall philosophy has changed.

I have found that over-restriction often causes a lot more problems than…well I shouldn’t say more. I’d say it’s kind of a balance because not restricting things that are causing problems certainly is an issue for a lot of people. But then if they go too far on the other end of the spectrum where they’re restricting too much, it causes problems from its own side of things.

Because I tend to get the people that are on the other end of the spectrum, a lot of times I’m not doing elimination diets. If anything, I’m kind of catching them after they’ve already eliminated so many things and I’m helping them reintroduce.

I know you’re going to talk about this, but for me it’s very dependent on where the person is coming from. If somebody is coming from having a history of restrictive dieting, then I’m probably not going to put them on a restrictive elimination diet. But if they’re coming from scratch or if they haven’t really tried an AIP diet or something like that, then I might be more willing to test that out with them.

Kelsey: Yeah. You’re definitely right in that I think probably both of our clientele has changed quite a bit over the years, too. We’re getting people because of our podcast, and the types of things that we talk about, and how our philosophies have changed, I think we do tend to get those people that are more on the other side of the coin where they’re more restrictive than they have to be rather than less restrictive than they have to be. I think that feeds a lot into it as well for me, too.

I guess what I’d like to do today to help to answer this question is to walk through my current approach for elimination diets which I use in my own practice and also in my online program, Build Your Biome.

One thing that I start with typically is that if you’re feeling okay right now, like you don’t have a ton of symptoms or at least your symptoms are manageable…that may not be the case for this person asking the question. We don’t have enough details here to really know that. But I know that in my own practice and for a lot of people that go through my online program, they’re at this point where they’ve probably taken out some foods, they’ve probably dealt with some of the underlying root causes of whatever they’re dealing with to the point where they’re there at least sufficiently managed they can get through the day.

It’s not super great of course. They don’t feel wonderful. That’s why they’re trying to heal. But it’s not like they feel like they can’t do anything, like their lives are completely to the point where their illness is just taking over their life essentially.

If you’re at that point, like if you’re really having a lot of trouble with your symptoms and they’re really, really disruptive, I do think in that case sometimes that going into a more restrictive diet right off the bat can be helpful.

But again like Laura was mentioning, it really depends on where you’re coming from. If you’ve been super restrictive and you’re already on some really strict elimination diet, restricting further and taking out more foods probably isn’t the right way to go. In fact, you’re probably going to want to go the other direction. But if you’re on a standard American diet or you haven’t really played a lot with elimination diets in your journey, then I would say it might make sense to go into a more restrictive elimination diet right off the bat.

But for me because of the clients that I tend to work with, usually they’re in this place where their symptoms aren’t great, but they’re manageable, I often recommend waiting on a strict elimination diet until after they’ve dealt with some of the bigger underlying root issues that are probably causing some of the symptoms that they’re experiencing because they have to do with some of the body systems that are most likely to get disrupted.

To give some examples of that specifically for my Build Your Biome people, in that course we’re focused on gut health. So of course we’re going to be thinking more about gut infections. If you’ve got digestive problems, which I know is at least one of the things that this person is dealing with, that’s certainly something that if you haven’t done any testing for, that should be like the first thing you do.

We need to know if you’ve got some sort of gotten infection because that’s going to really wreak havoc on the whole system, your whole body really I should say. So definitely your digestive system, but then it’s also going to cause this sort of low grade inflammation throughout your body which causes tons of problems. It can lead to insulin resistance, it can play a role an autoimmune disease.

It’s just like this huge, huge issue that if you don’t deal with that first or if you don’t deal with that ever because no one’s ever testing you for gut infections, that is going to be a huge problem for you and you’re never going to get to the point where you feel truly healed if you’ve got some sort of gut infection going on.

For people with digestive issues, certainly gut infections, but for anyone really, I think it makes sense to just sort of think about all of the different body systems, how they’re functioning, and what sort of symptoms that you are exhibiting that might play a role in some of those body systems dysfunctioning.

That includes the digestive system of course like we just talked about. It can include the thyroid. How is your thyroid functioning? Have you had a full thyroid panel? Do we know if you have Hashimoto’s? If you’ve got a thyroid panel done but they didn’t test for antibodies, let’s test for antibodies and see if you’ve got some sort of autoimmune issue going on with your thyroid.

And then dealing with the thyroid, so that includes nutrient repletion. If you are not getting enough selenium or iodine and that’s causing your thyroid to be dysfunctional, then we need to deal with that. Or maybe you’ve got Hashimoto’s and it’s to a point where you need thyroid hormone medication. We can’t just ignore those things. We really have to test for them and then deal with them as well.

It could include things like your adrenals. Laura and I have our Paleo Rehab: Adrenal Fatigue program where we walk people through how to test their HPA axis, see if anything’s not functioning correctly, and then we get them on a supplement protocol to help move cortisol in the right direction. If their cortisol is too low, we’ll get them on supplements to help raise their cortisol. Of course we work on lifestyle factors as well to help that in addition to that. And then on the other side of the coin, if it’s too high, if you’re producing too much cortisol, we’re going to help you to lower that cortisol. So basically getting the HPA axis to function appropriately.

And then like Laura was just saying, if you’re somebody with a history of disordered eating, and you’re not eating enough, and under eating has been a problem for you for years, we’re going to want to address that before we dive really into this very restrictive type of diet.

Laura, I always love what you call it: the low hanging fruit. We have to deal with these low hanging pieces of fruit first because those things can cause so many symptoms that you might be experiencing and it’s really hard to figure out if you’re reacting to different foods when you’re reintroducing them after eliminating them if there’s so many other things going on.

It’s just like the noise level is so high, you can’t pick out the individual sounds, if that makes any sense. You just need to quiet everything down first, get everything functioning as best as it possibly can given what’s going on, and then that’s where an elimination diet can become more useful because then when you start adding things back in, it’s a lot easier to pick up on the things that you are reacting to.

Laura: Definitely. I think with the low hanging fruit or the noise analogy, we’re just thinking about what to focus on first to really get the most improvement. I think you might have this experience too, but a lot of the people we work with are very well educated, have done a ton of research on their current health condition, what might be helpful. A lot of times they’re doing so many different things that it’s really hard to tell what’s helping, what’s not helping, what’s actually causing harm. And then how are you supposed to figure out what to do next if all of that noise is part of the picture?

I definitely agree with you that looking for a root cause is very important because you might be having certain symptoms that maybe you don’t react well to a certain food, but that doesn’t mean that that food was the problem. It might just be that you have something else going on that’s causing that problem. Something else that I see in the work that I do with clients is a lot of times there’s micronutrient deficiencies that can affect how somebody tolerates certain foods or how they feel. There’s just so many different things that can be underlying these symptoms.

The elimination diet piece is helpful. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t do it, but to have that be the only thing someone’s doing is rarely a long term solution.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. Just to give an example of what you were talking about with a food sensitivity or intolerance being related to an underlying cause, I think the best example of this is like somebody who’s intolerant to high FODMAP foods. Because if you’ve got some sort of gut infection like SIBO, that causes FODMAP intolerance very, very often.

If you just go on the low FODMAP diet, yes, that’s probably going to reduce your symptoms, you’re going to feel a lot better. But basically you’re never going to be able to eat FODMAP foods again because you’re not getting rid of the underlying cause. You’re not getting rid of the reason why you can’t tolerate FODMAP foods. But if you clear out that SIBO infection, most people can tolerate at least the majority of high FODMAP foods without any issues.

That just goes to show that it’s so, so important that you identify any body systems that aren’t working correctly or have some sort of issue going on with them, heal from that first or at least get that process started.

You don’t have to like fully heal from anything, I would say. I’ll often have people, like we’ll sort of identify these main root causes, we’ll get them on some sort of program protocol, or we’ll start dealing with those things in some respect, and then they’ll start feeling better.

They don’t have to feel 100 percent better, but as long as we’re seeing progress in the right direction, that to me is like okay, we’ve identified things that are a problem, we started to fix this person is feeling better, I know that we’re doing the right stuff. Now we just need to either give it a little bit more time, or if we’ve given it time and they’ve maybe gotten 70 percent better, 80 percent better, but they’re still having some problems, that’s where something like a more restrictive elimination diet might come in handy. Might, not always, depending on what we think is causing the leftover problems to still be there. But it can be a useful tool in that.

Let’s see, where do I want to go back to here? I guess what I would say is that my typical approach is to….in my Build Your Biome program because it’s a group online program, I sort of have to have it set up of course where you are you are calling the shots. It’s a DIY program essentially. What I do there is actually give people the option to start an elimination diet as soon as they begin the program if they’re really, really having problems with the digestive issues that they’re having, and they’re very disruptive to their life, and they really just need to get symptom relief as soon as possible. That’s where I think something like a more strict elimination diet can be useful.

Like I was talking about before, if you’re just having tons of symptoms, super disruptive, and you just need symptom relief as soon as possible, and you’re not concerned at least at that point about dealing with the underlying root causes…that’s the long term goal, but the short term goal is to just feel at least like a human again that you can get through your day and these things aren’t completely disrupting your life. That’s where I think an elimination diet can be useful.

But that said, I also give people an option in that program to do what I call like a modified elimination diet and that is something that they can get on to sort of…basically the minimum effective dose I’d say of dietary changes that help you to then clear out any bacteria that’s there.

For most people coming into that program, I can pretty much guarantee that they’re going to have at least something going on with their gut bacteria that we’re going to need to deal with. And so this modified elimination diet just takes out like the major main offenders that cause inflammation, can lead to or at least worsen leaky gut. We take out those things to just like help your body function a little bit better, help the digestive system to feel a little bit more in control while you’re working on some of these other underlying causes.

When I say modified elimination diet, it’s really easy. It’s basically just taking out industrial seed oils, taking out gluten, maybe grains. For digestive issues I tend to err on the side of taking out grains. If somebody is really just suffering and they want to get relief as soon as possible, then I’d say yeah, take the grains out. But that’s not always. If I’m working with somebody one on one, I’ll really talk with them and get their health history, their diet history, symptom history to make that call as to whether it would be useful for them to take out all grains.

Probably more often than not, the people who work with me one on one are coming from the more restrictive side of things anyway. In that sense most of the time we’re not taking out grains fully. But I do think it can be very useful for somebody who’s never done that before to take out grains entirely and just see if that makes a difference.

And then in addition to that, I’d also just want to make sure that somebody is reducing their sugar consumption if they’re eating a lot of sugar or eating a lot of processed foods. We’ll switch basically over to a real food diet, take out these main offenders, focus a lot on like fruits and veggie consumption, variety, all the things that we talk about on this podcast all the time in terms of like just a general healthful diet.

And again that’s to just reduce inflammation, give the gut a chance to at least breathe a little bit. If somebody is coming from a diet where they’re eating a lot of processed foods, they’re eating industrial seed oils, just taking out those things is going to make a big difference in terms of how the gut functions. It’s not going to fix everything, and neither would a stricter elimination diet, but at least doing that modified elimination diet is going to help a lot for somebody who’s coming from more of like the standard American type of diet. Do you do something similar, Laura?

Laura: Yeah, definitely. There’s some foods that are kind of no-brainers to try removing. Like you said, the industrial seed oils are something that I don’t think anyone needs to be eating. It’s not like taking those out is going to cause problems for anyone. It kind of goes from there as far as what where the person’s coming from, what they need, what they’re ready to do, which I think is something that is a huge part of it.

I know I’ve helped some people in my personal life with some diet changes and it’s funny because I’m so used to working with people that are like totally obsessed with health and nutrition, and know everything, and they’re almost more information overload. And then when I’m helping people in my in my life that are just coming to me because they know I’m a nutritionist and we’re starting from scratch, we might be doing something as simple as like just doing gluten free or something like that. It’s one of those things where the person is coming from will make a huge difference.

But like you’re saying, there are certain things that are pretty universally helpful for most people and certainly won’t cause harm. That’s kind of what I’m looking to accomplish too is just what’s going to give the best results without either causing physical problems, mental problems with the level of restriction, or are just going to be arbitrary and not actually helpful.

Kelsey: Right. I would say that’s probably where working with someone one on one can be really useful is if like you’re not really sure where to go to from here, wherever here may be, it could be that you’re more than standard American side of things and you don’t want to have to think about which things to take out. Even though to us it’s like really simple to think about those things, for somebody personally it can be a lot more difficult. Working with someone one on one gives you that objective view.

I know for me, and I’m sure this is the case for you too, Laura, when I’m working with someone one on one like I was talking about before, I get their symptom history obviously, their whole health history, their diet history. All of those things help me to figure out and determine if there are certain things that I’m like for this person specifically I really think dairy is possibly a problem. So even though I don’t normally take that out in my modified elimination diet, I think for this person specifically it would make sense to just try taking that out.

Laura: Definitely.

Kelsey: That’s where I do think that working one on one can be potentially helpful if  you feel like there’s maybe a few of those things that you personally just can’t pick up on, but you think that somebody who’s of course trained in this kind of stuff might be able to, that can be really helpful to do. I’d say that if you’re confused about the whole process, definitely working one on one might be a good idea for you.

Just to talk a little bit more about the reason for doing it this way, because I think at least what I hear from people in my personal practice and when I have students come into Build Your Biome, I think there’s this idea that when you’re suffering, even if it’s not that sort of extreme disruptive suffering that I was talking about before where the immediate goal is just symptom relief so you can get through the day, but more of this like moderate suffering where it’s like I can manage this, I’m getting through life okay, but obviously I want to feel better; I think that there is this idea that no matter where you fall on that spectrum that you just need to do absolutely anything and everything that you hear or read about that could possibly influence the symptoms that you’re having.

That I think it’s a mistake. I was going to say it’s a myth, but I think I would call it a mistake because I tend to find that that people who just dive into everything like that where I see their supplement list and they’re taking like 25 supplements a day and they’re trying to do all these different things to address every single possible way that something could affect their symptoms, they tend to not do anything fully. Maybe they’ll take a supplement for like two weeks and they’re like oh this doesn’t help me, it’s not working.

I think we’ve talked about this before on the podcast too, but I just find that to be such a common occurrence at least for the people that I tend to see in my practice and in my programs that I think that has influenced me to start to be really selective with the things that I want somebody to work on, do things one at a time sometimes unless we find like a couple of body systems of course that aren’t functioning very well, we’ll probably deal with those together. But I really have made it a focus of mine to get people to fully commit to something and stick with it consistently. I know we talk about consistency a lot on this podcast, but it’s because it’s hugely, hugely important. And just like really give each thing a shot and see if it really makes a difference for them.

I have found that to be really, really helpful and it’s part of what has influenced my thinking on elimination diet because I’ve just found of all the things that I’ve worked on with people that while food is of course a big piece of it, I find that the most benefit comes from taking out those main offenders that we were just talking about. Getting into the nitty gritty of things like histamine intolerance or getting on an autoimmune Paleo diet, yes, those things can be very useful for some people, but for the majority of people just taking out those main offenders and then focusing on all those other body systems that might not be functioning appropriately, that makes the biggest difference for people.

Laura: Yeah. I mean it’s one of those things where I feel like there’s so much information on the Internet about different conditions and different things that are going to be helpful, and a lot of times it ends up just over complicating things.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I don’t want to make it sound like the work we do isn’t complicated, but I feel like a big part of the work that we do is identifying again that low hanging fruit, the heavy hitters that are really going to make the biggest difference. But then like you said before, you have to be consistent. So it’s like yeah, these major changes can help, and they can make you feel better, and they can help reduce some of the symptoms so that way you have a little bit more wiggle room as far as trying different things, but also the consistency piece is a huge part of it. Like you said, if somebody is doing way too many things or on a way too restrictive diet, then a lot of times it is hard to be consistent.

I definitely agree with simplifying as much as possible, looking at root causes, and then also if there’s specific food that might be a problem, like you said dairy is one that I also will often have people remove and it just depends on what their problem is or what their symptoms are. But it’s really just trying to figure out what is going to make the most sense to try removing so that way you’re not either overwhelming someone so that they can’t be consistent, or let’s say they are super consistent, maybe they’re miserable on that level of consistency or it’s just maybe not even something that they need to do.

I see that as being one of my main beefs with using the ketogenic diet as a solution for people’s problems.  I’m not saying that it can’t have good results in the short term because I’m sure no one would be doing it if it didn’t, but I just don’t see it as something that’s sustainable for most people and it’s not necessarily solving root problems.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I think just any time you’re looking at a solution, you want to think about longevity as well as sustainability So it’s like okay, is this something that’s going to work for the long term, or is this just a short term fix? And then also is this something that I can see myself doing for months or years if it was something that was going to be a long term solution?

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. Just to kind of get back to the process of using elimination diet, we talked about taking out sort of these big hitters things like industrial seed oils, gluten, grains maybe, and then anything else that we personally as practitioners have identified to be a likely problem for a client.

Then what we do from there, at least what I do from there typically is we’ll deal with all those other underlying root causes, we’ll all at least identify them and get started with that process. And then like I was saying before, I try to get people to a point where they feel like they’ve made pretty significant progress in terms of their symptoms just from dealing with those underlying root causes, and then if we’re if we sort of hit a plateau or we get stuck somewhere, then that’s where I start to think about other foods that we might want to try taking out. Often because of the fact that we’ve reduced symptoms by a lot, we’ve reduced that noise that I was mentioning before, it’s a lot easier to identify some foods that might be problematic.

That’s where I would maybe start to have people add things back in if we if we’ve taken out more than just the heavy hitters. If we took out dairy for a while and now they’re feeling a lot better because we took that out and we did a lot of other things, maybe at that point and have them try adding that back in. And if we notice like a lot of symptoms start coming back, then done, like we figured out one of your main sensitivities. We can use that information and we know at least for the time being you’re going to have to keep at least some of those dairy foods out to maintain the progress that you’ve accomplished so far.

But if we’re adding things back and they don’t seem to make much of a difference or we do notice they make a difference, we get you on this diet that makes sense for you. So it’s a personalized diet. I wouldn’t call it an elimination diet at that point because we have reintroduced those things and we either know they’re a problem or they’re not a problem. So at that point we just have your own personalized diet that you’ll need to be on at least right now while we’re still working on some of those underlying factors or it just maybe something that forever you may need to at least be careful with those kinds of foods.

But once we’ve got you on that personalized diet, we’ve dealt with a lot of the underlying factors that are related to your symptoms, and you’re still having some problems, that’s where I think that thinking about those other potential food sensitivities and intolerances can be useful. That would include things like I’d maybe have somebody try an Autoimmune Paleo Diet at that point. Or it could be like a modified AIP diet where if they’ve done like the main sort of Paleo diet, we’ve added some things back and those things aren’t issue for them, but we haven’t tried taking out nightshades for example, we would maybe just at that point take out nightshades and then reintroduce nightshades in a month or two and see how they do. Or histamines.

I’m trying to think of what else. I guess I would throw FODMAPs in there, though I do tend to find of course that FODMAP intolerances typically are really tied into any sort of gut imbalance and once you do fix that, usually FODMAPs are not much of an issue. But sometimes people can have FODMAP intolerance to just a couple of FODMAP foods that might persist after getting rid of SIBO or some other type of gut imbalance. So that might be something I start to think about there.

Anything else you can think about, Laura, that you tend to think more about after somebody has made significant progress that you’d maybe take out?

Laura: I think I’m on the same page there with a lot of the removals. I would say just to think about also things might be needing to be added in is another side of the coin. That might be certain micronutrients that somebody is not eating a lot of or it could be certain types of foods that they need to get more of in their diet. Maybe that’s they’re not eating any fish so they’re not getting any omega 3 fats, or maybe they don’t eat organ meat so they have low vitamin A intake or something like that.

I don’t usually wait until after an elimination diet to address that, but I think that’s something that elimination diets often don’t take into consideration is either like are you may be actually missing some foods? Or if it’s not an issue of missing foods, maybe there’s things that when you do the elimination diet that you’ve removed and then it causes problems in the long term.

I just feel like looking at both sides of that equation and not just thinking that removing foods is always the answer, which you’re definitely not saying. I just want to make sure that people realize that elimination diets are not the only way that food can actually improve your health.

Some of the foods that you would think might help to remove from some people’s diets, a lot of times I want to make sure that we’re replacing those with something else. For example if we have to remove eggs, then that’s when I’m like okay, you really need to be getting liver in your diet now because if you’re not eating eggs, then you’re not going to be getting a lot of vitamin A or choline or anything like that.

Just thinking about certain foods that if you remove them for certain issues, which I definitely take eggs out of people’s diets sometimes, that’s something that replacing that food with something else is important.

And then another thing to keep in mind is the possibility that something like eggs. I’ve seen it happen where somebody has just been eating so many of them that they take them out and something is improved, and then they can reintroduce them down the road and it’s fine. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to remove them forever. It could just be a short term thing while you’re dealing with root cause issues or maybe you’ve just been eating too much of that food and it’s causing some kind of reaction that is just from overconsumption.

I just think there’s a lot of different nuance in what foods to eliminate, and how long to keep them out for, and what to replace them with, and then also do they need to be kept out forever.

Kelsey: Right, absolutely. I agree. I think that’s a really important point about adding foods into and kind of thinking about both sides of the coin there. You just brought this up for me, I had a client recently that he had been dealing with a lot of digestive issues and fatigue issues, just like not really feeling great overall. We had sort of dealt with a lot of the underlying issues. He was still clearing out some gut infections. But just adding in the liver to his diet made a huge difference for him. I think it was probably because he had been on these restrictive diets for so long before coming to see me that he was probably just really nutrient depleted and adding in liver helped that so much to the point where he just like felt like a new person having added liver into his diet, which was really cool to see.

So I think that’s a good point. You have to think about the other side of this that especially if you’ve been really restricted for many, many years or you have a history of disordered eating, you really need to think about like what things can I add in to increase my calorie intake if it’s too low of course, but also to just like get these nutrients that you probably have been deficient in for quite some time back into your diet so you’re feeling a lot better just because you now have that nutrition in your diet.

Laura: Also along the lines of adding things to replace what you’ve removed, sometimes it’s even more simple than specific nutrients that you’ve removed. Like I know one of my friends that I’ve been helping with her specific health issues, she pretty much a pretty standard American diet so like she wasn’t following anything special like Paleo or anything like that. I had suggested that she tried doing gluten and dairy free just to see if that helped with her symptoms. I think this is something that probably happens with a lot of people, but because so much of what she was eating was gluten and dairy based, she ended up reducing her food intake and also just like not knowing what to eat when she was hungry.

And to be fair, this is someone who like I said, it wasn’t a client of mine so we didn’t go through all the details of like what to eat, what foods that in. I just offhand kind of been like oh you should try this and maybe it’ll be helpful. I was checking in with her to make sure that she wasn’t like totally failing because just knowing the kind of foods that she likes, like pizza is her favorite food, she’s going to struggle with the gluten and dairy free thing. But I would talk to her and she would tell me that she was like feeling really tired and hungry all the time and she just had no energy.

If somebody was doing that on their own, like let’s say she had come across an article on the Internet that said do gluten and dairy free and you’ll feel awesome! And so she did that and she was feeling so tired, she would probably think that this change wasn’t helpful. I mean it’s kind of not an unreasonable thing to think if you make a food change and then all of a sudden you’re exhausted.

But then when I was asking her what she was eating, like it was so clear to me that one, she wasn’t eating enough in general, so that it was simply a big issue for her. And then two, the other big issue she had is that a lot of her protein from her diet was coming from dairy in the past so she was eating a lot of cheese, she was putting milk in cereal, that kind of thing. And so when she pulled the dairy out, even some of these like dairy free replacement things like almond milk, there’s like no protein in the things.

She ended up essentially hardly having any protein in her diet so I was trying to help her find other foods she could eat to help bump her protein up, which for her was a little tough because she’s not super into meat. She doesn’t dislike it, just it’s not like her first thought where she’s like I’m hungry, I should eat meat. I think at this point she’s feeling a lot better than she had, but still having some challenges just trying to figure out what to eat.

But I just think that’s a really good example of someone who in the immediate response to the diet, she might have thought that gluten and dairy free made her feel bad and that it wasn’t worth doing, which we’ve now discovered that it does make a big impact on a lot of her symptoms. It’s just one of those things where if you’re used to eating those foods or if it’s just like your go-to when you’re hungry to have yogurt or cheese or something like one of these foods that you’re removing, you really have to look at the entire diet and make sure that it’s still appropriate.

That’s something that I work with a lot of my clients on where they come to me after doing some kind of elimination protocol and they’ve just like slashed a huge amount of calories, or they’ve slashed protein, or carbs, or whatever. It’s not that they have to introduce those foods back, like I didn’t think my friend needed to eat dairy to get protein. It’s just looking at different ways to get those nutrients in is really important.

I feel like that’s way more common than I think even people realize because I feel like a lot of the people out there that do things like AIIP or ketogenic diets, that kind of thing, like they think that because they’re educated and they read up a lot on nutrition that there’s no way that I’m accidentally under-eating or that I’m not getting enough of a nutrient. Six months down the road they start to see problems because they’ve been malnourished, even just subtly malnourished for long enough that their body stops functioning optimally. That’s where a lot of these elimination diets I think can get people into trouble.

So again, not saying you shouldn’t do an elimination diet and I’m not saying somebody needs gluten or needs dairy to have a complete diet that’s balanced and gets them what they need. But I think people would be surprised how complicated it can get once you start pulling out major food groups and major foods that a lot of times are the only thing that’s available the in the real world when it comes to just meal and snack options.

Kelsey: Definitely. I think we’ve heard a lot of stories like former Paleo Rehab students because we talk so much about under-eating in that program. We get a lot of people that are like wow, I have been researching this stuff forever and I really felt like I was on top of this and your program made me realize how much I was under-eating. And as soon as I added calories and carbs back in, I felt 1000 times better. I think it’s way more common than people realize.

Laura: Yeah. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of that happening in my Get Your Period Back program since a lot of people develop amenorrhea because they change their diet to something more healthy and then they’ve stopped eating enough.

I hate to always hammer that point home because it’s like alright, enough Laura, stop talking about it. But I just really feel like it almost shocks me how many people that come to work with us or come to do our programs, like they’re still having that problem. So obviously this message hasn’t fully permeated people’s brains because like I said it’s something that it’s so easy to not realize if you’re not paying attention. I’m sure you and I have been in that situation before even accidentally where it’s just like you’re not eating enough and it’s causing these problems.

Like I said, I feel like until I stop getting people in my programs and my personal one on one practice that don’t eat enough, then we’re going to have to keep talking about it.

Kelsey: Right, exactly. I totally agree.

We don’t know exactly what this person asking the question today, what they’ve done to test and deal with any sort of underlying root causes. But just knowing our audience and the kind of people that that come to us in our practices, maybe she, or he I guess…I don’t know…has done a few things. Like maybe they’ve tested for some bacterial imbalance and started to deal with that, but maybe they haven’t thought about thyroid or adrenal.

That’s pretty typical for people that I get at least. They’ve maybe thought about one of these things, but they haven’t really thought about everything all together. So I would definitely say that if this person is trying to heal a few different things here obviously, mainly the autoimmune condition which they think has caused some of these other symptoms for them, I think it’s really important to figure out if some of these underlying causes are a problem for them before diving really deep into the AIP diet.

And again, not that the AIP diet is a bad idea at all, but it just not only might be more difficult to figure out if some of those things are actually problems for this person just because there’s so much else going on potentially in terms of other body systems dysfunctioning and causing a lot of symptoms, that it’s hard to tell which foods are being problematic when they reintroduce them.

Also it sounds like it’s just tough for this person. They’re feeling restricted, they mentioned especially in social situations that it’s problematic for them. I think just from a mental standpoint as well as a physical standpoint they may not be at the point where they’re really ready to truly use the AIP elimination diet to its best effect I guess I would say.

I would I would try to get to a point where they’re feeling significantly better by testing for and then dealing with any of the other underlying causes that we talked about today. So that includes gut infections, adrenal issues, thyroid issues. I’m trying to think of other things. Under eating which we talked about, so any sort of history of disordered eating, nutrient deficiencies. Anything else we talked about, Laura, or anything else you would add to that list of underlying root issues? I know obviously there’s a lot, but some of the main ones.

Laura: Yeah. Those are definitely some of the more common ones. I think with skin issues, like this person is saying she has lichen planus, which I’m not even sure if I’m pronouncing that right. But a lot of times skin issues are something that those take a lot longer to see progress in for a lot of people. That’s another issue with doing of elimination and reintroduction protocol is like first of all if you just do that, a lot of times it’s not enough so you won’t see the improvement. I see a lot of people benefiting in skin issues with micronutrient replacement and supplementation, so doing just the AIP or just an elimination diet on its own a lot of times doesn’t solve that problem for a lot of people.

But then also the fact that she says she feels like it’s taking forever, sometimes these skin issues do just take time to see improvement. I’m not saying like if it hasn’t improved in six months at all then keep doing it because obviously there’s something that’s not working. But if it’s been a month or two and you’re not seeing any progress, if you’re just doing elimination diet, again I definitely want you to look at the different potential factors that we talked about today, but also just give it some time because it may take time off of these foods for a while before you’re going to actually start seeing your skin improve.

Kelsey: Absolutely, yeah. I always say to my clients that time is an extra supplement that I’m having to take because people want to see results immediately especially if they’re putting a lot of effort into the changes that they’re making. But I think you really do have to consider time this other factor that you really need to put into place and you just have to be patient with it.

If this person has dealt with all of these other potential underlying issues and she’s on the AIP diet to help, yeah, like Laura said it might just be about time and then being consistent of course with AIP, like not coming off of that for things like social situations. Which I know it really sucks, but if you do want to see that progress, and you’ve dealt with all these other things that we talked about today, and you’re now on an elimination diet, especially for skin issues like Laura was saying, they can take a long time. You do just have to be patient with it give it that time and consistency that it needs.

But I would guess probably more likely than not, this person has not dealt with some of those other underlying root causes and that might make this whole process a lot easier for them in terms of seeing if specific foods are problematic for these symptoms that they’re experiencing.

This is obviously a pretty complicated topic or it can be because it’s so individualized to each person, but that’s what functional medicine and integrative medicine is all about. You really just have to see each person as an individual and test all these different body systems, see if anything’s not functioning correctly, deal with that. Food is of course one of those underlying factors that we have to think about, but I think when we start to see that as just a matter of restriction, that’s where that can get us into trouble.

Like Laura was saying before, we have to consider first of all just overall calorie intake as a potential issue when it comes to food, but then also things like micronutrients that if you’ve been on really restrictive diets in the past, you might just be nutrient depleted and you have to replete those nutrients to feel better.

So yes, food is an underlying cause, but we can’t just think about it in terms of always restricting things. We have to think about it within the context of the bigger picture and like picking those low hanging fruit when it comes to not only diet, but all these other underlying factors as well.

Laura: I don’t want to get into too much detail about this because it is its own podcast, but we really just mostly talked about food in this podcast. It’s funny as a dietitian you would think obviously you think food is like the most important thing to help somebody’s health. And I actually feel like it’s not.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I just remember Dallas Hartwig put a blog post up, I don’t know if it was like a couple of months ago or something. I remember I saw it on Facebook that he was saying how their book with The Whole 30, it was called It Starts With Food and then how he’s like changed his philosophy to the four keys of living better and his number one is now sleep. So sleep, and then food, and then movement, and then social connection. That’s his personal philosophy. I think that everyone can have their own ideas about what’s the most important thing.

But the main point that I want to get across is that the food piece is not necessarily the most important piece. It’s definitely important. I don’t want people to think I’m saying it’s not important to eat well and to eat nutrients that your body needs, that kind of thing. But a lot of times there’s so many other factors in somebody’s life that’ll contribute to these issues especially with autoimmunity. I mean I think stress is such a big factor there. Circadian rhythm entrainment, so staying up late, not getting enough sleep, getting too much artificial light at night, or not getting enough daylight during the day. All these things are so important to your general health as well as just immune function, and dealing with autoimmune disease, and inflammation, that kind of thing.

I just feel like people tend to overemphasize the food piece. That is something that I’m always very cautious of in my practice with clients because I’m like they’re coming to me, I’m a dietitian/ nutritionist, obviously they think food is going to be the main thing that we focus on. And to be fair, it usually is a large component. But I also really hammer home that it’s not the only thing that matters and a lot of times it’s not even the most important thing.

If somebody is getting like super stressed and hardly having any social connection because their diet is so restrictive, then I really don’t think that that restrictive diet is something that’s worth doing for them.

Again, this is definitely like another podcast, but I just wanted to throw that in there because we were mostly just talking about dietary factors. I’m not saying that that’s not accurate, but I also just want to kind of play devil’s advocate and say that sometimes dietary factors are not what you should be focusing on.

Kelsey: Yeah, I would totally agree with that. I always think it’s funny as a dietitian that that has become like my major stance on diets is that you can’t just think about food. There’s so many other things to a person’s well-being that you need to consider oftentimes before you even think about food as long as they’re eating like a relatively healthy diet.

I hope this helped. I know that we talked about a lot of different things today. I hope just hearing how we personally deal with elimination diets in own practice and in the programs that we make, I hope that is helpful to hear.

I think that if you haven’t identified some of these other root causes…I would include things like sleep and overall stress level like Laura was just talking about in some of those potential root causes for your symptoms. If you haven’t identified those and really worked on those, that to me is like the first step that you should take before diving into some of these really restrictive elimination diet especially since you’ve already kind of started that and you’re feeling like it’s just taking forever, like it feels really restrictive, it’s affecting your social life.

If you’re feeling all of those things and you haven’t dealt with some of these other bigger underlying root causes, I would take a step back honestly because I think you’re going to be a lot happier for it and you’re probably going to make more progress than you are right now.

Laura: Awesome. Well I think that definitely covered the topic pretty well. Like we were saying, there’s little subtopics as part of this topic that I’m sure we can get into more details with. But definitely the underlying message of this podcast is that elimination diets are a tool in the tool belt and they can help, but they’re not necessarily a magic bullet that’s going to fix all your problems.

Just keep that in mind and put it in its rightful place as something that can be helpful, but not necessarily taking it to an extreme. And again, seeking help is definitely going to be helpful for those of you who have tried a lot of things on your own and haven’t seen progress.

Anyway, thanks for joining us, everybody. We’re always happy to have you here every week. Like we said in the beginning of the show, if you want to submit a question that you’d like to have us answer on the show, go to TheAncestralRDs.com. There’s a contact tab on the top of the page that you can click and submit a question that way and hopefully we’ll be able to answer it on a future show. But otherwise, thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next time!

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Changing The World Of Medicine With Chris Kresser

Thanks for joining us for episode 131 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are thrilled to be interviewing Chris Kresser!

Chris Kresser is the CEO of The Kresser Institute, the co-director of The California Center For Functional Medicine, the creator of ChrisKresser.com, and the New York Times Best Selling author of The Paleo Cure. He’s known for his in-depth research uncovering myths and misconceptions in modern medicine and providing natural health solutions with proven results.

Chris was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness by Greatest.com and his blog is one of the top ranked natural health websites in the world. He recently launched The Kresser Institute, an organization dedicated to reinventing healthcare and reversing chronic disease by training healthcare practitioners in functional and evolutionary medicine. Chris lives in Berkeley, California with his wife and his daughter.

Our nation’s current healthcare model is showing itself to be of no match against the epidemic of chronic disease affecting both individuals and society at large. While many feel powerless against the seemingly insurmountable odds, there is hope.

Join us for a powerful discussion with Chris Kresser who has sent out a call to action to reinvent healthcare in his book Unconventional Medicine.

Today Chris explains his new model of healthcare that focuses on preventing and reversing disease instead of attempting to manage it. You’ll hear how functional medicine and ancestral diet and lifestyle within a collaborative practice model is the promising solution to sustainable healthcare and reversal of the course of chronic disease.

As Chris shares how the collaborative practice model benefits healthcare practitioners in addition to patients, he also provides guidance to present and future practitioners on deciding where they best fit into the model.

Whether you’re a healthcare practitioner or patient, you’ll be inspired to join the revolutionary paradigm shift that can truly make a positive impact in our lives as well as future generations.

Here is some of what we discussed with Chris:

  • [00:04:27] What drives Chris’ passion for changing the way our society implements healthcare
  • [00:06:36] The difference between conventional and unconventional medicine, and how Chris got into practicing unconventional medicine
  • [00:10:44] How Chris blends pieces of conventional medicine into his functional medicine practice
  • [00:17:37] Chris’ Functional Medicine Pyramid and how he implements it in his practice
  • [00:23:06] How the time allotted in appointments is the biggest limitation within the conventional medicine paradigm and how Chris envisions a multi layered system
  • [00:26:45] How Chris’ functional medicine practice has transitioned from micro practice to a collaborative practice
  • [00:32:09] The difference between a micro practice and collaborate practice and which type of practitioner may prefer one or the other
  • [00:37:47] How The Kresser Institute’s goal of building an ecosystem of practitioners with shared perspective is filling a crucial need
  • [00:43:58] How the Functional Medicine Systems Model illustrates how disease progresses from the inside, out
  • [00:49:56] How to identify what type of practitioner you’d like to be within a collaborative practice model, and if Chris would have taken a different route

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 131 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hi everyone!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

We have a great guest on our show today who’s going to discuss with us a new model of medicine that focuses on preventing and reversing disease rather than just managing it. His model provides meaningful and rewarding work for health care practitioners and saves money and resources for governments and societies. This is such an important topic for both healthcare providers and the general public to understand, so we’re really excited to dive into it.

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying our show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Laura: Before we get into our interview, here is a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Welcome back, everyone. We’re so grateful to have Chris Kresser here with us today on the show! He’s the CEO of The Kresser Institute, the co-director of the California Center For Functional Medicine, the creator of ChrisKresser.com, and the New York Times Best Selling author of The Paleo Cure. He’s known for his in-depth research uncovering myths and misconceptions in modern medicine and providing natural health solutions with proven results. Chris was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness by Greatest.com and his blog is one of the top ranked natural health websites in the world. He recently launched The Kresser Institute, an organization dedicated to reinventing healthcare and reversing chronic disease by training healthcare practitioners in functional and evolutionary medicine. Chris lives in Berkeley, California with his wife and his daughter.

Welcome to the show, Chris! I feel like it’s been several years since we started our little podcast on your website, so it’s great to finally have you.

Chris Kresser: It’s great to be back, Laura and Kelsey. It’s always been a pleasure to work with you over the years and I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Kelsey: I think for me it was 2011 that I started working with you, and I think, Laura, you were shortly after me I believe.

Laura: I think it was like early 2012, so five or six years at this time. It’s hard to believe.

Kelsey: Crazy.

Chris Kresser: Time flies.

Kelsey: Yeah. Obviously you’ve been doing this work in functional medicine for I think over a decade now, Chris. Can you tell our audience why you’re so passionate about changing the way society implements healthcare?

Chris Kresser: Yeah. In short, we need to, we have to. We’ve reached an inflection point where we can’t afford not to act anymore. 1 in 2 Americans now have a chronic disease and 1 in 4 have multiple chronic diseases. And it’s not just affecting adults. Almost 30 percent of kids has a chronic disease which is up from just 13 percent in 1994. So that’s a profoundly disturbing change just in less than 25 years.

We’re on a trajectory that’s not good and it’s not just a question of individual health, which of course is important. It’s really actually a question of the survival of our society as it currently exists because the rising medical costs really threaten to bankrupt our country. We’re spending almost 20 percent of our gross domestic product on healthcare expenditures. If we look if we continue along our current trajectory, it’s just not going to be sustainable at all, not only for individuals, but also for our society at large.

It’s really urgent at this point. But we don’t tend to realize it because it’s just our life. It’s like the proverbial frog in the boiling water as we’re just kind of grown accustomed to it. We think that it’s normal for so many people to have chronic disease and we don’t really realize the severity of the problem and how much it threatens our way of life.

Kelsey: Yeah. Those consequences are really dire at this point in terms of how the current medical system works. You mentioned some of the not only monetary aspects of this, but just that people aren’t feeling better. They’re managed, they’re not healing.

Can you talk a bit about the difference between conventional medicine and the “alternative” or as you call it, unconventional medicine? What’s the difference between the two and why did you get into the unconventional side of this?

Chris Kresser: Conventional medicine evolved during a time when the top causes of death were all acute infectious disease. In 1900 we had tuberculosis, pneumonia, and typhoid were the top causes of death. Then the other reasons that people would see a doctor at that time were also acute in nature, so a broken bone, or an injury, or a gall bladder attack, or an appendicitis. The treatment for those problems is relatively straightforward. It doesn’t always work, but it’s pretty simple. It’s set the bone in a cast or remove the gallbladder, appendix, and once antibiotics were developed, use one of those to treat the infection. It was like one problem, one doctor, one treatment, and that’s it.

Conventional medicine really does excel at this. If I get hit by a bus, I definitely want to be taken to the hospital, not an acupuncturist, not a functional medicine doctor, at least not right away. We can restore sight to the blind. We are beginning to be able to reattach limbs and fight cancer with nano robots. Things like anesthesia, and antibiotics, and vaccines have led to some pretty incredible changes in terms of our lifespan and quality of life.

I’m not arguing that we don’t need conventional medicine. I’m saying that it’s not actually the best approach for what our current challenge is, which is no longer acute problems. We still have them, but 7 of the top 10 causes of death are now chronic diseases and 86 percent of the dollars that we spend on healthcare go toward treating chronic disease.

We are using a medical model that evolved in the context of acute emergency care to try to address chronic health problems, and it’s really not working at all. Because as you pointed out, Kelsey, the conventional model is really based around suppressing symptoms with drugs and managing disease after it occurs.

What we need is a model that can actually prevent disease before it occurs. That’s the ideal, of course, but even be able to reverse disease after it’s occurred instead of just putting Band-Aids on the problems. And that’s really where both functional medicine and an ancestral diet and lifestyle can come in.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think at least for me, and I’m sure this is probably the case for you, too, Laura, one of the reasons I was drawn to your work in the first place was the fact that you didn’t totally discount conventional medicine. Like you said, that’s where you want to go if you get into something that needs to be treated acutely. And that’s really where conventional medicine excels.

I love that about your approach. You even I think use some pieces of conventional medicine within your functional medicine practice, if I’m not mistaken.

Chris Kresser: Certainly.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think that’s really, really important because I know in my practice, and Laura, this is probably true for you, too, we get a lot of people that are afraid of conventional medicine almost. They’ve been to so many conventional doctors, haven’t gotten any help, they’ve just been thrown prescription after prescription, and nothing works and it almost makes them worse. They get all these side effects from the prescriptions that they’re on. At that point they get scared and they go over to the functional medicine side or the alternative side, but then they don’t want to consider any piece of conventional medicine at all.

Can you talk about the balance that you see between conventional and alternative in terms of like how you actually use both sides of this within your own practice?

Chris Kresser: Sure. I think it’s partly a problem of language. At some point we’re just going to have medicine. It’s not going to be conventional or functional. The way I like to put it is I believe in the treatment that is most effective and causes the least harm. If you frame it that way, then it changes the conversation because it’s not so much about functional versus conventional medicine. It’s just about good medicine.

Another way to look at it is if you consider functional medicine as a larger framework, the point of functional medicine is to address the underlying cause of disease rather than just suppressing symptoms.

Let’s use an example. Let’s take a patient with IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, a very common condition  now, second leading cause of people missing work behind a common cold. Really epidemic. If that patient goes into the conventional medical system, they’ll go to the doctor, they’ll report the symptoms, the doctor will tell you they might do some tests to rule out other structural problems like inflammatory bowel disease, or diverticulitis, or something like that. And then if those are ruled out, they’ll end up with a diagnosis of IBS.

But then all of the treatments are geared only towards helping the patient live with the symptoms. So if they have constipation, they’ll get a pro-motility drug to help with that. If they have diarrhea, they get an antidiarrheal drug. If they have pain, they’ll get an analgesic to help with the pain. They might get prescribed an antidepressant to help with the psychological aspects, co-morbidities. But the all of all of those treatments are geared towards just suppressing symptoms.

Now in functional medicine, we’re of course going to look at diet as a starting point, but then we’re also going to look at underlying mechanisms like SIBO, bacteria overgrowth in a small intestine, or parasites, or fungal overgrowth and things that we know can contribute to and cause IBS.

Here’s the answer to your question. In that investigation and treatment we might actually use a pharmaceutical drug like Rifaximin to treat SIBO. But the difference is that drug is being used to cure or treat an underlying cause with the intention of reversing that condition. That’s very different than using a drug forever that is just used to manage symptoms. The Rifaximin, the antibiotic to treat the SIBO, isn’t taken forever. It’s taken for a distinct period of time with a beginning, middle, and end, and a goal attached to it of reversing the condition.

Whereas in the conventional approach, the drugs are used indefinitely in many cases. If you go into the doctor and you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you get prescribed a drug and the understanding is it’s not going to reverse or cure the condition. It’s just something you’re going to take for the rest of your life.

I think that’s an example of how it’s not so much about the particular treatment that’s chosen, it’s about the paradigm, or the overall approach, or the context that you’re using those treatments and the goal of what you’re trying to accomplish with them.

Laura: It’s interesting that you use SIBO as an example because I feel like Kelsey and I both see that happening so frequently with our IBS clients where we know what kind of tests for them to get done, we find that they do have the positive SIBO diagnosis which makes sense with their symptoms.

But then when it comes to the treatment, I know a lot of times I’ll recommend that they find a GI doctor to work with to see if they can look into the antibiotic option. So many people I’ve worked with they’re just like, there’s no way I’m taking antibiotics, that’s off the table. I’m like well that might be your best choice. I don’t know if the antimicrobials are going to work as well necessarily for you.

It’s just one of those things where getting that balance between using conventional medicine when it’s appropriate and not always thinking there’s going to be a natural cure or that diet can fix everything, which as a nutritionist a lot of times it seems weird to hear us say like maybe the diet is not going to fix the problem.

Chris Kresser: Right, yeah. I mean we can extend this example further because there’s a perception that botanicals are always safer than drugs. That’s just not the case. I mean they often are. I would say that that’s generally true. But for example, with Rifaximin, that medication only 99.5 percent of it stays in the gut and is not systemically absorbed. It’s pretty safe in terms of its effect on the colonic gut flora because it acts mostly in the small intestine. Some studies have shown that bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, which are beneficial species of bacteria in the colon, actually go up after taking Rifaximin.

Kelsey: Right.

Chris Kresser: I totally agree. There’s a phrase “skillful means”, which means using the best tool for the job in every situation. In most cases I will say that that is diet, and lifestyle, and behavior change when it comes to preventing chronic disease. But there are certainly situations where the answer to that question could be a pharmaceutical especially for short term, but in some cases even long term.

Low dose Naltrexone is another good example of a pharmaceutical that actually does improve the function of the body instead of just suppressing symptoms and has provided enormous benefit to people with autoimmune disease.

I think when you compare it against some of the other drugs that are prescribed with autoimmune conditions…if a patient has multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis and their choice is to take low dose Naltrexone for the rest of their life, or Methotrexate, or Prednisone, then it’s obvious what the choices is, at least in my mind.

If they can take a low dose of Naltrexone for the rest of their life and be more or less symptom free, I wouldn’t have a problem with that as a practitioner, or even as a patient myself if I had that condition. That’s just smart use of whatever is available that again is the most effective and causes the least harm.

Kelsey: Absolutely. I know you’ve created a functional medicine pyramid where you talk about kind of the order in which you deal with different facets of disease. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you use that in your practice?

Chris Kresser: Yeah. In the decade that I’ve been doing this and also the decade prior to that when I was dealing with my own health issues, I’ve come to see that one of the arts I guess of functional medicine is learning how to structure and layer treatment. You can’t obviously do everything at once. And the good news is that’s not only not necessary, it’s not beneficial because the human body can only process so much at one time. People can only get their heads around so much at one time. Trying to do too many things at once leads to not doing any particular one thing very well.

And so as I started to think about training clinicians, and also my own practice and continually improving the way I treat patients, I began to think in terms of a pyramid where if you think at the bottom of the pyramid, what are the things that will provide the most benefit for the greatest number of conditions for the greatest number of patients? And those are the things that I want to start with in my training program because it’s the 80:20 rule in effect. It’s like if you do these 20 percent of things, you’re going to help 80 percent of the patients or clients that walk through your door.

For me, those are diet and lifestyle behavior changes, the core starting place. But then assuming those have all been dialed in, which can take a long time as you both know. That’s not an overnight thing and it’s an ongoing process. It’s not something that just ends and you’re finished. It continually changes. Then we start looking at the gut, which I know you both focus on a lot because the gut is connected to so many different aspects of health and disease. We look at the HPA axis, which is the system that is most affected by stress and governs our tolerance of stress.

And then I look at a variety of things that can be measured on a blood chemistry panel, so blood sugar, metabolic function, lipids like cholesterol or LDL particle number, nutrient status, vitamin D, B-12, folate, iron, oxygen deliverability – anemia being the pathology there. We look at liver function, gallbladder function, thyroid panel and other hormones. We do a complete workup of what well you might kind of refer to as the basic operating system of the body.

There are a lot of other things that we might eventually look at like heavy metal toxicity, or tick borne illnesses like Lyme disease, or mold. But those things come higher in the pyramid because even if they’re present, we found that addressing those lower order things at the base of the pyramid will provide significant benefit and relief, and even kind of become a prerequisite to successfully dealing with things like Lyme, and mold, and heavy metal toxicity.

Kelsey: Right. It’s probably pretty difficult to help somebody with Lyme if they don’t have those underlying pillars sort of dealt with already or at least in the process of dealing with those things, right?

Chris Kresser: Exactly. My co-director at CCFM, California Center For Functional Medicine, Dr. Schweig who specializes in Lyme, what makes his approach different than some other people in the Lyme community is the kind of classic approach to chronic Lyme, not in the conventional world, but in the sort of Lyme world is just heavy, heavy bombardment with antibiotics without really addressing anything else. Not looking at detox, or gut health, or anything like that. It’s just full on carpet bombing with antibiotics.

Sunjya’s approach is quite different. He actually will start with all of these other pieces that we just talked about to strengthen the body and strengthen the patient with the understanding that infections don’t happen in isolation. They happen in a context, in an ecosystem within the body. And if that ecosystem is not functional and not strong, then like you said, whatever antimicrobial treatment is done, whether it’s antibiotics or herbs, is not going to be as effective and successful.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think if you presented this this functional medicine pyramid to somebody who’s working in the conventional medicine world maybe as a primary care practitioner, their head might explode just by thinking about all this stuff that they have to do in like their 10 to 15 minute appointments with people.

How would you say that the time factor plays a role in this when it comes to conventional versus functional medicine?

Chris Kresser: It’s probably the single biggest limitation with the conventional paradigm right now. I mean the average primary care visit is between 8 and 12 minutes now and the average amount of time that a patient gets to speak before they’re interrupted in one of those visits is just 12 seconds.

Kelsey: Wow. That’s sad.

Chris Kresser: And as I said in the beginning of the show, we know that 25 percent of Americans now have multiple chronic diseases and these are of course the people who are going to the doctor. I think we can all agree it’s impossible to provide high quality care in a 10 minute visit when the patient has multiple chronic conditions, is taking multiple medications, and then is showing up to the office with new symptoms. I mean there’s simply no time.

And it’s not doctor’s fault. Most doctors I’ve met are doing their best within a really crazy system and they feel just as limited and constrained by the system as the patients do. And so it’s really a systemic problem that we need to change because there is no possible way that you can provide that kind of care in a 10 minute visit.

I know a lot of people at this point get really discouraged because they think well how can we possibly change that? The truth is that it’s not the same in other countries. In France I was speaking with a French physician not too long ago who just couldn’t believe it was the way it is here. He couldn’t believe that you could do anything in 10 minute appointment and couldn’t believe that doctors here weren’t incentivized to actually prevent disease as they are in France.

We get accustomed to what we have and we think there’s no way it could be any different. But as I’ve often said, what’s common or typical is not necessarily normal. There are lots of changes we can make to our system that could enable longer visits both with doctors, but also with other care providers like RDs, Registered Dietitians, for example, like health coaches, or nutritionists, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

That’s what I argue in my book is that doctors should be mostly doing doctor-y things. Like we need doctors to do colonoscopies, and to remove cancerous tumors, and to do CAT scans, and to maximize their training to the greatest potential of their ability, and background, and scope of practice. But doctors are not really necessarily the best people to be working with patients on diet, lifestyle, and behavior change. And that is the biggest thing that we need to focus on in order to prevent and reverse chronic disease.

I envision a system that is both multi-layered where we still have doctors that are, again, working within their scope of practice to provide the services that only they can provide, but we do a much better job of using dieticians, and nutritionists, and health coaches to support patients in making the important diet, lifestyle, behavioral changes that are going to really make the biggest difference when it comes to preventing or reversing chronic disease.

Kelsey: Yeah. I mean you started your practice as how you call it in your book, a micro practice, where I think it was just you and your office manager, right?

Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s it.

Kelsey: Yeah, and now you have obviously CCFM which is a much larger practice and you’ve got a ton of allied healthcare providers within that system. Can you tell us a little bit about that transition? Because we have a lot of listeners who they’re trying to figure out where they fit in that system. Maybe they haven’t gone through any sort of program yet, but they’re thinking about which direction they want to go into. I’d love to hear sort of how you use each of those different practitioners within your practice and how people can kind of try to identify which place would be best for them.

Chris Kresser: Yeah. My vision is, as I mentioned, a collaborative practice model where you have practitioners of all different backgrounds, and trainings, and scopes of practice working together doing what they do best, but then supporting each other in a collaborative way.

I think that’s what we have created at CCFM. We now have four clinicians and then we have a nurse practitioner, who is also a clinician of course, but I’ll say more about you know the difference in how she works with patients. And then we have a health coach and we have also 14 administrative staff that also supports patients in different ways that aren’t just administrative. And then of course we’ve worked with both of you over the years as well. Our health coach happens to be a registered dietitian as well who’s taught at the university level at San Jose State. A very experienced dietitian.

You could do it differently. You could have a separate health coach and a separate dietician, or you can combine them as we have. It doesn’t really matter. But you want to have both of those roles covered for sure because they’re not the same, and I’ll say more about that in a moment.

The first appointment with patients happens virtually via video conference or telephone. It’s a 30 minute appointment and our nurse practitioner, Tracey, does that appointment. The purpose of that is to just meet the patient, get to know them, find out what they would like to change, what their main complaints are, what their goals are, and then order all of the tests that we like to have for new patients in advance so that before they even come to the clinic for their first in-person appointment, which we do require an in-person visit for all new patients, we already have all of the tests results back that we want to look at for that new patient.

And then myself, or Dr. Schweig, or Dr. Nett, or Dr. Asfour will do the new patient visit, a very thorough and comprehensive appointment, and we’ll then prescribe the treatment plan. And then after that, patients will be offered the opportunity to have a check in with a nurse practitioner, or health coach, nutritionist in whatever way works best for them.

Some of our patients are very advanced and they already have the diet piece pretty wired and they don’t really need that support. But for other people, if they come in and have a case review and I say okay, we need you on a ketogenic version of a low FODMAP, Paleo diet and they’re like, what? And so then of course they can work intensively with the health coach and nutritionist. Or if somebody’s got their diet wired but where they’re really struggling is stress management and sleep, then they can work with Danielle our health coach on those kinds of interventions.

I might not see them for three months for the next visit, but in between those visits they’re interacting with Tracey the nurse practitioner who is reviewing their follow up labs and tweaking their treatment protocol, or they’re interacting with Danielle the health coach who’s giving him guidance on lifestyle stuff or nutrition guidance.

There’s a much higher level of support all the way through that which is amazing for us as clinicians because before there was just that three month gap between when we’d see a patient. A lot of patients would fall off the wagon. They weren’t successful in their treatment protocols because they didn’t have the support that they needed. And it’s fantastic for the allied providers because they get to work in a in a clinical setting in a in a collaborative way with other allied providers and licensed practitioners.

For people who don’t necessarily want to have their own practice and to deal with all of the challenges that come with starting your own business and building up your practice, and for people who simply just prefer more interaction on a daily basis with other practitioners and want to be in that kind of collaborative environment, it really works well.

Kelsey: Yeah, that’s awesome. I would love to hear a little bit more about I guess the differences between a micro practice and something bigger like CCFM, meaning how can somebody decide which route they want to go? Obviously people like you said who want more of that interaction on a day to day basis, they might do much better in an environment like CCFM. But is there somebody who is maybe more appropriate for a micro practice that you can think of?

Chris Kresser: I guess what I would say is I think everyone should be working in a collaborative practice model. What I mean by that is that it’s hard to think of a situation where a nutritionist or a health coach would not benefit from having at least a referral relationship with a licensed practitioner and vice a versa.

A micro practice kind of situation where like let’s say a medical doctor just has an office manager and that’s it, and they have their micro practice, but still they should have a nutritionist and/or a health coach to refer people to for additional support even if they’re not technically an employee or a contractor employed by the micro practice itself.

And likewise, I think dietitians, or health coaches, or nutritionists should have someone they can refer their clients to when the nutritional interventions are not sufficient if they have Hashimoto’s, or an autoimmune condition, or something else that would benefit from that kind of testing and treatment that may not be within their scope of practice. Regardless, my vision is for that kind of collaboration.

Now whether someone wants to do that kind of collaboration as employee or a contractor within a larger organization like my clinic and have that kind of day to day contact, and collaboration, and teamwork, or whether they prefer to be on their own in private practice and just have a referral relationship, I think that largely comes down to the person’s personality, and background, and training, and goals.

People who want to be more in a clinical, collaborative setting are probably people who appreciate that day to day interaction, that want to be able to bounce ideas off of other practitioners, and want to be able to you know learn intensively from other practitioners in the practice, want to have maybe more security that comes from being an employee and having consistent…not referral because you’re part of the practice…a consistent source of patients and not have to worry about that kind of thing.

Whereas somebody who wants to create their own brand, their own personal brand and maybe create their own digital products, or learning programs, or teach their own classes and kind of develop more of their own brand, then that probably is going to happen better in a micro practice or in a private practice.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I like what you said about just that referral network though because I think Kelsey and I would both classify our businesses as micro practices. I’m just laughing because you at least had an office manager. In my business I’m the office manager, I’m the intake person, I order the labs. I’m a business of one right now.

I do plan to hopefully expand my team a little bit down the road, but it’s tough when you have kind of like your way of doing things and you’re a little control freak about handing it off to people. It can be difficult to build that team.

But I really like what you said about building that network because something that I found really helpful even as a micro practice is having other clinicians that I feel comfortable referring to. Like I said before, with something like SIBO if I feel like a client has to get some kind of pharmaceutical treatment for that, obviously as a dietitian I can’t order medicine. I like having these networks that I can at least send them to especially because with medical practice you usually have to be in person to see that patient at least the first time.

I’ve really liked being able to send people to your clinician directory in the Kresser Institute. It’s been awesome to be able to say go look at that list because I trust that group of people is going to be doing the right thing.

Even just knowing either networks, or local practitioners, or even if they’re not in the same state, at least having some level of network that you build because it is a little tricky to do everything yourself. I think both Kelsey and I have realized over the years that at some point you have to start kind of emphasizing what you’re good at and focusing on what you’re good at and sending people to others who can take control over the medicine side of things or maybe the health coaching side of things just because it can get really difficult to do everything by yourself.

Chris Kresser: I think those are great points and I’d like to speak to that a little bit. Right now a kind of trend that I see is a lot of doctors and clinicians trying to fulfill the role of nutritionist and health coach or dietitian. And I see a lot of dietitians, and nutritionists, and health coaches trying to fulfill the role of functional medicine clinician.

I think that that’s natural in both cases because patients don’t necessarily know who to look for, for what. If a patient comes to me, they’re certainly expecting that diet and lifestyle behavior advice because they follow my work, they know that I care about that and know a lot about it.

And likewise, if a patient goes to a health coach or nutritionist as I’m sure you both experienced, you start working together and then you reach a point where maybe some additional support is needed and yet you don’t necessarily know who to refer to, or maybe you don’t have that referral relationship set up, or maybe you like to be able to do that work yourself.

That’s all natural, but I don’t think it’s optimal. I think eventually and what I’m trying to create with Kresser Institute is to build this ecosystem of practitioners who share the same perspective. That’s been the missing element. If a doctor who is trained in functional medicine and ancestral diet and lifestyle wants to refer to a nutritionist, then that nutritionist better have that similar perspective. They better share the same approach or else there’s going to be a real disconnect for the patient if that doctor’s been talking about the importance of an ancestral diet and lifestyle and they refer them to a nutritionist who’s using ADA or AHA recommendations. That’s not going to work.

Likewise, if the nutritionist has been talking about functional medicine and ancestral diet and lifestyle like you do, and then you refer them to a functional medicine clinician who is mostly advocating a plant based diet and making recommendations that are out of sync, then that’s not helpful. I’s actually harmful. It actually creates more dissonance for the patient.

With ADAPT we started with the practitioner training program because I felt like that was the biggest need. But next year we’re launching a health coach training program specifically for this purpose because I want to have an ecosystem of both licensed and non-licensed practitioners, allied providers that all share the same theoretical framework for how to approach chronic disease. That has three elements: functional medicine, ancestral diet and lifestyle, and this collaborative practice model.

That’s where I think we’ll see some really positive change because you have this synergy not only of the clinicians working together with the allied providers, but when they do that with a shared understanding and framework, that’s when it can be really, really powerful.

Kelsey: Yeah. I definitely have had that happen to me before where somebody comes to me and they need antibiotics, for example, for SIBO. I try to like help them find somebody in their area who is at least kind of functionally medicine minded, but because I work virtually it can be hard to find somebody who’s a perfect fit in that person’s area because, again, they do have to see them in person for that prescription to be filled.

I’ve had experiences like that where you do the best you can to find somebody who is on the same page with you about the dietary philosophies. But you’re right, it can be very, very confusing for the patient who then is hearing kind of different things from their doctor. One of the best examples I’d say of that is like when somebody goes to get antibiotics and then their doctor may be saying well you really just need to be on a low FODMAP diet along with this. That’s not how I practice with SIBO.

Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s a perfect example. There are so many others. Again, it’s just where we’re at right now. But I think that we can do better and I think we’re going to do better with the whole ADAPT ecosystem. That was one of the main reasons I wrote the book, too, is that the book provides that template or that framework for everybody to understand, so for general public, for allied providers, and license clinicians. The book was written for all three of those audiences because.

We left the patient out of the last section, but the most powerful thing is when the patient, the licensed clinician, and the allied provider are all on the same page when it comes to expectations in what they’re looking for. That really was the primary motivation.

Laura: I can imagine that that would be really helpful especially if the patient understands the Functional Medicine Pyramid because one of the things that I’m often teaching my clients when they first come to me is the concept of foundational versus higher level changes. Because Kelsey and I get so many people from the ancestral health community, we have a lot of very self-educated clients which can be pro and con depending on what they’re looking at online.

Chris Kresser: Right.

Laura: And so just being able to make it very clear to the patient that there’s foundational changes that they might have not even thought of, maybe it’s a sleep issue, or maybe it’s a stress issue that they haven’t really been addressing and they want to jump straight to the top of the pyramid where they’re like supplements, and testing, and all that.

I think just having the understanding that if they don’t deal with the base of that pyramid, then they can’t go to the top of the pyramid successfully. The more understanding there is around that concept, I think the better expectations and results that the patients will have.

Chris Kresser: Yeah, I agree. I would also say there’s another model in the book which is the Functional Medicine Systems Model, and that’s the series of concentric circles. I created that to illustrate the way the human disease progresses.

In the middle of the circle, the core is the relationship between our genes, and our diet, and lifestyle and behavior. And then from that next circle out is pathologies like SIBO or insulin resistance that give rise to diseases and syndromes, which is the next ring out, which finally give rise to symptoms which are the way that we subjectively experience everything that comes before, and also signs which are the ways that we can objectively measure what we’re experiencing.

I think the crucial thing for people to understand is that disease moves from the inside, out. It starts with that diet, lifestyle, and behavior, and then pathologies, then diseases and syndromes, and then symptoms.

Even in functional medicine, we’ll often get patients who come in and say do you treat X or do you treat Y? Like thyroid problems, or multiple sclerosis, or gut issues. Or I have these symptoms, can you help? There’s a reeducation process that happens there because in functional medicine we don’t treat particular diseases and we don’t treat particular symptoms or signs. We treat the mechanisms that give rise to those conditions and that’s what makes it so much more powerful for chronic disease than conventional medicine. Because when you approach it from the outside, in as conventional medicine does, you end up just focusing way too much on the symptoms, and the signs, and maybe the diseases. The inevitable result of that is that you’re playing whack a mole with the symptoms.

Say the patient has high blood pressure. You use a drug to lower it. A patient has high cholesterol. Use a drug to lower that. A patient has constipation. You use a laxative. A patient has diarrhea. You use an anti-diarrheal. You end up playing that game and you’re dancing around the outside of the circle just trying to suppress the symptoms and you never actually get to the root cause of the problem.

I find it that diagram is really helpful, too, even for fairly experienced practitioners. Sometimes even in my training program six months in I’ll hear a question from a practitioner that’s like what do we do about this condition? Or what do we do about that condition? And the answer is always the same. You investigate what the root causes are. You look at the mechanisms. You look at the diet, lifestyle, and behavior. But it’s quite a paradigm shift and so it can take a while to really get your head around that.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think that’s, like you said, it’s even a problem for practitioners to really think about, too. I think that’s partially because we get clients and patients coming to us who are also very focused on the symptoms, so they’re asking those questions. How do I deal with X symptom?

Chris Kresser: Yeah.

Kelsey: But they know that they want to get to the root cause of it. But of course because they’re feeling those symptoms every day, that’s sort of their focus. I think that’s kind of probably how conventional medicine at least sort of came to be is that the patient, they want to feel better immediately. And the best way that we can do that like really, really immediately is to focus on symptoms versus root cause.

Chris Kresser: Yeah, and I do want to say that that’s appropriate for patients. You can’t necessarily expect patients to understand all of these things, although we can educate them. Again, that’s the book, my blog, and all of the other resources I’ve put out over the years because I do think it’s important to educate our clients and patients in terms of what to expect. Because if a patient expects a drug to solve all their problems, then of course that’s what they’re going to ask for.

We’ve trained patients to expect that in this country. People aren’t born expecting that. We train them to expect that through direct to consumer drug advertising and of the other ways that big pharma influences our healthcare system, or our sick-care system rather. So we can absolutely train them to expect something different.

But I do think that as practitioners, I don’t mean to say that we don’t care about our patients symptoms, or we don’t pay attention to them, or even that we don’t do things to help temporarily provide relief while we’re addressing the underlying cause. For example, if a patient has Lyme and they’re unable to sleep because of that and that’s one of their main complaints, I’m absolutely going to use supplements, and botanicals, and whatever I need to use to get that patient sleeping better because the Lyme isn’t going to be addressed overnight and they need to sleep actually in order to shore up their immune function and be able to actually deal with the Lyme. That’s a case where a symptom of a deeper problem can actually become a deeper problem itself. It’s not always super straightforward.

One other kind of visual representation I like to use is a tree with roots going into the ground and branches extending from the tree. In functional medicine of course we want to focus on the roots of the problem. But at the same time in some cases where the branches are symptoms that are so disruptive that they interfere with the patient’s life and also start to become roots on their own, like sleep as I just mentioned, then we have to actually address those right off the bat while we’re continuing to look at the root cause of the problem.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. That makes perfect sense. I think that’s a really good visual to think about.

I want to go back for a quick second because I had asked a question before about sort of deciding if you’re somebody who is wanting to go and become some sort of functional medicine practitioner or coach and deciding where you best fit into this collaborative model that you’ve outlined in your book.

I know for me, and I still think about this, and maybe it will happen someday, I maybe should have gone and become either a nurse practitioner, or a doctor, or a physician’s assistant because I like the more medical side of things rather than the coaching aspect of it.

I’d be curious to hear from you if you would have done anything differently yourself in terms of how you are licensed, and then how you think people can identify what their best at if they want to fit somewhere into this collaborative model. Big question, I know.

Chris Kresser:  It’s tough because it’s 20/20 hindsight, it’s a tricky thing.

Kelsey: For sure.

Chris Kresser: If I say yes, I wish I would have gone to medical school, it’s very possible that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation because I would have been so busy in medical school and in that intense nature that environment. It changes you. I think it’s possible that I would have been influenced in a different way in medical school and I wouldn’t have had the time or even the inclination to go in the direction that I’ve gone.

On the one hand I can say, yeah, if I was starting from scratch and I was 22 years old again, I would probably have gone to medical school. But as soon as I say that, I have to introduce that caveat because I may not have ended up here in this place.

I work with patients in a variety of ways. Actually, it’s funny that you mention that because I find myself kind of going even more in the health coaching direction, if you will, in the sense that the more I work with patients, the more I come to believe that diet, and lifestyle, and behavioral change are really the crucial drivers for most people.

That might sound strange coming from me, a functional medicine practitioner and also someone who trains clinicians in functional medicine. I still very much believe in that approach, of course. I told some stories in the book about this, situations where we’ve done almost everything we can think of in the functional medicine framework and the patient is still not getting better. Almost always in that in that situation, it comes back to the basics. It’s some aspect of their lifestyle or behavior that is not working.

It might be that they feel really isolated and alienated socially and their diet is so restrictive that they haven’t been out with their friends in years because they feel like they’re so limited. They’re not having any fun. They have no pleasure in their life. It might be something like that. And so I will actually put aside the functional medicine toolset at times and just focus and put on my health coach hat and have more success that way than I would have if we just kept doing one lab test after another and one treatment after another.

But to answer your question in a more general way, I have actually done webinars on this question that last an hour and a half. I’m going to do my best to summarize. But I think that the crucial distinction that you need to make at an early stage in the process is deciding whether if you want to be able to order lab tests, interpret those lab tests, and prescribe treatment based on the results of those lab tests, then having some kind of license is going to be necessary. I think that’s the first most important distinction.

If you are content to work with people on diet, lifestyle, and behavior, which is a vast, vast area…I mean you could do that for your whole life with somebody and never run out of things to do…and you want to be able to have a certain kind of relationship that comes with that where you actually do have more time to talk about the social, behavioral, psychological, and even spiritual aspects of health, and you don’t necessarily need to be the person that’s ordering the lab test and prescribing treatment based on those results, then becoming a health coach or a nutritionist would be an excellent choice.

That’s the first distinction, I think. Part of what goes into that decision is of course where you are in your life, how much time and money you have to devote to training because generally pursuing a path that leads to licensure is going to be longer.  Becoming a medical doctor in many cases is going to be 6 – 7 years plus or more if you have to go back and do post back pre-med training.

That plays a role, of course. But even more important I think is just getting clear on how you want to spend your time with people. That’s really what it comes down to.

Laura: It’s kind of funny that you mention the health coaching thing. Obviously both Kelsey and I are dietitians and so we both started at the same entry point into the functional medicine world. But I think as time has gone on, my business and my practice has started to go heavier towards the coaching side of things whereas I almost feel like Kelsey’s practice has started to go more towards the functional medical practitioner.

It’s really cool because you can kind of like choose your own adventure as a dietitian where you get to really go really deep into that lifestyle stuff if you want. I’ll spend an hour and a half with my clients on their first call just covering all the different areas of their life that could be impacting their health.

But if you get to a point like it sounds like Kelsey’s at where maybe you want to go deeper into that medical side of things, you’ve already gotten part of the way there as a dietitian and you might just need to get another degree that is able to order labs or medicine.

I think that’s one little hat tip to the dietetics field is that it really does let you kind of pick what you want to do because you are licensed, but also you can really dive into that health coaching aspect if you want to.

Chris Kresser: Absolutely. I think one of the best ways for people to figure this out is to go observe people doing different things. Find a doctor that you can shadow. Find a nurse practitioner that you can shadow. Find a health coach that’s only doing health coaching and isn’t also a licensed practitioner that you can shadow because that’s going to give you a much better idea than just sitting around thinking about it.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. This has been awesome, Chris. I just want to do a little shout out to your book which recently came out; Unconventional Medicine. We’ve been talking about a lot of the concepts and ideas that you cover in that book. If people want to dive deeper into this stuff, definitely check out Chris’ book, Unconventional Medicine.

Obviously you’ve got a blog, you have The Kresser Institute. People can find you at KresserInstitute.com and ChrisKresser.com. Correct?

Chris Kresser: That’s right.

Kelsey: Alright. We’ll link to everything. But thank you so much for being here today, Chris! This was a really, really interesting conversation that I think our audience will very much enjoy what you’ve had to say here and it probably gives some of the people who are thinking about getting into this world a little bit to think about in terms of what direction they want to go in.

Chris Kresser: Thank you both so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. And I always loved working with you both and I love the work that you’re doing in the world, so you’re part of this ecosystem, of course. I think we can all work together to continue to expand it so that we can help the millions of people who are suffering from chronic disease and not getting answers in the conventional system.

Kelsey: Absolutely. Thank you, Chris.

Chris Kresser: Thanks, guys. Take care.

PODCAST: The Truth About Metabolic Damage And How To Fix It

Thanks for joining us for episode 130 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering following question from a listener:

“Is it true that having a history of dieting can result in so-called metabolic damage? Can it mean you will then have a harder time losing weight or that your body tends to then try to maintain a higher weight? And if this is true, how should one go about healing the damage? I do have a history of dieting a few years and I have been at a higher weight after that – normal BMI, but on the higher end. I find it difficult to lose body fat even though years ago it seemed to happen relatively easily. I’ve been measuring my body temperature to track my fertility and there noticed my body temperature is rather low, about 96.6F° at the beginning of my cycle. Is that a sign that some sort of conservation mode or slowdown metabolism is going on? I don’t tend to feel cold though, on the contrary.”

A history of dieting attempts coupled with current low calorie intake can affect your body in multiple ways. Often one of them is difficulty losing weight despite calorie intake being lower than calories burned.

While this concept is referred to as metabolic damage, the term is inaccurate causing misunderstanding around the role of metabolism while leaving many disempowered thinking their metabolism is irreversibly malfunctioning.

Today we are busting myths related to metabolic damage so you can better understand metabolic function and approach the healing process with less frustration.

We’ll be discussing factors that affect the calories in/calories out equation such as the type of foods you eat and your workout habits, as well as the interplay between thyroid and adrenal hormone levels.

We’ll also be sharing strategies to repair a compensated metabolism to restore optimal metabolic and neuroendocrine function. As you come away with info about the recovery protocol and how to cycle between weight loss and maintenance, you’ll also be inspired to re-evaluate your weight loss goals.

This is an empowering episode not to be missed so you can approach healthy weight loss from a place of knowledge about metabolic function and clarity about your goals.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • [00:04:51] An explanation of the concept of metabolic damage and how calories in/calories out has become a controversial topic
  • [00:08:56] How digestive function and the type of food you eat affect calorie absorption
  • [00:13:23] How gut bacteria affect calorie absorption
  • [00:14:33] The difference between fiber containing carbs and simple carbs on calorie absorption
  • [00:18:34] How thyroid and adrenal hormones affect calorie expenditure
  • [00:19:44] Factors involved in your workout that affect calorie burning
  • [00:20:43] Additional factors that affect calorie expenditure
  • [00:31:00] How metabolic damage is really metabolic compensation by the body as a survival adaptation
  • [00:36:59]  How to adjust exercise habits and calorie intake to help repair a compensated metabolism
  • [00:40:55] How to support adrenal function to help repair metabolism
  • [00:43:52] The importance of ensuring adequate micronutrient intake and which multivitamins we recommend
  • [00:45:43] How long to maintain the recovery protocol and how to cycle between weight loss and maintenance
  • [00:47:31] Why it’s crucial to re-evaluate your goal to lose weight after repairing your metabolism

Links Discussed:


Laura: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 130 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is my co-host Kelsey Kinney.

Kelsey: Hey everyone!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me, Laura, at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com, and Kelsey over at KelseyKinney.com.

Over the next 30 to 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insights into solving your health challenges with practical tips and real food. Stick around until the end of the show where we’ll be sharing some updates about our business and personal lives.

Kelsey: If you’re enjoying our show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Laura: Today on the show we’re going to be talking about the concept of metabolic damage and how your body is affected by a history of multiple diet attempts and current low calorie intake. We’re hoping to bust a few myths on this episode, so we’re glad you’ll be joining us. But before we get into the question for the day, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Laura: Welcome back, everyone. Here is our question for today’s show:

“Is it true that having a history of dieting can result in so-called metabolic damage? Can it mean you will then have a harder time losing weight or that your body tends to then try to maintain a higher weight? And if this is true, how should one go about healing the damage? I do have a history of dieting a few years and I have been at a higher weight after that – normal BMI, but on the higher end. I find it difficult to lose body fat even though years ago it seemed to happen relatively easily. I’ve been measuring my body temperature to track my fertility and there noticed my body temperature is rather low, about 96.6F° at the beginning of my cycle. Is that a sign that some sort of conservation mode or slowdown metabolism is going on? I don’t tend to feel cold though, on the contrary.”

I think this is a really interesting question because on one hand, there’s a lot of discussion in both the conventional nutrition and medical world, and the ancestral health and Paleo type nutrition world about the concept of metabolic damage.

I feel like metabolic damage is this term that gets tossed around that is describing a phenomenon that definitely happens, but it’s not really the right terminology for it. In that sense it’s kind of like the term adrenal fatigue where the symptoms of adrenal fatigue are definitely happening and there’s a reason behind it, but to call it adrenal fatigue is somewhat inaccurate.

Metabolic damage, I would say most people are going to consider that to be a situation where their metabolism no longer allows for normal weight loss using a calorie deficit.

I think one of the main arguments that a lot of the conventional medical nutritional world makes against the concept of metabolic damage is that nobody is immune to the concept of calories in/calories out. That thermodynamics equation where the amount of food we eat, the amount of calories we take in, if it’s balanced with the amount that we’re putting out, then we’re going to maintain our weight. If we’re eating less than we’re expending, then we’re going to lose weight. And if we’re eating more than we’re expending, we’re going to gain weight.

In that situation with metabolic damage, the concept is that the calories-in can be lower than the calories-out, but you won’t see weight loss. That’s the basic understanding of metabolic damage.

The reason why I feel like this is such a controversial topic is because in reality you can’t actually be in a calorie imbalance where you’re eating less than you’re expending and not be losing weight. That’s where the belief that the calories in calories out equation is a myth because they’ll say I’m eating less than I should be expending, and so I should be losing weight. And I’m not losing weight, so that means calories in/calories out isn’t true.

But that’s not the case. That’s really not accurate. That’s one of the myths I wanted to address in this podcast because I feel like that can make people very confused about the way calories affect weight loss.

If you think about calories in/calories out as being at its root what drives weight loss, it’s the laws of thermodynamics. It’s suggesting that if you eat less energy than you expend, you should lose weight. And if you do the opposite, so you’re eating more energy than you expend, you’ll gain weight. If you look at that just at its basic level, that is always true.

The question that I want to ask this person and also just anyone listening to this podcast is how detailed or how complicated do they think that equation is? Because if you think all of the equation covers is you’re eating a certain amount, you track that on My Fitness Pal, you see a certain amount of calories, and then you figure out how many calories your body should be burning based on your height, weight, gender, activity level, blah, blah, blah, and you have that be a higher number, then you should see weight loss. If you’re just looking at it that way, then that is not always going to happen.

That’s where that confusion comes in because on one hand you have people saying calories in/calories out is bogus, and it’s not true, and that’s not how you lose weight. And that’s totally wrong. And then you have people saying that if you eat less and move more, you will lose weight no matter what’s going on. And that’s not true either. So that’s why I think there’s so much confusion.

Is that kind of how you see the confusion around the calories in/calories out topic?

Kelsey: For sure. I think this whole idea of metabolic damage is also confusing just because people then think if my metabolism is damaged, can I even come back from that? I feel like it first of all it doesn’t take into account the many different things that can affect an energy balance. But then it also leaves somebody feeling like what the heck am I supposed to do about it if I’ve already damaged this? It’s really disempowering, I would say.

Laura: I would say the term damaged to me suggests broken and irreversible, or difficult to reverse. I don’t really feel like that’s accurate for a lot of people. I’m going to talk about the terms that I think are better for describing this phenomenon than metabolic damage. But if you go into this thinking that your body is broken, and you’re damaged, and that kind of thing, then it can definitely take away any level of power over the situation. The only downside is that the ways to get out of this situation can often be very challenging.

First I want to talk about what actually impacts this energy balance equation because like I said before, it’s not as simple as calories in/calories out and there are dozens of factors that are going to affect this equation.

Things that can affect the calories in part of the equation would include things like your digestive function. If you don’t have a very strong digestive system, then you’re not actually going to be absorbing all the calories that you’re eating. Even if you do have a normal functioning digestive system, you still are not going to absorb all the calories that you eat. There’s going to be a percentage of those that don’t get absorbed.

Kelsey: I know you work with some digestive people, but for me certainly I see a lot of people with digestive problems who they’re trying like heck to gain weight and it’s really, really hard. I think a piece of that is that they’re just not like absorbing the calories that they’re eating.

Laura: Definitely. Like I said with normal digestive systems even depending on the kind of food that you eat, you’re actually going to see some differences in absorption. That would be the difference between complex and simple foods.

For example, protein and high fiber carbs actually take significantly more energy to digest than things like pure fat or pure sugar. And then certain things depending on what form they’re in are going to affect how well we actually digest certain nutrients.

There’s been studies showing that whole nuts, when you eat a whole nut source, you don’t actually digest and absorb as much of the fat from those whole nuts as you do if they’re actually nut butter.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Laura: The way that it is processed is going to impact how much energy we get from it. The amount of fiber in that food is going to affect how much we digest. For example, fat can get bound to fiber and if we’re eating a lot of fiber, we may not actually even be absorbing the fat that we’re eating, which for some people can be helpful because it helps them cut down on their calorie absorption. But for other people like you said that may be trying to gain weight, it actually can make things more complicated or more difficult.

There is something called the thermic effect of food, which I think sometimes people take a little bit more liberty with that where they say if you’re eating a lot of protein, you’re going to be burning more calories. It’s true, it’s just not significant enough to make a huge difference in your total calorie intake.

On average people tend to use about 10 percent of their daily energy expenditure in the digestion and absorption process of food, but that does depend on the kind of macronutrients that they’re eating. Protein in particular takes about 20 to 30 percent of your total calories that you’re consuming to actually digest it. If you eat 100 calories worth of protein, about 20 to 30 calories of that are going to go towards digesting food, which is pretty significant. And then carbs is about 5 to 10 percent, and fats is about 0 to 3 percent.

So fats in some ways don’t take any energy to digest if they’re solid fats. Whereas something like a high protein meal or a high fiber carbohydrate, you’re actually going to take a lot more a lot more energy to just digest that food and so you’re not getting quite as much net calories out of that food as you would if you were eating like an isolated solid fat that takes no energy to digest.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: That’s that concept of a calorie is not always a calorie. If you’re eating whole foods, if you’re eating high fiber foods, if you’re eating high protein foods, you’re actually not absorbing as many calories from that food as if you were eating like sugar, and white flour, and low protein foods, and low fiber foods, that kind of thing. So that’s a huge factor in the calories-in part of the equation.

Cooking food versus eating raw food is going to affect the calories-in part of the equation. Certain starches like if you ate them raw, you would actually get very little calories out of them. That’s things like potatoes, sweet potatoes, that kind of thing. But when you cook them, you actually then get most of the calories out of that food. So veggies and starches…and I think meats are probably less impacted by the cooking, but they might get a little bit of an impact there.

Chewing your food obviously more thoroughly is going to help you get more calories out of it. The types of bacteria in our gut can actually affect how many calories you get out of your food. There are certain types of bacteria that actually digest indigestible parts of our diet. Things like fibers for example, they get digested by these bacteria and then they get turned into fat so then your body can absorb that fat for fuel.

Kelsey: I have an article that at least briefly talks about that on my site. I can link to that, too.

Laura: Obviously that’s going to make a difference and between different people what the balance of their bacteria is. Those are some of the things that affect the calories-in.

Somebody could be eating the exact same meal as someone else. Depending on their digestion, depending on how well they chew it, depending on the bacteria in their gut, they actually could be absorbing more or less calories from that food.

Kelsey: I have a question for you within that.

Laura: Sure.

Kelsey: I totally understand things like digestive function and the different bacteria contributing…and actually I’ll add into that like cooked food versus raw food, that kind of thing. Totally see how that can make a giant difference in how many calories somebody is actually eating.

When we’re talking about complex versus simple foods, how much of a role do you feel like that plays into how many calories somebody is actually consuming based on what they think? Like if someone was logging that on My Fitness Pal or something. But then considering complex versus simple, how much less might they be eating do you think?

Laura:  I don’t know if there’s a percentage necessarily that is in the research. But just as an example, the fiber containing carbs versus the refined carbs, they’re going to actually impact how much of other foods that we digest. If you’re eating a super high fiber diet, it’s going to actually prevent you from absorbing all the fat in your diet. Fat tends to be obviously a very high calorie food. If you’re absorbing more fat, even if it’s maybe an extra 20 grams a day, that can make a big difference in terms of how many calories you’re eating.

I think the complexity of the food can sometimes impact how well you’re absorbing even the non-complex components. And then if you think about carbs that are higher in fiber, it just takes more energy to actually digest those. So the net calorie intake for a high fiber sweet potato is going to be different than white rice, for example, or sugar. Sugar is one of those foods that pretty much can be absorbed very easily. In some ways it’s beneficial if somebody needs easily absorbed carbohydrates for some reason. But for the average person, eating a lot of high sugar foods is going to increase how many calories that they’re getting from their food.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: I don’t know if there’s like a percentage. I think the information about the percentage of the thermic effect of food is a little bit more well understood. But again it comes down to a lot of different factors. Because if you think about fiber, humans can’t digest fiber. So we’re not technically able to extract calories from that.

But like you said in that article that we’re going to link to, certain types of bacteria in our gut can digest that fiber. If you have high levels of those, you may actually be getting calories from that fiber that most people wouldn’t be getting.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And again, it’s one of those things that you can get into minutia about it. And yes, there is good information, and yes, it’s accurate. But as far as what that looks like practically, it can get a little bit over the top as far as what the actual practical side of it is. I just like people to understand that calories-in, there’s a lot of different things that affect what your body is able to process.

I forgot to mention with the calories-in, even if you have the exact same digestive system as someone else, foods themselves can vary up to 20 to 25 percent in terms of their calorie content. So that means that you could have the exact same looking apple that you’re eating and you could have a twin version of yourself with all the same like gut function, digestive strength, all of that stuff going on and eating a different apple that looks the same, and there could be like a 20 percent difference in terms of the calorie content between those two apples.

It tends to be more of an issue for processed food. Anything that’s been created and has like nutrition fact labels on it, there’s going to be a lot more variance in the calorie content of those foods. It’s just crazy because it’s like you literally could be eating from one day to the next the exact same food and your calorie intake could be like 20 percent different on another day.

Kelsey: Great.

Laura: Yeah. That’s another thing that affects calories-in. And then as far as the calories-out goes, this is another area that I think is way over-simplified in a lot of people’s minds. Most people think of calories-out as how much you’re exercising or like just what your body’s basal metabolic rate is, which basal metabolic rate is just how much energy your body burns just to function and do its normal daily life.

A lot of different things affect calories out. One thing is our hormones, thyroid hormone especially. Active thyroid hormone T-3 is going to make one of the biggest impacts on our calories-out. That will affect our basal metabolic rate fairly significantly. If you have hypothyroidism, you’re almost guaranteed to have a lower basal metabolic rate than someone who doesn’t have hypothyroidism.

Adrenal function can affect your metabolic rate. Cortisol levels are going to impact how much calories you’re burning if you have high cortisol, low cortisol, cortisol resistance. A lot of different things there that can actually affect your body’s basal metabolic function.

As you and I know, as our Paleo Rehab participants know, as a lot of our listeners know, adrenal hormones and thyroid hormones do interact pretty significantly. Having high levels of cortisol can actually impact the efficacy of your thyroid hormones. Even if you had normal thyroid production, you could be having low actual hormone effects. That’s a pretty complicated part of this equation that will significantly affect the calories-out part of the equation.

Obviously the type of workout you’re doing, the frequency, the intensity, the duration, all of that’s going to affect your calorie burn. There is some evidence that certain types of workouts are going to benefit your basal metabolic rate versus others that will actually lower it.

Long duration cardio is going to make your metabolic rate lower because it’s essentially an adaptation to the calories you’re burning in those long duration cardio training sessions versus weight training. It’s not significant, but it does have a mild increase in your basal metabolic rate when you put muscle on.

It may be like, I don’t know, 50 calories a day that you’re burning more than someone who doesn’t have a lot of muscle mass. But again that is going to impact how many calories your body is burning at rest along with the workouts themselves. And then also the way your workouts affect your hormones is going to impact how well you’re burning calories. So again, more complexity there.

Certainly your age and gender is going to affect your calories-out. As you get older your calories-out are going to go down. That’s just normal. It’s to be expected. Twenty years ago losing weight was probably a lot easier than it would be when you’re in your 40s, or 50s, or even older than that. So that’s going to be a factor.

And then stress levels, especially chronic stress because of the impact on the adrenal system is going to impact your calories-out. That can actually impact your calories-in as well since you might affect your digestive capacity.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I would think they might have a net neutral effect there because you might be absorbing less nutrients and then you may be expending less nutrients. But I would actually think the expending less would be even more significant from chronic stress. So that’s going to be an issue.

You’re micronutrient intake is going to affect how well your metabolism works. Not to get into a deep biochemical information, but essentially our mitochondria that are burning the protein, carbs, and fat to create energy, if they don’t have enough of certain micronutrients, then it’s not going to function optimally.

It’s like kind of like if you have a car that has a lot of rust in the engine, it’s not going to burn fuel as effectively and it’ll lose its miles per gallon or its fuel economy. That could be totally wrong. If anyone knows cars, I don’t.

Kelsey: I can’t correct you there.

Laura: I’m like thinking of Josh listening over my shoulder.  He may be like, babe, that’s not true. That’s not how fuel economy works. But let’s just pretend it does for metaphor’s sake.

And then obviously your insulin sensitivity is going to affect your calories burned. Basically if you are insulin resistant, it’s going to be hard to tap into stored energy for fuel. That’s going to make it harder for you to burn extra calories that you’re taking in and it’s more likely to store them in that case. And certainly inflammation can affect your insulin sensitivity and your metabolic function as well.

Kelsey: That’s like actually how it connects back to the gut bacteria partially, too. If you have something like SIBO or dysbiosis, that’s going to essentially cause widespread inflammation which then feeds into insulin resistance.

Laura: Definitely. Any sort of inflammation can impact how well your body is using energy for from it the food you’re eating or from stored energy, that kind of thing.

And then there is something also called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is the acronym NEAT. I don’t know if there’s any way you can control this, but there is evidence that people who tend to fidget more actually burn more calories at rest than people who don’t. So if you’re that kind of person that taps your feet a lot or moves around a lot…I know my husband bounces his leg all the time and I’m like, babe, stop bouncing. It’s like enough that it annoys me sometimes.

Some people are like super fidgety, and then other people aren’t and they just kind of sit there. It’s not that that’s something you have so much control over. Actively choosing to fidget is not really a strategy for weight loss, but it is something that you can kind of work into your life by standing instead of sitting. Or they have these balance boards or balance balls that you can sit on that kind of force you to move a little bit more.

That’s kind of like a little bit down a rabbit trail as far as how to actually lose the weight. I just want people to be aware that your particular habits and neurological habits like that actually can impact your calories-out.

There’s probably other factors that are going to affect that equation, but I just wanted to make it really clear that there are a lot of different things that can impact the calories-in and calories-out.

One last thing I wanted to mention actually on that note. We were talking about resting metabolic rate and that’s based on your height, your weight, your gender, your age, your body fat percentage. All of that stuff can affect your resting metabolic rate. But even if you had the exact same weight, and age, and height, and gender as somebody else, you can have a 15 percent variation in your RMR.

Estimating your personal RMR is a good starting point for figuring out what your calorie needs might be. But this number could be 15 percent lower or higher than what is reality for you. So another thing that’s going to impact your estimation of the calories-out.

Kelsey: I’m going to bring up one thing here. A while back I found this company that makes a portable RMR machine, I guess. You breathe into it and it measures the gases. That’s how it’s calculating RMR. I would think that it would take into consideration obviously like a lot of these factors because it’s actually measuring your RMR. So that can be useful if  you just have no idea what your RMR is and even the calculations you’re not so sure about,  you feel like you have a lot of these other factors that are playing a role.

That company is called Breezing. This was a couple of years ago, so honestly I don’t even know if they still exist. I’m just bringing this up because you reminded me of it. But it was a pretty cool little tool and I would think that for somebody, especially if you have this this idea that you might have “metabolic damage”, it could be useful for you to just see exactly what you personally have as an RMR.

Laura: What did you say the name of that company was?

Kelsey: Breezing.

Laura:  How is that spelled?

Kelsey: It’s Breezing Metabolism. I just found it. Breezing. They’re not like super cheap. I think it was like three or four hundred dollars. So I think it’s mostly used by Dietitians or people like that in practice and then you can like swap out the mouthpiece for different patients and stuff. But I think obviously if you personally want to buy one and just keep it for yourself, you can do that, too. It just obviously is a bit more expensive to do so.

Laura: When I’m going to talk about how to improve your metabolic function in a few minutes, this could be something that would be a way to track your progress there, assuming it’s accurate. I don’t know anything about it so I can’t say whether or not it is 100 percent accurate or not.

But if you are finding that your RMR measured through that Breezing app was a lot lower than what your expected RMR would be, then hypothetically as you change your diet and exercise habits in general to have a more metabolism supporting approach, you can actually see if that number would go up, which I think it could and I think you could definitely see some progress.

Kelsey: Yeah. That happened to me. I actually did that kind of experiment. I think it was at the time we’re I like was just starting to play around with weight training a little bit. I added in some really quite basic weight training. I wasn’t working with my trainer anything at that point. I think I saw it go up like 200 calories a day, which is like not anything to scoff at certainly.

Laura: That’s a lot.

Kelsey: It was pretty impressive. Again, it’s hard to know exactly how accurate it is and everything like that, but I was able to replicate that. I would do a few different measurements before I started and then after a couple of months of weight training I did another few measurements over the course of a few days. They were all pretty much around the same thing.

Laura: I’d be curious, actually. I mean I would have had to do it like years ago for me to actually see this happen. But I actually feel like my metabolic function is a lot better than it used to be because frankly after getting married, my diet has been a lot less optimal. I eat out a lot more. I feel like I eat ice cream after dinner a lot more often because one, like my husband will usually eat it. And two, I’m like oh it’s there.

But it’s funny because like I feel like I’ve been so much looser with my diet lately and I was like I’ll probably put on all this weight after I get married. My weight really hasn’t changed and I’m like I wonder if my metabolic function has changed because of the weight training and stuff. I don’t know, it’s weird. It’s just totally hypothetical, but I just was like I’m surprised I haven’t put on any weight after making all these kind of less weight friendly diet changes. Just kind of an interesting experience. But I’m still training regularly so that’s kind of like maybe what’s keeping me stable.

But anyway, I think we’ll definitely link to that product if people want to check it out. Again, we don’t know how accurate it is. We can’t totally vouch for it, but it might be something worth getting if you feel like you are not having an optimal metabolism. If you wanted to actually track your progress in that area, that would potentially be a way to do it.

Assuming the precision…is it the precision the thing that you actually get the same measurement if you do it multiple times? Or is it the accuracy? I think of precision. Because there’s accuracy where it’s like how close is it to the actual number and then there’s precision which is how consistent are the measurements.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So if it’s a super precise measurement, even if it’s a little off accuracy wise, it can still be useful information to see if you’re making progress.

Kelsey: Right. You’re kind of using it almost how you use your scale, like just sort of noticing the general trend instead of focusing as much on the actual number.

Laura: Exactly. That’s what I was trying to poorly articulate.

Kelsey: I’ve got you.

Laura: Like I said, I’m going to talk about some strategies for improving metabolic rate if it is low, but that would be something that you can actually see some progress in.

As far as what this metabolic damage even is talking about, I want people to be aware that our metabolisms were designed to keep us alive and keep our bodies functioning as well as possible when our food supplies are low.

Thinking about that in like an ancestral context, if you’re in a famine or if you’re out in a hunter gatherer community and there’s a short term…like animals aren’t there to hunt or there’s like a drought or something and there’s no plant foods or something, this is a defense mechanism that our body has to make sure that we don’t die if our food intake goes down.

When our energy-in drops, so if our calories-in reduce significantly, our bodies actually change our energy-out. So that’ll go down as well to match that change in the energy-in. This typically happens because our bodies will naturally and spontaneously reduce our physical movement. That fidgeting thing I was talking about before, a lot of times if you’re under-eating, you stop fidgeting as much or you just have less desire to move around.

And then you also find a big reduction in the thyroid hormones that drive metabolism. You see change in your adrenal hormones that block thyroid activity. There’s a lot of things that your brain will do to actually change how your body is burning fuel to match your energy-in drop.

A lot of times, not always, but for a lot of people when they’re on a diet, they find that their hunger goes up significantly. That is a way for us to be driven to greater food intake. Our bodies want us to eat more, so they’ll get us more hungry. They want us to move less, so we’ll stop moving around during the day as much. And then our actual metabolism will slow down because the body is trying to protect us from starving to death essentially.

I want people to recognize that this “metabolic damage” is really just our body’s neuroendocrine adaptation to chronic dieting and over-exercising. This can be really hard to accept for a lot of people who are trying to lose weight because it’s like this sucks because now I can’t lose weight, and I’m doing all this work, and I’m exercising, and I’m eating well, and I’m not seeing any weight loss.

It can be really frustrating, but this is actually our body’s way of protecting us. It doesn’t mean that your body is broken and it doesn’t mean that your metabolism is damaged. The truth is that your body is really just doing its job to protect you. If you can look at it that way, I think it can take a lot of the anxiety and frustration out of the process.

I’m not saying it’s going to make it not frustrating at all, but I think if you can understand that this is not a broken body that’s doing this, this is actually what your body’s been designed to do, it can kind of make you understand a little bit more about why this is happening.

But from a physiological level, a lot of these changes that you experience during the “metabolic damage” experience are driven by both the HPA and the HPT axis. That’s the hypothermic pituitary adrenal axis and the hypothermic pituitary thyroid axis. And possibly the gonadal axis as well, so that would be the ovaries and women in the testes and men. But I would say the adrenals and the thyroid are going to have a lot more impact on the immediate metabolic changes.

But for most people no matter how much weight they lose, no matter if they have weight to lose like if they’re significantly overweight, it doesn’t really matter to our bodies and losing weight is generally a stressor on their body in most cases. It’s not like it’s only stressful to your body if you have a little weight to lose, or if you’re already underweight, or something like that. Even if you’re overweight, losing weight is a stressor.

Essentially our brains, so the hypothalamus in our brain is going to sense potential danger when our calorie intake is too low and it’ll use the communication between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland to then adjust the thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, and sex hormones. It’ll do this appropriately to prevent the immediate health risks of starvation that our bodies are potentially exposed to.

This is one reason why some practitioners refer to this metabolic damage concept as actually metabolic compensation. It’s not that your metabolism is damaged, and it will be able to recover eventually in most cases. But in this situation your brain is actually sending powerful compensatory signals that will reduce the likelihood that you’re going to lose any more weight without basically eating next to nothing.

If you can think about this as a metabolic compensation as opposed to a metabolic damage, I think again that will give you a little bit more understanding of what’s going on and a little less frustration.

Kelsey: Yeah, much better term for that.

Laura: There’s two articles that I really like when it comes to this metabolic compensation idea. There’s an article by Dr. Jade Teta and he has a review article about how to recover from this “metabolic damage” or metabolic compensation. I’ll link to his article in the show notes.

And then there’s also an article by Dr. Brooke Kalanick who we just had on the show pretty recently. It might have been the last episode. I’m trying to remember because we record out of order a little bit sometimes. But she has an article on a website called Girls Gone Strong that we’ll link to that talks about the concept of metabolic damage. Also I think her term for the phenomenon is actually metabolic shift just because she doesn’t like to have this concept that it’s a permanent situation.

I think that’s true. I think it’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily permanent for anyone who is experiencing it. And I wouldn’t say the full extent of it is permanent. It may affect somebody’s long term weight loss ability in the sense that they might not be able to get as lean as they had in the past. But I think in a lot of situations it’s not even healthy to get that lean again for that person.

We need to look at this as something that we want to support our body’s optimal metabolic function and in that situation a lot of the behaviors that lead to better metabolic function are things that are pretty backwards from what normal weight loss goals would be.

So in the last few minutes of this podcast, I just want to talk about some of the strategies you can do to repair a compensated metabolism. Again, it’s not damaged. It’s not broken. It’s not like totally permanently messed up. It’s just your body is protecting you against the long term health effects or even the short term health effects of starvation and it compensates its neuroendocrine function.

The first thing I would suggest doing is to cut down on the amount you’re exercising, in particular any sort of long duration cardio that you’re doing. If you’re doing a lot of running, or cycling, or rowing, or anything like that that goes on for more than like 10-15 minutes, then I would say definitely cut that back because the cardiovascular type exercise is a lot more metabolism affecting in a negative way than things like walking or weight training.

If you are working out, then cutting back on the frequency of your exercise, definitely taking more rest days. Some people might need to cut out cardio entirely in the beginning to get a better response. Other people may need to stick to just short bursts of intense cardio like Tabata intervals, something like that where you’re only doing it for 5 to 10 minutes or something at the most.

But ultimately cutting down on exercise in all forms other than really leisurely walking is going to be a good idea for someone who has a compensated metabolism. So that would be a first step. That’s usually the easiest thing for people to do.

And then after that you can start to increase your food intake slowly if you’ve been dieting chronically or if you’re in a currently low calorie intake. You want to get up to at least a maintenance intake based on what your expected metabolic output is. You use the basal metabolic rate and then add activity to that to figure out about what your calorie burn is. You want to match your food intake to your calories-out that are expected.

Now sometimes that can be that can lead to weight gain for people and that’s because your calories-out are still lower than they’re supposed to be. But the body tends to respond in a way that then brings the calories-out up to the calories-in and you should stabilize at some point. So even though it can lead to short term weight gain, eventually it’ll get you to the point where your body is actually burning the appropriate amount of calories.

Kelsey: It’s usually not a ton of weight gain either.

Laura: Right. I mean it definitely depends on the purpose of the person, but I’ve seen like somewhere in the 5 to 10 pound range on average. Some people don’t gain any weight, but a lot of people do. But again, 5 pounds, probably not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. You have to be okay with that especially if you’re increasing carbs.

Carbs are definitely part of this equation that you want to increase those especially if you’ve been restricting them. You want to be getting a balance of macros so really none of your macronutrients should be low in any sort of way unless you have a specific health condition that requires it.

It’s a combination of getting your calories-in to meet what your calories-out should be based on your height, weight, and gender, age, all of that. And then also like I said, balancing macros so that way you’re not restricting any macro in any specific amount.

That would be the second step after you’ve cut down on some of your activity levels. The reason why I say that’s second is because if you base your food increase off of your current activity levels and then you drop your activity levels, that can lead to more weight gain. It’s not that gaining weight is a bad thing.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s just that most people don’t want to gain weight if they’re trying to lose weight. So we’re trying to figure out how to make sure you’re kind of easing into this so that way you don’t gain more weight.

Those are some of the more important strategies. But on top of that, you can do things to support adrenal function. There’s a lot of things that support adrenal function. We go into a lot of detail on that in our Paleo Rehab program.

But if you’re going to just kind of guess about adaptogens, which are herbs that can support adrenal stress resilience, I do like a product called HPA Adapt by Integrative Therapeutics because it doesn’t have anything in it that manipulates cortisol levels. It just supports stress response. So if you don’t know what your cortisol levels are, you don’t know if they’re high, or low, or fine, I don’t like to use products…and you’re the same way and this is what we teach in our program. We don’t like to use products that either raise cortisol or lower cortisol if we don’t know what somebody’s cortisol levels are.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: These adaptogens in this blend really are just balancers. They don’t raise it, they don’t lower it unless it needs to be. That’s a good way to support your adrenal function.

Other things that support adrenal function is reducing stress levels, so both avoiding and eliminating stress, and dealing with stress better, so implementing stress management habits. I’m kind of laughing about the irony of this after our last episode because I’m like my stress levels are super high. But it’s one of those things that I think it’s like a constant factor that most people have to think about. Most people don’t fix their stress and then like not have any stress for the rest of their lives.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So it’s like a running inventory of what are my stress levels? Is there anything I can reduce stress with? Is there anything I should be doing to increase my stress tolerance?

The adaptogens can help. The actual stress management practices can help. All that good stuff. Sleeping on a consistent schedule is going to help optimize our circadian rhythm entrainment, which that will reduce stress, that will improve our insulin sensitivity, that will just overall make our hormones function more optimally, it’ll help our thyroid function.

So if you’re out of whack with your sleep schedule at all, that definitely needs to be really focused on and try to get that as consistent as possible where you’re going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day. Those things are going to affect not only your adrenal function, but really your entire neuroendocrine system, so that’s why those things are super important.

You want to make sure your digestive system is working properly and that you don’t have any gut infections. Like what Kelsey was talking about before, if you have a gut infection or gut dysbiosis and there’s a lot of inflammation, there’s a lot of indigestion or malabsorption going on because of that, then that’s going to make a big impact on your metabolism as well.

You definitely want to cover the digestive system if you feel like there’s any evidence of an issue there. That could be bloating, that could be a little constipation, that could be loose stools, that could be reflux. Anything that’s a digestive symptom is a sign that there’s things that are off balance there. You want to make sure that you’re addressing those issues if you are dealing with a compensated metabolism.

And then the last thing I would suggest doing especially if you have a history of dieting is to take a high quality multi-vitamin which will ensure that you’re getting a good amount of all your micronutrients in on a regular basis.

There’s going to be different micronutrients that may affect metabolism more significantly, but ultimately I’d say most people that have a history of dieting are going to be a little deficient in a lot of nutrients and it’s hard to tell exactly which ones they are deficient in.

If you get a good quality multi, you can kind of hit your baseline needs. And then also increasing your food intake will then get you more nutrients and that can help improve your metabolic function.

There’s a lot of products out there. Lately I’ve been really liking the…there’s two versions of this multi-vitamin from a company called Seeking Health. One is called Methyl One and then the other one is called Minus One and they’re Optimal One a Day Multivitamin. And the reason I like that one just as a general recommendation is because they’re not going to overload people with certain nutrients. Things like selenium is a good example of a nutrient that tends to be way too high in most multi’s and so this one’s lower in selenium and it doesn’t have things like iron in it which most people don’t need. I just like those products. But there’s a lot of different multi’s that are good.

Usually I would say working with someone in that situation to figure out a good product is a good idea because there’s different factors that you may need differently. Like you might actually need iron and maybe you should be taking something that’s boosting your iron intake whether that’s like a liver pill or some people do need iron supplementation.

Just generally getting your micronutrient intake up through a good quality multivitamin should be helpful for a lot of people. But some people are going to need some more targeted supplementation in their situation.

And then I would say you should expect to maintain this recovery protocol for at least three to six months. If you’ve been dieting for decades, it probably is going to take longer. But I’d say minimum three to six months is what people should expect. And again, you may gain some weight at this time, but you just have to keep in mind that the long term goal is to optimize your metabolic and neuroendocrine function. So if you gain some weight, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like you’re going to be stuck there and any pound you gain is just never going to go away.

After you stabilize for a few months, then you can try doing a calorie cut for maybe eight to twelve weeks, that’s like two to three months total and you can see if your weight goes down at all. If it doesn’t, then you should assume that you haven’t fully recovered a normal metabolic function. If it does, then great. Then you can be on that diet for two to three months, lose some weight, and then re-establish your maintenance needs and stay on maintenance for a couple of months.

I would definitely cycle between a diet for weight loss and then a diet for maintenance and don’t just like go back into your chronic calorie deficit. That’ll just kind of reverse all the work that you just did. But there is a way to lose weight after you’ve gone through this process.

And like Kelsey was saying, that Breezing app thing or device I would say could be helpful in this situation because you can watch if your metabolic rate goes up. And if it gets to a high enough point, then you can look at that and say okay, my metabolism is functioning optimally, now I can try reducing my calorie intake by like three to five hundred calories a day and see if that helps with any weight loss. I would say that’s a more like a repair and then weight loss approach.

And then of course I can’t give this information without putting my little asterisk next to it and saying that for a lot of you listening to this, trying to lose weight all the time is what the major problem is. So if you have this constant thought in your brain that you should be losing weight, whether or not you feel like you’re actively dieting, I can guarantee that that’s affecting your food intake.

I know that I’ve been in that situation before even if I wasn’t purposely dieting. Like even just before my wedding, like there was that thought in my head that I shouldn’t be overeating and I shouldn’t be eating dessert, or like drinking alcohol much, that kind of thing.

If it’s a couple of months, it might not cause a lot of harm. But if that’s been your way of thinking about food for like decades, then that’s obviously going to make a huge impact on your metabolic rate over the long term.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So if you’re always focused on losing weight and that’s always the way you’re thinking about food, then that’s a real serious problem that you need to work on. You can do these strategies up until the calorie restriction part to actually repair your metabolism and just fix that compensation that’s going on.

But the question is once you fixed it, do you really need to lose weight? Is that something that’s actually going to make you healthier? Is it something that’s going to make you happier? Is it actually going to be a long term situation, or is it going to set you right back into that cycle that you were in before?

I honestly feel like a lot of people in this situation, they really shouldn’t try to lose weight again. I know that can be really hard especially if you are medically considered overweight. I know this person asking this question wasn’t, but that could definitely be someone where their doctor says they need to lose weight. I’ve worked with people in this situation before and that was driving them bonkers because they were making themselves feel like garbage trying to lose weight and they weren’t losing weight. They probably had some kind of health issue that was preventing them from losing weight and it was just like this really bad situation. They felt bad about themselves all the time, they were super frustrated, they were very negative about their self-worth and their body image.

I just feel like that is such a bad long term situation, even short term, but just like a bad way to live your life that is really damaging and really harmful on your mental health, and your enjoyment of life, and your ability to function as a normal human being.

If you find that this chronic body image dieting thoughts are something that you’re dealing with on a nonstop basis, then I really want that to be a higher priority as part of your recovery plan. We have some podcasts on body image and the health at every size concept. Some of the women we’ve interviewed are women like Aglaee Jacob, Summer Innanen, Sarah Vance, Tessie Tracy. They all have really good insight into this disordered thinking around food and chronic dieting issue that I think if people get to the point where they don’t feel like they need to be losing weight all the time, that they can actually make a lot more progress in repairing their metabolism.

At the end of the day, I’m not going to tell someone if they should or shouldn’t lose weight, but I don’t want someone losing weight just because they think they have to. There’s nothing morally wrong with losing weight. But if you always are seeing these metabolic changes that make you feel like garbage whenever you try to lose weight, then I think you need to re-evaluate whether or not weight loss is actually something that you should be doing.

That’s my little asterisk. I want to make sure that people don’t think I’m just advocating for weight loss in any situation or saying that the only reason you should work on repairing your metabolism is so you can lose weight in the future. I think a high functioning metabolism is a really important thing for overall health. Even if your weight was the same or even a little higher and you have a good functioning metabolism you’re going to be a lot healthier than someone who is in that chronic low metabolism state.

Kelsey: Absolutely.

Laura: That’s just something to think about. But that’s kind of the starting point for metabolism repair. Kelsey, do you have anything to add?

Kelsey: I’m just going to drive home that point about cycling again because I think it’s really important to remember that once you repair your metabolism, it’s not like okay, now I can like go on a yearlong diet again and my body is going to be perfectly happy with that.

I like what you said about maybe doing for doing a cut for like a couple of months, and then getting back up to maintenance again, and then doing the same process. It’s a very step by step approach and you’re always coming back to maintenance so you’re making sure that your metabolism stays healthy throughout the process that is designed essentially to cause that metabolic compensation as you call it.

Laura: I think the figuring out when to do the cut is another challenge. Like I said, you need to be working on the metabolic repair piece at least three to six months before you even consider a cut. Even if you get to that six months and you still feel like you have symptoms or lab work that indicates that your neuroendocrine system is impaired, then I wouldn’t even bother with the cut until you feel like you’re back to normal.

Kelsey: Right. That’s where working with someone obviously comes in handy because they can kind of look at everything objectively, which I know is really hard when you’re like I just want to lose weight. I know I have clients kind of say this to me a lot where they’re like I just want to get started, but I know I shouldn’t so I’m really happy that you’re telling me I shouldn’t. But if it were just me, I would definitely have started already.

Laura: Yeah, it’s tough. I mean we just have so much societal pressure to look a certain way and there’s so much negative associations with someone who is overweight. Overweight people definitely get treated differently. That’s not in their head. They are being treated like either rude, they’re being treated more rudely by people around them, their doctors aren’t taking their health issues seriously. All that stuff definitely happens so I’m not downplaying the negative experience that an overweight person has in life at this current stage of the way our society operates. But on the other hand, being in a long term chronic dieting situation, and causing health problems because of it, and still not losing weight is definitely not a good way to live your life.

We’re not opposed to weight loss. We do obviously support good body image, but we also realize that for some people losing weight is actually a good idea for their health. We don’t want people to think that either that we think everyone should be thin or that we think nobody should lose weight. I feel like you and I are pretty in the middle there. But I just think it’s important to do it in a way that is supporting health. And so if you can’t do it and also be healthy, then it’s probably not a good idea to do it.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: All right. So hopefully that helps and hopefully that busted some myths about the metabolic damage concept. I hope people understand metabolic function a little bit better after this conversation.

If you have further questions you want to talk about whether it’s this topic or another topic related to health, make sure you go to TheAncestralRDs.com/contact and you can submit a question so that way we can actually answer your question on another show.

But in the meantime, I think, Kelsey, it’s your turn for some updates.


Laura: What have you been up to lately, Kelsey?

Kelsey: Gosh, it’s been a while since we last had an update on the podcast, other than yours last week.

Laura: My little whinge fest.

Kelsey: A lot has been going on for me. I guess my main thing that I’ve been doing lately is getting back into weight training after being in a car accident in June. Gosh, that’s a long time ago at this point. Honestly, I think I didn’t go to a great physical therapists at first. It kind of it just seemed like a bit of a racket where they’re just like collecting auto insurance payments and stuff.  I didn’t feel like I was being followed very well.

Honestly by the time I got to a good physical therapist, they told me this too and I kind of felt like I had waited probably too long to get back into regular training. So that kind of sucked just knowing that I was not going back to weight training as early as I wanted to first of all, and it probably wasn’t doing me any favors to wait that long either.

Not that it like made anything worse necessarily, but even my physical therapist was like, yeah, I mean I think you doing your regular movement and going back to the type of movement that you were doing before, albeit at a lower weights and kind of getting back into it easily of course, I think that probably would do you some good at this point. That was kind of a bummer to realize that I probably waited too long. I think that was around like the three month mark.

Laura: Well, too long, I think we should probably be clear that it’s not like it was too long and too late at that point. It just was delaying your recovery.

Kelsey: No, definitely not doing anything bad to me necessarily. But I’m sure you’ve probably had this kind of same experience where you put in all this work for a while and you feel like you’ve gained a lot of strength, and then you were in a car accident as well and then you have to take this big break, which just doesn’t feel great because you’re like I put all this work into this and I can feel myself losing strength and that’s not fun. So it was definitely more of a psychological thing than anything that was negatively impacting my actual body in recovery.

I think I’ve been at it now for a month or so. It’s kind of funny because I feel like when I was resting, not going back to working out, I was like I think I feel fine. Like I could easily go back to working out and I think I would do perfectly okay.

And then when I started going back, you just kind of notice your body acts differently now. Of course part of that is just not weight training for three months at that point. But there was definitely another part of it where it’s like I can feel that my body has been strained in a lot of ways.

So I’m doing things very, very carefully and like taking it super easy right now, which is also psychologically frustrating. I’m like I just want to be back to where I was. But obviously I know that this is the way to do it and I don’t want to injure myself further by any means. I definitely would have waited even longer if I thought injuring myself was even a possibility going back into this.

I love that I’m able to start it again and it feels so good to like move finally and be lifting some weights, even though they’re like little baby weights. I think it’s just it’s been a frustrating experience in many ways, but also makes me very grateful for like what my body is able to do even after being in a car accident, which is pretty amazing. I know you going through this process, too.

Laura: Well, the weird part is I didn’t do weight lifting like the way I’m doing it now until after my car accident.

Kelsey: Oh, yeah. That’s true.

Laura: I was an athlete and I was working out and stuff, but I wasn’t doing the kind of lifting that I’m doing now. On one hand, I definitely get like the backtracking can be really frustrating. For me the backtracking in my lifting ironically happened when I lost weight.

From when I started training through like the first maybe 8 to 10 months my weight was fairly stable. It was at least 20 pounds, maybe 20 to 25 pounds more than it is right now. I was making a lot of progress in my strength. I was probably leaning out, but like my weight wasn’t really changing.

I hit some PRs with my lifts that after I lost weight, which most of my weight loss was pretty unintentional. A lot of it happened when I first met my husband and I was like super…I don’t want to say stressed because stress isn’t the right word, but like just like….

Kelsey: Excited and happy.

Laura: Yeah, excited, like just all the hormones when you meet somebody like that. I had lost all my appetite. It wasn’t like I was like choosing to eat less. I would serve myself a plate of food and I wouldn’t be able to eat.

I ended up losing probably about 10 pounds in the first month when I met my husband. That was like a pretty significant drop. And then after that I think it was like over the next probably year up until my wedding that it was like trickling down until where I’m at now.

The funny thing with me is that some of the lifts that I am doing, I am still PRing on because things like my bench, for example, not really significantly affected by weight loss. But my deadlift is like, I think my max deadlift when I was at my highest weight was like to 260 or something. And now if I could pull like to 220 or 225, I’m like that’s a really good pull.

Sometimes it can be frustrating because it’s like certain things I’ve lost progress in because of the weight loss and because of like inconsistency in training in the last couple of months. But on the other hand, still making like progress compared to where I started.

I think what you were saying about having that car accident kind of disrupt your training, I’d be really curious to know if you recovered from your accident faster because you had been training as opposed to if you had just not been training and then after the accident was when you started.

Kelsey: That’s a really good question.

Laura: Obviously you’re at a higher level of strength than what you would have been, but I feel like that’s one of the benefits of strength training in the long term is because things happen. Like even if you’re not in a car accident, if you’re a woman if you have a baby at some point, like that’s a pretty traumatic event on your body.

Having that foundation of strength, even if even if you take a backslide because of something, which I think all of us go through at some point, you still have that foundation that your body is working from and getting back into it I think is a lot easier than if you weren’t doing it and then you tried to start.

I feel like even though the car accident thing totally sucks, I feel like you are in better shape post-accident than you would have been had you not been training.

Kelsey: Oh absolutely. My trainer and other people at my gym that have been through similar type of situations, they’re like oh my gosh. And they’ve maybe been through it in both scenarios where they maybe weren’t working out first, had some sort of issue, and then started weight training. And then once they were training had some kind of injury and came back from that and they say that like it comes back really quick, which I’m very happy to hear.

And honestly, having some periods of rest, albeit that’s more rest than I wanted to do, but I think that’s probably healthy in the grand scheme of things. Like you said, life happens and if you can be better prepared for those sort of kind of tragic and traumatic instances, there’s a lot to be said for that.

And so again that kind of goes back to it makes me think how awesome it is to be able to get to this point. Especially for me like coming from…I wasn’t injured before, but I didn’t feel good. I had like a lot of mold issues and just I wasn’t at a point where I could even think about exercising. So to be able to go from that to then exercising for like a full year plus, and really making a lot of gains in strength, and then backtracking a little bit and knowing that it should come back pretty quick, that makes me super grateful for like everything that my body can do.

Laura: Yeah. It’s kind of funny how last week I was talking about how I have a hard time seeing…not the future, but like looking past what’s going on right now and looking at the long term. I think a lot of people probably have a similar issue with remembering where they’ve come from.

I’m the same way. It’s really bad, actually. I feel like I tend to get very caught up in what’s happening right now. It’s funny because in some ways people are like live in the moment. It’s like okay, in some ways live in the moment, but in other ways remember…

Kelsey: Think about the big picture.

Laura: Right, like remember how much progress you’ve made. Remember the things that you’ve been able to do now that like you’ve been working on that stuff.  And then also realize that even with the setback, you will get back to where you were if you’re consistent.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s hard because it can be really frustrating to be like I put all this work in and now I’m like starting from scratch again. Like we said it’s not necessarily starting from scratch. And also like it’s stuff that is almost guaranteed to happen. You almost have to like expect and just acknowledge that there’s going to be times where you’re making PRs and you’re killing it. And then there’s going to be other times where you’re not and it’s okay.

I think just being able to be consistent and not get down on yourself about those hiccups is really important. And like you said, it can be hard because I mean you’re already probably not feeling great after a car accident anyway. I know for me, I had some mood changes that came from my concussion. It can be a little tough to feel hopeful, but I feel like once you start getting back into it, your body does remember things and it’s definitely better than starting from scratch.

Kelsey: Yeah, and it feels so good. It feels so good. It feels so nice to like move your body again. Oh my gosh, I can’t even like…I’m not one of those people that like has been an athlete my whole life and all that kind of a deal. So I feel like there’s been many times in my life where I haven’t done a whole lot of movement for a long time. But now that I’ve been consistent about it for a long time, man, it feels good to be back!

Laura: I know. I honestly feel like with my current work schedule, that that’s the thing that annoys me the most is like…that plus my dog being injured, I’m like I work out twice a week and then most of the other days I just I’m not doing anything.

We’ve also had some really weird weather here where it’s been really hot and muggy, oddly for October, which October’s normally beautiful. So I feel like just when I go on these walks or if I do some movement and my body’s like creaking and cracking, I’m like I feel like that’s the main thing I’m looking forward to when my work chills out. I would love to be more active like just on a daily basis even if it’s just walking, or going on a hike, or something like that. It’s amazing how much better our bodies feel when we’re using them.

Kelsey: Oh yeah. It’s crazy. Well, I’ll leave it there for now. I know we had kind of a longer episode. But I’ll hopefully start posting a little bit more about my work outs and stuff on Instagram and all that. I have just have not been doing so because it’s so boring looking. You have these tiny little weights on my barbell and nothing interesting is happening. But I know that there’s something to be learned from that process, too.

Laura: I think it’s good to share that stuff because no matter where you’re at, somebody is going to think you’re doing something awesome and somebody is going to think you’re doing something that’s like dumb.

Kelsey: True.

Laura: There’s women that can bench press like double their body weight. I don’t think I’m ever going to get to that point. But it’s like if I was always looking at them and being like I suck because I can only bench press like not even my body weight. And there’s people who if they could bench press a barbell without any weight on it, they would be stoked.

I just think we need more people sharing some of that boring exercise because if the only people sharing stuff are the ones doing like spectacular things, then it’s going to discourage people and make them feel like they can’t even get started. But if you show them where you’re at and you say like hey, I might have been stronger before, but I’m getting back into it and this is the process that I’m going through, I feel like that would actually be really helpful to a lot of people.

Kelsey: Yeah. Plus I feel like we’ve talked about this before, but just the consistency piece is so important. And like yeah, it’s kind of boring in the sense that I’ll post the same thing a few times a week because that’s what I’m doing essentially, but it shows people, okay, this person is going a few times a week, this is what they’re doing, that’s what a consistent workout schedule looks like for this person. I think that can be inspiring.

I know I’ve been enjoying your Instagram workout videos and stuff, so I think I’ll have to get back into the swing of posting about my workouts, too.

Laura: Yeah. I feel like there’s all this pressure in social media to be exciting and like just have that wow factor. I post my food and my workouts and I’m like this is kind of boring. Like steak, and sweet potato, and green beans, not a very exciting dinner.

But for a lot of people, if they’re constantly being exposed to someone that’s doing like six days a week of crazy CrossFit training and we’re seeing this like perfectly lit Paleo diet with beautiful photography, it’s just like…I don’t know. I mean I’m not downgrading the people that do that and I think good for them if that’s what they are able to do in their lives or that’s what they’re passionate about. But I think for the majority of us, that’s not accessible or possible.

So we need to have more of that influence of people like you and me who yes, we have the knowledge to do things correctly, but A- sometimes we choose to do things that are not 100 percent health oriented. And then B- we don’t have time to be doing everything perfectly so we’re making the best that we can out of our situation. You get into a car accident and you’re recovering from that and you’re not going to be training at a level that somebody who’s been training for 10 years and that’s all they do is going to be training at.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I feel like having that authenticity and transparency, even though in our heads it’s like who cares about this? Why am I posting this? Like this is stupid that I’m posting a photo of my meal. It can seem a little weird and like self-indulgent. But I feel like in your and my case, it’s actually helping people realize that they can be healthy and take care of their bodies in a way that’s manageable with the rest of their lives.

Kelsey: Right, exactly. Alright, I’ve got to get back into it.

Laura: Yes, you should. I encourage you. So my goal for the next month is to chill the f out, and your goal for the next month is to start sharing your recovery more with people.

Kelsey: We’ve both got goals. That’s good.

Laura: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining us, everybody. We will be back next week with some more helpful information. We will see you around next time!

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.

PODCAST: Phytic Acid In Brown Rice: A Reason For Concern?

Thanks for joining us for episode 129 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are answering following question from a listener:

“Laura and Kelsey, I love your podcast! A quick question: I follow a primarily Paleo/whole foods diet. Recently I added more carbohydrates to my diet, specifically in the form of rice to my evening meal. It has overall been a positive addition. My energy levels and sleep quality have improved and I’ve noticed less need for nighttime urination. Hooray! I was inspired after I heard about vasopressin from Chris Masterjohn on your show that he had a client who had a strong need to urinate at night.

For years before I learned about Paleo or ancestral eating patterns, I understood brown rice to be more nutritious than white rice and therefore would always choose brown over white rice. Can you share your understanding about which type of rice, brown or white, is beneficial for us to eat and why? Thanks for your response.”

There’s two sides of the brown rice vs. white rice debate. On one side, conventional nutrition theory says brown rice is best because it contains all the nutrients. The other side which characterizes the Paleo school of thought says white rice is best because it doesn’t contain phytic acid that blocks nutrient absorption.

Today we’re talking about rice and sorting through the misunderstanding and fear surrounding phytic acid (a.k.a phytate). Listen as we clarify the sometimes misunderstood effect phytic acid has on mineral absorption, which foods contain phytates, and how phytates can actually have positive health effects.

You’ll be able to decide if brown or white rice is best for you as we explain who should be more cautious with the amount of phytic acid in their diet and even touch on the subject of arsenic content in brown rice. You’ll even hear how to reduce phytic acid content in brown rice. Be sure to join us!

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • [00:05:47] Definition of phytic acid and it’s effect on mineral absorption
  • [00:11:03] How phytic acid is found in many foods besides grains and legumes
  • [00:13:14] The positive effects of phytic acid and why the fear of phytic acid containing foods is largely unwarranted
  • [00:20:50] Things you can do to lower phytic acid content in brown rice
  • [00:29:43] How those with digestive concerns may want to either eat white rice or properly prepare brown rice
  • [00:31:28] The people who should be watchful of the amount of phytic acid they are consuming
  • [00:33:25] The concern about arsenic in brown rice products

Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to episode 129 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my cohost Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody!

Kelsey: We are Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence-based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com, and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.

Over the next 30 to 45 minutes we’ll be answering your questions about health and nutrition, and providing our insights into solving your health challenges with practical tips and real food. Stick around until the end of the show where we’ll be discussing some updates about our businesses and personal lives.

Laura: If you are enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that way you never miss an episode. And while you’re there, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well. And remember we want to answer your questions about health and nutrition, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a question that we can answer on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: We’re going to be discussing phytates in your food and whether you should be eating white or brown rice for maximum nutrition. But before we get into our question for today, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Kelsey: Welcome back, everyone! Here’s our question for today’s show:

“Laura and Kelsey, I love your podcast! A quick question: I follow a primarily Paleo/whole foods diet. Recently I added more carbohydrates to my diet, specifically in the form of rice to my evening meal. It has overall been a positive addition. My energy levels and sleep quality have improved and I’ve noticed less need for nighttime urination. Hooray! I was inspired after I heard about vasopressin from Chris Masterjohn on your show that he had a client who had a strong need to urinate at night.

For years before I learned about Paleo or ancestral eating patterns, I understood brown rice to be more nutritious than white rice and therefore would always choose brown over white rice. Can you share your understanding about which type of rice, brown or white, is beneficial for us to eat and why? Thanks for your response.”

Kelsey: First of all, awesome to hear that this addition of rice has been a positive thing for you! Laura, I’m sure you as well as me, we’ve seen this happen time and time again within our own clients where something as simple as just adding a little bit of rice to their nighttime meal or in the morning or something makes a really big difference for somebody overall.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. I feel like rice is one of those super easy carbs and a lot of people tolerate it pretty well, so often a food that I have my clients adding in.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think this question about brown or white rice is actually a really interesting one because I feel like for a lot of the questions that we get about nutrition, there’s some amount of research behind stuff, but nutrition is an interesting science to say the least in that there’s a lot of problems with nutrition science. But there’s actually been quite a bit of research on the best kind of rice to eat for maximum nutrient absorption because lot of cultures around the world consume rice as one of their main staples for their diet.

So researchers have wanted to find out if there’s anything that they can do especially for people in developing nations where rice might be one of the only things that they’re eating. They’re not eating a varied diet that has a lot of nutrition overall and they’re getting a good portion of their nutrition from rice, and so then the absorption of nutrients from rice becomes very, very important.

It’s kind of cool that we actually have quite a bit of research to pull from for this question. I know this is something that’s talked a lot about in especially the Paleo and ancestral communities, and even like Weston A. Price communities.

We’re all concerned about nutrient absorption obviously, but specifically with rice it comes down to this idea about phytic acid. Phytic acid prevents the absorption of nutrients, especially minerals like iron and zinc, and to a lesser degree calcium, but still calcium as well.

You may have heard of phytic acid or phytates called anti-nutrients before. This is pretty common especially when you’re getting started with a Paleo or ancestral type diet. In a lot of the books that you’ll read or the blogs that you’ll read you’ll hear that you should avoid grains in particular because they’re high in anti-nutrients. That’s really what this is referring to, that term anti-nutrient. Or at least one of the anti-nutrients that that is referring to is phytic acid.

Laura, I’d be curious to hear what you hear from your patients about this because I know at least for me, I think there’s a lot of confusion with my clients about how phytates actually work in that many of my clients tend to think that when you’re consuming phytates in your meal anytime during the day, it’s like pulling from your own nutrient store. So it’s not blocking absorption of minerals that you’re eating, it’s like actually depleting your own nutrient stores. Have you ever heard that from your clients before?

Laura: I think so. I feel like it’s confusing because the phytate argument has to do with the long term effects of mineral depletion and so it gives this impression that like it’s actually removing minerals from your storage. But it’s definitely more of an issue where you’re just not absorbing all the minerals in your food because of the phytates and then you eventually develop a deficiency because of that.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. Just to clarify exactly what Laura just said is that when you’re eating phytates in a meal, so let’s say you are eating brown rice. Brown rice contains some phytates. That essentially is blocking the absorption of minerals like iron, and zinc, and calcium from the food that you’re eating within that meal.

So it’s not pulling anything from your own stores of nutrients. It’s just blocking your own absorption of the nutrients that you’re consuming at that particular time that you’re also eating phytates. Even if you ate something in the morning that was really high in iron, or zinc, or something, but then you ate some rice later in the day, that does not block those nutrients from entering your system. It just has to be consumed at the same time that you’re eating foods high in those minerals.

I hope that clarifies that a little bit. I know for me I get a lot of questions about that from my clients and they want to make sure that they’re not depleting their stores of these kinds of minerals when they’re eating some of these things that are higher in the phytic acid.

One thing I think is important to remember with the phytates in food is that for the most part something like rice with the phytates in it, it’s going to mostly bind to the nutrients in the rice. I know you’re going to talk about this, but it would have to be free phytic acid that’s binding to minerals from other foods. That might happen a little bit, but in most research I would say that it’s not showing a ton of nutrient deficiencies if your food in general is high minerals.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: If you’re eating right like a steak or something, it might have a tiny bit of reduction in your iron intake, but it’s not that big of a deal. Whereas if you’re eating like a plant based form of iron that also has a lot of phytic acid it in that plant, then that’s probably going to be a bigger issue.

I feel like in the sense of a Paleo diet where you’re eating meats and stuff, usually you’re not going to have enough of an impact from phytates in food to actually get even like a significant amount of the nutrients from those other foods into it.

Kelsey: Totally. And again that’s sort of why it is something that researchers look at for developing nations where people are consuming rice as one of the main foods that they’re eating.

Laura: Exactly.

Kelsey: They might be eating rice and like one other food as the basis of their entire diet. That’s where it becomes way more important that we think about phytates, whereas like you’re mentioning here in the context of a Paleo diet or an ancestral diet, you’re eating meats, you’re getting these minerals elsewhere and it’s really, really easy for you to kind of overcome even a fairly high phytic acid intake.

Let’s talk a little bit about where you get phytic acid because I think this is a problem I see in the Paleo community specifically is that we hear about phytates and anti-nutrients as being a problem with things like grains and legumes, but they’re actually also present in pretty high amounts in seeds and nuts as well. But we kind of conveniently forget that part when we’re talking in a Paleo context because as I’m sure most of you know, nuts and seeds are highly recommended on a Paleo diet and often people are eating large amounts of these. I’m happy to see that that’s becoming less and less of a thing lately. People like Chris Kresser are saying only eat a handful of nuts a day and kind of putting limits on that.

But I know at least for myself when I first started eating Paleo, I mean I ate so many nuts it was ridiculous. I’m sure my phytate intake was way, way higher than it was prior to starting Paleo. And I think Laura, you’ve kind of said that in the past, too, like you ate a lot of nuts when you started Paleo, too.

Laura: Yeah, it’s kind of funny to think back at that time of my nutritional approach because that was gosh, what is it, 2017? That was probably like six years ago. Oh my gosh, I’m so old. It’s just funny to think back. I used to have this like gallon sized bag of mixed nuts that I used to eat from and I’m like man, I think I don’t even have nuts in my pantry at this point.

Kelsey: Yeah, same. That is kind of funny to think back on. Phytic acid is present in a lot of different foods and it’s also really variable within those foods. Like you can have almonds that some of them contain like 40 percent phytic acid and some of them contain 5 percent. So they range a lot in their phytic acid content.

It’s hard to really know exactly how much you’re getting, first of all. But also we tend to hear at least in the Paleo world that phytic acid is really a negative thing and we tend not to hear the positives about phytates.

Phytates are actually pretty strong antioxidants and they’ve actually been shown to prevent cancer as well as kidney stones. They’ve actually got quite a bit of good things going for them, but we don’t really hear about that in the Paleo world, and not really even in like the ancestral or Weston A. Price world either. I think we tend to really focus on the nutrient absorption piece of it and we don’t hear about those benefits.

Point being is that we don’t necessarily want to avoid phytates completely. That would be pretty hard to do, first of all. But they do have beneficial effects, so we want those benefits, obviously. And also avoiding phytates completely or even significantly would mean avoiding otherwise really healthy foods like nuts, and seeds, and legumes, or changing them a lot or processing them in a way that for a lot of people is very time consuming.

Not that there’s anything wrong with processing them in a way that helps or reduce phytic acid content. We’ll talk about that a little bit more later. But if you really wanted to take out phytates completely, it would be pretty impossible unless you’re taking out all of these foods.

Laura: Plant foods in general.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Leafy greens. You basically wouldn’t be able to eat any plants.

Kelsey: Exactly. I find that people tend to think like phytic acid, and phytates, anti-nutrients; they’re terrible, we don’t want to eat them at all. When in reality as usual, it’s very nuanced and it’s not necessarily a 100 percent good thing or a 100 percent bad thing. It’s kind of somewhere in the middle as with a lot of things in nutrition.

It’s not bad to eat phytic acid or to consume that in your diet. And in fact, like I said, there’s a lot of benefits that you can get from phytates, but we don’t tend to hear about it and we tend to focus mostly on the negative stuff.

Then there comes the issue where, at least when it comes to nutrient absorption, this is where I have like a bigger problem with how this is portrayed in the Paleo and ancestral health world. Because for people who are eating a balanced diet and they’re not high risk for deficiencies like iron and zinc, consuming phytates with your meals; not a huge deal.

Like we’ve been talking about, it really just becomes very important for somebody who is getting a huge percentage of their diet from things that tend to be very high in phytates, or not even very high, but at least you know it’s blocking a good percentage of those nutrients that they would otherwise be getting from that food.

So again, that’s why researchers have been studying things like rice and how to reduce phytate content, and how much zinc and iron are in rice, and how we can get that to be more bioavailable for people. It’s really because there’s people out there who that’s maybe 80 percent of their diet and so it becomes very, very important for them that they’re absorbing those nutrients because otherwise they’re very nutrient deficient. That’s why we care in the research sense.

When we get all hung up on phytates, and anti-nutrients, and things without taking into context our food environment, and how we eat, and the fact that we compared to a lot of people have pretty varied, balanced, nutrient rich diet, I have a problem with that because it makes people fearful of things that are otherwise healthy.

I’m sure, Laura, you’ve had this experience, too, in your own practice where people honestly are scared of eating things that have “anti-nutrients” and they feel like they’re being “bad” when they’re eating those kinds of foods.

Laura: Yeah, I mean it’s not the most common thing as far as what people would be afraid of, but I feel like there is that just underlying belief that they are things to be avoided. Honestly I feel like it’s a pretty incomplete understanding of what foods even contain phytates. It’s just all sorts of inaccuracies when it comes to that.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. When we’re thinking about phytic acid content in our food, for those of us who are eating a well-balanced diet, and we’re getting a lot of different types of food in our diet, and especially if we’re eating meat, like Laura mentioned before, meat is high in both iron and zinc.

So that really helps to prevent us being deficient in those minerals. Phytic acid intake for us if we’re eating meats and a varied diet in terms of other plant foods becomes way, way less important and you’re not really going to get much if any detrimental effects from consuming some foods that are high in phytic acid in that context.

And in fact, in that context really we’re going to start talking more about those benefits that we see where people are eating phytates because now we don’t have to worry about those nutrient deficiency risks that other people who are consuming way more rice or other grains, or nuts and seeds as the majority of their diet that they are worried about.

We actually kind of get the best of both worlds, honestly, because we don’t have to worry about being nutrient deficient in those minerals, but then we also get the benefits of consuming phytates. So again, that’s antioxidant cancer prevention and kidney stone prevention. All good, all pretty good things, I would say.

If you’re somebody who is eating meat, that’s probably the most important thing I would say, if you’re consuming meat and you tend to eat a pretty varied diet…and I say that was like really loose definitions here because I know Laura and I always talk about eating a really varied diet and how nutrient diversity is very important. And absolutely it is, but in this context it’s more just that you’re not getting like 80 percent of your nutrients from things like greens or nuts and seeds. If you’re just eating even like a standard American diet I would say, and you’re eating meat, you’re probably not at risk for phytates being a huge problem in your diet.

Now of course you could do a lot better if you’re eating a standard American diet and you’re probably going to eat less phytates kind of getting on to a more Paleo or ancestral diet. But the point being is that you really don’t have to worry that much about your phytate content.

But you can do some things to help lower your phytic acid intake. And again, this is not a huge deal. If you’re eating meat, if you’re eating a varied Paleo or ancestral diet, to be honest you don’t have to worry that much about it.  Like if I have a client who doesn’t really want to prepare brown rice in a proper way according to like Weston A Price type…when I say proper preparation, that’s sort of what I’m referring to…and they’re only eating it occasionally, not a big deal. I’m not going to make that a big deal in their life to really make them start to incorporate that process for something that they’re only eating once in a while.

If you’re like going out to eat every once in a while and you prefer the taste of brown rice over white rice, sure, have the brown rice. Don’t worry too much about it. Overall your diet is great and a little bit of extra phytic acid every once in a while is not a big deal at all.

But if you’re cooking at home and it’s not a big deal to add some steps to help reduce your phytic acid intake, I think that can be a good idea. The first option of course is to use white rice. The reason white rice has less phytic acid is because you’re getting rid of that outer layer of rice and that’s where the phytic acid is stored.

You don’t really need to do anything special with white rice and that’s why it’s the easiest option of course because you can just cook it as normal. You don’t need to do any soaking, or fermenting, or anything like that to help reduce the phytic acid content. For most people obviously that’s super easy and because you don’t have to do anything extra to it, that’s what a lot of my clients end up choosing. I work with gut health clients, too, so that’s another reason why we tend to move more towards white rice just because it also tends to be more tolerable for them. So that’s a really good option.

If you’re not eating rice in general to get nutrients, so meaning if the rest of your diet is very nutrient rich and you don’t need the nutrients in white rice to help bring up your nutrient content of your diet, then you really don’t need to worry about getting those extra nutrients that you would get from brown rice.

That’s the benefit of brown rice is that you’re going to get a little bit more nutrition from that. But the caveat here is that you have to make that nutrition bioavailable. That means that we have to try to get rid of the phytic acid that brown rice contains in its outer layer so that you can then absorb the nutrients that it contains.

I was looking at a lot of different research just kind of looking at like soaking and fermenting and what the best option is to get rid of the most phytic acid content possible. And it was kind of funny because I was looking in Google Scholar and PubMed and was reading this article, and then I was doing a little Googling just to see what our Paleo and ancestral peers kind of had to say about this. I actually found an article that Stephan Guyenet wrote in 2009 about this scientific article that I was reading in which he had actually contacted the study of article writer and director and asked him for specific directions on how they actually soaked the brown rice to get rid of I think it was 96 percent of the phytic acid content. That’s pretty darn good. If you can get rid of 96 percent of the phytic acid content, obviously you’re going to be absorbing quite a bit of the nutrition that’s contained in that brown rice.

The method that he got from that study author was to take brown rice and soak it in dechlorinated water for 24 hours at room temperature. And then what you do from there is you reserve about 10 percent of that liquid that you soaked the rice in and you save that for the next time you make brown rice.

So the first time you do this, your rice is not going to have a whole lot of its phytic acid content reduced because you’re basically just soaking it for 24 hours, which does something to reduce the fiery acid content, but not major.

But then the next time you make brown rice, you take that 10 percent of the reserved liquid that you kept before and you add that to your soaking liquid. So again you’re going to soak it for 24 hours at room temperature with 10 percent of the previous soaking liquid and 90 percent new dechlorinated water. And then you basically just keep doing that process. Once you take that water out of your soaked rice, you save 10 percent of it. You use that the next time that you make rice and so on, and so forth.

Basically over time that process gets better and better at removing phytic acid content. After a little while you get up to that 96 percent of fighting acid removal when you’re using this reserved liquid to help break that fight it gas it down.

The reason that they think that this works is because first of all you’re kind of fermenting the liquid when you use the reserved liquid and that helps to lower the pH. The lower the pH, the better you can break down phytic acid. Then also because it’s fermented, you’re getting microorganisms that can help to degrade phytase taste as well.

Basically by the end of this process once you’ve done this a few times to kind of buildup that fermentation potential, you’re going to be able to get rid of almost 100 percent of the phytic acid contained in brown rice.

At the end of the day I would say you don’t have to worry about fighting acid really unless you’re somebody…let’s say you’re a vegan who you’re not eating meat, obviously, so you are going to tend to be more at risk for things like iron deficiency and zinc deficiency. Then you’re going to want to pay a lot more attention to phytic acid content and you’re going to want to either eat white rice, or I would say in that particular scenario I would recommend that you do the brown rice, but you properly prepare it so that you’re absorbing the maximum nutrition that you can from that brown rice.

But if you’re not a vegan and you’re eating meat, you’re eating a varied diet otherwise, you’re not going to be really at risk for iron deficiency or zinc deficiency unless you have other things going on. In that case you can do either of these, so whichever one you prefer. Like if you just like the taste of brown rice better than white rice, you can certainly do that process. I know for me I actually like the taste of white rice better, so that’s what I tend to use because it’s not something I’m really eating all that often anyway and so I’d rather just eat what tastes good. What about you, Laura?

Laura: Honestly when I was listening to you describe that method, I’m just like, yeah I’m sticking with the white rice. Even if I liked the taste of brown rice better, I wouldn’t be bothering with that. It’s like way too much work.

Kelsey: That’s what most people think, too. I mean I have a lot of clients that they get really into this stuff. I know I was like very into properly preparing things when I kind of first got into Weston A. Price and stuff, but eventually life takes over a little bit I think and you’re like I don’t have time for that.

Laura: Yeah, seriously.

Kelsey: It’s just too much to bother with. I agree. Even though it doesn’t sound that hard, I just know that every time I go to cook rice, I’m not going to want to do that whole process.

Laura: Yeah. And I mean like we were saying before, the amount of phytic acid in the rice could be negligible.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: And if you’re getting minerals from other foods….I think that kind of process might be better for people who don’t digest the rice well whereas if you’re just concerned about phytic acid, it’s definitely not worth it in my opinion.

Kelsey: Yeah, and I would say just because you brought up digestion here, that’s another group of people that I would be thinking more about phytic acid with because those people with major gut issues, they’re generally not going to be absorbing their nutrition very well in the first place as we’re like dealing with these major gut issues and getting them to a point where their gut is healed and is able to absorb all the nutrition that they’re eating in their food.

That’s another group of people that I would want to reduce their phytic acid intake as much as we can within reason because I’m not really worried about them getting the benefits of phytic acid in that case. I’m more worried about preventing nutrient deficiencies. Especially for something like zinc which is really important for gut health, I want them to be getting as much zinc from their food as they possibly can.

Like I was saying before, most people with gut health problems are going to tolerate white rice a bit better than brown rice even if it’s soaked and everything a bit better. I tend to just recommend white rice first of all obviously just because it’s easier, and then second of all because again it tends to be more tolerable for people with gut health issues. If you are somebody with major gut issues, I’d say you want to pay a little bit more attention to this as well at least until you’ve healed. And once you heal and you feel like you’ve repleated all of your nutrient stores, you’re pretty much back to normal, you’re 100 percent, then in that case at that point you can be less concerned about your phytic acid intake.

Let’s just kind of overview the people who should be thinking more about phytic acid content and making sure that they’re not overdoing it in that sense. I think really my main group would be vegans with vegetarians as less of a concern, but still something you at least want to think about and kind of go through your diet and say okay, where am I getting iron? Where am I getting zinc? Where am I getting calcium? And if I’m not getting a whole lot of those nutrients, then yeah, maybe I want to be a little bit more concerned about how much phytic acid I am consuming.

And then like I was just talking about people with health issues. Any other groups you’d add to that, Laura?

Laura: I don’t think so. Like I said, I feel like some of this stuff can be a little over the top and the things that solve the problem are generally a lot easier when it…I’m just trying to think of how to describe this…like if you’re eating a varied diet. And again with the GI stuff, obviously that’s going to make an impact on a lot of different foods that they’re choosing and it goes way beyond just like phytate, and rice, and stuff. But sometimes I think the people that are needing to worry more about this stuff are people that actually would be better off making other changes to their diet, if that makes sense.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I tend to not get super into this with my clients because honestly if somebody has a mineral deficiency because they’re eating too much phytate…

Kelsey: You’ve got bigger issues, basically.

Laura: Right. So that’s why I’m like I think it’s good to answer this question because I know a lot of people are wondering about it and there’s a lot of information on the Internet about why you might want to do different types of rice. I think one thing one thing about brown rice that we didn’t really talk about is the arsenic content of brown rice over white. So that would be another reason why even if you can reduce the phytic acid in brown rice that you might not want to be doing brown rice over white.

Kelsey: Did Chris Kresser have an article about the arsenic content in rice? Because maybe we can link to that. It’s my brain somewhere.

Laura: Yeah, he definitely did. Let me just see if I can find his article because I think his article talks about when you should be worried and when you shouldn’t. Let me just see. I think white rice in general was okay. I know that he didn’t really suggest most people to eat brown rice anyway regardless of the arsenic content.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: He has a link to a PDF in that article talking about different brown rice brands and which ones have more or less of arsenic. I believe part of the problem is where the brown rice is grown. Different countries will have different arsenic content.

Of course there’s going to be arsenic in a lot of things. Like water and stuff is going to have…like tap water I should say is potentially going to have arsenic in it. So it’s not that you’re going to 100 percent avoid arsenic in all areas of your life, but there is some potential concern for certain types of brown rice products that are a little bit higher in arsenic.

We can definitely link to that article in the show notes and that way people can check it out and just see if there’s any brown rice products that they might be using more consistently and go for the brands that are lower in arsenic.

But that would be another thing that as far as brown rice goes that I’m not super fond about it for. I personally brown rice occasionally like if I’m at a restaurant and they have brown rice as part of the dish. I’ve had brown rice that tastes good. I personally like it when it’s sprouted. I think it tastes better when it’s sprouted. I’ve had those before and I think they taste fine. I’ve definitely eaten brown rice before and recently even knowing what I know about brown rice. But at the end of the day it’s just one of those things that there really is no benefit other than the potential flavor. And even in that situation, it’s like okay, is it really that much more tasty that you would eat that versus white rice?

Like I said, I’m glad we are discussing it because there is so much confusion about it and there’s just that general conventional nutrition belief that brown rice is better. There’s a lot of like misunderstanding in the average person when it comes to rice products. But hopefully this podcast answered some of those questions. At the end of the day like I was saying, if somebody is mineral deficient, then the rice that they’re choosing is probably not their biggest concern.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a really, really good point because we tend to just get caught up in the minutia of a lot of things. I think especially our audience, we have a lot of people who have a history of orthorexia and things like that where they will get really caught up in these kinds of issues without looking at the bigger picture and seeing if there’s something else that’s kind of a bigger issue that they should be focusing on. I think this is a perfect example of that.

It’s not super common that I see people get really, really concerned about phytates, but I definitely have people who come to me and just be like I don’t eat rice at all or any grains because of the phytate content and I’m worried about depleting my nutrients when maybe they’ve been a vegan for 10 years and like that’s the bigger issue here.

Laura: Definitely.

Kelsey: Cool. I think that’s about it in terms of what I have to say unless you have anything else to add, Laura. I think we can jump into our updates for this episode.

Laura: Yeah, I’m all set with the rice conversation and can definitely give our updates for today.


Kelsey: Laura, how’s it been going lately? I know you’ve been working on your program like nonstop lately.

Laura: Yes. This past couple of weeks has just been a little crazy. I feel this year in general has been a little crazy. I was so excited after the wedding thinking the wedding was going to be like my big stress moment for the year. I think I had like maybe a month of… I don’t even know, would we even consider that chill? I’m trying to think. This year has just been ridiculous.

The last couple of weeks have gotten a little out of hand because I have the “Get Your Period Back” launch, which I think by the time this episode comes out I’m going to be like two weeks away from the course ending again. We’re in module four or five? No, four. Four out to six the week this comes out.

It’s going well so far. I feel like the nutrition component has been released yesterday that a lot of people have gone through it. It’s funny that there’s a lot of people that are learning things that are what would seem to you and I kind of basic, but I think it’s something that people aren’t even aware of, which is why we create these kind of online programs. Because it’s like there are so many basic things that can be going wrong, but if you don’t know what it is, then you’re actually just kind of doing the same thing over and over that’s not working, It can be really easy to fix things if you’re made aware of what’s going on. But obviously you have to be made aware first. I think the information has been helpful.

It’s funny because with the course creation, I feel like the hardest part is the actual production of the videos and stuff whereas the information development is like not as hard because I know what I want to say and I know what people need to learn.

So it’s just funny with online courses because on one hand you create them as a practitioner so that way you can provide information to a greater variety of people at a lower price point, that kind of thing, and they can be really helpful for a lot of people to go through these group programs. But I was just realizing I guess it was yesterday or something because I was working on some of the content that so much of the work in creating these programs actually goes into the production and not the information.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s funny because I feel like when you work one on one with people you’re providing the same information, or maybe it’s a little bit customized, but you’re talking. I mean it’s kind of like what we’re doing right now. We’re just talking. We do prep for our podcast, but at the end of the day like we’re just talking. We don’t have to create like visuals and stuff like that.

I know you hired someone to do the visuals for a lot of your “Build Your Biome” course, which in hindsight I’m like that might have been a nice thing to do. But just with the timeline of the launch and everything, I’m trying to launch it before everything was done, I basically had to do it myself. Finding someone to create it would have been kind of almost more work. Well, maybe it would have been more than creating it myself.

Kelsey: It felt like it was going to be more work.

Laura: Yeah. It’s just hard to find someone that is going to give you exactly what you want. I’m a control freak which is probably one of the problems in my life is that I like don’t trust anyone else to do what I need to do, so I end up doing it all myself and then exhausting myself.

It’s just a funny kind of couple of weeks where I have the program that I’m creating. So it’s in process, but I’m still creating content for it, which is a new thing for me. The benefit of it doing it that way is that I can get feedback from the participants and then create content that is aligned with what they’re looking for as opposed to it just being like fully done and then they’re doing it. But on the other hand, it obviously puts a level of strain on me to make sure all the content is created by the time the modules release.

Definitely a little bit of a stressful decision that I made and we’ll see how I feel at the end of November when this is all done.

Kelsey: When you’re done, you’re done. It’s a great feeling regardless of how you do it.

Laura: I’m not a distance runner, but I imagine this is like running a marathon where you are in mile 5 and you’re like, oh my gosh, why did I sign up for this? And then you get to the end and you’re like, oh I feel so great that I finished!

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s funny because…well it’s not really funny. It’s just I feel like when it rains, it pours because my dog a couple weeks ago tore his like dog version of the ACL.

Kelsey: Poor guy!

Laura: I know. And the funny thing is like he didn’t really seem to care that much other than just not using that leg. He was just walking around on three legs for the last couple of weeks. So I had to take him to a surgical consult and it turned out that the ligament was fully detached and they had to do this like really crazy surgery. It’s called a TPLO, which I think stands for tibial…gosh what does the P stand for? I feel like it’s like protuberance or something. I can look it up really quick. Oh I’m sorry, not protuberance, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy.

Basically the tibial plateau is like the top of the tibia. Basically you know how your joint, like your two bones will kind of like stack on each other? So dogs have that, it’s just in a different angle. Ours is straight up and down whereas a dog is kind of like… I don’t know, maybe a 90 degree angle or something, like less than 90 degrees. The bones kind of stack there. But the CCL ligament has to keep them from shifting. If the CCL ligament is not there, then the top bone, basically the femur can just slide and it slides back and forth. It can hurt and it can cause like rupture to the bursa between the joint and everything like that. It can cause pain, inflammation, but also just instability in the joint that usually will freak the dog out and he won’t put his weight on it.

And so they had to do this whole thing where they actually like cut the top of the bone off, like fully detached it in this arched kind of cut and then like rotated it so that way the angle of the tibial plateau changed so that the femur rested on it and couldn’t slide. And then they put a plate in there to stabilize it and then eventually the bone kind of grafts itself together.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: It’s crazy. I was thinking when they said CCL surgery that they would just be like reattaching the ligament, but it turns out that’s not a very effective way to repair this issue.

Kelsey: I saw your Instagram photo of his poor little leg.

Laura: I know. He’s got all this like fluid at the bottom so he’s got like the biggest canckle you’ve ever seen in your life right now. It’s like super red and he’s not allowed to lick it so sometimes I have to put this cone, which I feel like for him the cone is the most traumatic part of the whole thing. He can’t walk. I have to kind of like just lead him outside. I used to have to use a sling to carry his back end to make sure he wasn’t tripping or falling or anything. Now I think he’s a little bit more stable so I haven’t been using it.

But oh my gosh, there’s like eight medications I have to do. It’s like the timing and the expense has been really poor timing. I mean luckily, and this is like a disclaimer to anyone that has a pet mostly a dog, I don’t think cats really are at as much risk for this. But any pet at all that you feel like you wouldn’t want to just like put down if they had a serious issue. Get pet insurance because I have it, I pay like someone in the 30 to 40 a month range. I can’t necessarily confirm this, but I’m pretty sure the insurance is going to cover a large like maybe 80 percent of the cost of the surgery.

Kelsey: I mean I only have a cat now. But my cat that passed away last year she like ended up getting really sick and like needed medication and stuff like that. It adds up. Obviously a surgery is going to be way more than that. But like even that to me, I wished I had pet insurance at that point. When we got our new cat I was like all right we’re getting pet insurance for sure.

Laura: Oh, so you have it, too. Yeah, it’s one of those like hindsight is 20/20 experiences. Luckily with my last dog my parents funded any of the like major medical treatment that she needed, which in some ways was like less than Levi. Levi is only like three years old. But when my when I first got the dog, my vet encouraged me to get the insurance. I was really glad that I did because I think it’s going to like I said cover the majority of the surgery and there’s a chance in these kind of situations that the dog may need this exact surgery on the other knee at some point.

It’s just like oh my gosh, this poor dog. I just don’t understand how he like has these problems. But it’s just been kind of an emotionally and just like mentally stressful experience because obviously I don’t like seeing him in pain, or sick, or dealing with like the medication. I have this whole like medication schedule written out and it’s just a lot of things going on.

It’s funny because like I said, I was so excited for the post-wedding experience because my husband moved in with me and the wedding planning was done. I was like our stress levels are going to be so low. I’m like why don’t I feel more stressed right now than I did before the wedding? It’s funny because I feel like I’m handling it okay, but I can definitely see how some of the stuff is affecting me health wise.

I just noticed the other day Josh and I went out for a walk and I was like can we just like pretend like we’re walking the dog and go walk somewhere because I hadn’t really been walking. I’ve been on the computer so much this week and I started to notice this hip discomfort that I’ve had in the past. Basically it was right after my car accident when I was pretty much like laying on the couch all the time for a couple of months. I was having this discomfort in I think it was like my left hip. I can’t remember this second. But essentially if I would take longer walks, I would start to get this just somewhat of a pain in my hip. I recognize it as the same pain I was getting when I was in that post car accident situation.

I’m like I bet this is because I haven’t really been walking in the last, I don’t know probably six weeks because of the dog being injured. So now I have to figure out if, I’m like am I going to just like take walks by myself? I guess I have to. I guess I should practice what I preach. But it’s like having a dog makes it so much more just intuitive whereas right now I’m like oh I have to like go on a walk to make sure I’m not just sitting all day.

I tend to be prone to anxiety and if I’m like stressed, and working nonstop, and that kind of thing, it’ll kind of trigger the physical symptoms of anxiety for me, which is sort of annoying. It’s like I can be going to bed and then all of a sudden feel super anxious about who knows what. Like maybe it’s just all the stuff I have to get done the next day and I can’t really like shut it off. That’s been something that I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with it because I have some like nutritional and supplemental strategies for it. But at the end of the day, I know what the reason is and it’s like do I just like power through the next six weeks?

I forgot to mention this because we talked about it a little bit before we got on the phone is tomorrow based on when this podcast is publishing I’m actually doing a day long seminar at the Weston Price Conference, which it’s the same seminar I did last year which makes it a little bit easier because I don’t have to do any prep for it other than just like reminding myself what I’m talking about.

Kelsey: Yeah, that’s good.

Laura: But it is a different setup where last year it was like a small group, and I sat down for it, and it was like a small room. I was still pretty nervous before, but I think I felt more comfortable because it was like just a group session essentially. This time I’m going to be on a stage and I have no idea how many people are going to come to it. I’m probably going to be like super stressed. I was saying to my husband like I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a heart attack like before the end of November.

Kelsey: No heart attacks.

Laura: Yeah, seriously. But it’s just funny because I’m like why did I commit to all this stuff all at the same time? I have no idea. I think I just wanted to make up for some of the lost time earlier in the year with all the wedding stuff going on and definitely over committed.

I feel like I’m learning, well I’m not learning. I feel like this has been an issue for years where I overcommit and start to do too much and then I don’t feel great. And then it’s like alright, try to prevent an adrenal fatigue situation since I feel like my adrenals are finally back on track. It’s like let’s see if I can minimize the damage here and then once all of this craziness is done, I need to take a break.

Because like I said, I need to practice what I’m preaching with our Paleo Rehab program, and our clients, and all that stuff where it’s like I’m telling them to reduce stress or implement stress management practices. Right now I’m trying to do that as much as possible, but I’ve definitely made some decisions that made my stress goals….

Kelsey: Go against that.

Laura: Yeah, that did not support that very well. It’s a learning experience.

Kelsey: I feel like the benefit of our type of job is that yeah, we go through periods of higher stress, but we can also like pull it back a bit after that much more than somebody with a regular nine to five job probably can’t. So there is that benefit.

Laura: That is true. Some people are in this kind of state for like months and they don’t have any control over it, whereas I definitely have control. I try to not like feel guilty for doing this to myself essentially. Obviously have no one else to blame except for myself. But on the other hand, it’s like I made the decision, got it just kind of a stick through it for the next I guess it’s like five weeks at this point maybe to get through it. Once it’s over, I’ll be happy.

I’m kind of thinking about this whole year and I’m just like what was I thinking trying to do this all? I think sometimes you get the impression from other business owners that it’s possible for everyone to work hard. You and I were talking about this before we got on the call that there are certain people out there that it just seems like it comes naturally to. I think throughout this year I’ve discovered that it does not come naturally to me and this is probably not a level of work that is sustainable for me. We’ll see what happens.

Kelsey: Yeah, you and me both.

Laura: I think we are both in the same plate, which on one hand it’s frustrating because it’s like I don’t like feeling like I’m going to get sick whenever I work too hard. But on the other hand, we can’t all be workaholics.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: I don’t want to promote that in my work and I don’t want to make other people believe that they should be doing that. So now I just have to like commit to not doing it in my own life, which is the hard part.

Kelsey: Now after this this conference, time to chill. Right, Laura?

Laura: Yes. It’s early November when this comes out. You guys need to check in on me and hold me accountable to chilling in the month of December. We normally record about a month or like at least three weeks in advance. Check in on me in November and make sure I am relaxing. At the end of November, I should say.

Kelsey: Well the good thing about December is that it tends to lend itself fairly well to relaxation.

Laura: Yeah, nobody wants to talk about nutrition in December.  I’m happy to not talk about it either.

Kelsey: Perfect. Well I hope you get through this all just fine that you have the ability to relax after it’s all said and done. But I’m proud of you for getting this out into the world. Like I have told you, I think it’s a really awesome program and I admire your dedication.

Laura: Thanks! Yeah, I feel like once it’s done I’ll be able to see a little clearer. I have a hard time with seeing the long view when it comes to things so I get very caught up in like what’s happening right this minute. I’m sure once I have kids that will change. I’m hoping it will change because I feel like having a baby is probably a lot harder than what I’m doing right now.

Kelsey: That’s probably true.

Laura: I’m like if I can’t even handle launching a program, how am I going to launch a human? But we’ll see what happens.

Kelsey: I like that term: launch a human.

Laura: Yes. Well like I said, just keep me keep me honest with my plans to chill out in the month of December.

Kelsey: Will do.

Laura: Alright, well thanks for joining us, everybody. We will see you here next week.

Kelsey: All right. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.