Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape


The grand unified theory

Here's an idea

So, 9 months ago, I started this blog because I was convinced that malnutrition drives obesity, and as a side effect, gallstones. Given I knew nothing then, and a hell of a lot more now, does it still stack up? And while I lose an unholy amount of weight in a very short space of time, the  experiment with gallstones failed, so how does the idea all hang together now? 

Principally, obesity is driven by a lack of nutrients but that’s really symptomatic of a wider problem,  gut flora. Bad food choices change gut flora, gut flora affect nutrient absorption, lack of nutrients increase hunger and food consumption, and drive obesity. It seems pretty obvious now; so many of the obesity mysteries become crystal clear in this light.

- why have we got obese 6-month old babies? Not, as someone in all seriousness suggested because parents are strapping babies into car seats (preventing exercise. Seriously). But because they inherit the gut flora of their mother through the womb and breast feeding. Fat mum, fat kid.
- why do some people respond very well to a low carb diets but others don’t? Different flora drive different absorption.
- why have we seen a huge leap in obesity? Because food processing removes many of the enzymes required for digestion, because flora is inherited, because the modern environment is dangerously sterile, because gluten damages the GI tract allowing unhelpful bacteria to thrive, because antiobiotics wipe out gut flora and are now prescribed for a wider variety of ailments. I could go on…

And because our gut flora is a world of synergy, there will never be the one bug which causes obesity; it will most likely be an upset in the balance of x or y. And while there’s doubtlessly common themes of what x or y might be, we know that people’s individual bacteria – or microbiomes – are fairly unique. We are not all alike. By sheer fluke rather than by design, this still makes sense of a nutrients based diet (NINO diet).

Gallstones and the final theory

Gallstones, for a million and one reasons I’ve explained across the pages here, are tightly bound in with a lack of nutrients. In my naivety I thought stopping the cause (gluten) and replacing those nutrients would be enough to reverse the process. No chance; with a Paleo diet the problem went from a couple of gallstones to more than the eye can see. Of course it is possible that gallstones are like cancer in the way that they spread - once you’ve got them, very little other than treatment will sort it. However, they do spontaneously disappear in 1-3% of cases, and just like the Type 2 diabetes reversal (see footnote), just because a cure’s not commonly known doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t exist.

Having thought through loads of different possibilities, here’s my latest thinking. Remember, if it isn’t abundantly clear, this is all theory...

Gallstones are caused by lack of nutrients predominantly caused by a disruption in gut flora. The disruption of gut flora leads to hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid). Sometimes, but not always a specific bacteria will take hold, such as helicobacter pylori which aids this process. In turn, once the stomach acid is reduced:

-          You have difficulty digesting protein

-          You fail to absorb other nutrients properly

-          You have reduced ability to kill off detrimental bacteria from ingested foods.

The low acid leads to general inflammation, leading to villous and mucosal atrophy. Villi being responsible for nutrient absorption, and mucosa which acts as a food barrier. Damage to the mucosa leads to increased intestinal permeability, leading to allergies.

In and amongst all this, critical nutrients are not absorbed properly; the same nutrients required for the production of bile in the liver, the regulation of cholesterol and the processing of waste products in the kidney. The bile pool is reduced in size, becomes supersaturated inside the gallbladder. The food allergies caused by intestinal permeability, prevent the bile from releasing as the body prioritises fighting food entering the bloodstream over release of bile. The combination of stasis and supersaturation leads to gallstone formation. But this creates a vicious circle; as gallstones grow in size, less and less bile is produced; the smaller bile pool means that fat-soluble vitamins cannot be absorbed properly, leading to exacerbated problems in all of the above.

All of this ties in closely to nutrients; a nutrient-deficient diet by itself disrupts gut flora, so it’s no surprise that for example coffee consumption reduces likelihood of gallstones (magnesium is frequently deficient in Western diets). It’s no surprise that white flour and sugar are the fastest promoters of gallstones. And given that bile transports excess cholesterol, but bile itself is a drain on nutrients, a very high fat diet will cause gallstones too. Alcoholics, abusing their livers? Yeah, gallstones. Older folks? Cumulative damage to GI tract (also a potential factor in why older people put on weight more easily).

A diet for gallstones

This is the problem – gut flora is individual, so there’s unlikely to ever be a single cure for it. That explains why 60,000+ PubMed papers haven’t found it, but have found causative factors. That’s why scientists know how to create gallstones in animals, but yet haven’t established why or how the mechanism works. All because gut flora is an emerging science. So, while Hippocrates said that ‘all diseases start in the gut’, he neglected to mention it’d be 2500 years later before we had the technology to start figuring out why.

With all this rampant speculation (you’ll have to forgive the lack of references, I’m writing most of this on a train), if the above is true, what should/shouldn’t you eat if you’ve got gallstones?

  • 1) Avoid dietary cholesterol (eggs, fatty meats, dairy) and any allergenic foods while the GI tract is healing. Favour cholesterol  lowering foods such as turmeric
  • 2) Eat only whole unprocessed foods, and avoid gluten
  • 3) Restore gut flora

It’s the part 3 that’s tricky and no mistake. There’s a reason Unilever et al are investing millions into probiotics and prebiotics, and the science is still sketchy. I don’t have any answers for this yet, but most methods have been suggested in comments previously – eating fermented foods, fasting, avoiding alcohol, taking digestive enzymes/probiotics and obviously avoiding antibiotics.

Of course this might be hopelessly pissing into the wind but I think the above is along the right lines. As for how am I going to do this? Next step is a nutritional profile (results next week), plus I’ve got an idea I’m still mulling over. In the meantime, here’s a couple of the better posts about restoring gut flora.

Perfect Health Diet

Cooling Inflammation

Type 2 diabetes breakthrough

Just as a final PS in case you think this whole food  cure thing is new age cobblers, this week, bearing in mind type 2 diabetes has rocketed since the 1970s, and in spite of:

-          40 + years of research

-          Millions of pounds in research

-          Multi-millions pounds worth of treatment

-          Nearly 1 in 30 sufferers worldwide

… we have only just seen a peer-reviewed paper proving how a simple calorie restricted diet can reverse type 2 diabetes, in just a bloody week!

Nothing complex, just a simple reduced calorie diet. Blimey.

Light bulb from Stephan Uhlmann

Comments (6) Trackbacks (1)
  1. I would take your theory one step further and say that most illnesses are caused through lack of nutrients with poor diet and protein ingestion being the foremost cause of these. Let’s face it..the average ”diet” a person eats is full of crap!

    ”You are what you eat” has never been more accurate a description. Look at the diet and nutrition of a person who has a chronic long term illness and you will usually find that they are lacking a nutritional element, often more than one.

    Older people in particular often neglect to eat regular nutritionally good diets….other people live on mass produced highly processed foods and think they are good because advertising pays for them to say so on tv and in the press.

    The only good thing is that it is rarely too late to start eating a good nutritional balanced diet .

    • Could well be right Janet. Based on nothing but a hunch, I think it’d be a roughly even split between diet, environment, genes and personality but it’s a tough call to find out. Either way, diet’s clearly key.

  2. I have also come to the conlusion that low stomach acid is at the heart of many conditions. Without correct acid levels we just can’t absorb the nutrients in our food or release the right enzymes & fight off bacteria. I’m currently working on getting my levels back to normal, you may find the below useful-


    Once the test is done, you can start supplementing with HCL + pepsin.

    I also read a book called ‘why stomach acid is good for you’ which lays out the science of it all.

  3. Okay, so I couldn’t stay away all night, much less an hour. Needless to say, you have found a spot on my “favorites” bar. Sad to hear the gluten free diet didn’t work. Yet you still say to avoid gluten. Is that just because it’s horrible in general, or does it make the pain of gallstones less frequent? How often do you have pain from gallstones? Sorry if I’m getting too personal. This is just new to me, so I’m digging in.

    • Hi Michelle, finally got my act together getting the comments to work… anyway. I only stopped updating on gallstones because there’s no change. I never did have surgery, no pain, no problems though I can’t say it was an unbridled success because the scan you read about showed a worsening not improvement.

      As far as gluten goes, it’s made a huge difference. I haven’t had any problems with gallstones since avoiding it 1 year ago, and the weight loss has been permanent. It’s not a diet per se – it’s just a conscious change and I feel tons better for it. I’m still certain that gluten plays a major role in gallstones – the evidence is really compelling – but once the damage is done, reversing isn’t quite as easy I guess.

      If you’re not sure if it’s gallstones or not, I’d get an ultrasound done to be sure. Good luck! Cheers

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