Mars and Venus

So what’s the first thing that came to your mind when you read the caption? Perhaps ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’? Dr John Gray, author of several books in this Mars and Venus series was recently on BulletProof Radio. The podcast kind of blew my mind. Most times I listen to a health podcast like BulletProof Radio or Paleo Solution I hope that I will  learn one new thing about healthy lifestyle. I think I walked away with at least 5 gems in this podcast and not just the usual fats-proteins-and-carbs. Important as it is, that stuff gets boring really fast. Brain health and brain anti-ageing is much more fun because brains at the center of everything and pretty much a mystery. Reducing brain inflammation is fun. Mind you, food and lifestyle choices that lead to body inflammation will also cause brain inflammation because brain and body are one. It’s fascinating to hear about health and nutrition from the lens of brain rather than body weight. You want to look good and be healthy for as long as possible and thriving brain has to be the focal point of this strategy. Mars Venus series Dr John Gray has sold over 50 million books and his work has been in translated into 50 languages. He is considered one of the foremost relationship experts and so I expected them to talk about relationships and sexuality and how men and women are different. The first book has been out for 2 decades now. Around 15 years ago, the Dr shifted his focus from just relationships to relationships and brain health. Not to mention that he was facing a personal crisis, he was in early stages of Alzheimer’s. Conventional medicine has a pathetic record for treating such complex and chronic diseases. So he ended up not taking this route. Through  lifestyle change, nutrient dense diet and vitamin-mineral support he managed to reverse his symptoms. He also inadvertently fixed his ADD which he always had but never really thought about it till his wife mentioned to him that he was much calmer now or doesn’t procrastinate. It’s amazing that Dr understands not only the big picture about male female relationships in terms of emotional and sexual differences, but has mapped these down to hormonal differences, all the way down to mineral and nutrient deficiencies in our body and brains. No small feat. And he totally digs BulletProof coffee. Super impressed with the guy. Let’s dig into the show:

1. Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), stimulants and Dopamine effect – ADD manifests in 4 different forms – Hyper sensitive, Hyper focussed, Hyper distracted, Hyper compulsive. Dopamine is pleasure, motivation, focus and interest. When you hear something new and you are interested, huge amount of dopamine gets produced. So whenever you have high dopamine response the brain gives you fewer dopamine receptor sites and then it’s gone. So you need to do it again and again. If you over stimulate, you lose receptor sites! On first use of cocaine, you lose 30% of receptor sites temporarily, so life feels 30% less pleasurable, interest and focussed and so they seek that cocaine stimulation again. Kids with ADD have low dopamine levels in the brain. So these kids are pushing too hard and seeking stimulation. When they are given a drug like Speed, Adderall basically Methamphetamine, these kids calm down. Why? Well it produces dopamine. If you allow the brain to make more dopamine, it slows down or starts behaving normally – calm and focussed. Other stimulants are sugar, processed carbs, video games and pornography. You will have to take away the over stimulation (cocaine, sugar, porn) for the receptor sites to come back up. Coffee works through a different pathway than methamphetamine or sugar or Speed which are dopamine stimulants. Coffee doesn’t overstimulate unless you do too much. And putting butter and MCT oil prevents this overstimulation. Dr jokes half seriously – “Why don’t you just give the kid coffee or bulletproof coffee and parents are horrified that they can’t give coffee. So they don’t have a problem giving a drug with effects like cocaine but coffee is a problem?”

2. Flow state – Flow state is not quite over stimulation but you can easily deplete you brain of nutrients and minerals by being in flow state for too long. I can personally attest to this that whenever I have done my best work in the morning after bulletproof coffee in flow state, once you are done with that creative piece of work, you feel exhausted afterwards. You are like a race car and you deplete nutrients and minerals. You also need healthy gut flora to make these nutrients. Lot of high performers in the history get into flow states, produce master pieces and then crash and burn until next time when body has again enough nutrients to get into flow state. Dave: “It takes more zinc and copper to lift more, create more, remain longer in flow state.”

3. What else triggers dopamine? Success stimulates dopamine. So does Danger. If you have a successful career or relationship, you are making enough dopamine. But imagine a 19 years old with bleak outlook who seeks dopamine dose. He may end up joining a gang and introducing a bit of danger in his life and that becomes his addiction. Drama in marriage between the couples – arguing and yelling. Anytime you are yelling and shouting it implies danger. Grieving – You can become addicted to grieving to get dopamine dose especially if you don’t have a nutrient dense diet. Parents are chronically grieving loss of a child – they are hopelessly depressed and on medication and can’t get out of the state. When parents were shown the photo of the child, same parts of brain lit up on the brain scan as when you take cocaine.

4. Dr eats good high quality meat (not a lot) and doesn’t demand perfection in his food. He is not dogmatic about it. Whole food based.

5. Blood sugar – Imbalance in blood sugar, hiking and falling, is one of the biggest problems because glucose is one of the fuels for the brain and you brain goes haywire. Your blood sugar spikes and falls and your brains a mess. This is where Dr revealed 3 amazing supplements (2 of which I didn’t know). First two have to with calcium regulation and first one is important for blood sugar regulation–

i. Membrane support via AEP (Calcium 2-AEP Or Calcium-Mag-Pot-2AEP) – Work of Dr Nieper from Germany has patent on this and he bonded calcium, magnesium and potassium.  It provides cellular membrane support. Dave has been taking Calcium 2-AEP for 15 years to get membrane support and kidney protection (Dave has only 1 kidney). I think it’s vital to stress this point – healthy cell membranes. That is what can stop pathogens from getting into the cells or health of receptors on the cells (think insulin receptors if you are wondering how it helps with blood sugar regulation). Cell membranes are made of fat and this is why you would want to eat butter and avocado (undamaged fats) and not margarine. It’s the raw material for your cells folks and it takes time to rebuild them. Dr: “Nobody knows about this guy (Nieper) and everyone should be taking this.”

ii. Vitamin K2 – Calcium regulation and metabolism is vital. Anybody who is depressed is not making enough GABBA in the brain because there is issue with calcium regulation. It allows brain receptor sites to remove calcium and regenerate themselves. Calcification also stiffens the veins leading to cardiovascular issues. I already supplement with K2 and I also get it nutritionally via butter, pastured egg yolks and chicken livers.

iii. Lithium-Orotate – One of the minerals people lose most when they eat sugar is lithium. One of the functions of lithium is to regulate calcium in the brain and lithium is considered a medicine for ‘bi-polar’ people. You would want lithium orotate and not lithium carbonate which is want psychiatrists recommend. Food that has the most lithium in it is beetroots. Where do we get most our sugar from? Beets. As always things naturally exist in a balance and that’s how they should be consumed. Personally, I intend to make Calcium 2-AEP and Lithium-Orotate part of my supplement stack. A very close family member has a history of nerve issues and bipolarity and is already on some lithium supplementation probably the carbonate one. I really hope this helps them.

6. Women and blood sugar – When women get hungry, their blood sugar has already dropped and drops much further than men. It’s already an emergency situation, cortisol rises and it’s like a bear is chasing her. Too bad, you are the only person around and so she will remember every mistake you have ever made. Get her some food already with a bit of healthy carbs. Nut and goji berries? An apple?

It’s astonishing the amount of supplements he has reviewed on his website.

http://www.marsvenus.com/list/john-gray-mars-venus-health

Wonders of Activated Charcoal

It’s not surprising that we don’t hear much if at all about health practices that are effective and cheap. Eating sulphur rich vegetables just don’t get the attention to detox yourself and are not as flashy as 500 $ detox program involving magic pills and carrot juice. No one gets to make money off Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli or Onion. Besides, part of us believes in magic pills or one simple trick that will burn all the fat.

My knowledge about Activated Charcoal at times makes me feel like I have a secret, a tool in my tool box which gives me an unfair advantage. Shout out to BulletProof executive Dave Asprey – I first learnt about it on BulletProof Radio.

A word on detoxification first….

Detoxification according to functional medicine is one of the 7 fundamental systems. It’s a truly essential job – getting rid of both endogenous (that is produced within our bodies) toxins as well as exogenous (external via food or environment) toxins. You could eat a very nutrient dense diet but if your cells aren’t getting cleared of the toxins or you are getting inundated with exogenous toxins, you are going to feel the terrible effects sooner or later.

Let me illustrate this with 2 examples.
You are eating the best possible lean meat proteins in the form of let’s say salmon and tuna and you feel really great about making these healthy choices. Unbeknownst to you, you are also getting a trace dose of mercury and other heavy metals. Now it’s the dose which makes the poison and so these trace amounts don’t make any difference in 1 or 2 or even 5 years. However, if your body is not detoxing as well as it can, these minute amounts will add up over time and you end up with heavy metal toxicity.
Or imagine you eat out and drink and soon after you don’t feel too great. A little bit of brain fog. It’s happened to me several times after I have eaten out. Eating out is fun but a bit of compromise in terms of quality.

Liver is the seat of detoxification in the body and in charge of detoxifying our bodies from internal as well as external toxins. While I feel less concerned about a healthy liver clearing cellular toxins – because liver has dealt with these for millions of years and perhaps understands them much better. It’s the external toxins coming into the body via eating food outside that can make liver’s job harder. And every hero can use a sidekick.
Enters our sidekick: Activated Charcoal. World’s oldest and most reliable detox.

Now before you get the idea that I have lost my marbles and eating charcoal would kill us, let me allay your fears.
0) If nothing else, stuff given to infants has to be absolutely safe?
Gripe water is given to infants and young children if they experience stomach indigestion.
Have a look at Colic Calm Gripe Water and it’s first ingredient is Activated Charcoal.

ColinCalm

So it’s considered a food supplement.

1) Charcoal is not digested or absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract.
2) There is a 10,000 years of history of charcoal use in Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine as well western medicine to soak up poisons and improve intestinal health through a process called ADSORPTION. (That’s not a typo. Adsorption means to bind and not absorb.)
3) In fact, Activated Charcoal (A.C.) is commonly used in hospital emergency rooms. Why? Because charcoal is an age-old remedy for counteracting poison. If you ingest poison as fertilizer or bad alcohol or a large dose of medicine by mistake, then a large dose of A.C. will help your body flush out the poison faster.
4) What do you think is present in water filters and purifiers?

ActivatedCharcoal_WaterFilters

So what is ACTIVATED CHARCOAL (A.C.) really?
A carbon source like wood or coconut shells is burnt and the black charred carbon that is left behind is charcoal. These tiny charcoal particles have a large surface area. This charcoal is then activated with oxidizing gases like steam or air at high temperatures and so it becomes negatively charged. This further increases its surface area or adsorption capacity. Consider this, just 2 g of A.C. has surface area of a football field! It has a very strong negative charge and a lot of toxins in the body or those we eat are positively charged. So it ends up attracting all these toxins and taking it out of the body.
If you look at a bottle of A.C. it will say somewhere that it is a “digestion aid”.

ActivatedCharcoal

This brings up an important question – Can A.C. bind to the nutrients in our food?
First there is very little evidence that A.C. binds to organic nutrients in our food. More importantly, when you eat out and suspect less than ideal food, nutrient density becomes a lot less important. I am less concerned about losing some nutrients or proteins to A.C. and more interested in getting rid of anti-nutrients or toxins.

More important question though is – Can A.C. charcoal interfere with medication?
Yes, it definitely can. The recommendation is not to mix your medicines and A.C. and talk to your doctor about it. There is very little evidence that A.C. can block uptake of synthetic vitamins\minerals. However, this can be alleviated to a large extent by timing when you take A.C. Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t take your vitamin\minerals and A.C. together. A general guideline is to take A.C. in-between meals or one and half hours after the meal.

Another clever use of A.C. is for dental hygiene. If it can bind to toxins in the gut, it can bind to toxins in the mouth. Check out Katie’s experience on wellnessmama.com.

You can really go for any decent brand. But If you are in a bit of mood to splurge and want to get the best A.C., look no further than Upgraded Charcoal, the charcoal is obtained from coconut shells only.

Upgraded Charcoal

French don’t snack!

The little boy was only 5 years old at the time of this incident. His family went over to their uncle’s for dinner. They were joined there by other aunts and uncles and so the dinner was a grand affair. Sometime after this lavish dinner, this 5 year old boy was still hungry and so requested for an apple. His father informed him that he can’t have an apple post-dinner. So, as expected, the boy started throwing a temper tantrum and was stomping around the room. In circumstances like these, seniority matters and one of the aunts pleaded on the boy’s behalf and suggested that perhaps he could have half an apple. But the father of the boy was firm about his decision and would have none of it. Little boy did not get an apple that night and eventually had to sleep without eating one.

This happened a while ago. That 5 year old boy is now a PhD in neuro biology and an obesity researcher and author. He clearly remember the story because this is the only surviving video of him as a child – him throwing this temper tantrum over not getting an apple after the dinner. His name is Stephen Guyenet.

The incident is not very strange according to him and what most people don’t realize is that boy’s father is French! I didn’t know it myself but French generally speaking, don’t snack between meals. Same is expected from children. In fact, children pretty much eat the same food as their parents and if you are coming from a culture where children are actually encouraged to snack and eat children-friendly (pasta, noodles and other crap) food, this will seem counter-intuitive. It’s not that they spend less time cooking and eating food, quite the opposite actually. They put in a lot of effort and time in cooking and enjoying their food. If Americans love their fast food, then French love their slow food. Children in French schools get a 2 hour break in the afternoon to enjoy their 4 course lunch. But once they have had their lunch and are fully refreshed for the rest of the afternoon, no more snacking until the next meal.

Now the reason this story is very interesting is because French children have one of the lowest rates of obesity amongst first world countries and the obesity rates have not risen for last one decade. One could be tempted to think that it’s the quality of food alone or macro-nutrient ratio is behind this.  But a survey indicated that French actually know less about basic nutrition. So food quality can only be one of the variables in this multi factorial equation of health. The French relationship to food and eating behaviour is another variable.

Child Obesity Rates

I ran into Karen Le Billon’s wonderful blog and Karen explains the French relationship to food.

From her blog

Of the four countries surveyed (the US, France, Japan, and Belgium), the US stood out: Americans tend to associate food with health, not with pleasure…

When shown a picture of a chocolate cake, the most frequent responses from Americans were ‘guilt’ and ‘calories’. The French response: ‘celebration’ and ‘pleasure’. The French associate a picture of ‘heavy cream’ with the word ‘whipped’, whereas the Americans described it as ‘unhealthy.

It’s called the French paradox but I don’t consider it a paradox at all: French spend twice as much time as Americans eating and they consume dairy and meal products in large quantities, yet are less overweight or obese, and have lower rates of heart disease than Americans.

Now this is not a call to eating unholy amounts of meat and dairy. And before you get the idea that they can have their cake and eat it too, French intuitively understand that food quality matters. They are extremely smart about imparting food wisdom to children. Again from Karen’s blog

In part, it’s because French school lunches are used as a pedagogical tool, introducing a broad range of dishes, fresh vegetables, and fruits. Strict Ministry of Education regulations ensure that fried food is served no more than once per month, children drink only water at lunch; instead of flavored milk, traditional cheeses or yogurts are served. Ketchup is served a maximum of once per week–and only with foods with which it is traditionally used as a condiment, such as steak. Portion sizes are limited (one piece of delicious baguette per child, at my daughters’ school). And vending machines are banned in all schools. Yes, that means no soda pop, no processed food, and no fast food. Kids learn to like the taste of ‘whole food’. This doesn’t mean deprivation, but rather moderation: sweet treats (like Cherry Clafoutis in cherry season, or Chocolate Mousse) are served once a week. So French kids learn to ‘treat treats as treats’, to use Michael Pollan’s phrase.”

She has authored couple of books, one of them called “French Kids Eat Everything

French Kids Eat Everything

Parents typically ask the children “if they are still hungry” and not “if they are feeling full”. Subtle difference. Children are encouraged to taste (and not eat) green leafy vegetables because they realize that it takes up to 7-15 times for a child to start eating a new food.

So this food educations starts in school and is actively supported at home.

I have over time managed to convince my 4 and a half year old daughter to eat egg yellow. It works better when she’s also offered blueberries with eggsJ. It could be the case of trying to impress dad but she has come a long way from having nothing to do with the yellow portion to tasting bits of it to having the whole yolk in one go.

======

One of the points that struck me is that healthier societies are not healthier because they know a lot about nutrition. In fact, if you look at modern hunter gatherer societies like Katavans or Hazda, they are not even consciously thinking about avoiding diabetes or obesity. They don’t have access to modern education and perhaps know very little about enzymes and cellular bio chemistry.

Katavans diet is up to 70% carbs (fruits, tubers, honey) and they are essentially chronic disease free. Ironically, the fattest women are the ones who are in their prime to deliver a child and from there on, they will continue to lose fat. The most important point to note is that the carbohydrates in their diet is not the artificial kind – it’s not refined flours or soda or sugar candies and skittles. I bet the disease statistics will look very different if they had access to a supermarket or if you had orange juice growing on the trees.

Vitamin E is complex

Vitamin E is a complex vitamin. Complex but not complicated hopefully. Complex because it’s a compound that includes both tocopherols and tocotrienols. It’s not a simple one like Vitamin D

WHY DOES IT MATTER

It will matter when you do decide to supplement with Vitamin E (or B for that matter because it’s complex too). You may think what you have bought is Vitamin E but that may only be half the truth (or even less). It will be an incomplete Vitamin E. You basically get a bad deal. You think you have a Tesla but it’s really Corolla under the hood.

Consider that you are pro-active about your health and don’t want to actually sit around for rickets or soft bones to happen to know that you are Vitamin D3 deficient. So you get a bunch of lab tests done and the blood work confirms your suspicion that you are low in Vitamin D and Vitamin E. Chances are that you are going to follow this up with Vitamin D3 and Vitamin E supplementation. This is where the simplicity of D3 and complexity of E will trip you up.

SIMPLICITY vs COMPLEXITY

You go to the pharmacy and request for a good brand of Vitamin D3 and E and you hope that you are sorted. Alternatively, you go to www.iherb.com and do a bit of research on best brands. So you settle on Life Extension for Vitamin D3 and some other brand for Vitamin E.

You end up buying Life Extension Vitamin D3 5000 IU (that’s what I use myself).

(IU stands for International Units)

Look at the back and you can see that each capsule contains Vitamin D3 as cholecalciferol. It’s really that simple. The bio-available form of Vitamin D called D3 is cholecalciferol.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3

E IS NOT SO SIMPLE

In the same vein, you search for Vitamin E and you decide to buy some brand of Vitamin E.

Let’s examine the ingredients.

Just alpha tocopherol. Where are Bravo, Charlie and Delta.

Just alpha tocopherol. Where are bravo, Charlie and Delta.

So each capsule contains 400 IU worth of Vitamin E as d-alpha tocopherol. That should trigger the next logical question? Is there a Bravo, Charlie and even a Delta type tocopherol J. And it definitely doesn’t have the tocotrienols form.

Let’s see if we can find something better. Here is another reputed brand:

E tocopherol

E tocopherol

What do you know? We don’t quite have Bravo, Charlie and Delta but you do have Beta, Delta and Gamma. So you at least have E complex now but still no tocotrienols.

Let’s search for “Vitamin E tocotrienols”. I recognize couple of my go to brands, Jarrow Formulas and Life Extension.

Vitamin E Complete

Vitamin E Complete

Or consider LifeExtension, which looks even more loaded and the real deal.

Vitamin E - fully loaded

Vitamin E – fully loaded

See how very quickly we moved from a simple and incomplete Vitamin E supplement -> Vitamin E tocopherol complex -> Complete E (full spectrum and containing both the forms).

Fortunately, most of us don’t need to supplement with Vitamin E and you can get enough from almonds, green leafy vegetables and Avocado (bit of show-off fruit-vegetable I say). When it’s possible to get all of your vitamin needs from whole foods, it’s the perfect scenario.

SO SHOULD I NOT SUPPLEMENT?

Each to his own but my philosophy to supplementation is very simple. Where food can’t suffice, I resort to supplementation. Modern food, even organic whole foods are deficient is certain vitamins and minerals. The nutrition ultimately comes from the soil and if it’s lacking in soil, it’s going to be lacking in the food we eat. And sometimes where and how you live affects how much Vitamin D3 you can really make.

For example, you can’t make enough Vitamin D3 in New Zealand for 8 months of the year. And for the 4 months that you can, how much time do we really spend outdoors and our skin’s exposed to the sun? Most of us are holed up in sterile office environments for major portion of the day. I got myself tested for Vitamin D3 levels (I was supplementing with nearly every day with 4000 IU on average every day) to make sure I am overdosing on D3. I was actually discouraged by my GP to not get the test done and GP was quite surprised that I supplement with D3. Well the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test confirmed that I just managed to sneak into the optimal range. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to get adequate magnesium from foods we eat.

There is a very small risk that we can overdo on certain vitamins and thus create toxicity at the cellular level so it’s worth learning the basics.

I have a pretty small list of supplements at the moment which includes:
Vitamin D3 and K2 (better together)
Omega-3 (fish oil)
B12 and Folate (not folic acid)
Magnesium (before I sleep).

Salty

 
I have a feeling that this post is going to be salty.

So what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say SALT. I wouldn’t blame you if you think I am talking about Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt in the movie SALT.

Salt is also that whitish crystal powder we put in our foods and you got to be careful with that thing, right? After all, the conventional wisdom will have us believe that high salt intake could be responsible for heart attacks, hyper tension and high blood pressure. Well, read on.

This salt may be even better than Himalayan sea salt
Before we get into what salt really is let’s take a historical digression. Nearly every society that has ever existed has had salt as part of its cuisine. Animals lick salty rocks and deposits and we followed the paths created by these animals and we humans settled close to these salt deposits. Salt has always been one of the most sought after commodities in the world, up until very recently.
Or consider these popular quotes which are part of our modern lexicon:
“Are you worth your salt?”
“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”
Most worthy amongst us are called “salt of the earth”.
Culture and history aside, at a personal level it’s undeniable that an otherwise boring soup or bone broth is rejuvenated with a pinch of salt. It starts to taste better. Notice how we crave salty food if we haven’t had it in a while. It’s an essential tool in the cooking trade.
So how did salt get such a bad rep anyways?
There were couple of studies done in 70s and 80s and one of them showed how giving 500 g of salt to rats killed them and the legend grew. But we can also kill a rat or a human by giving them too much water!! We know people who have died in ‘who can have the most water’ competitions. So always remember that it’s the dose which makes the poison. Another reason for salt’s fall from the grace is excessive amount of sodium in our modern processed foods and very little of balancing minerals like potassium. So something needs to be fixed and as usual it’s far easier to put the blame on something like salt (or saturated fat).
WHAT IS SALT ANYWAYS
Let’s look at the Himalayan sea salt sitting in front of me
Himalayan rock sea salt
First you will notice that it’s pink-ish and not the dead white kind you may be used to. This actually looks like it was part of a salt rock formation. On the wrapper I am informed that this kind of “Pink rock salt is a natural source of over 84 minerals and trace elements including Iodine, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Silica and Selenium.”
Let’s check out the typical analysis of this rock salt. Of 1000g, 388g is sodium and 598 g is chloride. Then you have 3.6g of sulphur, 1.7g of potassium, 1.45g of calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and so on and so forth.  
This is the sodium-salt connection and why sodium is loosely thought of as salt in the bag of chippies or Coke. It begs the question: Are sodium and chloride vital to us?
Here are some of benefits of sodium and I quote this from www.marksdailyapple.com (When Mark has already done the research, it just makes sense to quote one of the Masters)

Supports the nervous system – both sodium and chloride (also known as sodium chloride, or salt) are necessary for the firing of neurons.

Regulates blood pressure – keeps it from going too low or (usually) too high.
•Helps maintain acid-base balance and blood volume.
Supports the function of the adrenal glands which produce dozens of vital hormones, including the stress and sex hormones.
Institute of Medicine recommends 1500mg (around 4g of salt) of sodium for a healthy adult.
Let’s talk about chloride and digestion. As you eat your food and it reaches your gut, your body generates HCL (hydrochloric acid) to create an acidic environment in which enzymes can work to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates and kill pathogens in our food (how very clever). We are talking about pH levels as low as 1 or 2, which is highly acidic. Now chloride ions in the salt help with generation of HCL. If your stomach can’t generate enough of this acid then you can’t basically extract nutrition out of the food you just ate or kill the bad guys (pathogens) in your food.
 
I should put in a note here about antacids – to give you acid reflux relief, they supress the creation of  HCL. I speak from person experience when I tell you that be afraid of them and use them extremely rarely. Most of us due to less than optimal diets and excessive use of anti-biotic don’t make enough acid in the first place and so our digestion is poor to begin with. On top of that, conventional wisdom tells us that if you feel an acid reflux you should take an antacid!! We are making a bad situation worse by doing that. It’s like putting water on the fire that is cooking your food. You could eat the best food in the world but if you can’t generate enough acid to digest it, it wouldn’t mean much. Worse, long term use of antacid will prevent the absorption of Vitamin B12 and so you could end up in a very dangerous territory. You have been warned.
I know the ad on TV tells you to follow up your Mexican lunch with an antacid but that’s not normal. If the tacos and nachos are giving you an acid reflux, prudent course of action would be to fix the underlying issue with your digestion and keep off the tacos for a bit.
 
SODIUM POTASSIUM PUMP
Time for a bit of biochemistry geek out. If that’s not your thing or you are a bit heartless, skip this paragraph.
There is a phenomenon happening at cellular level called sodium potassium pump. I have tried to capture the essence of it in this photo. What’s shown below is portion of a cell and the pinkie below is a protein channel.
Step 0: You have 3 sodium ions that get sucked into the protein channel and attach themselves to the protein channel. At the bottom right corner you can see an ATP molecule creeping up.
Step 1: One of the phosphate from the ATP is going to provide energy to change the shape of the protein channel and the bottom will close and it will open up from the top.
Step 2: The sodium ions are release outside of the cells and now the protein channel has high affinity for potassium ions.
Step 3: Two potassium ions now get pulled into the protein channel and phosphate ion is still bound to the protein channel. This will again cause a change in the shape of the channel.
Step 4: Once the shape reverts to as it was in Step 0, the phosphate ion is release. Eventually potassium ions will be release and we will be back to Step 0.
Rinse and repeat.
The most important point that I would like you to takeaway from this is: This phenomenon is super critical for our nervous system and we actually know about it and it relies on sodium potassium. What will happen if sodium potassium levels go out of whack? How will that affect this pumping, what will that do to your nervous system? And this is just one of the phenomenon we know about. There are perhaps 100s of other events happening that we don’t even know about. So it’s a bit silly to just say that sodium or salt is bad.
HOW SALT CAME TO MY RESCUE
I should also talk about how salt came to my rescue 6 months ago. Unfortunately the topic is not as sexy as talking about skinny jeans and six pack abs.  It’s about pooping. A good poop in the morning is one of the best starts you can get to the day right? It tells you that stuff is moving through the pipes ok and you don’t have toxic stuff sitting in you for 3 days. Invaluable.

Now 6-9 months into my whole foods diet, I started experiencing mild constipation. This was in spite of me eating plenty of plants and salad in both my meals, so fibre was not the issue. I also tried increasing my water intake and that would help some days but not the other. What was really going on was that my whole foods diet is a low carbohydrate diet. Vegetables don’t contribute all that much by way of calories and I also eat very little of processed and sugary food that trigger insulin spikes. Because my insulin is relatively low most of the time, my kidney was dumping sodium and body was shedding excess water. Now like I have already mentioned earlier, sodium is a key electrolyte and low sodium can induce side-effects like light headedness, fatigue, headaches and even constipation. And so I started adding a bit of salt to my water throughout the day and just like that I went back to being awesome in the loo again. I drink normal amount of water and I don’t really buy the ‘we must drink 8 glasses of water everyday’ nonsense. I respect my thirst instincts and so drink appropriate amounts.
Recently I have also learnt that salt in the morning provides adrenal relief – you get up and your body needs to generate cortisol and enough blood pressure to wake you up from your sleep. Salt helps with generation of adrenal hormone cortisol.  As far as I am concerned, salt is a superstar.

After a  big workout or a long run, you don’t need the Gatorade crap or drink excessive amounts of water to hydrate yourself. Moderate amount of water with salt will do the trick.
So you are not a bad person if you like to use some salt, ok?  We are hard wired to seek out salt.
TOO MUCH SODIUM IN MODERN PROCESSED DIET?
Salt is ubiquitous in the modern processed diet and it’s estimated that Americans consume 10gms of salt per day. However most of it is from the processed food and only the remaining 20% is from discretionary use, like adding it to your food when you cook it. And it’s reasonable to extrapolate that this is true not just for Americans. We are getting too much sodium from processed foods like bread, pasta, noodles, chips and fast foods and little of other minerals so things get out of balance. You wouldn’t think but even sweet tasting 12 ounce Coke has 40mg of sodium in it. Adding Himalayan sea salt to the meal you are cooking at home is nothing like having sodium from the Coke or other processed foods.
Our Palaeolithic diets were low in sodium and you could argue that we don’t need that all that much sodium or salt. But bear in mind that Palaeolithic diets were also high in potassium rich plants. Now we are at an exactly opposite situation with very high sodium and very low potassium (and that’s true for most nutrient minerals) in our diets. So potassium:sodium ratio may be important and that itself may just be an indicator of a healthy diet.  I think it’s downright silly to pin the blame on sodium or salt.
There have been numerous studies in recent times showing the exact opposite – low salt is related with overall increase in mortality. Look at this recent article in nytimes:
SUMMARY
1. Use Himalayan natural sea salt and avoid the dead white processed kind.
2. If you are convinced that salt is not the enemy and have upped your salt intake, follow it up with the blood pressure test and don’t just take my word for it.  My last test was normal and I plan to get another test done sometime in next 6 months.
3. Balance salt in your diet with potassium.  Good sources of potassium are green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes (what else do you expect from this superhero starch), potatoes, avocadoes, bananas.
As always, the solution is really simple and it lies in eating whole foods, real foods. Body is infinitely intelligent and when you have a genius working for you, you don’t micro manage their work. Just give it the right input and you will get the right output.
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