Welcome to the 2012th time I’ve been thrown for a loop by the mysteries of Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS). I’ve written a few posts about Paleo in the past, but I’ll admit: I’ve never gone 100% paleo for a few reasons: I knew what being reactive to foods like gluten, dairy, and sugar felt like, and other anti-paleo foods like grains/legumes just never overtly “felt” the same. That was until this week, when I realized the devil’s in the dosage.
5 nights ago I stocked up on my favorite non-dairy yogurt:
Mind you, I’ve had one 24oz jar of these on consecutive days in the past no prob, but this time I revved up to a “therapeutic” (read: more enjoyable) dose for gut dysbiosis by eating two 24 oz jars/day. What ensued was 5 straight nights of not sleeping, but for the 6 hrs of benzo-induced “fake sleep”, along with joint pain that I haven’t had in a year. Yesterday, I serendipitously ran out of yogurt and guess what? Finally got a solid night of sleep. So what, almonds are bad now? But hold up mister dramatic, I’ve been eating large doses of Tahini (sesame seed butter) without issue for 4 months.
Before I proceed to potentially strangle your joy in life with restrictive Paleo principles, remember that villains often win wars, and your girlfriend might leave even when you’re the perfect boyfriend. Similarly, if you have LGS, there’s very little fairness involved when figuring out what you can eat. It doesn’t matter that 99% of your friends can eat something without issue if it gives you an immune reaction. With that said, to those whom insist on eating whatever’s on your table right now, you may want to close your eyes and go “lalala” now.
White Rice Better Than Brown?
To understand why almonds might be inflammatory, let’s backtrack to rice. Many LGS patients have issues with grains & legumes besides those that contain gluten. Grains & legumes are full of anti-nutrients, which can do anything from impair proper digestion to cause a full-fledged autoimmune response:
So why is it that many LGS patients tell me they have trouble digesting brown rice, yet do better with white? Paleo principles have a good explanation for this: the hull, husk, and bran are all removed from it, and that’s where these anti-nutrients are found. – http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-rice-unhealthy/#axzz265NLuTpi. That doesn’t mean white rice should be considered a good source of nutrition (it’s really just starch), just that it may be digested easier.
The Inflammatory Side of Nuts
Lectins, protease inhibitors, and phytic acid are abundant in the bran and/or hull of both grains and nuts. Check out why some of these can be highly inflammatory:
Lectins: Lectins cause discharge of histamine from gastric mast cells http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115436/ . Lectins can cause increased intestinal permeability, as shown in Dr. Cordain’s paper.
Protease Inhibitors: Here is a great illustration by PaleoParents.com on how protease inhibitors such as trypsin can lead to leaky gut.
Phytic Acid: Phyticacid.org says phytic acid is “a substance that reduces our absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.” It happens to be even higher in nuts than in rice. According to Chris Kresser, the safe amount of phytic acid is in the range of 100 mg to 400 mg per day. To put that in perspective, a large handful of almonds contains 1,200 – 1,400 mg of phytic acid. Phytic acid can also reduce the digestibility of protein, exacerbating leaky gut.
But there’s another reason to keep your nuts where no one can see: the high omega-6 content in nuts. Paleo experts advocate a 1:1 ratio of O3/O6, which can quickly go out of balance when you start eating almonds by the handful. Notice a trend? All these inflammatory triggers are dose-dependent. These antinutrients are all present in plants, so no one would tell you to avoid them completely, but they just happen to be much, much higher in nuts.
Tahini butter. That brings me back to this: why can I inhale Tahini in large quantities without suffering? One possible reason is because they’re hulled, and that’s where these antinutrients are centralized. Compare that to almond butter and almond milk, where you’re
basically getting the entire almond, hull and all. still have the seedcoat after the outer hull is removed (Updated 10.27.12)
The Antinutrient Super Soaker
If you’re still nuts about nuts, the Weston A Price folks started a trend of soaking, dehydrating, and even fermenting nuts to reduce phytic acid. (Note: The Weston A Price site is giving me a warning on google, so click on the link to the article at your own risk -> Living With Phytic Acid). Although there isn’t conclusive evidence on whether this preparation process lowers phytic acid, we do know that each step of soy preparation lowers phytic acid:
Despite the title, the last thing I want anyone to take away from this post is that nuts are bad and a simple starch is good. One: it’s never that simple. Two: if you have a healthy digestive system, you may digest the antinutrients listed above like a champ. However, if you have LGS, the rules of human adaption don’t necessarily apply, and the pecking order looks something like this: avoid the wrecking ball of immune attack first, then worry about optimizing nutrition. To this end, I plan on doing a full elimination diet: 30 days of pure paleo (meat, veggies, low-dose simple starches like white rice & sweet potatoes) before reintroducing even tahini again to see what type of effect seeds would have. I might even get to try SCD legal goat milk kefir in a few years. Sigh!
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.