[full of it]

The Run-Down

Posted in Uncategorized by susieyarbs on August 8, 2011

I’m going to attempt to summarize what I’ve learned about the primal diet so far in my adventures.  Rather than explaining it by linking to a million other blog posts, how about I actually explain it.  As much as I can.  Which will only really skim the surface, but hopefully will give a better idea of why exactly we’re doing this and answer some of the questions I hear a lot of.


Rather – high insulin levels make you fat.  Here is a very detailed explanation, but I’ll give you a watered-down version.  Every single carbohydrate you eat, be it from fruit, soda, candy, bread, cake, rice, whatever, is broken down into glucose.  Carb in your hand, glucose in your blood.  Your body  really, really doesn’t like having lots of glucose floating around.  So when there’s glucose in your blood, your pancreas secretes insulin to store it somewhere fast.  First to your muscles and liver, then once those cells are full, which happens fast, to your fat cells.

After a while, your liver and muscles cells stop answering the door when insulin knocks.  So your pancreas makes more insulin.  So your muscles and liver lock the door and put on headphones.  Etc.  With nowhere else to go, now a bigger proportion of your excess glucose is getting stored in fat cells, and while you continue pounding the carbs, your blood sugar levels stay high.  HELLO TYPE 2 DIABETES.   Then your pancreas gives up.  HELLO TYPE 1 DIABETES, and congratulations, now you are dependent on injectable insulin.

Here’s a c/p from the link:

1) The levels of blood glucose stay higher longer because the glucose can’t make it into the muscle cells. This toxic glucose is like sludge in the bloodstream clogging arteries, binding with proteins to form harmful AGEs (advanced glycated end-products) and causing systemic inflammation. Some of this excess glucose contributes to a rise in triglycerides, increasing risk for heart disease.

2) More sugar gets stored as fat. Since the muscle cells are getting less glycogen (because they are resistant), and since insulin inhibits the fat-burning enzyme lipase, now you can’t even burn stored fat as easily. You continue to get fatter until eventually those fat cells become resistant themselves.

3) It just gets better. Levels of insulin stay higher longer because the pancreas thinks “if a little is not working, more would be better.” Wrong. Insulin is itself very toxic at high levels, causing, among many other maladies, plaque build-up in the arteries (which is why diabetics have so much heart disease) and increasing cellular proliferation in cancers.

4) Just as insulin resistance prevents sugar from entering muscle cells, it also prevents amino acids from entering. So now you can’t build or maintain your muscles. To make matters worse, other parts of your body think there’s not enough stored sugar in the cells, so they send signals to start to cannibalizing your precious muscle tissue to make more – you guessed it – sugar! You get fatter and you lose muscle. Woo hoo!

5) Your energy level drops, which makes you hungry for more carbohydrates and less willing to exercise. You actually crave more of the poison that is killing you.

6) When your liver becomes insulin resistant, it can’t convert thyroid hormone T4 into the T3, so you get those mysterious and stubborn “thyroid problems”, which further slow your metabolism.

7) You can develop neuropathies (nerve damage) and pain in the extremities, as the damage from the excess sugar destroys nerve tissue, and you can develop retinopathy and begin to lose your eyesight. Fun.

It really is that bad.  Hoarding tummy fat?  That’s a sign of insulin resistance.  Have a little pooch under your belly button even though you’re thin?  Insulin resistance.  It’s all about insulin!  Seriously!  Keep your insulin low, eat plenty of good fat to burn as your main fuel, lose fat.  Stop.eating.sugar.

How many grams of carbohydrate is too many?  Well, if you’re eating under 50g, you’re in ketosis – your body is manufacturing its own carbs to fuel your nervous system (which prefers carbs as its main energy source).  If you’re getting under 100g, you’re most likely going to lose weight without much extra effort.  If you’re getting under 150g, you probably won’t lose weight without an exercise regimen, but you’ll be in a good spot insulin-wise.  Most Americans eat over 300g a day.  If you stop eating sugar and grains (wheat, oats, corn, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, barley – all of them, and legumes while you’re at it (not a grain, but a hefty dose of carbohydrate and lectins)), it’s actually sort of difficult to get all the way to 150g.  Stick to 1-2 fruit servings a day, go crazy on the vegetables and protein, and you’ll be well within that range.


Grains are awful.  No kidding.  Everything above applies to grains as well as sugar – because they all convert to glucose and cause an insulin spike.  But grains are particularly insidious.  I won’t say that I’ll never have sugar again – I eat fruit, and I’m sure there are bowls of ice cream in my future as a rare cheat treat.  But I believe I can safely say I will never (intentionally) eat another grain.  I think I’ve linked to it before, but here is why they’re so bad.

Humans are not supposed to eat them.  We’re just not.  For years I’ve given my dog grain-free food, but haven’t extended myself the same consideration.  Our species, before we got too smart for our own good, were hunter-gatherers.  Our genetic makeup is suited for animal protein and the moderate amount of carbs you’d get from eating loads and loads of vegetables and some fruit here and there (roughly 80g of carbs a day).

But besides the common-sense argument, which is sort of ho-hum (ok, well, we weren’t “meant” to drive cars either, but I’m not going to stop doing that), they are harmful.  As in, they will do direct damage to your insides.  By way of:

LECTINS:  these little buggers will stick to your intestinal lining, bind to your insulin receptors (worsening insulin resistance), can cause leaky gut syndrome where your partially digested food (including more lectins) can seep into your bloodstream and wreak mad havoc on your immune system by binding to anything they please.  La di da, just a lonely lectin, floating along…ooh, that joint looks like fun, I’ll stop there.  It can cause your immune system to reject the entire joint, organ, or tissue that is infected by lectins.  It can’t differentiate the lectin from the tissue, so it attacks the whole thing.  Is this sounding familiar?

GLUTEN:  you must know about gluten.  It seems like everyone is avoiding it.  It’s bad news.  About a third of us are sensitive or intolerant.  It causes something similar to an allergic reaction, causing a host of problems that vary greatly in manifestation and severity from person to person.  Skin issues, bloating, malabsorption, reflux, infertility, any digestive problem you can think of, joint pain.  You name it, gluten is implicated.  Bastard.

PHYTATES:  in short, they keep you from absorbing the nutrients you eat.  They’re aptly known as anti-nutrients.  They bind to all the awesome minerals you think you’re getting when you look at a food label.  They’re there – you just aren’t going to get them.

You can sort of neutralize some of these things by fermenting or soaking/sprouting, but not totally.  Unless you live in the third world and rely on being able to eke enough nutrients out of grains to survive (and they all have some sort of elaborate grain preparation method that mitigates some of those toxins), they’re just no good to you.

Is that enough for now?  I’m sort of spent.

But before I totally run out of steam, a few notes:

-Whole grains aren’t any better.  All carbs, fast or slow burning, simple or complex, eventually become glucose in your bloodstream and contribute to your total insulin load.  Complex carbs won’t spike your blood sugar quite as high quite as fast, but your body still has to do something with the glucose.  AND you could make the argument that whole grains are worse because their lack of processing means they’re typically higher in phytates, lectins and gluten.

Isn’t it just like Atkins?  No.  Sort of.  Not really.  Atkins is also low-carb, high-protein, but Atkins allows for artificial sweeteners, “low-carb” snacks – it doesn’t really matter what you’re eating, as long as it isn’t a carbohydrate.  No preference for quality fats, clean meat, organic vegetables.  Trans fat, PUFA, omega 3:6, doesn’t matter.  The overriding message is: avoid carbs and you’ll lose weight.  And it’s true.  It just may not be the healthiest way to do it.  Here is a really amazing Venn diagram outlining Paleo, Primal, and Atkins.

Quinoa?  Is not a grain.  It’s a chenopod…or a pseudograin…or something.  Related to swiss chard and such.  I’d put it in the “cheat” column because it still delivers a heavy carb dose, but it isn’t the worst thing.  By the way, even though it is a grain, this is how I view rice as well.  Another reason worth avoiding them is that for some folks it may trigger sugar cravings.  If you’ve got a sweet tooth, I’d stay away.

-And to clarify what I’m doing exactly – I got inspired by the Whole30 concept.  After dipping my toes in the water and cheating daily (is it even cheating, then?) for months, I needed to just do it.  I’m doing a complete first 30 days (except for two cheats over the weekend – cheese and white potatoes), then after a month of clean eating I’m going to do another month with the reintroduction of dairy.  And probably some alcohol.  Hopefully that way I’ll have a better idea of how they affect me, and I’ll know whether I should keep excluding or if I tolerate them well.

So far I’ve read The Primal Blueprint, and I’ve ordered The Paleo Solution. I definitely recommend tPB – very easy to read, well-organized, well-researched and supported.  I also read Mark’s Daily Apple everyday – and today he answered my question about olives!



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