Meat or Vegetables?
When my health first started to really go downhill in my mid-twenties I thought that I could probably find relief in cutting back on my meat consumption. Fruits and vegetables are, after all, the most foundational form of nutrition that we have as a species, and plant-free diets are pretty obviously harmful to our health—While it is possible for people to get by on meat-free diets, health plummets pretty quickly when we do the opposite. in response to my declining health I tried becoming a pseudo-vegetarian, having only plants, fake meats, grains, and even cut back on my milk consumption. I can’t describe the effects as revelatory, because although it helped with some symptoms, like clearing up my acne, others got worse. Because all the fake meat I was eating, though delicious, was made primarily of wheat with extra gluten my sinus inflammation blew up to regular, chronic sinus infections and finally led me to discover that gluten was at the core of my sinus and gut troubles.
With so much fervent evangelism surrounding different food groups and dietary strategies, how can we know what to eat? My book goes into great detail about what foods cause health problems and how to circumvent these effects, and in fact many of our health problems which we suspect to be food related are actually related to bacteria and yeast in our guts which feed on those types of food, and so is really not much about the food at all. Many people, like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, get to such a point of frustration in dealing with the health problems caused by these bacteria that starving themselves becomes preferable to eating, and there is no shortage of fanatics for both veganism or meat-only diets. Obviously most of these people are not really aware of the intimate connection of gut microbes to our overall health, and because we as humans have a recent history of regarding food as a vice are more prone to making such harmful decisions when it comes to our physical wellbeing.
Over the last five years of my journey back to good health I have noticed a curious development in my dietary cravings. There is direct relationship between how healthy I am and the foods I crave, and the healthier I get the more vegetables and fruits I find myself ravenous, and not the other way around. Yes, eating lots of fruit and vegetables have helped me return to good health, but it was not until I actually got healthy that I began to crave these regularly. When I wake up in the mornings I have an unquenchable desire for apple juice and often chug a full quart before finding satisfaction. This happens because my metabolic rate is so much higher than it used to be, and a high metabolic rate requires adequate fructose to run hot. When we are younger our bodies can actually synthesize their own fructose, but we lose this ability as we age and thus require more exogenous sources in order to fill the metabolic gap. Recently I have found myself craving greens like spinach, butter lettuce, or microgreens where up till now they have admittedly not been a big cornerstone of my diet. Aside from the specific vitamins and minerals they provide, fruits and vegetables also help generate higher amounts of short chain fatty acids which are the foundation for so many of our foundational hormones and enzymes, which don’t result from meat and which is why meat-dominated diets typically hurt our health so dramatically, but because these nutrients also raise the metabolic rate, if the metabolic rate is low we will often naturally crave more comfort type foods which provide an ample amount of calories and nutrients without specifically raising the metabolic rate, as a protective mechanism for nutrient storage. When the body finally stops perceiving a need to protect itself against nutritional stress, this no is no longer the case.
When we are less well we require higher protein and fat intake, and foods like meat are a more readily accessible source of these macros, and easily digestible. The problem is that many of us are also infected with bacteria which ferment protein and put off high levels of ammonia as a result, which then causes severe bloating, metabolic lethargy, brain fog, etc. My book has very effective strategies for dealing with these microbes, and in fact there is a direct relationship between the type of gut microbes we harbor and our overall health, and there may be some relationship between the types of microbes we have and the foods we crave, but I think it’s more likely a combination of both microbial health and the state of our metabolism. When trying to fix your body it’s best to listen to what you are craving, because that likely reflects something your body needs, and denying the cravings can often cause more metabolic harm. Your body is not trying to trick you into eating something that isn’t good for you. Your body simply wants to fill the metabolic gaps that are preventing it from functioning properly. Of course, you can make good decisions to satisfy these cravings. Instead of getting McDonald’s make your own homemade burgers with organic beef using heirloom grain buns, and your own homemade fries in coconut oil. Not only will these foods satisfy your cravings, they will help improve your health instead of tearing it down. As you get better you will likely crave more fruits and vegetables naturally, and can make adjustments to your diet as you desire. My book outlines good strategies for effectively shifting your gut microbiota to one which will raise your metabolic rate, which is also more satisfying than typical diets as it uses logic and chemistry to address these problems.