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The Science II — Digestive System and Dietary Clues

In the last chapter, we looked at scientific studies on human populations around the globe and investigated how their different diets affected their health and life span. We also looked at the way our biochemistry is supposed to work and the consequences for our food choices. Here, we examine the way nature has designed our digestive system to work and what this tells us about the foods we should be eating. Then, we will look at what our modern diet is doing to us. 


What process can be more intimate than this: absorbing foreign agents into the most secret parts of our bodies? It is remarkable how little we think about this process, for that is what eating is—infiltrating stuffs from our mouths into the very fiber of our being. The mechanics are performed by the digestive system, which can be thought of in two major parts: the physical digestive tract (mouth, stomach, and intestines) and the complex array of enzymes, juices, and hormones (secreted by the pancreas, liver, and the digestive tract itself) that make it all work. 

We’ve talked previously about the “chaotic” complexity of our body’s systems, and the digestive system is no exception. Signals reverberate between the digestive tract, the pancreas, liver, and brain. Hormones and nerves are constantly relaying messages to our brain and back again to the digestive system and organs communicate with each other using hormones and nerve signals. It all works automatically, entirely without our knowledge. When it works well, our bodies hum along like finely tuned machines. However, when it goes wrong, then we can learn from the dietary errors that caused the malfunction. By looking at the digestive tract and how nature intended it to work, we can draw lessons about how we should be eating. 

The digestive tract of all mammals, including humans, is built to the same basic plan—it begins at the lips and ends at the anus. Digestion begins in the mouth with its teeth, for grinding the food, and its tongue, which kneads the food and mixes it with saliva. It then sends the pellet of food down to the stomach. 

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On its way there, it passes through the long tube called the esophagus or gullet. At the entry to the stomach, the food passed through a non-return valve. This is to stop the stomach contents from accidentally passing back up into the mouth, although in emergencies this mechanism is suspended to reject any substances that the stomach detects as harmful. 

The stomach is basically a holding reservoir where the food is churned with hydrochloric acid to kill any harmful bacteria. A secondary role is to secrete a mixture of enzymes to begin digestion of proteins and fats. From there, the mixture (chyme) passes through another non-return valve (the pylorus) into the small intestine. Once past this gate, it is impossible for the chyme to come back into the stomach. The small intestine is just over one inch in diameter and about 23 feet long. Here, most of the food is mixed with various digestive juices and enzymes and absorbed into the bloodstream. The remaining, unabsorbed food residues pass through another non-return valve into the large intestine or colon, which is about 5 feet long. Here, excess water and various nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream.

The Underrated Colon

The colon until recent years has been a much underrated organ, even thought to be dispensable. We now know that the colon performs many essential functions when in a proper state of health. Today, diseased colons cause a wide range of illnesses. So, we now examine what makes the colon function properly and, in this way, better understand what kinds of food residues we should be putting there.

We are all walking around with 3 to 5 pounds of living matter (“biomass”) in our colons: bacteria, yeast, and fungi. Collectively, they are known as gut “flora” (from the Latin word for the Roman goddess of flowers). There are over a trillion bacteria alone, of many and varied species. Most of them are “anaerobic”— they do not need oxygen in order to survive. They live on the food residues that arrive in the colon. For example, many kinds of carbohydrates survive digestion, particularly plant fiber and the very complex carbohydrates. Through fermentation of these food residues, this biomass produces all kinds of useful compounds. Fatty acids called butyric acid and propionic acid are absorbed through the colon wall into the bloodstream, where they carry out important functions in the body, such as boosting immune function and controling cholesterol. Gases like hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane are also produced and, in part, pass into the bloodstream. (The other part is passed as wind.) From the blood, the gases pass to the lungs where they are breathed out. However, even bacteria have difficulty breaking down some indigestible compounds, such as lignin (a woody fiber) and cellulose. These are passed out, unaltered, in bowel movements.

We should consider this biomass as an important organ. French gut specialist and researcher M.C. Moreau says that the mucous membrane lining the gut is

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the largest immunological organ of the body.[1] Remarkably, these gut organisms communicate with elements of the immune system, a phenomenon known as “cross-talk.” For example, lymphocytes are white blood cells of the immune system that do not mature and work properly unless the colon flora stimulates them. For the colon’s cargo of flora to thrive, it needs to be fed with plant fiber: viscous (soluble) fibers such as pectin, guar gum, and beta-glucan, which are the building materials of plant cell walls. We are not talking about insoluble fiber as found in cereal brans (a partial exception is oat bran). Researchers have discovered the many benefits of a high consumption of viscous fiber from plants:[2] it has a lowering effect on “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and it reduces mutant cells in the bowel and free radical damage. 

The benefit is a reduced risk of colon cancer. Bowel movements are more massive and they pass more quickly through the system: constipation is eliminated and diverticulosis (abnormal balloonings in the gut wall) is avoided. The viscous fiber also locks up harmful compounds and evacuates them. For example, estrogen isoflavonoids are chemicals in plants that can affect the same tissues as human estrogen, but can produce very different effects.[3] They are found in some plants such as soy. These phytoestrogens are not always such a good thing, for they are implicated in lung and breast cancers. However, in a highfiber diet, these phytoestrogens are safely ushered out of the body. 

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Free Radicals and Antioxidants 

Free radicals are highly aggressive molecules that the body creates continuously as a by-product of various chemical reactions. Outside agents such as ultraviolet rays, tobacco smoke, and alcohol also trigger them. Free radicals can cause a lot of damage to cells and DNA. 

A free radical is a molecule that contains at least one electron that is looking for a partner. Because of this, free radicals vigorously react with whatever they encounter. At worst, they tear open intact molecules, cannibalizing parts of them to complete their own electron partnership. This creates new partnerless electrons and so the attacked molecule becomes a new source of many free radicals. In this way, an exploding chain reaction is set in motion that can cause damage out of proportion to the initial provocation. 

The body quenches free radicals by the use of antioxidants: micronutrients that neutralize free radicals and the damage they cause. There are many antioxidants in plant foods but they are rarely found in animal products. Antioxidants have the ability to put a stop to the free radical chain reaction. Food antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. Other antioxidants are “background” micronutrients, such as quercetin, resveratrol, and anthocyanine. 

Other foods, like hot peppers, cause the lining of the intestine to become more porous, a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. It does not take much: the gut wall is as thin as tissue paper and that is all that separates the sludge in your gut from your blood circulation. Even under good conditions, there are always some bacteria that pass through into the blood. For example, primitive herders knew to starve a beast for 24 hours before slaughter, because there would be fewer bacteria generalized throughout the carcass and the meat kept longer. The body deals with infections and injury with a reaction called inflammation. This is a not only normal but necessary for healing to take place. Inflammation is characterized by heat, redness, swelling, and pain. In part, this reaction is set in motion by special immune system cells called mast cells. Many mast cells line the intestine, where they stand guard watching out for harmful foreign bodies trying to enter the bloodstream. Mast cells deal with infections by releasing chemicals that have the effect of increasing the permeability of blood vessels (leading to swelling), contraction of smooth muscles, and increasing mucus production. 

Antigens in the diet wreak havoc on our bodies by causing a savage malfunction of mast cells. Antigens can trick the mast cells into thinking they need

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Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are usually rich in aromatic micronutrients, which accounts for their pungent flavor. This is all to the good, yet normally the quantities we eat are an insignificant part of the diet. For this reason (we suppose), the U.S. Department of Agriculture diet guide for 2005 has nothing to say about them. We do not give them a high profile either.

Nevertheless, there is one class that has powerful effects on our digestive system: the hot pungent ones, such as chili pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Austrian researchers found that chili has a provocative effect on irritable bowel disease.[4] Dr. Rodriguez-Stanley found that heartburn (“acid reflux”) was acutely increased too.[5] Dr. Erika Jensen-Jarolim found that chilies, and to a lesser extent paprika and cayenne pepper, make the colon “leaky.”[6] She found that large molecules could then pass through the colon wall into the bloodstream, giving rise to allergies, a depressed immune system, and increasing chances of colon cancer. However, black pepper was harmless.

Chilies are native to Mexico and were brought to the rest of the world by the Portuguese 400 years ago, to places like India and Thailand. There, curries and hot dishes were enthusiastically developed. The reality is that the human body is not adapted to hot spices and they have a number of serious drawbacks. Chilies and other hot red peppers are not human foods.

to start an inflammatory reaction. So, consumption of food antigens can lead to increased swelling and constricted muscles (for example, those involved in asthma), and cause mucus membranes to discharge (such as in the nose). In other words, by malfunctioning, mast cells cause an allergic reaction. Also under the action of antigens, the tiny, delicate villi lining the intestinal wall are withered or destroyed. The colon is lined with millions of tiny pockets called crypts, which are in turn lined with stem cells. Antigens provoke abnormal growth of the stem cells, increasing the risk of cancer. An important function of the colon wall is to secrete mucus, potassium, and bicarbonate and to absorb sodium and chloride. Antigens disrupt the transport of these substances across the intestinal wall and the colon becomes more porous. What foods contain these antigens? The biggest culprits are grains, particularly wheat, and dairy products.

Food Choices and the Health of the Colon

Do you ever wonder why the contents of your bowels sometimes smell like sewage sludge? Researchers found that this was due to the abnormal presence of alien, harmful bacteria known as sulfur-reducing bacteria.[7] They flourish on sulfur-containing foods, mainly animal proteins. These alien bacteria create the gas hydrogen sulfide, the compound that gives rotten eggs their overpowering smell. To humans, hydrogen sulfide is as toxic as cyanide; in water, it rapidly becomes corrosive sulfuric acid. Ulcerative colitis, a serious inflammatory bowel disease, is directly linked to the dominating presence of sulfur-reducing bacteria in the colon.8 Worse, the toxic sulfides released by these bacteria promote cancerous changes in gut cells by damaging their DNA. All this helps to explain why heavy meat eaters are more vulnerable to colon cancer. Proteins from plants usually do not contain sulfur.

The other major source of sulfur in the Western diet is the food preservative collectively known as “sulfur dioxide.” Sulfur, in many forms, is found


Villi (singular, villus) are tiny hair-like projections in the intestine wall. There are 6,000 to 25,000 per square inch, giving the wall a velvety texture. Each villus is supplied with a microscopically thin artery, vein, and lymphatic capillaries and 600 tiny projections called microvilli. These incredibly delicate and precisely adjusted structures are responsible for absorbing nutrients and fluid from the digestive system into the bloodstream and lymphatic system. They are remarkably fine-tuned to take in just what is right for the body and to act as a barrier to harmful substances. Any disruption to their proper functioning undermines the health of the whole body.

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everywhere in processed food—in packaged salads, jams, hamburgers, sausages, instant soup, beer, and wine. People who eat a lot of processed foods not only promote sulfur bacteria in their gut, they also raise their sensitivity to allergic reactions.

The human gut clearly needs a plentiful supply of plant foods to operate healthily. The San consumed a very high-fiber diet and their plant matter was naturally very fibrous. In Chapter 1, we saw how the examination of 11,000-yearold fossilized feces showed that our ancestors were consuming 130 grams per day of plant fiber. The average American only consumes a tenth of that amount, 13 grams per day, and way below even the modest target set by various authorities of around 30 grams per day. Most of today’s salads, vegetables, and fruits are less fibrous and contain around 2 grams of fiber per 100 grams, and nuts contain around 8 grams per 100 grams. Thus, one way to get to 30 grams per day is to consume, for example, 1 pound (450 g) of salad, 1 pound (450 g) of vegetables, 1 pound (450 g) of fruit, and 1/4 pound (4 ounces, 100 g) of nuts.

In this book, we will argue that we need to be aiming higher. When the intake of plant fiber is up to at least 60 grams per day, then passage of food through the digestive tract is prompt, and the friendly bacteria get a rich, nutritive diet. Friendly bacteria are methanogens, producing methane in the gut. Under the right conditions, they thrive, multiply fast, and greatly increase the bulk of the feces. They also gobble up the “bad” sulfur-releasing bacteria. Let us now look at what happens when we eat starches and sugars. Under normal, healthy circumstances, starches and sugars are mostly digested and absorbed into the body before they reach the colon. However, with the way we eat today, starches and sugars reach the colon in significant quantities. Because “bad” gut flora, particularly fungi like Candida, thrive on them, they quickly overgrow and flood into the bloodstream through the “leaky gut.” Plus, the high insulin reaction from all the sugar provokes a condition called “digestive neuromuscular disease,” in which the gut muscles go haywire, leading to cramps, diarrhea, and bloating.9

Today, our dietary errors vastly increase both the porosity of the gut and the microorganism load flooding into the body. In this way, abnormal quantities of digestive toxins, bacterial and fungal toxins, and the bacteria and fungi themselves, pass into the bloodstream. They can be the origin of various allergies, autoimmune responses, poisoning of various bodily functions, headaches, arthritis, tiredness, irritability, and depression.

The colon is a hive of activity—in hundreds of ways, it affects the health of the whole body. Our guts are also the scene of intense warfare between “friendly” organisms and unfriendly ones, but it does not have to be like this. We can be reasonably sure that the San’s colons functioned as nature intended. All is not well with the way we eat today. We are sending down residues that our intestines do not recognize and that promote malevolent gut flora. Passage through

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the intestines is slow and consists of foods that destroy the delicate gut wall and undermine the immune system.

The Immature or Baby Digestive System

Mammals, such as cows, sheep, goats, chimpanzees, and humans, give birth to their young, in a sense, prematurely. The newborn bodies are underdeveloped and not yet fully functional, they do not have the full range of digestive arrangements, and the nutrients required to develop their bodies are impossible to find in the external environment. For example, a human baby’s brain has to double in size in just a few months—to do this it needs a massive intake of specific kinds of fats, some of them saturated. Similar needs have to be satisfied for bone building, energy, muscle building, nerve building, and the growth of various organs.

For this reason, the baby of the species has special needs for substances like calcium, lactose (a sugar), fatty acids, and protein. They get these things from their mother’s milk. Moreover, the mother’s milk has a composition that is right for that particular species. For example, cow’s milk is formulated to build big horns and small brains. It might seem obvious to say so, but nature designed milk for mammal mothers to feed their own young.

However, the differences go much deeper than the ingredients. A human baby has immature organs, notably kidneys and liver. It has a different biochemistry and digestive arrangements compared to a person over 4 years old. Curiously, a baby’s throat is so arranged that it can breathe and suckle at the same time. After about 12 months, the breathing tube descends to the position it will keep for the rest of its life.

Only a baby’s stomach can secrete the special enzyme, rennin, which is responsible for separating the mother’s milk into curds and whey. The curds are composed chiefly of fats and the milk protein called casein, and digestion of the curds takes place slowly in the baby’s stomach. Only babies secrete the special stomach enzymes to digest the fats and protein in the curd. The whey, freed by the rennin from the curds, passes quickly into the intestines for absorption into the body. Whey is a watery mixture containing dissolved compounds essential for a baby’s growth. It is rich in micronutrients, immune system antibodies, a soluble protein similar to egg-white called lactalbumin, and the milk sugar called lactose. The baby’s intestine secretes a special enzyme, lactase, to digest the lactose. After the age of about 4, all these processes stop. In other words, we should think of an infant up to the age of 4 as requiring a different feeding pattern to older children and adults.

Human bodies over the age of 4 are not designed to absorb human milk. What, then, about the milk of cows, goats, sheep, and other creatures? The effects of dairy consumption on the human body will provide important clues when we assemble the evidence for the “Owner’s Manual,” the guide to the true eating pattern for human beings.

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Proper Food Combining

Our forager forebears only ate from two food groups, non-starchy plants and animal matter. Even their fruits, being fibrous, oil-rich, and with a low sugar content, were included with the non-starch plant foods. The digestive system has to break down a variety of foodstuffs, each requiring a different process, into their useful component parts. Remarkably, it can perform this feat, but not simultaneously, because the processes are conflicting.

This leads to the concept of eating food in batches that require the same chemical and mechanical treatment in the digestive tract. It is known as the principle of proper food combining. The question never arose in our formative past because the two food groups that humans ate—non-starchy plant material and animal matter—combine just fine. Today, we have complicated and confounded the process by introducing new types of food into the diet, notably starches, dairy products, and fruits with a distorted sugar profile.

Most of us picture our stomachs as a kind of cauldron into which we can haphazardly toss a variety of ingredients at random. The mixture bubbles away and the body gradually absorbs it all. We now know that this is quite wrong. We would all be a lot healthier if we did not put our digestive system through these gymnastics and returned to sending down just the two foods groups for which it is designed. With regard to modern fruits, we can make small adjustments so that we extract their health benefits without compromising digestion. We begin by describing in some detail the gruesome truth of what goes on in your guts when you send down bad food combinations.

Starch/Protein Combinations

The digestion of starches begins in the mouth with the enzyme ptyalin secreted in saliva. Starch digestion is stopped by the acid in the stomach and is then continued in the small intestine, under the action of enzymes like amylase secreted by the pancreas down the pancreatic duct.

Proteins, and particularly animal proteins, undergo a prolonged churning and exposure to the acids and enzymes present in the stomach. It can be several hours before the stomach releases the resulting chyme into the small intestine. The digestion then continues in the small intestine under the action of enzymes like protease, again secreted by the pancreas.

Unlike the chicken, which has three pancreatic ducts, the single human pancreatic duct is a bottleneck. The pancreas has to choose which enzyme to secrete first.10 If the starch/protein combination contained predominantly starch (90%) or predominantly protein (90%), then the choice is easy, and digestion proceeds as nature intended. If the meal is an equal mix of starch and protein, then enzyme secretion by the pancreas is perturbed.

The imperfectly digested remains travel with difficulty through the digestive tract. The highly sophisticated machinery of enzyme activity, hormonal

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feedback, and nutrient absorption is impaired. The balance of the intestinal flora is disturbed—bad bacteria multiply and helpful bacteria are discouraged. The intestinal wall can become porous and bacteria, fungi (such as Candida), and undigested food particles travel through the bloodstream, creating mischief wherever they go. Dyspepsia, ulcerative colitis, liver disorders, demineralization, depression of the immune system, candidiasis, allergies, and general bad health can be the result.

Proteins, like starch, also provoke the secretion of insulin. When starches are ingested at the same time, insulin secretion is multiplied. All the bad effects of abnormal insulin levels are multiplied, increasing the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, obesity, and cancer. Worse, in the Western diet, fat is usually present in large proportions with protein. This fat gets stored immediately and preferentially into the fat cells. So, starch/protein combinations multiply the fattening effect of fat!

Remembering that starch is not a great thing to be putting in the body, let us keep things in perspective. There are occasions when there are small amounts of starch in a protein dish, like a few bits of sweet corn in a tuna salad. This is unimportant provided that the protein dominates. The trouble arises when the proteins and starches are equally balanced and they fight each other for priority. This is the case with so much of what we eat today—for example, steak and french fries, hot dogs, hamburgers, and tuna sandwiches. Starch/protein combinations cause trouble when they are present in nearly equal proportions and they fight each other for dominance.

Fruit/Protein and Fruit/Starch Combinations

Eaten on their own, fruits pass quickly through the stomach and are rapidly digested in the small intestine. On the other hand, if fruit is eaten at the end of a meal, it is kept waiting in the stomach. If this happens, most modern fruits will start to ferment and produce gases and harmful compounds, such as fusel oil. Digestive processes are also disrupted and the fruit’s nutritive value is compromised. This is a main cause of digestive upsets, gas, headaches, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Fruits have a predominantly acid nature. Acid inhibits ptyalin production in the mouth, thus conflicting with starch digestion, and inhibits gastric acid production in the stomach, interfering with protein digestion. Fruit and starch combinations lead to disoriented digestion and the arrival in the colon of poorly digested, Candida-feeding starch particles. Fruit is best eaten on an empty stomach.


Milk forms a bad combination on its own. After the age of about 4 years, a human does not have the enzymes to properly digest dairy products. Notably, we do not secrete the enzyme rennin to separate milk into curds and whey. As a

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result, the half-curdled mixture proceeds through the digestive system, improperly digested and causing mischief on the way. In most adult humans, the milk sugar lactose arrives in the colon undigested, where it feeds bad bacteria, producing gas. The body perceives lactose as an antigen, so it also creates mischief with allergic reactions, such as damage to the colon lining, headaches, and diarrhea. More subtly, lactose is strongly suspected of playing a role in autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Milk fat is also largely undigested, because the adult digestive system fails to separate the fat (in the curds) from the calcium (in the whey). The two combine to form insoluble solids that pass, unchanged, the full length of the digestive tube and out the other end. In this way, the calcium in milk is largely lost to the body.

Summary—Digestive System Clues

From this quick appraisal of the digestive system, focusing on just a few key areas, we throw into high relief the factors that are beneficial to it and those that are harmful. From our study of colon health, we find that a high non-starch plant food diet is healthy. On the other hand, starches, sugars, grains, dairy, and a high-meat, high-sulfur diet are unhealthy.

We have seen that babies are well adapted to consuming the milk of their species, but the adults are not. This notion is reinforced by a look at food combining. Nature did not design our digestive systems to cope with starches, dairy, and sugary fruits. This strongly reinforces earlier clues from other fields of enquiry. Now, we’ll look at these food items individually to find out what creates these problems.


Grains (Cereals)

All grains are mostly composed of starch. White wheat flour is about 75% starch, whole wheat flour is 67%, rye flour 75%, white rice 85%, oatmeal 65%, and corn flour (maize) 92%.11 The products made from them are also mostly starch: spaghetti is 71% starch, corn flakes 77%, white bread 46%, and whole-grain bread 40%. Starches from all grains are rapidly converted to glucose, provoking an unhealthy glycemic and insulin reaction. So, when you look at a slice of bread, think 4 teaspoons of sugar; a cup of cornflakes is equal to 5 teaspoons of sugar; and 1/2 cup of rice is 6 teaspoons of sugar.

Primatologist Katharine Milton has studied the foods eaten by apes and monkeys in the tropics and draws comparisons with how human food must have been in our evolutionary past.12 She finds that grains are a poor source of micronutrients. Grains have massively displaced more nutritious plant foods from our modern diets. This is why makers of breakfast cereals are obliged by law to “fortify” their products with a long list of classic micronutrients. Of

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course, this is no substitute for the rich variety of background micronutrients found naturally in many plant foods, all working with each other in harmony to nourish our body in the way it recognizes.

Cereals, like many other plants, have developed defenses against being eaten. These defenses take the form of antinutrients, toxins that are designed to upset the biochemistry of the creature that eats them. Seed-eaters (from fungi to bacteria to insects and birds) have developed resistance to these antinutrients, but primates (man included) have never been grain eaters and have low resistance to cereal toxins. It may come as a shock to learn that cereal toxins have been undermining human health for millennia. In this book, we call these “background” toxins: they do not kill you right away and often they do not produce any obvious symptoms, but silently, in the background, they are undermining our health. Researchers Loren Cordain13 and the Dane H. Frøkier14 have studied and reported on their effects. Let’s look at four types of antinutrients.

Lectins. Lectins can batten on to carbohydrate-containing molecules anywhere in the body. They pass easily from the gut into the bloodstream and disrupt the work of any body cell to which they attach themselves. They are powerful provokers of all kinds of autoimmune diseases, including allergies, asthma, lupus, and arthritis, and are even suspected of causing autism in susceptible children. Lectins cause the gut to be more porous, allowing bacteria, fungi, and food particles to flood into the bloodstream and create mischief. Most Americans, with their depressed immune systems and vague headaches and allergies, are unknowingly suffering from this effect. In extreme cases, a porous intestine develops into leaky gut syndrome.

Alpha-amylase inhibitors. Alpha-amylase inhibitors interrupt the activity of the starch-digesting enzyme amylase and damage the pancreas. In addition, they are strong allergens, which explains the “baker’s asthma” referred to in Chapter 3. Protease inhibitors. Protease inhibitors interrupt signals from the intestine telling the pancreas to reduce secretion. As a result, the pancreas continues churning out the hormone cholecystokinin like a runaway flywheel. This disrupts normal digestive processes and the stress on the pancreas can lead to abnormal enlargement and cancer.

Alkyl resorcinols. Alkyl resorcinols disrupt a wide range of body functions: they disintegrate red blood cells, disrupt DNA maintenance, abnormally increase blood clotting, and depress production of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is needed, even in full-grown adults, for cell renewal and to maintain health as we age. Depressed HGH might also be part of the explanation why humans lost stature when they took up farming (see chapter 3). We introduced the most powerful allergen in grains, the gluten complex, in chapter 3. Recent research finds that one in 133 Americans has a full-blown gluten allergy called celiac disease.15 Japanese researcher Hideaki Tsuji finds that it is the portion called gliadin that is responsible for celiac disease.16 In addi-

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tion, it causes killer lymphocytes to malfunction and damage the delicate mucous membrane lining the intestine. It withers away the villi and provokes crypt cells to proliferate in a pre-cancerous way.

Apart from gluten, there are dozens of allergenic substances in many types of grains, including rice, barley, and corn. Some people suffer allergic reactions, even anaphylactic shock, to the barley present in beer. Tsuji says that rice is the foremost allergen in Japan. He describes eight major allergens in wheat, four in barley, three in rice, and two in maize.

Vegetables, Starchy

In the modern diet, there is only one big player in the category of starchy vegetables— the potato. But in passing we mention that parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams, and plantains are also starchy and give “bad” blood sugar spikes; that is, they are high glycemic. Carrots and beets are not starchy but, depending on their age, variety, and other factors can have a high sugar content. They, too, can be unhealthily glycemic.

The potato is a newcomer to the human diet and it is starchy. In all its forms (baked, boiled, mashed, fries, and so on) it is strongly glycemic, so it is classed as a bad carbohydrate. Its ability to raise insulin levels is even greater than the glycemic index would suggest. These properties alone make the potato a poor food for humans.

Potato is a poor source of micronutrients as well. This might not be important if Americans consumed potatoes frugally and rarely, but they consume it in vast quantities every day. In this way, it shoulders aside the consumption of much more nutritious non-starchy plant foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) classes potatoes as a vegetable, as though it has equal nutritive value as, say, a tomato. Americans are thus led to believe that they have filled their vegetable quota by filling up on french fries. They are mistaken: filled with potato, the population is nevertheless starving for all those ingredients needed in trace amounts from authentic non-starchy vegetables.

As with cereals, we have to wonder about the presence of plant toxins in potato to which humans have no resistance. Agricultural researchers Leslie

Heirloom Grains: Quinoa and Amaranth

The grain quinoa has a particularly high content of the poisons cyanide and saponin. Saponin is a heart-stopper related to digitalis; Amerindians used the concentrated extract on their poison arrows. Amaranth accumulates poisonous levels of nitrates and oxalates, toxins that cause inflammation and may lead to swelling of the throat to the point of suffocation.

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Plhak and Peter Sporns have studied and reviewed this interesting question.17 Potatoes fall under suspicion because they are part of the same plant family (Solanacea) as the poisonous and narcotic plants henbane, deadly nightshade, belladonna, and mandrake. It turns out that potatoes are charged with many background toxins, of which the most potent are glycoalkaloids. Potatoes have been responsible for a number of human poisonings—up to 30 deaths and over 2,000 cases of non-fatal poisonings have been documented. The British Medical Journal observes that there is certainly a vast reservoir of unreported cases.18 Symptoms of potato poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, confusion, weakness, and coma. In those cases where people have died, it has been from strangulated bowel, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest. From these unfortunates, it has been possible to calculate the fatal dose. Researchers estimate that the safety factor is just four-fold against toxic poisoning for a onepound serving.19 It should not be surprising that episodes of glycoalkaloid poisoning, some fatal, have occurred.

Glycoalkaloids do their damage on several fronts. First, they can form a soapy lather that destabilizes membranes, particularly those lining the intestinal tract. They inhibit production of the nerve enzyme cholinesterase, which is a likely cause of their neurological effects. Finally, they encourage mutations in the cells of the liver, nerve tubes, and immune system.

Vegetables, Non-Starchy

We do not generally think of plants as a meaningful source of protein, yet indeed they are. Young leaves routinely eaten by primates in the tropics contain 10% to 20% of protein dry-weight20 and gorillas build and maintain their muscles entirely on plant protein. In contrast, modern species of intensively cultivated plants tend to have lower protein content, but there are exceptions: Brussels sprouts contain 24% protein per 100 grams dry-weight.

Can humans get enough protein from plant foods alone? We need less protein than we think—about 75 grams per day for an average 165-pound adult. That equates to about 2 pounds (1 kg) of Brussels sprouts per day. Not impossible! This book is not about making us all vegetarians, but it is useful to see how

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Monocot and Dicot Plant Foods

Humans and other primates find their plant food mainly from the class of plants called angiosperms, which are flowering species. Angiosperms are, in turn, divided into two main classes, monocot and dicot. Monocot species includes grains, cereals, and other grasses like alfalfa. Dicot species include what we think of as salads and colored vegetables. plant food is adding to our protein intake, which implies that we do not need as much high-protein food as we think.

Wild leaves typically have a high percentage of indigestible cell wall material, up to 35%. It is almost entirely the types of soluble fiber called “unlignified hemicelluloses and cellulose.” Such fiber is common in dicot vegetables. The human gut is good at degrading this type of fiber, which is found in carrots and cabbage, for example. The human gut is much less efficient at degrading the fiber from monocot plants, such as wheat bran. According to Dr. Milton, most primates focus almost entirely on the dicot plants with their soluble fiber.21 This is just the type of fiber that our bodies need and the low intake of fiber today has serious consequences for human health. Non-starchy plants are, of course, naturally rich in micronutrients, notably the myriad “background” micronutrients that are so important to our biochemistry.22

Finally, in regard to essential fatty acids, wild plants show a roughly equal balance between linoleic acid (23%) and alpha-linolenic acid (16%). Most cultivated plants that Americans eat are notoriously poor in alphalinolenic acid. However, there is one plant that grows as a weed all over the southern United States; one that the ‘49ers of the California gold rush consumed so much that it was dubbed “miner’s lettuce”—that plant is purslane. It contains 8% fats, of which 50% is omega-3 oil.23 Here, we finally uncover the last secret to the Cretan diet: they were one of the few peoples eating a proper balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, thanks to the high volumes of purslane they were consuming. It is no coincidence that the San also ate the same plants in our African homeland.


Modern fruits have, by and large, quite different characteristics to those of our African homeland. Dr. Milton finds that wild fruits as eaten by primates and our ancient ancestors do not have a Technicolor, super-sized, and plump appearance. They have a much higher seed-to-pulp ratio and are less sweet, they have a high roughage content composed of woody seeds and fibrous strands, and they have higher protein levels, micronutrient levels, and pectin (a soluble fiber) levels. As eaten by primates in the jungle, they frequently contain tiny insects and larvae, which are eaten inadvertently.24

Wild fruits (and plants) are much richer in micronutrients than cultivated ones—particularly in minerals (notably iron, copper, and calcium) and the vitamins C, E, and K, beta-carotene, and folic acid. Dr. Milton estimates the vitamin C intake of a human-size ape to be 2–6 grams.25 Contrast that with the recommended dietary intake of 60 mg for an adult human, or 100 times less! Research indicates that wild plants are also much richer in the millions of other “background” micronutrients essential to good human health, such as bioflavonoids, terpenes, phenols, carotenes, and many more.

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Dairy Products

We’ve seen how dairy products are implicated in a wide range of diseases. For example, the milk sugar lactose is an antigen undermining our bodies in many subtle ways. There is now a huge body of knowledge linking milk and dairy consumption to an incredible range of diseases. In addition to lactose, the proteins in milk (casein and lactalbumin) are among the most powerful allergens known. Casein also raises cholesterol levels.26 In a controlled study on autistic youngsters, Dr. Ted Kniker found that when dairy is eliminated from the diet, there was dramatic improvement.27

The Nurses’ Health Study, begun in 1976, is a national survey of more than 121,000 female registered nurses, 34 to 59 years old, which analyzes diet and health data every two years. In a stunning counterblast to conventional wisdom, lead researcher Diane Feskenich found that those nurses who drank two or more glasses of milk per day were 40% more likely to suffer hip fractures than those who drank less than one glass.28 Here we have the explanation for why Norwegian women suffer more from hip fractures than Spanish women: traditionally, Norwegians are high consumers of dairy products, Spaniards hardly at all. 

Dairy consumption is also linked to cancers of various kinds. As part of the Physicians’ Health Study, epidemiologist June M. Chan investigated the connection between dairy products and prostate cancer in a large group of male U.S. physicians. Compared with the men who consumed less than half a serving of dairy products daily, men who consumed more than 2.5 servings had a 34% higher risk of developing prostate cancer.29 Cancer researcher Eduardo De Stefani found that Uruguayans consuming dairy products increased lung cancer risk by 2.5 times.30 Researcher Helena Liljeberg Elmstahl found that dairy is linked to abnormal insulin levels.31

Dr. Guy Abraham, a professor of gynecologic endocrinology at the University of California, sees a connection between dairy consumption and premenstrual tension.32 Dr. Honglei Chen, of the Harvard School of Public Health, finds that men have an 80% increased risk of Parkinson’s disease with dairy consumption of all kinds.33 Gastroenterologist A.M. Riordan of Cambridge University found that remission rates for Crohn’s disease were doubled when both dairy and cereal were excluded.34

Cultivated vs. Wild Fruits Compared to cultivated fruits, wild fruits are: • Low glycemic • Less watery • Low in sucrose • Less sweet • Richer in fiber • Richer in micronutrients

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Milk fat (butter and cream), while good for baby cows, is not good for humans. It raises blood pressure and cholesterol, hardens the arteries, and increases heart disease and the risk of stroke. Even the fat-free varieties are not safe: milk lactose and milk calcium alone are enough to calcify arteries, the most dangerous form of arteriosclerosis.35

Many people think that yogurt is healthy and that organic milk is best. They believe that milk from other species such as goat, buffalo, sheep, camel, or even humans is superior. In fact, the drawbacks to dairy from cows apply equally to dairy products from all these other creatures, and that includes yogurt, buttermilk, cheeses, and milk, whether full fat or non-fat.

Meat, Poultry, Eggs, and Fish

The problem with so-called red meats—beef, lamb, and pork—lies with the amount and types of fat they contain. In part, this is just an accident of breeding, because down the millennia the breed has changed. Some breeders are now trying to breed these animals back to a much lower fat percentage and to a better fatty acid profile. Mostly, however, the problem is with the food the beasts are given to eat. Cattle are naturally “browsers”: they eat from a huge variety of bushes, flowers, and other vegetation. Today, ranchers feed them on grass or, even worse, corn and soybeans.

As long ago as 1968, Michael A. Crawford, zoologist at the London Zoological Society, was raising the alarm. He studied the difference in beasts living free-ranging lifestyles in African woodlands compared to the same species living in captivity on grassland.36 He found that the meat of free-living cattle had fatty acid profiles in line with the Savanna Model, whereas cattle fed on grassland

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Summary of Diseases Linked to Dairy Consumption

• Abnormally high insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia)

• Allergies

• Autism

• Breast cancer

• Crohn’s disease

• Hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis)

• Lung cancer

• Osteoporosis and hip fracture

• Parkinson’s disease

• Premenstrual tension

• Prostate cancer

had the “bad” fatty acid profile that we associate with beef today. That is, high in the saturated fats palmitic acid and myristic acid.

Pigs (and the wild boar from which they are descended) are creatures that browse freely in woodlands, even digging up earthworms and truffles. Today, pigs are fed on anything from restaurant scraps to time-expired processed foods. Sheep actually prefer eating the type of plant called “forb,” which is any kind of herbaceous plant except grass. Today, perversely, sheep are fed only on grass (if they are lucky) or otherwise on artificial concentrated feed made from rejected grains, vegetable oils, and soybean waste. Japanese researchers have demonstrated that sheep, cattle, and pigs have a “good” fatty acid profile if they feed in their natural habitat, whereas they have a harmful fatty acid profile when fed conventionally.37

Dr. Artemis Simopoulos of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition, and Health, in Washington, D.C., is one of the foremost advocates of the need to incorporate omega-3 oils in the human diet. He observes that “on the Ampelistra farm in Greece, purslane is plentiful and grows wild; the chickens make a feast of it, along with insects and lots of fresh green grass, supplemented with fresh and dried figs, barley flour, and small amounts of corn. . . . As we expected, the eggs contained substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.”38 The Greek egg had an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1.3 to 1, whereas a supermarket egg has a ratio of almost 20 to 1. The point is that many animal products have become unhealthy because the feed given to the animal bears no resemblance to the natural feeding pattern of the creature. As a result, the flesh and eggs are devoid of omega-3 oils.39

The food industry should correct this imbalance. One of the secrets to the Greek free-range egg is the omega-3-rich purslane that the chickens were eating. Now some egg farmers are producing omega-3 rich eggs by feeding the chicken on flaxseed, which is itself rich in omega-3s.

So much for the eggs, but what about the flesh of the chicken? According to Dr. Crawford, chickens are much fatter than 35 years ago: they contain 24 g of fat per 100 g compared to just 8 g in 1970. “Chickens used to roam free and eat herbs and seeds. Now they are fed with high-energy foods and even most organic chickens don’t have to walk any distance to eat.” It is likely that the Greek free-range birds had very little fat, of which a high percentage was omega-3s. This is the direction our food supply needs to go.

The situation is slightly different with other types of poultry. The fat from goose and duck is semi-liquid at room temperature, which tells us that there is not much saturated fat in it. The fat of these birds has a high percentage of monounsaturated fat. This seems to be one more element helping to explain the French Paradox—the people of Toulouse use these fats in preference to butter, thus increasing their intake of monounsaturated fats.

Some species of oily fish contain high levels of omega-3 oils as well, particularly wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, and wild trout. Here, we have another secret to the long-lived and healthy Cretans and Japanese—their

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diets were rich in fish, many of them oily species. The Okinawans were eating 144 g (5 ounces) per day, six times the average American consumption. The high omega-3 intake increased the hormones that reduce abnormal blood clotting. Creatures like seal, walruses, and whales that eat these fish also have high omega-3 content, and this is the main source in the Eskimo diet.

However, all is not well with farmed fish, such as salmon and trout: their omega-3 content depends on what they are fed. Even though they are carnivores, farmed salmon are fed with pellets made of grains, fish meal, and vegetable oil, and so their flesh is often deficient in the omega-3 oils.

Animal matter can provide the same micronutrients as plants, such as calcium and vitamin A, but there is one essential micronutrient that has to be obtained from animal matter—vitamin B12. It is only needed in tiny amounts and it is easily obtained from eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. However, without it, we sicken and die, unlike the vegan gorilla who can manage without it. This is yet one more clue that animal matter must have been a constant part of the human ancestral diet.


Legumes are notorious for being “gassy.” They contain a high percentage of indigestible carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, notably one called raffinose. When they arrive in the colon, still undigested, the bacteria feed on them, producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane—up to 5 gallons of flatulence per day in extreme cases. Humans simply do not have the digestive enzymes necessary to comfortably digest legumes.

Legumes are also not exempt from the same kinds of antinutrients, particularly lectins, found in cereals. Lectins in winged, kidney, mung, lima, and castor beans are toxic in their raw state. The lectins bind with the wall of the intestine, causing lesions and abnormal development of the microvilli. Nutrient absorption is impaired and the intestine wall becomes porous to bacteria, bacterial toxins, and lectins themselves. They pass into the lymphatic system and bloodstream to cause havoc directly.

Baking or vigorous boiling will deactivate some of these poisons. Our prehistoric ancestors had no way to boil water and could only bake with difficulty. We can be sure that our Pleistocene ancestors had less troublesome foods to eat. Had it been otherwise, our bodies would be immune to these toxins. Neither the Aboriginals nor the San ate beans of this nature. In Victorian times, castor bean oil was administered as a purgative and it became a byword for vile taste. Today, we know that the castor bean harbors one of the most toxic poisons known, one that has been developed into a chemical warfare agent—ricin. This poison causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, shock, kidney failure, liver failure, and fatal stomach hemorrhaging. Ricin is also toxic to the heart and bursts red blood cells.40 When ricin is inhaled,

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lung disease follows.41 Lentils, soybeans, and peas contain a related lectin that interferes with the membrane of immune system lymphocytes.42 Soy is loaded with antinutrients, such as genistein, daidzein, trypsin inhibitors, allergens, and phytoestrogens. The wonders of marketing have turned these drawbacks into advantages: women are sold soy as a remedy for female conditions such as hot flashes and PMS. It is even sold as having anticancer properties when in fact it increases the risk of uterine cancer43 and breast cancer.44 Soy gives you allergies: over 16 allergens have been identified, of which at least three are considered “severe.”45 Soy’s antinutrients genistein and daidzein attack thyroid function,46 which can lead to goiter and, in extreme cases, thyroid cancer.

Soy gives you brain atrophy: the more people eat soy bean curds (tofu), for example, the more likely they are to have senile dementia in later life. Dr. Lon White, a researcher on aging, studied Japanese Americans in Hawaii and found that consumption of only two portions of tofu a week raises the chances of getting dementia by 50% compared to those who consume no tofu at all.47 Here is a probable explanation why, more than anyone else, the tofu-eating Okinawans lose their mental faculties in old age.

Soy also disrupts gastric function. Trypsin inhibitors disrupt the pancreas, causing it to secrete out-of-control quantities of cholecystokinin (a gastric hormone). 48 The result is withering of the pancreas and even cancer.

Soy is not good for babies. New Zealand researcher Cliff Irvine finds that babies fed on soy-based formula receive the adult equivalent of five birth control pills per day.49 Children of both sexes suffer disproportionately from extreme emotional behavior, asthma, immune system problems, pituitary insufficiency, thyroid disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome.50 Soy-fed baby boys sometimes fail to develop proper male traits later in life; girls can enter puberty earlier than normal.51 In a study of over 13,000 schoolchildren in Britain, researchers found that children who were fed soy-based formula as babies were 2.5 times more likely to suffer peanut allergy than other children.52 The New Zealand Government already issued a warning in 1998 about the use of soy in infant formula. Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) raised the alarm in 2003 about feeding soy to babies.53 It calls upon the Department of Health to revise its guidelines to say that soy-based infant formulas be fed to infants only when the doctor says it is safe to do so. They cite one study where such babies were five times more likely to have genital abnormalities.

The peanut is now one of the most prevalent allergenic foods, having shown a notable increase in recent years.54 It is probably not a coincidence that mothers have been increasingly using soy formula over recent years. It is now estimated that 6% to 8% of children, and 2% of adults, suffer from these allergies. About 30,000 cases of anaphylaxis (extreme sensitive reaction) occur annually, resulting in 2,000 hospitalizations and 200 deaths.55

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Because of their antinutrients, legumes—and soy, in particular—are not miracle foods. They are beans to which humans have never become naturally adapted, and it matters. Their anti-nutrients are diverse kinds of poisons or toxins that disrupt many bodily processes, undermining our health in ways never before suspected. Since they work slowly and in the background, it is only recently that these harmful properties are being uncovered.


In just the last three centuries, humans have dramatically increased consumption of this totally new food—sugar. Sugar consumption contributes to dysfunctional blood sugar control and all the degenerative diseases that follow: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, and many more. Dr. William Grant estimates that sugar is killing 150,000 Americans a year.56 In addition, sugar is empty calories—it provides nothing in the way of micronutrients and it displaces traditional nutritious foods.

Sugar (sucrose) is, of course, a naturally occurring substance. Nevertheless, many health-conscious people think that there is something unnatural about it and choose to sweeten with “natural” honey or maple syrup. But consumption of these sources of sweetness is tiny compared to that of sugar. However, even here there is no escape: maple syrup is at least 90% sucrose57 and has a “bad” glycemic index.58 The composition of honey is different and varies more widely. It is composed mainly of the sugars fructose (48% to 67%), glucose (38% to 48%) and maltose (3% to 15%). Commercial, blended honey has a “bad” glycemic index of 62 to 72.

However, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller has studied Australian eucalyptus honey, where the bees collected the nectar only from specific flowers. She finds an extreme case of a low–glycemic index honey obtained from the yellow box flower: it has a GI of only 35 and an insulin index of only 40. [Ref 59] This honey is particularly rich in the low-glycemic sugar, fructose. As such, it hovers on the borderline of “favorable” carbohydrate and has a “normal” insulin index. This is the way of the future, where foods like honey from particular flowers will be labeled with their glycemic index, enabling the consumer to make informed choices.


Beer is brewed using the sugars from malted barley, so there is a percentage of the highly glycemic sugar, maltose. There is usually about 4 grams per 100 ml, which translates to about 3 teaspoons of sugar per 12 ounce can. Beer is in itself a “bad” carbohydrate with a high glycemic index. That is why big beer drinkers tend to suffer from the various sugar diseases—and put on a beer belly—when wine drinkers do not.

Dry wine, such as Bordeaux, is not glycemic. In particular, red wine contains a number of antioxidants like tannins and resveratrol. Dr. Serge Renaud, after

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numerous studies and analyses, came to the conclusion that it was these antioxidants in red wine that preserved the Toulousains from heart disease. So, this is perhaps the final element in explaining the French Paradox.

Regular carbonated drinks contain high levels of sugar: a can of cola contains 5 teaspoons of sugar. Carbonated drinks of this nature are “bad” carbohydrates. There is a further drawback with colas—they are rich in phosphoric acid, and high phosphoric acid consumption upsets the normal functioning of the parathyroid gland. Because parathyroid hormone regulates bone building, cola consumption has the net effect of demineralizing the bones.

Tea, whether black or green, contains a wide range of “background” micronutrients. Many studies have shown that tea helps combat cancer,60 heart disease,61 heart attacks,62 hardening of the arteries,63 and many other conditions. Coffee, particularly the weak American coffee, has no particular virtues or vices. Fruit juices are almost always glycemic, which is their big drawback.


We have looked at various extremes of lifestyle around the world, from the Eskimo to the Okinawan. We learn from the Eskimo that a low–plant food diet is harmful but one high in essential fatty acids (particularly with the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in balance) is healthful. The Eskimo does not suffer from cardiovascular diseases, but he does suffer from osteoporosis and premature aging due to his highly acidic, low-micronutrient diet. The Japanese, Cretans, and Okinawans are getting a lot right. The pointers are all toward a low calorie intake, a low fat intake (but sufficient intake of essential fatty acids), a low starch intake, a good intake of plant food, but low or zero intake of dairy products and red farmed meat.

In the biochemistry section, we saw how foods that spike blood sugar are bad for our bodies. They lead to high cholesterol, poor bone-building, cardiovascular disease, and cancers. We saw how the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 produce powerful hormones that affect the proper working of our bodies. Salt and its relationship to potassium intake is a fundamental factor affecting the efficiency of our very cells. In the segment on acid/alkali balance, we saw how acid-forming foods now dominate our Western diets. This too provides problems for our bodies, leading to kidney stones, bone demineralization, and stressed-out organs, such as the lymphatic system, liver, and pancreas.

We have learned the lesson, too, that it is impossible to second guess the way our bodies work. It would be wise to avoid the temptation to micromanage its internal processes—just give it the right fuel and let it manage matters for itself.

We looked at our digestive system and featured a much neglected area: colon health. By understanding what foods nourish friendly gut flora, we obtain strong clues to the kinds of residues we should be sending down there. Nature intended the incredibly delicate lining of the gut to resist a great deal of wear and tear, but the gut is defenseless against some of the residues we send down.

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They are highly aggressive to the gut lining and destroy its ability to keep bad agents out of the bloodstream.

We also looked at two other interesting aspects: the immature or baby digestive system and the phenomenon of food combining. Babies have digestive arrangements which nature designed to work on mother’s milk; adult digestive systems are not designed to handle milk. We found that the digestive system works fine on the two food groups present in our ancestral food supply. The introduction of new foods groups, notably starchy foods, dairy, and many modern fruits poses digestive problems both when they are eaten in combination with each other and also with the ancestral groups. We also looked at our modern food supply. Until very recently, we ignored many straws in the wind because they did not fit into our Western cultural preconceptions.

For instance, we think most peoples around the world are abnormal because milk makes them feel bad. The milk sugar, lactose, gives them allergic reactions, such as diarrhea, rashes, and headaches, and doctors say that they are “lactose intolerant.” This is a looking-glass view of the world. Most peoples of the world are lactose intolerant because it is normal; even the San bushmen are lactose intolerant. In spite of the blandishments to consume milk “to build strong bones,” milk consumption actually destroys bones.

Celiac disease is an allergic reaction to gluten, a compound found in cereals. We think that it is a “disease” because we cannot imagine that humans are not supposed to be eating grains. However, we now know that it is normal to react badly to cereal gluten.

Many plants contain poisons that the human body does not know how to handle. This fact gives us strong clues as to the kinds of foods that are right for humans. This leads to another surprise: legumes such as lentils, soy, and other beans contain antinutrients that undermine our health in many subtle ways; the same applies to potatoes and grains. Nature did not design humans to consume legumes, potatoes, or grains.

On the other hand, the body does need a good supply of micronutrients: not just the few dozen “classic” micronutrients, but tens of thousands of “background” micronutrients. Non-starchy plant foods and fruits supply these in abundance, in the variety needed and in ways where they pull together as a team. This overview of the science gives us the main signposts, but when it comes to food choices, we need to have a knowledge of the details as well. Our ancient ancestors had the skills to survive in the jungle. They knew which mushrooms were poisonous and when a tree would be fruiting. We will need to learn the same level of skill when navigating our way through the supermarket jungle today. However, we can finally declare that we have enough evidence to describe the basic specification for the diet that is right for the human species. That is, we can now write the “Owner’s Manual.”

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