Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Phytochemicals, Natural Antibiotics and Antioxidants

Plants are mean and sneaky.  They are natural organic chemists and make the nastiest toxins on earth.  Never trust a plant.  Eat them at your peril… or because they taste good.

Plants are Fast and Lethal
I was shocked when people started to laud the virtues of phytochemicals.  I thought that they must have alkaloid poisoning.  My PhD training involved separating and measuring the antifungal chemicals produced by soybean cotyledons exposed to the wall polysaccharides of a pathogenic fungus.  The plants would go crazy and produce a witch’s brew of toxins to provide protection from the fungus.  I eventually wrote a chapter on these toxic natural antibiotics, phytoalexins, for the Encyclopedia of Science and Engineering.  All plants produce these chemicals and as one might expect, seeds/nuts are provided with special protection to avoid being digested.

Plants are Natural Chemical Killers
I developed a profound respect for the ability of plants to protect themselves.  Fungal spores germinate on the surface of leaves and their slender, threadlike hyphae attach and glue themselves to the waxy outer surface and then forcefully and enzymatically penetrate to the spongy cells below.  When the tip of the hypha touches the wall of the underlying cell, the plant nucleus lurches as its cytoskeleton reorients.  The surrounding plant cells respond in sympathy and all of these neighbors mobilize their biochemical processes to kill everything in their vicinity.  In a few hours, the plant chemicals kill the cells producing them along with the pathogen, and would continue to kill more and more of the leaf, but plant cell walls also contain enzymes that convert the phytoalexins to more wall material, lignin, and protect cells outside of the influence of the fungus.  As lignin in wood and plant litter is slowly degraded by microorganisms, it forms humus, the natural organic material in compost and soil, and also releases a potpourri of potent plant phenolics like BPA.  Compost is also a rich source of cell wall polysaccharides, a.k.a. soluble fiber, that feeds soil bacteria.

Phytochemicals are Natural Antibiotics
Most phytochemicals have evolved in plants as pathogen or herbivore defenses.  Since the nervous system is adapted to detect other organisms, it is not surprising that plants target the sensory system, brain and nerves of herbivores, and we detect the flavor and smell of plants/herbs/spices by their defensive molecules.  All of the flavor and taste components of herbs and spices are phytochemicals that kill bacteria, fungi and other pathogens.  Nicotine and caffeine are insecticides.  A detailed, worldwide study showed that spices are used in specific global areas, because of the local availability of the spices and their effectiveness against local food storage pathogens.  People develop a taste for the plant defensive chemicals that they must be exposed to for sustenance.  Cuisine represents a knife edge that separates attractive stimulation from death.  Natural or organic does not mean safe or healthy.  Plants are as dangerous to eat as pufferfish.

Phytoalexins are Useful, but Be Very Careful
Perfume Ingredients
If a grape notices a nearby fungal pathogen, it produces its phytoalexins, including resveritrol, which is a notable “antioxidant” that has been recognized as contributing to longevity.  People are encouraged to drink red wine for the health benefits of its phytoalexins.  Most of the pharmaceuticals derived from plants are phytoalexins in disguise.  Of course, the evolutionary origins of phytoalexins as natural broad spectrum antibiotics, makes it no surprise that phytoalexins are commonly toxic, carcinogenic and very dangerous to fetuses.  Morning sickness has been explained as nature’s way of telling a mother carrying a vulnerable fetus to not eat plants and potentially phytoalexins.  It is wise for women to avoid plants, perfumes and essential oils during their first trimester.  Essential oils are phytoalexin extracts from plants and many of these components are the essence of perfumes.  These same chemicals, e.g. limonene, serve dual purposes as fragrances and paint strippers, recreational drugs and insecticides.  We can smell these natural plant chemicals, because they are attacking our nervous system.  Multipurpose mixtures of essential oils, such as Vick’s Vaporub, contain menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil and terpentine that kill bacteria and fungi (toe nail fungus) and also stimulate cold/hot sensing nerves in the skin, which triggers endorphin production and reduces underlying joint inflammation.

Fruits are Fake Seduction
Fructose is fruit sugar.  That is very appropriate.  Fructose derivatives are the most central intermediates of central metabolism, glycolysis; glucose is immediately converted to fructose after it enters a cell as the fundamental source of energy and carbon building blocks.  Fructose is not normally transported in plants or animals, because it is too chemically reactive and toxic.  It rapidly bonds and crosslinks proteins and is ten times worse than glucose in forming AGE (advanced glycation end products) such as hemoglobin A1C.  If you feed fructose to cattle, it makes their meat tough by cross linking protein fibers and it does the same thing to human skin.  Fructose in fruit is a fake, because it is cheap and sweet.  Animals eat fruit hoping to find starch, which is the only polysaccharide that animals can convert to glucose with their own (not bacterial gut flora) enzymes.  Starch quickly becomes sweet, because amylase in saliva digests the long chains of glucose molecules of starch into shorter dextrins that trigger sweet sensors in the tongue.  Fructose masquerades as starch by binding to sweet sensors a hundred times more strongly than dextrins.  The evolutionary advantage to using fructose to make plants sweet is that it takes much less energy and carbon, and it also poisons insects and microorganisms.  That is why honey is made of equal amounts of fructose and glucose, rather than sucrose, for example.  Fructose in high concentrations is toxic to microorganisms and honey can be used to dress wounds.  I can’t understand why fruits, especially juices, are recommended as part of a nutritional diet.  At best, fruit should be converted into juice.  The juice should be discarded and the pulp eaten as a source of soluble fiber, pectin, to feed gut flora. 

Phytochemicals Must be Detoxified to be Edible
Bacterial and fungal pathogens must avoid detection by plants to avoid death by phytoalexins.  Insects, similarly must avoid preformed phytochemicals that would kill or poison them with their first bite.  Pathogens and pests that are effective on one species of plant cannot eat others with different chemical defenses; plants and their pests/pathogens are mutually adapted.  Primates browse on new shoots of many different types of plants, to avoid building up lethal doses of particular phytochemicals.  The same is true of humans, who also have intestines and livers that chemically treat and neutralize plant toxins.  These same human defenses determine the rate at which other related chemicals, i.e. pharmaceuticals, most of which are derived from phytoalexins, are transformed and excreted.  Turmeric contains curcumin, which is the most potent inhibitor of inflammation yet identified.  Unfortunately, curcumin is “detoxified” in the intestine and large amounts must be eaten to suppress inflammation.  Fortunately, pepper contains another phytoalexin, piperine, which inhibits the detox system, so that most cuisines that use turmeric combine it with black pepper.

Trade Your Liver for Vegetables
The liver is the only organ that can be continually regenerated and that is because humans have evolved to eat plants, and phytoalexins take their toll on the liver.  As plants are digested and absorbed in the small intestines and transported to the liver, phytoalexins accompany the nutrients.  Most of the phytochemicals are chemically detoxified by liver enzymes, but the phytoalexins kill some liver cells with each meal and some of the phytoalexins circulate in the blood and reach other tissues.  The phytoalexins are evolutionarily adapted to bind to proteins to disrupt essential enzymes of microorganisms and herbivores, and like pharmaceuticals to which they are chemically and functionally related, they have numerous side effects.  The chemical reactivity is what is detected as the “antioxidant” property of phytoalexins.  Antioxidant is nutritionally meaningless and basically reflects the chemical toxicity of phytochemicals.  After all, you can’t easily sell chemicals that are inherently toxic.  Meat and humans are made of the same easily digestible stuff, i.e. protein, fat, plus indigestible polysaccharides in connective tissue, i.e. chondroitin sulfate and heparan sulfate.  Plants are essentially anti-human and are made of protein, vegetable oils (omega-6), digestible starch, undigestible cell wall polysaccharides, undigestible lignin and toxic phytoalexins.  Humans have adapted to eating plants with liver enzymes, liver regeneration, gut flora (to eat otherwise indigestible polysaccharides, soluble fiber to produce short chain fatty acids) and elaborate cultural habits.  We avoid most plants as too toxic and have domesticated some to produce reduced and tolerable levels of phytochemicals.  Of course this also means that the domesticated, defanged crop plants have a hard time defending themselves and we have to continually worry about blights and pestilences, and end up applying our own witch’s brew of fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides.

Polyphenols and Hormesis
I am going to add a few comments on the benefits of phytochemical "antioxidants", a.k.a. polyphenols, to clarify what I think is a misuse of the term "hormesis", which I thought meant the dilution of a toxin until it reached a magic lower concentration which was beneficial.  The trade offs of phytochemicals are nicely discussed by the Whole Health Source blogger, Dr. Stephan Guyenet.  I just don't think that the benefit of toxic chemicals stimulating the body's own antioxidant arsenal is an example of hormesis.  The point is that phytochemicals always act as toxins and stimulate toxin defenses.  Phytochemicals don't act as anti-oxidants in the body, even though they stimulate antioxidant defenses at all concentrations.  They provide a dubious benefit of unnecessarily heightening defenses with concomitant energy expenditure at low amounts and net damage at higher amounts.
Hakuna Matata and Sip the Tea
Tea Fanatic
I seem to have painted a compromising picture of plants as less than the perfect food.  They are tough and potentially toxic.  Plants clearly don’t like to be eaten and the best that can come of eaten plants is a full belly and a damaged liver.  But if you cook or ferment the plants first and bacteria start to digest and dull the chemical arsenal, plants can be safely and perhaps even enjoyably eaten.  We need not eat just safe meat.  We can also kick back and sip the tea.


Amber O'Hearn said...

Thank you for this post that minces no words. For me, the health improvements I have gained through carnivory and plant avoidance have been spectacular. Tasty as they are, vegetables aren't worth it.

In part from this experience, I even speculate that gut bacteria may be helpful mainly as a buffer to produce fatty acids in scarcity, and not necessarily in times of plenty.

Puddleg said...

Bravo. This is why so many herbivorous animals eat clay, which absorbs these toxins.

Roseanna Smith said...

A few years ago I shocked one of my more scientifically-inclined friends by telling him that plants were full of toxins. He swore he'd never heard this concept before, and gave me the side-eye for a long time after that.

Of course, he was doing the "master cleanse" at the time, so maybe he wasn't really all that scientifically inclined, lol.

Thanks for this post. I'm another carnivore who found great health benefits to avoiding plants. After eating low-carb for three years I saw some improvements, but when I went "zero-carb" (all meat) four years ago, my health also improved spectacularly. I've often speculated that the problem with the regular low-carb diet wasn't so much that it still had too much carbohydrate, but that I'm somehow more sensitive than the average person to plant phytotoxins.

Unknown said...

Lots of interesting food for though here. I'm not quite so convinced on the fruit argument. Plenty of animals that eat fruit have delicious tender flesh, particularly birds. Cattle didn't evolve eating fruit, but occasional fruit will not harm their meat. Also, not all animals have the amylase capacities that *some* humans do.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

L. Amber,
I don't think that you have much choice. Without gut bacteria your immune system, that develops in the lining of your gut in response to gut flora, just shuts down. Antibiotic treatments will result in autoimmune disease. You don't need to eat meat or veggies, but you do need to feed your bacteria for a functional immune system. Some nutrients have to pass into your colon and bacteria to eat them must be there.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I agree that toxin cleansing in crazy. No one will identify the toxins that are problem. The environmental toxins from man made sources are simply not as significant as common plant chemicals. Also, the cleanses show no pattern of how they will do anything other than removing healthy colon bacteria.

Alternatively, maybe what is meant by cleanse is the basic anti-inflammatory diet that I outline that just provides basic nutrients and feeds gut flora.

Remember that all meat is not actually no carbs, since connective tissue half polysaccharides. It is just not starch or plant cell wall carbs.

There are very few genetic differences in basic physiology of people and essentially none related to dietary tolerances. That is all gut flora and history. It takes a couple of weeks to adjust to different fat loads, but changes in plants are dependent on the bacteria that you are bringing into your gut each day. Typical probiotics don't count. Intolerances only mean that you haven't brought in the needed bacteria. Phytotoxins are almost never an issue.

Thanks for the comments.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Animals that eat fruit do not let the fructose get into circulation. Fructose is always a biochemical problem and animals just solve it in different ways. Human livers become fatty when eating HFCS or agave nectar. There is no way around it, because humans have only evolved to handle the minimal amount of fructose present in fruit.

I haven't observed many differences in the enzyme production of humans. Most issues are gut flora and those tend to swamp out rare genetic differences. Genetics is a minor contributor to disease risk and doctors only ask about what runs in your family to check on the important inheritance: gut flora and diet.

Thanks for the comments.

Debra said...

I do very much enjoy your blog, thankyou.
Just looking at those phytoalexin structures, they look like they could mimic some steroid hormones.
If any do get through the intestines to the blood I expect that they could perhaps also be endocrine disruptors? This thought aside, the case for eating fermented veggies is quite compelling.

Kay Dee said...

Antioxidant means (as several authors say) Free Radicals Neutralizing in a "kamikaze" way - It results in a "minor" tissue damage and in a anti-aging effect.
For example Barry Sears promotes Polyphenols because they protect (he says) EPH-DHA in cell membranes from Free Radicals.
So you do NOT believe at all in this Free Radicals Neutralizing Effect?

Kay Dee

samc said...

You are turning our world upside down. No fruit, no veggies. . . what's next?

I'm not tuned in scientifically enough to dispute your statements but I do find them fascinating. I've lessened my intake of fruit in the past few years but veggies still are in the mix. I have started making Sauerkraut so we shall see how that works out.

I'm hoping someone comes along and debates your post so I can watch from the sidelines and make more informed decisions. As a parent we've spent so much time getting kids to eat veggies - forget all that and just eat your damn meat! LOL


Dr. Art Ayers said...

Kay Dee,
First of all, the test for antioxidants is bogus. Mix a fluorescent with a ROS, reactive oxygen species and watch the fluorescence diminish. Do the same with the test antioxidant present and note that more fluorescence is retained. All of the plant phytoalexins and pigments test positive as antioxidants. All of those compounds branch off of metabolism from phenylalanine, so that makes sense, but you could also say that they are all organic compounds. Or you could say that plants have chlorophyll. It just doesn't matter.

Most plant antioxidants just pass through the gut or are removed and neutralized by the liver and kidneys. They are treated just like pharmaceuticals, because they are natural pharmaceuticals. Plant antioxidants don't reach where the problem ROS are being produced in cells near mitochondria. Cells are protected by enzymes, glutathione, uric acid and vitamin C, and as far as I know these real, natural cellular antioxidants are not recharged by the plant fakes.

This also shows that so called super foods are just commercial hyperbole.

All that is needed is unprocessed foods with protein, fat and some minerals, plus soluble fiber to feed the complementary gut flora. A steak can do that as well as carefully selected veggies. Raising blood sugar is an AGE, old, inflammation problem.

I think that any beneficial effects of antioxidants probably derive from companion soluble fiber or other effects on gut flora. Many pharmaceuticals actually act via gut flora.

Thanks for your comments.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I just see myself as leveling the playing field. Meat, fish, eggs, veggies are all the same, just protein, fat and soluble fiber. Unfortunately, most people think that is enough, but even with all of those you will be unhealthy unless your gut flora matches you diet.

If you quickly shift from diet to diet, you can kill off your gut flora and produce autoimmune diseases.
Antibiotics also kill gut flora and result in autoimmunity.
Processed food lack soluble fiber to feed gut flora and lead to autoimmunity.
Modern cultures provide many ways to destroy essential gut flora, but few ways to repair gut flora.

By the way, I like plants and used to teach plant physiology at Harvard. Some of my best friends are plants. In fact some of my friends are fruits.

Thanks for your comments.

Unknown said...

Dr. Ayers,
I really enjoy your posts.

How beneficial do you think supplemental pectin (e.g capsules, powder) is on damaged intestinal flora? Or other soluble fiber like acacia and powdered inulin?

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I don't see the point to refined or processed soluble fiber. It makes much more sense to me to use the whole plant and eat dozens of types of soluble fiber at the same time. It seems to me that the goal is to eat a stable diet that feeds a complex gut flora of a couple of hundred different species. Why separate out each soluble fiber and then add together a bunch of different soluble fiber polysaccharides to produce a diet. It just seems easier to skip all of the processing and just eat meals made from good quality meat, fish, eggs and veggies. Different colors of veggies and fruits is silly. Just gradually change with the seasons and local availability. Organically grown is OK, but it will not compensate for antibiotic-damaged gut flora. (Your liver is already detoxing tons of phytochemicals, so a few agrochemicals won't make much difference.). To repair gut flora, you have to first supply the missing bacteria.

Thanks for your comments.

Raj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Third Chimp said...

This is OT, but ....It occurred to me that one way to assess the contribution of the colon biome to the immune system would be to remove it (the colon). This is a colectomy, and I wonder if you have seen information relating to effects on immune system of those unfortunates who have had this procedure?

Unknown said...

Dr. Ayers,

In case you haven't seen them, I just wanted to bring to your attention two recent studies that claim sugar does not cause NAFLD. The first is a double-blind study and the second is a meta-analysis.

Thanks for providing all the content on your site!

Anonymous said...


Iron overload is also frequently seen with NAFLD and iron overload propoensity is genetically determined in most cases although acquired is possible via excessive iron supplementation or blood transfusions etc.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ayers,

I thought you recommended eating plants raw and preferably a bit dirty with soil in order to get the beneficial gut flora effects of their fibers? Now you say cooked is the "safe" way to go. I'm confused...probably eating way too many plants...

Dr. Art Ayers said...

It is fortunate that all of the bacteria needed to populate a human gut can fit nicely on the head of a pin. So we don't have to recruit of the the bacteria that we need with each meal.

It is difficult to get nutrients out of veggies, therefor we cook.

It is difficult to get gut flora recruits out of veggies, therefor we crudité and ferment.

It is difficult to get long chain omega-3s out of veggies, therefor we fish.

It is difficult to get vitamin D out of veggies, therefor we sun bathe.

It is difficult to eat veggies without sacrificing our livers,
therefor we regenerate.

Anna K. said...

thank you for a great post, but it leaves me a bit confused... what veggies do you recommend as "safe" to be eaten? You are saying they are toxic, but we must eat them for our gut bacteria... But there are many people who only eat meat and their bacteria seems to be ok. Are you saying then that vegetables contain some essential nutrients? Hence the confusion...

I understand that anything fermented is ok, but what about non-fermented? do they need to be cooked or raw? What kind of fruit or vegetables are beneficial for our gut bacteria yet, not toxic to us?

Thank you.

Anna K. said...

Or are you saying that we can handle some toxicity and it's a good trade off to eat just a little veggies to feed our gut bacteria?

Also, what about resveratrol? do you believe there is merit to its life-extending claims?

thank you again.

James said...

And Ron Rosedale says there are no safe starches... and since I pretty much always take your word for it....not much left to eat other than animal products

crystie said...

Dr. Ayers,

If I eat the same vegetables with grassfed beef, but change the spices weekly, is that bad? I like to do a base of onions, red peppers, and carrots. Then I add other vegetables if they're on hand. I thought I was eating really healthy. But I've had lots of pain despite avoiding gluten, yeast, and sugar--which can hit me hard.
When you say switching through cuisines is bad, does that apply to something as simple as eating panang curry for most of one week, and then thyme, rosemary and garlic the next week? Until this post, I was thinking that you meant something like lentils versus oatmeal versus tempeh.

Thank you for all your posts.

Unknown said...

It's always lovely to read you, Art. You are one of the sharpest minds on this end of the nutrition blogosphere. However, and despite your moderate conclusion, this post is both reductionist and alarmist.

It's already been demonstrated that the majority of benefits derived from antioxidants are via hormesis in nature. But antioxidants have also been shown over and over again to reduce inflammation. Clearly, we have a tolerance for plants either via gut flora or adaptation, and this tolerance can prove to be beneficial.

One of the most promising studies was featured on Suppveristy awhile ago, where a higher total antioxidant intake from food improved metabolic health and prevented fat gain in a three year follow up study.

As a commenter notes above, Rosedale says, "there are no safe starches". A two second look at any of the traditional cultures still eating a primarily unrefined, high starch diet proves this wrong. And quite frankly, the jury is still out as Rosedale or any of his followers have yet to outlive members of these cultures.

The most sensible diet to follow in this short life we all live is a whole-foods based one. Choose whatever macro fuels your needs best and carry on.

Of course, research like this is still incredibly beneficial and necessary. But I do wish we could keep this a bit more sane when drawing real world conclusions and actions from the results.

Galina L. said...

Also, lets remember about pesticides which are used in order to grow vegetables. I manage to afford some organic vegetables only because I don't consume a lot of it.

Aaron Ashmann (halotek) said...

Art, I'm been enjoying your posts a lot recently. It's good to have you back.

Hopefully I can peak your interest with a couple of questions:

1: Even though you assert that veggies and fruit have particular toxins, you do think we should try to eat the same veggies/fruit over and over to help our got flora regardless of constant exposure to the same toxins over and over in eating the same foods.

2: How much DHA do you recommend daily? Do we really need to consume DHA if we get LA and ALA from our diet? (primarily from oils like olive) I've seen studies that show women unlike men do convert some ALA to DHA in tissues, but that men don't (they don't carry babies). None of these studies show if any conversion in happening (ala to DHA) in the brain because we don't usually do brain biopsies. I'm def worried about excess polyunsaturates and want to take the minimum i need to maintain an adequate amount of omega 3's in my body tissues/eyes/brain. Also, it's interesting to note that only at 200 mg intake of DHA a day it actually shows to have a antioxidant effect vs levels of 400mg, 800mg, 1600mg daily. Benefits of DHA might also be because of hormetic reasons.

3: How much plant material do you suggest for hormetic effect and is it really necessary to consume plants/fruits at all vs a little bit of starches?

4: Do you think we need plant compounds to balance the fact that humans seem to have a naturally high inflammation level? (at base level). Would decent vitamin D levels and intermittent fasting be enough to tamper our high inflammation state vs consuming lots of veggies for this effect?

5: How worried are you about AGEs from plant sources like well done sweet potato fries vs AGEs in well done meat? Also, do you worry more about the internally produced AGEs from fructose and polyunsaturates vs the question I gave in the first part?

6: You recommend tea. Do you worry about the fluoride levels in tea given that most water supplies are fortified with it? Usually I dump the first 60 seconds for removal of caffeine and limit the remaining steep to 90 sec if I do consume tea. Also, you do you recommend tea between meals or during meals for optimal effect? I've seen some studies that tea has beneficial effects in sanitizing our upper intestine of pathogenic bacteria when consumed between meals.

7: I agree with your assertion that probiotic supplements are secondary to feeding internal flora with fiber. Most of the benefits I've had with probitoics were transient before some negatives effects begin to appear. And this would be the case even with optimal pulsing. (probiotics 2 days in a row, 5 days off) (making a statement here and not a question)

8: Do you think we need to balance muscle meats with gelatin a la ray peat? As I don't consume bone broths on a regular basis and Iim interested if I am throwing my ratios of amino acids off (once again a la ray peat). And gelatin seems to give me horrible insomnia.

9: If you only consume a little bit of veggies/fruit and only use white rice or a little bit of sweet potato for your starches (obviously i'll be eating some carrots). Do you think you can maintain mineral balance on a diet that is higher in oils like olive and meats (vs the mineral rich veggies)? I know that in the past you have been against taking calcium or magnesium supplements as they have been known to feed gut biofilms. I'm just worried that with limited vegetable consumption we might not get enough minerals if we don't consume bone broths. (and I'm against supplements in general)

Thanks in advance if you can answer any of the questions.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I don't worry about common foods, for after all they have been emasculated and their toxic level is OK for most people. The point is the soluble fiber/ polysaccharides and meat contains glycosoaminoglycans that are meat soluble fiber that gets digested by bacteria. I don't think that there is anything essential about plants. I think that it is just harder to find bacteria that can provide all of the gut functions from eating just meat, unless all the people around you are already doing it or you are around animals that are eating normal things, like cats eating rodents.

Fermented is better, because it exposes the veggies to some bacteria that can take the edge off, such as sour dough bacteria preprocessing gluten. Seeds are harder to detox and that is why fruits are a fake -- they signal more nutrition than they contain, and then you have to avoid the seeds.

Veggies are good uncooked for contaminating bacteria useful to your gut and cooked for nutrients.

The point of post is to explain that veggies are not natures gift to humans any more or less than cattle are, they are just harder to digest. I would just eat what I enjoy and not worry much about eat, as long as it is whole food and not grain or vegetable oils.

I think that resveratrol is silly.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Don't worry. Be happy. I eat meat, fish, eggs, butter, olive oil and lots of veggies. Spend time cooking and enjoy lots of spices and herbs. Just trust your body and gut flora to keep you safe and healthy. The only hazard is following the guidelines from people who make money from making you sick on processed junk. Embrace bacteria or healthy people.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

If you have any digestive upsets, the problem is gut flora that aren' right for your food. You need new bacteria and the easiest way is growing your own fermented veggies. It just takes a couple of days for the simplest.

There does't seem to be anything wrong with your food. It's your flora.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I think that agricultural chemicals in food are a minor problem for most people compared to refined carbs, vegetable oils and damaged gut flora. The antibiotics to worry about are those prescribed, not those that persist in food. I advocate for wholesome, local food, but the bottom line is that most people aren't noticeably healthier on organic food. Processed foods and pharmaceuticals make people unhealthy. I am shocked by how few MDs and particularly nutritionists have a working understanding of food, flora and health. They just believe what they are told and don't know enough to make sense of it.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

1. Your gut flora are very robust and can quickly adjust if you keep rotating through foods on a weekly or maybe even monthly cycle. The problem is shifting diets, as in weight loss fads. Those will just kill your flora and lead to obesity.

2. I don't think that most people can be healthy of plant omega-3s, because we don't convert enough to EPA/DHA to compensate for the onslaught of omega-6s. It is just easier to pop a couple of capsules of fish oil, even though it is a lot tastier to eat fish. It probably also sets a good example to people around you who may not be knowledgeable about vegetable oils. I worry less about oxidation of omega-3s.

3. I have worked in plant, biomedical and molecular research for 40 years and read about 100,000 journal articles, and I have never heard or seen any reference to hormetic effects. I have never met anyone who has done research that suggests those effects -- not significant in nature. There is no practical reason to avoid plants, or animals. Starch is not needed. Soluble fibers are, but they are available (GAGs) in animals.

4. Plants are more naturally inflammatory than animals. Humans are not naturally inflamed.

5. I eat sweet potato fries with my grilled steak. What's the problem? My liver took care of it.

6. I don't worry about tea, but I worry about some of the extracts that Oz makes. I wouldn't drink most of his more intense herbal extracts or supper foods very often. He eats to many non-domesticated plants and pushes his liver to far. He can't do very much of that and still drink much. I never do anything to sanitize any part of my gut. Any sanitizing effect of tea would be a negative.

7. I would only suggest probiotics to some one who thinks they have damaged gut flora. They are not for routine use by healthy people.

8. The meat and gelatin (collagen) don't make sense to me. I don't worry about balancing amino acids.

9. I eat veggies with every meal and don't worry about minerals. I sometimes soak in Epson salts for Mg and a little bliss in my Jaccuzi. Gut biofilms are required for health and vitamin production.

I think that you spend too much time worrying about health and too little time exchanging flora with friends.

Thanks for the questions.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Third Chimp,
I meant to get back to you about the gut ecosystem. I equate the simple diets of some cultures, which are based on a root starch, with a tropical rain forest. Both have constant and simplified inputs. The gut bacteria produce more and more intermediates starting with starch and ending in carbon dioxide. Of course the worst situation for the bacteria is just to starve them out for months with processed foods that provide no soluble fiber.

It is easier to eliminate all of the bacteria than to remove the colon.

Greg Davis said...

Hi Dr. Ayers,

Can you make a book recommendation for homemade fermented veggies?

I know there are plenty of online articles but I am keen to know if you have a favorite book/resource.


Marybeth said...

I can answer that question for you since I have already asked it a couple weeks ago ;)
It is the following (but note that it will not be available until September 2014). You can also check out Sandor Katz's books that Dr. Ayers recommends.

Dr. Ayers-
How much fermented food a day to do you recommend to get ones gut back on track?


Anna K. said...

Hormesis is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors.

There is a lot of stuff on pubmed about hormesis and plant toxins.

"One general mechanism of action of phytochemicals that is emerging from recent studies is that they activate adaptive cellular stress response pathways. From an evolutionary perspective, the noxious properties of such phytochemicals play an important role in dissuading insects and other pests from eating the plants. However at the subtoxic doses ingested by humans that consume the plants, the phytochemicals induce mild cellular stress responses. This phenomenon has been widely observed in biology and medicine, and has been described as ‘preconditioning’ or ‘hormesis.’"

Here are just a few random examples:

Anna K. said...

So, Dr Ayers, Given that hormesis is discussed a lot in regards of plants, I'm not sure if I understood your correctly that you are not aware of hormetic effects of plants when you said :

"I have worked in plant, biomedical and molecular research for 40 years and read about 100,000 journal articles, and I have never heard or seen any reference to hormetic effects. I have never met anyone who has done research that suggests those effects -- not significant in nature. "


Dr. Art Ayers said...

I am a molecular biologist and that means that I think in the equivalent of mechanical terms at the atomic and molecular level. I can't think in the physiological terms of the body wants to do something. Hormesis is a physiological interpretation to indicate that, for example, plant defense molecules will kill us at high levels, but will turn on our immune system at low levels. But that is like saying that the body wants to prepare itself for future stresses. That is not what happens at the molecular level and most of the physiological explanations don't happen at the molecular level. It is just a contrived coincidence that the demonstrations that Dr. Oz provides of biological processes give the right answers, because nature doesn't work that way. Enzymes aren't attracted to substrates, they bump into them and stick. There is a huge difference. Hormesis gives the wrong answers.

There is a big difference in saying that a food is healthy and that it reduces infections. High chronic inflammation reduces infections. Low levels of infection may be a risk factor for autoimmunity. Antibiotics lower infection and they can block some types of autoimmunity, but is immunoincompetence a good thing and how do you put that on the response curve for antibiotics.

I think that hormesis just conflates independent molecular phenomena to produce convenient interpretations. Hormesis was not used in my plant physiology text.

I think that low levels of phytochemicals may induce the liver detox system, but that does not mean that there is an advantage to eating low levels of toxic compounds to keep the detox system turned on. Evolution has already selected for a system that is turned off until needed. Micromanaging is a pharmacological perspective on health.

I don't worry about eating phytoalexins, but if I could avoid them, I would. I cut out the infected parts of plants, because they can make you sick from their toxicity. The microorganisms are not the problem, but the plant defenses are seriously dangerous in spoonful doses.

Plants are like pit bulls; they can be sweet and provide you with healthful gut flora, or they can rip your throat out while you sleep. I don't worry about the nastiness and toxicity of plants, only because I understand how robust my body and it's flora are.

Thanks for your comments.

Galina L. said...

I think that some plants could make the life of intestinal parasites less pleasant. I wonder, could it be the reason why the people from hot and humid climates often eat very spicy and hot foods. May be it is not a hormetic effect, but the adaptation to the substance which works as an intestinal pesticide?

I am not well adapted to spices,I noticed my allergies get worse after eating hot and spicy food.I like natural taste of foods like raw nuts, cucumbers with only salt added,steamed broccoli with salt and butter, sometimes I eat intensely flavored foods, but get tired of it very quickly. I grew-up on a food which was lightly seasoned.

Jim said...

An unfortunate and irresponsible analogy.

"Plants are like pit bulls; they can be sweet and provide you with healthful gut flora, or they can rip your throat out while you sleep."

Other than that, an anti-dogmatic, thought provoking blog.

Samantha said...

Thank you for your post and comments. You say, "If you quickly shift from diet to diet, you can kill off your gut flora and produce autoimmune diseases.
Antibiotics also kill gut flora and result in autoimmunity....
Modern cultures provide many ways to destroy essential gut flora, but few ways to repair gut flora."

I am struggling with this exact situation, and normal probiotics are not enough. Trying to reintroduce foods is not working, because I react to almost everything. Do you have a suggestion for how to reintroduce healthy gut flora short of a fecal transplant? Switching MDs right now in search of one who will keep trying to solve this, rather than telling me it's my new 'normal'. If you have any ideas I can take to the doctor to discuss further, I'd love to hear them.

Fred Hahn said...

Art - Are you suggesting in any way that vegetable and fruit juices are toxic to the liver?

Charlene said...

Dr. Ayers,

I've been reading that starchy foods provide necessary energy for thyroid health, and that the thyroid is the master hormone regulator - affecting all our body functions. Low carb diets slow down the thyroid causing metabolic problems.

I know you avoid grains, do you avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes as well?

kay Dee said...

The question pointed out by Charlene is deeply interesting even for me - hope to know D.Ayers view on it...

Anonymous said...

Fred Hahn - I believe he is pretty much stating that outright.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I don't see anything magical about starch. You can get all the blood glucose you need from protein.

I consider all problems of the thyroid to derive from gut flora and most result from gluten intolerance via anti-tTG, etc.

Resistant starch just acts as soluble fiber as gut flora food.

I think that people sloppily lump high glycemic carbs and soluble fiber (most plant carbs, except starch). I think of low carb as just low glycemic, i.e. low starch/sugars and plenty of soluble fiber. Skip the grains.

I usually avoid baked potatoes, but I sometimes make my own cottage fries. It is very easy to gain weight by shifting between low carb and then adding starch.

Anonymous said...

Would you advise fermenting organic vegetables or will any vegetables from the supermarket do?

Also, what are your thoughts on immunisations and gut flora. In Australia, they are now vaccinating year 7 boys with the HPV vaccine Gardasil and another chicken pox jab.

My son has the inattention/disorganised version of ADD and is now in year 7 (He is 12 years old). He was on ritalin for 18 months at ages 7 & 8 but since then I have tried to steer clear of processed food as much as possible - lots of meat, cooked vegies, Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil, full fat dairy, cooking with coconut oil, lots of eggs and bacon (mostly Weston Price philosophy) as well as removing most grains except white rice and cutting back on sugar. His immunity is good - he hasn't had a cold for the last two years. I guess I am worried that the immunisations could trigger the worsening of his ADD. Would they hurt his gut flora? Should I be worried? What are your thoughts?

Kind regards,

Kay Dee said...

Excerpt from a Paul Jaminet article on Glucose Deficiency and Human Glycome.
In my opinion this is the most robust critics on Low Carb.

“Why is so much glucose consumed outside the brain? Immune function (which may utilize significant glucose in people with infections) and glycogen replacement (high utilization in athletes) are two reasons that can be significant in some persons, but in the vast majority of people the biggest reason for glucose utilization is the construction and maintenance of the human glycome.
There are about 20,000 human genes and, due to transcriptional variants and manufacture of proteins from multi-gene subunits, about 200,000 human proteins. However, these proteins are subject to various post-translational modifications, chief of which is glycosylation. Over half of all human proteins need to be glycosylated for proper function, and such is the variety of ways in which they can be glycosylated that there are an estimated 2,000,000 compounds in the human glycome.
These glycosylated proteins coat the plasma membrane of all cells. For many proteins, only glycosylated forms are allowed to leave the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complexes where they are formed; non glycosylated forms are ubiquinated and destroyed.
Nearly every major extracellular molecule has significant carbohydrate content. Glycosaminoglycans such as hyaluronan and proteoglycan components such as heparan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate are important building blocks of the extracellular matrix. Proteoglycans in general mediate all intercellular interactions.
All the body’s lubricating molecules are rich in carbohydrate. Mucins, the most important molecules in mucus, tears, and saliva, are predominantly composed of carbohydrate. Mucin-2, the dominant mucin of the intestine, is 80% sugar by weight.
Production of hyaluronan alone consumes 5 gm, or 20 calories, of glucose per day. [3] I have been unable to find detailed measurements of daily mucin production, but if mucin constitutes 1.5% of the 400 g daily stool weight, then it consumes 5 gm of glucose per day. Since gut flora can break down and metabolize mucin sugars, this may be an underestimate.
So: whole body measurements indicate peripheral glucose utilization of around 100 to 150 g (400 to 600 calories) per day in normal humans, and a mere two of the 2,000,000 carbohydrate-containing compounds in the human body account for nearly 10% of that.”

It sounds dramatically robust to be, but I am not a molecular biologist, and I do not have a good critical tool - and I would be deeply interesting in your vision on this.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Kay Dee,
That was a good article by Paul Jaminet and I am familiar with his work. I enjoyed the glyco-talk, since I was trained as a carbohydrate biochemist and did my PhD (glucan elicitor) in the laboratory that discovered the structure of plant cell wall polysaccharides, a.k.a. soluble fiber. I would agree with most of it, except for the need for a lot of carbs and leaving out the recycling of glycoproteins.

Hyaluronan, by the way, is specular in that it is synthesized directly through the cytoplasmic membrane (like cellulose in plants) and not via the secretory system!

Heparan sulfate proteoglycans, for example, form a glycocalyx surrounding most cells, which sweeps from one end of a cell to another and is recycled every six hours. Cells eat their own proteoglycans. Chondrocytes that live in cartilage for example, continuously burrow through the living cartilage (mostly collagen and glycosaminoglycans) and live totally on cartilage carbohydrate and protein without oxygen or nutrients from the blood (except on the periphery.)

Heparin is secreted along with histamine in large amounts to coat the intestine, but much of the heparin is quickly taken up by the epithelium and reused.

I also would like to point out that many animals, including dogs and cats, can survive on meat alone.

People can live on just meat or just plants, as long as their gut flora is adapted and they have sufficient protein to convert to glucose. Both plants and animals, e.g. glycosaminoglycans, produce soluble fiber to feed gut flora.

There is no biochemical support for eating large amounts of vegetables. They are difficult to digest and contain a wealth of toxic phytochemicals. If you and your gut flora adjust to plants, they can be eaten in relative safety (your liver regenerates). If you like veggies, enjoy them. If you like meat, then eat it. Your gut flora can only adjust if you eat the bacteria needed to digest your food of choice. Most food intolerances, indicating missing gut flora, involve plants because of the multiplicity of bacterial enzymes needed to digest the diverse soluble fiber.

This is a very large subject and I touched on a couple of points. I hope you liked my insights.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Eating a low fat/high fiber plant-based diet, will just lead to food intolerances. Gut flora will not change, unless new bacteria are introduced by eating them.

Eating fermented food containing live bacterial species in addition to the typical lactobacilli, will provide bacteria with new genes that can change the genomes of the gut flora. Just eating plants is not magical. Most people ignore that they are also eating new bacteria and no, all bacteria are not killed by stomach acid.

To change gut flora, you need to eat bacteria (and dairy probiotics are not enough.)

Thanks for your comments (though I wish you had read some more of my 190+ posts.)

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Organic is slightly better, but a major point is not sterilizing. Just let the salt do its work and try to retain as much microbial diversity as possible without introducing parasites and other unnecessary risks.

I wouldn't expect immunizations to have a significant impact on gut flora. I have a real hard time coming to conclusions about vaccines, because it is so difficult to get valid information with all of the commercial exploitation by the vaccine programs. There is just too much money changing hands to trust the information and the benefits are minuscule compared to the costs. Too many people must be treated to benefit a tiny number and more cost effective approaches are available. Many of these programs are like depending on the placebo effect of saline injections and still having significant negative side effects.

I have seen lots of good results from anti-inflammation strategies for ADD. I assume that you have measured his vitamin D. I would also recommend testing the benefits of EPA/DHA directly in good quality capsules and keep increasing the dose to see the relationship with symptoms. That should let you determine how much elimination of symptoms to expect from food.

I wouldn't worry about immunizations and gut flora. I don't worry about virus immunizations, unless the companies have had to goose up the immunogenicity of a weak vaccine with adjuvants.

Thanks for the questions.

psmith3721 said...

Dr Ayers,
Deeply appreciate your blog and the work you are doing! Imagine the billions saved in healthcare $$ by simply following your anti-inflammation advice. If you don't mind, could you tell me what brand of fish oil you trust? Likewise, is rancid (oxidized) fish oil inflammatory like most Omega 6 veg oils? Finally, do you have an opinion on the anti-inflammatory power of Astaxanthin?

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I am currently using Carlson, but I think there are many good brands. I think that most veg oils are inflammatory regardless of oxidation and I don't think that oxidation is a signifcant problem with fish oil capsules of reasonable quality.

I don't think that astaxanthin is big deal, but I don't think that phytochemicals and antioxidants are a big deal. Soluble fiber is more important. Most people think that the antioxidants in the plants they eat and all of the colorful phytochemicals that they seek are important , but the health benefits come from the soluble fiber in the plants feeding their gut flora. The purified phytochemicals don't seem to provide any benefit and are just detoxed by the liver.

Thanks for your comments and quesitons.

Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Ayers

I really enjoy your no-nonsense style of writing. Though each blog post is relatively short, it is dense with information!

I am wondering about whey. You wrote that whey destabilizes gut flora. I have been taking a certified organic whey protein that is ultra-filtered grass-fed cow's milk. I take about 10 grams of it on an empty stomach in the morning and after workouts. I have been taking it because I am looking to get into an anabolic state after intense workouts to build muscle. Also, I wanted to increase my glutathione production and I had read that cysteine is the rate limiting factor in glutathione production. Do you believe that taking whey would help increase gluthathione levels? Do you believe that it is good to increase glutathione levels? If so, what suggestions do you have for naturally and safely doing so?
In regards to your comments on whey destablizing gut flora. Could you elaborate? Does this mean it kills beneficial gut flora? Would taking whey daily have deleterious health effects? What do you think if I take it with milk kefir? Any effect?

I understand you look at things on a molecular level but I wonder how much weight you put into looking at non-western ancestral diets and modern hunter-gather diets when considering what is best for our health.

Many tropical hunter-gathers consume high amounts of high glycemic fruits like pineapple and papaya. Also, many aborigines risk life and limb to attain honey. The Hadza seem to prefer honey to just about everything. These people seem to live relatively free of the diseases that plague us in modern western countries. Would you consider fruits and a raw organic honey to be safe to consume in moderate amounts on a regular basis? I am talking about a teaspoon of honey or one or two pieces of fruit a day. At the very least the fruit seems to be a good source of fiber, pectin, vitamin c and some helpful digestive enzymes like papasin in papaya and bromelain in pineapple. My feeling is you will say the fructose is bad but in moderate amounts when accompanied by fiber can't our bodies handle that and even thrive?

I also wonder about white rice. It seems to be very low in the toxins that are commonly found in most other plants. It has a long history of safe consumption in Asia. I know it is basically devoid of nutrients and high in carbs but won't they just cause one brief insulin spike (like meat consumption) before insulin levels return to normal? I don't see how that would contribute to inflammation if I am only eating two meals a day. I like to have rice cooked in bone broth with some added marrow or just straight up to refuel glycogen stores after intense workouts. I would love to here your thoughts.

Also, I went on a low-glycemic diet before. No white rice, no grains, no fruits except lemons and limes, lots of animal and fish meat, skin, organs, bones, fat and cooked and fermented veggies, water and milk kefir. However, I developed a skin fungal infection that I could not get a handle on until I increased carbs in the form of tubers and white rice. I later read that fungus feed off ketones and that ketogenic diets leave people susceptible to fungal infections. Any thoughts? Could I have managed the fungal infection without adding starches back in?

Any suggestions for peridontal disease? I have been using oil pulling, flossing, brushing, increased vit. c, D, K, omega 3s from cod liver oil and gargle with a homemade alcohol mint solution.

Lastly, what are you thoughts on alcohol consumption? I have read that alcohol is a natural biproduct of fermentation and that our guts can have up to 2-3% alcohol because of gut flora fermenting foods. Would alcohol kill beneficial gut flora if it was a half glass of wine or cider a night? I have read that alcohol reduces the amount of b vitamins and glutathione in the body. Any way around this? Do you partake in the occasional glass of the good stuff?

I would love it if you would post a typical days food intake and timing in your household.

Anna K. said...

Dr. Ayers, thank you for your very thoughtful and detail explanation about the hormetic effects of plants. I see what you mean now.

And very interesting point that high chronic inflammation reduces infections, I can support that by anecdotal evidence.

Unknown said...

Luckily my fav. tea leafs are fermentet ones :-) Cheers, your tea fanatic :-))))

Anonymous said...

This may change things a little bit:

Confirmed: DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them

Anonymous said...

This might change things a little bit:

Confirmed: DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them - See more at:

Dr. Art Ayers said...

The paper that you reference and the original article both lead to the conclusion that genes from GMO food are not transmitted to the person eating them any faster than any other food, which is vanishingly small. Moreover, the foreign genes, even if transferred from gut to blood, would be of no consequence, because they are not taken up by human cells. If the astronomically rare event occurred and the foreign DNA was taken into a cell and the even rarer event of incorporating the foreign DNA into the cell's chromosomes occurred, then the foreign DNA would remain inert. If the rare event occurred and the foreign gene was activated, the worst thing that could happen would be that the cell would die unnoticed. The genes have no known toxicity.

Suspecting that eaten GMO DNA is going to have an impact, because plant DNA can be detected by extraordinarily sensitive systems that can detect single molecules, is a thousand times sillier than fearing addiction from handling dollar bills that test positive for cocaine. Nobody worries about cocaine that is actually present on all currency and cocaine is a very toxic natural plant product.

Anonymous said...

Dr Ayer,

I have abstained from eating fish because I am worries about the radiation from Fukushima poisoning the fish population. Is this too paranoid?

I am eating pork brain to supplement my omega 3. Is this a good trade off?

What effect will fermenting fruit have? Will this help neutralize the fructose and make eating fruit more beneficial?

majkinetor said...

Wonderful post. Thank you.

You say that Cells are protected by enzymes, glutathione, uric acid and vitamin C, and as far as I know these real, natural cellular antioxidants are not recharged by the plant fakes. What do you mean ? Vitamin C is clearly 'recharged by plant fakes' and NAC, a constituent of broccoli and garlic has epic liver protection features which is why it is used in acetaminophen poisoning.

Chris B said...

Fascinating topic. The theory presented is very interesting.

But how does the macro view compare to the meta view here?

Specifically: how does the mortality rate of vegans compare to other folk?

Vegans would subsist of a virtually all-plant based diet, which would in turn mean wads and wads of those pit-bull plant toxins. This, one would assume according to the theory presented on this page, put huge burden on liver and negatively effect mortality, right?

Yet several fairly solid studies indicate vegans live longer lives,for example...

"The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for all-cause mortality in all vegetarians combined vs. non vegetarians was 0.88 (12% lower), with the HR for males following a vegan diet at 0.72 (28% lower than non-vegetarians)...In general, plant-centered and vegetarian diets have more favorable chronic disease outcomes. This is one of the most consistent findings of nutritional epidemiology."

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine Published online ahead of print, June 3, 2013. 173(11):1-8. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473   ‘Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2’

Granted, there is some nuance here e.g. vegans my be more health concsious etc. But, the key point: eating lots of plants based foods doesn't appear to be a limiting factor compared to other diets.

So what gives?

This tends to suggest plant based foods aren't quite so toxic?

Or that the overall effect of eating plant based is positive sum game that any negative effects are superceded by the positive effects?



Dr. Art Ayers said...

I don't see the examples of plant polyphenols effective at recharging the cellular antioxidants. There is no mechanism or sense for moving the high energy electrons from cellular mitochondria that contribute to ROS and oxidative stress and deplete cellular antioxidants on to plant antioxidants that remain in the gut. NAC is in too low amounts to impact the liver. NAC is delivered in huge amounts IV for acetaminophen poisoning. Broccoli would not suffice.

Most of the benefits attributed to plant antioxidants are due to the soluble fiber.

Thanks for your comments.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Chris B.
My impression of the literature is that vegans have no health benefits over omnivores. That said, I also don't see a big health penalty from eating plants and their natural chemicals. Humans have evolved to minimize damage associated with eating common food plants and animals. We have a large liver and spend a lot of energy on protection from toxic plant compounds regardless of whether we are vegans or omnivores. Most of the energy is spent in defense rather than subsequent damage. Processing lots of toxic phytochemicals has about the same overhead as processing less.

Large studies, like the China Study, actually show that there is no big difference between plant and animal diets, but wheat lowers health.

Personally, I don't recommend one diet over another as long as there is adequate soluble fiber, e.g. resistant starch, and complementary gut flora.

Thanks for the comments.

majkinetor said...

I don't see the examples of plant polyphenols effective at recharging the cellular antioxidants.

I think you are mistaken. First, its very hard to claim such thing given the range of chemicals it involves.

For vitamin C see:
The bioavailability of vitamin C from kiwi fruit.

In some other papers from great vitamin C researcher argaret Vissers she shows that synergistic effect substances of kiwi gel provide better antioxidant protection that vitamin C alone or vitamin C extracted from the same kiwi gel.

While natural NAC might not be ideal thing for more extreme poisoning like that of paracetamol, it surely presents preventive moment with chronic ingestion of appropriate vegetables. This is evident from the fact that whey was used for thousands of years as liver remedy. Broccoli has almost double the content of cysteine then whey according to Wolfram Alpha. Natural MSM is another compound.

BTW, what do you think about ground flax seed for fiber. It is the richest source in the world AFAIK, has also w-3 DHA in large amounts.

What do you

Shawn Manske, N.D. said...

Dr Ayers,

I am a Naturopathic Doctor who has studied herbal medicine and found it very useful for myself, my family and a many number of patients. Whether its western herbal medicine, ayurvedic herbal medicine, or the longest use of herbal medicine and form a very different perspective, chinese herbal medicine, has proven useful to treat such a wide range of health conditions and improve overall health and wellness, depending on the plants or combinations used, how can one discredit plants by focusing on them being toxic. I understand how knowledgeable you are in this regard, but I feel there is something missing if such a huge diversity of plants, when taken as tea, tinctures, or extracts, have shown the ability to improve health and promote healing? Ie, milk thistle has been shown to reduce liver enzymes and reduce the damage to the liver from alcohol, drugs, fatty liver. Herbs like astragalus, ashwaganda, schisandra, etc. have been used to support the adrenal glands, the immune system, and improve overall health and resistance to stressors, improve athletic performance, for thouands of years via various cultures around the world. If plants are overall toxic to consume, then how would these benefits be seen?

I found your article very intriguing and insightful, especially coming from someone who has so much experience and knowledge as you do, is so well written and backed, but I just can't get my head around the idea that the plant world and the chemical factories they are are overly toxic to us, when they have been used as medicines for so long, with a good history of improvements in health concerns. Considering we have ben consuming them this way for so long, I feel there has been some coevolutionary mechanism which has allowed us to reduce the toxic effects which you speak of, and allow them to affect us in a positive manner.

Can you please comment on this and enlighten me a little as to how botanical medicine has been so useful throughout our evolution. (And I clearly realize there are many plants which are in fact overly toxic and can seriously harm). I just have been fond of plants as medicine, in the context of a healthy diet (which I promote one like that which you do) and daily movement, sun exposure, etc. and found them helpful to very many people.

Thanks for any thoughts and for all your writiings.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I think of plants as natural organic chemists that have produced millions of novel chemicals over millions of years and found the ones that make them healthiest and most reproductive. Most of the phytochemicals now produced provide benefit to plants because they kill pathogens and deter herbivores, i.e. they are toxic. Herbivores devote a lot of their energy to enzymatically detoxifying plant food. These enzymes are not needed to digest meat, which is safe without detox.

Phytochemicals are screened by pharmaceutical companies as the primary source of drugs. Candidate phytochemicals are tested for their balance of toxicity and therapeutic benefit, and the drugs marketed have the best ratio. All phytochemicals and all drugs have dozens of interactions and symptoms. Doctors are licensed to provide assurance that drugs will be beneficial. Plant extracts are variable mixtures of many different chemicals of different toxicities and benefits, but they are mistakenly viewed as inherently safe. The reality is that in most cases they are just traditionally used at sub-lethal dosages and are not used on small or vulnerable individuals. That is why women are discouraged from eating any plants or herbal treatments or essential oils during their first trimester of pregnancy.

Herbal healers have always been aware of the symptoms of phytochemical toxicity and adjust their use of herbs empirically. They also avoid foods that suppress the detox system and agree with the drug companies. I think that doctors and herbal healers have become remiss in assuming that their treatments are safe because they are used routinely. Sloppy administration of treatment now kill and injure as many people as heart disease or cancer. I suspect that herbal cures cause comparable damage relative to their use at safer dosages.

I think that the utility of herbal remedies comes from the fact that they are used either topically, where their anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory qualities help and toxicity is lower, or impact the gut flora.

Thanks for the comments/questions.

majkinetor said...

Dr Ayers

Herbal healers have always been aware of the symptoms of phytochemical toxicity and adjust their use of herbs empirically. They also avoid foods that suppress the detox system and agree with the drug companies

I am sure this is not correct, at least when Ayurveda is in question - at least 2/3 of all Ayurveda recipes contain pepper and curcumin for their role as bioehnancers. As you might know, piperine, the major constituent of piper nigrum, blocks phase 1 detox enzymes ( and furthermore improves absorption of number of chemicals.

So it's not only not avoided, but used as a major constituent of general health recipe.

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JPM said...

Art, another excellent post. Thank you for that. Two questions:

1. You mention "To repair gut flora, you have to first supply the missing bacteria." What is the best way to do this?

2. You also mention "It is very easy to gain weight by shifting between low carb and then adding starch." Could you provide a little more on this? Also, your thoughts on 'carb cycling' (occasionally eating a high carb meal)? You mention eating cottage fries.

Thanks again for both the original post and for the follow up comments.

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