Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Your friendly gallbladder...

I often sit and wonder what 'brilliant' doctor first decided that taking your gallbladder out is no big deal. A cursory review of any human anatomy or physiology textbook will quickly prove to you that there is really no organ in the body that is not there for a reason. Certainly there are many that can be removed without causing death, but are there any that can be removed without causing a reduction in your ability to achieve or maintain optimal health?

I think not.

Nonetheless, of the adult population of patients I see, I would guess that approximately 30-50% of them have had their gallbladders removed. Few of these cases involved a true emergency situation. Instead most of them were removed simply because the patient was feeling some pain and discomfort, and the doctors in charge knew not what to do about it. This is not grounds for organ removal in my book.

I also find it interesting that the very diet people suffering from gallbladder pain are told to go on (low fat, high carb) is the very same sort of diet (minus a few veggies) that probably started the problem in the first place. Think about it, most of people these days have been hypnotized into believing beyond all reasonable doubt, that low fat diets are the healthiest, so, in an effort to look good and stay healthy, most people eat that way.

What food causes the gallbladder to contract? That's right, FAT. How on earth can we encourage proper and regular gallbladder function without eating a decent amount of fat?? Of course people whose gallbladders are simply too far gone, full of stones and really hurting, do usually have to reduce fat in their diets, because any stimulation of the gallbladder for them causes pain. The point is though, that if they ate a higher fat, lower carb diet in the first place, they probably wouldn't be dealing with this problem at all!

Anyways, I could go on and on. The main point of this post was really to review a study regarding magnesium and gallbladder function, which I will get to now...

A recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology followed more than 42,000 men between ages 40 and 75 for 16 years. The men filled out health questionnaires every two years and diet questionnaires every four years. Those with the highest magnesium intake—more than 409 mg per day from food and supplements—were 28% less likely to develop gallstones than those whose intake was the lowest, at less than 288 mg per day.

Our best natural sources of magnesium are dark green veggies. If you combine this sort of food with good types of fat such as organic butter, extra virgin olive oil, avocados and nuts, along with some good protein sources like free range eggs (with the yolks), grass fed beef and wild caught fish, and a little bit of fruit, you have the perfect diet for preventing gallstones. In fact, my experience has been that this diet is great for treating all kinds of modern day, chronic health problems.

And, wouldn't you know it, if you examine the research out on ancient people and the healthy diets they ate (see links to the right) this sort of diet is about as close as you can come to recreating it. In other words, this is the diet that is NATURAL for us.

Happy munching....

Thursday, April 3, 2008

You can get fat if you eat fat.....Certain fats that is.

As a naturopathic doc, I counsel many people on their diet and how it relates to their health. More often than not, the discussion eventually turns to dietary influences on weight gain. I am always quick to point out that refined carbs and sugar are two of the most likely culprits in weight gain. I also commonly recommend eating more fat and less grains of any kind, always being sure to emphasize the need for these fats to be "good fats" like the kind you'd find in olive oil, avocados, organic butter, grass fed meats, seafoods, and coconut oil.

While I usually do not talk about them in weight loss discussions, I also make sure to recommend strict avoidance of trans fatty acids, or hydrogenated oils. After all, these are some of the worst "foods" on the planet, and make you sick in many ways, including increasing your risk of cancer and heart disease. What I was not aware of, however, was their tremendous effect on weight gain, until I read about a recent study in the journal Obesity.

The new study looked at the effect of a high-trans-fat diet on sugar metabolism and weight gain in male African green monkeys. Forty-two monkeys were assigned to eat either a high-trans-fat diet or a low-trans-fat diet for six years. The monkeys on the high-trans-fat diet were given partially hydrogenated soybean oil so that trans fats accounted for approximately 8% of their daily calories—an amount similar to that of people who eat the most trans fats. The other monkeys ate the same diet but their fat was from a blend of oils high in monounsaturated fatty acids.

At the end of the study, the monkeys on the high-trans-fat diet gained four times as much weight and had more body fat than their counterparts, and a greater percentage of their body fat was in the abdomen, a pattern known to be linked to increased cardiac risk. Blood tests revealed that these monkeys showed signs of insulin resistance, a condition that leads to type 2 diabetes, but the other monkeys had normal responses to sugar and insulin.

It never ceases to amaze me how many different ways crappy food is bad for you.