Hey everyone, thanks for your patience!
Here is the second half of my summary of the great talks I attended at PaleoFX this weekend. If you like what I have to say here, please follow me on Facebook!
Some photo credit belongs to Bobby Gill, my unofficial official photographer for the weekend.
I will be posting a “Part 3” on Friday too, so keep an eye out for that!
Paul Jaminet gave a really interesting talk about this theories regarding the ideal human diet. He explained the different sources of insight he used to develop his Perfect Health Diet, including Paleolithic evidence, mammalian diets, composition of breast milk, properties of fasting, and innate food preferences of the brain. He also holds the perspective that a diet should optimize the nutrient density while simultaneously avoiding toxins. He explained why he promotes a certain level of safe starches in the diet, focusing on the fact that higher carbohydrate intake promotes fertility, muscle growth, and mood, while lower carbohydrate intake promotes longevity and immunity. He mentioned that he’ll be blogging about how macronutrient ranges can be adjusted for improving body composition and fitness by maximizing your useful-to-useless macronutrient ratio. He also explained why bone broth is such a vital component of an ideal diet, since the extracellular matrix derived from those broths can be used by the body to rebuild its own tissue. Bone broths provide electrolytes, scaffolding materials, and fluids, which can help with your fitness as well as your recovery after exercise. He recommends eating bone broth every day if possible, and I agree with him! He also spoke a great deal about avoiding infection as a way to maximize health, as well as minimizing inflammation by avoiding toxic foods, addressing infections, and nourishing the liver for better detoxification. He explained why intermittent fasting can be beneficial for certain people, and briefly spoke about his recent blog post regarding the possible problems with eating pork. All in all, it was a great talk, highly informative, and I was really pleased that he had been given the opportunity to present his data at this conference.
The next panel discussion I attended was the Bloodwork, Body Composition, and Hormones panel featuring Jack Kruse, Chris Kresser, Lane Sebring, Ruthie Harper, Beverly Meyer, Will Mitchell, and Dan Kalish. The doctors all explained the bloodwork panels that they recommend their patients to get tested, since most people are not in ‘optimal health’ even if they are generally healthy. The doc’s also discussed how they lower high triglycerides in their patients, and many of them discussed carbohydrate levels, stabilizing blood sugar, and Chris Kresser even talked about how going Paleo can even raise triglycerides due to the unloading of fat from the liver when dietary choline increases. Another question dealt with the symptoms of hormone deficiencies, and a big talking point was cortisol deficiency and low thyroid hormones. Another issue that Ruthie brought up was the low levels of estrogen and progesterone in her female athlete patients, which often leads to loss of ovulation. I thought it was an important point to bring up, especially because many women who think they’re healthy, because they’re very fit and have low body fat, are not truly healthy since they’ve lost their menstrual cycle. (I’ll be mentioning this in a later post). As far as using hormone replacement therapy as a way to help with certain hormone issues, the doctors all had different perspectives on what to do in specific cases. Some said there were other problems that needed to be addressed well before looking into hormone replacement, while others explained that a bit of exogenous hormones could help kick the body out of a major deficit and allow it to start functioning normally again. I definitely think this talk was one of the ones I’d want to buy the conference DVD for, since there was so much information presented and not nearly enough time for me to write everything down! One of the most important things the panel brought up was the problem that we all have – finding a physician that understands our issues, and is willing to work with us in a Paleo/Ancestral health framework. The panel members all mentioned a variety of resources for finding a doctor in your area, such as the Paleo Physicians Network, and Chris explained that you can contact certain lab companies like Metametrix to find physicians who will run those type of lab tests that you are looking for. Beverly reminded people that not all practitioners have to be medical doctors, and nutritionists, chiropractors and acupuncturists can be very helpful as well. Dan reminded us that “you cant be your own physician for everything,” which is important to remember, because many people try to ‘hack’ their own bloodwork without seeking the assistance of a licensed health professional. I don’t think being your own doctor all the time is a good strategy, and you really need to find an educated professional that can assist you in figuring out your health issues. This was a very interesting talk, and I think the conference DVD will be a great investment to be able to watch high-level talks like this.
Next came Chris Kresser’s talk on The Truth About Cholesterol and what you should or shouldn’t do about high cholesterol. On a side note, I was so happy that he thanked Chris Masterjohn for all the contributions he’s made to the discussion on this topic. Chris M. is really a cholesterol mastermind and I too am so happy he’s been working so hard to provide us all such important and useful information for our own lives, as well as the lives of any patients we may treat. Chris (K.) explained to us the myths and truths about what it means when your doctor tells you that you have ‘high cholesterol’, the difference between LDL and HDL, the kind of physiological roles that cholesterol plays in the body, and the diet and lifestyle factors that increase the risk for oxidative damage to LDL cholesterol. These factors include vulnerable LDL due to excess omega-6 consumption, poor antioxidant status, lifestyle factors like activity and environment, and time. He showed us a range of healthy cultures that have both high and low cholesterol, yet no evidence of heart disease. He also explained that high cholesterol may reflect an underlying condition such as leptin resistance, thyroid disfunction, inflammation, or genetic propensity for high cholesterol such as heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. He listed a few natural methods for lowering your cholesterol using food, such as eating antioxidant rich organ meats, using herbal remedies, and reducing other risk factors such as stress, smoking, or sedentary living. One controversial statement that Chris made was that if your cholesterol level is still high, you may benefit from a diet higher in carbohydrate and lower in saturated fat. Many people erroneously believe that dietary fat has no effect on blood lipids, but as Chris pointed out, about 30% of people do see their LDL go up when they eat high levels of saturated fat. I’m glad Chris brought this up because I think many people incorrectly assume that high saturated fat, very low carb diets are appropriate for everyone, which is not the case. Chris closed out his talk explaining different ways to correct nutrient deficiencies, specifically in diseases like Hashimoto’s.
I think most people would agree that Chris gave the most informative, well-evidenced, and scientific talk of the conference. I remember glancing around behind me at one point and seeing that not only was every seat in the room filled, but there were several rows of people standing behind the seating area listening to Chris talk. I think that alone demonstrates the incredible speaking ability of Chris, as well as his grasp of challenging medical topics and his ability to translate research data into clinical practice. I’m really glad more people are starting to listen to him, since he has a great deal of information to contribute to the Paleo/Ancestral health community. I highly recommend people download his podcast, its one of the few ones I listen to borderline religiously.
Next was a Paleo On-Ramp discussion with three of my most favorite roommates, Liz Wolfe, Diana Rodgers, and Diane Sanfilippo. I really respect these three women, especially because they are working with clients on a regular basis and know the challenges that most people face when a nutritionist tells them about an Ancestral style diet. Since I want to have a client based practice in the future, this talk was really interesting for me, and explained the different stereotypical clients that come into their practice and struggle with unique issues. They discussed the female CrossFit athlete, the Mom, the Fertility Struggler, the Coach with a belly, the SAD client, and the Resistant Vegetarian. Each client had their own specific set of concerns, and there were different techniques for dealing with each personality in a way that would make sense for that client and be well received. They reminded us that some people simply aren’t ready for change, and you can’t force them to listen to you. If someone is resisting you, you shouldn’t stress yourself out trying to help them. They suggested that you have compassion for your client, friend, or family member who is struggling, and to be there to support them when they’re finally ready to make a serious change in their diet or lifestyle. I’m really glad I got a chance to see these ladies talk about their counseling strategies, because it really plays into my future career path.
The next panel I attended was on Optimization versus Performance with Paul Jaminet, Mark Sisson, Ron Rosedale, Dallas Hartwig, and Krista Scott-Dixon, which was quite the interesting array. The focus of this discussion was talking about how the pursuit of performance can often take you farther away from optimum health. Dallas mentioned that health and performance can be opposing positions, particularly if you end up chasing performance at the expense of your health. Ron believes that health and longevity is proportional to amount of fat versus sugar that you burn for energy, and that carbohydrate consumption may improve performance even if you end up taking a hit on your longevity or health. Mark reiterated his point about being a fat-burner or a sugar-burner, and spoke from his own experience when he explained that elite fitness requires some level of health sacrifice; even the most ideal diet cannot keep up witht he demands of competitive fitness. Paul believes that adding roughly the amount of carbs you burn during exercise in order to compensate for the extra glucose you use during intense activity. Krista emphasized the importance of recovery in improving performance, and how focusing on eating food rather than macronutrients is crucial when counseling athletes. The panel got into an interesting discussion about the role of calories in the athlete’s diet, since many people believe that athletes need to eat many thousands of extra calories per day. Mark said that when you optimize your ability to burn fat for fuel, you develop more mitochondria that are more efficient at extracting energy out of food without excess waste or metabolic byproducts, so you can do more with fewer calories. Ron and Krista both explained that trying to figure out how many calories you eat is pointless, since you can never truly know what your body is doing with those calories once you’ve ingested them. The panel discussed how to tell when you’ve entered the fat burning metabolic state, and also discussed the issues of increased cortisol and low T3 when you engage in a sustained low-carbohydrate diet. Paul explained that we can use ketogenic diets therapeutically but we do this by flooding the liver with MCTs rather than starvation, which produces stress response and can have negative side effects, especially involving the thyroid. So he explained that if you’re having health problems with a low carb diet, you may need to add in carbs or even MCTs like coconut oil and see how you feel. Ron disagreed with Paul, and said that a lower thyroid may even be a good thing as far as longevity goes. I’m not sure how I feel about this issue, but it was interesting to see people like Ron and Paul debate in real life instead of on the internet!
I got to see a little bit of Dan Kalish’s talk, but I feel like I missed a big portion of it when I went to go find some food in between talks. It sounded really interesting though, and my friend Diana Rodgers was very intrigued by what Dan was saying, so I definitely think this will be another one of those talks worth having on DVD!
The last panel I saw was the Psychology of Change with Emily Deans, Nora Gedgaudas, Roger Dickerman, Shilpi Mehta, David Pendergrass, Dan Pardi, and Mark Sisson. This was more focused on how to use mental and emotional tactics when supporting a client, family member, or friend’s change to a Paleo style diet. We all know people who have ‘gone Paleo’, been fine for a few weeks, and then hit a wall. Or we know people who are afraid to take the plunge because they don’t feel they’ll be able to sustain the change. I thought it was interesting that Emily brought up the Stages of Change theory, which is something I’ve recently been learning about in class. She explained that most people are in the Pre-Contemplation stage, which means they haven’t even begun thinking about making a lifestyle change. As a contrast, Emily pointed out that even going out and buying a book like Robb’s or cooking food from the Primal Palate cookbook would be considered Stage 4! So you have to be very cognizant of where people are at before you start trying to elicit change in their behavior. She also explained that confrontational interactions are counterproductive, and you need to both be a good role model for your clients as well as meeting them where they are. Mark’s strategy is to tell people “You’re not ready for Paleo yet.” He wants them to want to make a change, and he encourages people through leading by example and acknowledging successes when they do happen. Dan explained his method of helping people, which involves defining success, building the road, and walking the path. Building a road is turning your defined goal into an action plan. Walking the path is living the lifestyle that is consistent with your goals and plan. Self-tracking allows you to have awareness of whether you’re walking the path. Nora said that old ideas do die hard, and it ends up being a process even when people are excited about the information you give them; people need to be able to be patient with themselves. She thought it is especially important that people understand why they’re doing something, so that when they come across challenges to their new lifestyles, they can understand why it’s important to continue along the path they’ve chosen to take. The panel members all gave really great resources for people to turn to when they’re struggling with making serious life changes, such as a local Weston A. Price chapter, Mark’s Friday Success Stories, and Paleo meet-up groups. Emily explained that it would probably be helpful for a person to find a therapist to work with them when making major lifestyle changes, and Roger gave us permission to ‘fire the client’ if you have a client who is fighting you constantly and wasting your time. Finally, Mark told us that “Life is too short, and if they’re not into it, its not your job to fix them.” I think these are some really important points for people to remember, especially practitioners and medical professionals who are banging their heads against a wall trying to get their clients to make changes. At the end of the day, the person has a right to make whatever lifestyle choice they want, and while you can support them in making positive changes, its not your responsibility to change their life for them.
So that’s my ‘short’ recap of the talks I saw this past weekend!
Remember, I’ve taken 28 pages of notes that I’ll be publishing, but I’d like to get 2,000 followers on my Facebook page before I release all the notes. I’m also considering posting my notes from the Weston A. Price Conference in November, where I took 30 pages as well!
Please share my Facebook page with your friends and family who are into the Paleo/Ancestral lifestyle!
Remember, I’m also posting a ‘Part 3’ of my PaleoFX review on Friday, so keep an eye out for that too!