Six Weeks on the Plant Paradox Program
For years I had not been able to eat avocados without severe intestinal bloating. The bloating came from gas trapped inside me, and when it finally came out it was some of the worst-smelling gas you can imagine. The bloating itself was highly painful, making it difficult to sit upright, exercise, or even lay down in certain positions. It was hard to sleep at night after eating avocados between the awful smell and constant pain. Needless to say, I simply didn't eat avocados for most of my twenties as a result.
In August of 2018 I read The Plant Paradox and learned that my reaction to avocados would probably be eliminated if I could heal my gut barrier. Similarly, I would also be able to eat onion and garlic again, which I had not been able to eat for six or seven years due (presumably) to their high FODMAP content. Dr. Gundry explained that FODMAP sensitivity was simply another symptom of leaky gut. In further research online, I found that oxalic acid sensitivity was yet another leaky gut symptom.
Gundry promised that I could heal my gut with his diet. I imagined that this meant I'd be able to eat avocados again. And I imagined right!
I began eating a little avocado here and there in my first three weeks, not going above a quarter of a Hass avocado in a session, worried that I might find out the hard way that I wasn't healed after all. One day, in week four or so, I ate a whole avocado . . . And I was fine. I do still get some mild gas, but it is neither painful nor particularly smelly.
Avocados don't have fructose, oxalic acid, FODMAPs, harmful lectins, enzyme inhibitors or phytic acid. They're well balanced in healthy fat content, making them an ideal food. Why I was reacting to them before isn't completely clear, but it is obvious to me that it was due to leaky gut. (Research shows that the specific type of lectin found in avocado – persea Americana agglutinin – is devoid of specificity for carbs; it interacts with proteins and polyamino acids instead. Apparently this shouldn't pose a problem for anyone.)
At my time of first writing this article I am midway through my seventh week on The Plant Paradox Program. True to Dr. Gundry's word, toilet paper seems entirely unneeded on this diet. I use wet wipes every time anyway, but they've been clean every time since I began this new eating style. (I buy dry wipes and wet them myself and add a little olive oil to get as clean as possible as naturally as possible. The dry wipes are also less expensive than any wet ones available.)
Neu5Gc – The aging component in animal products
My first time reading The Plant Paradox went by in a blur. I was reading it at a family member's house, as the program was working well for them and it had me curious. I only had a few days to read it within, so I pushed myself every day to absorb as much as I could from the book. Now, I'm rereading it slowly, a little every other day and I'm learning a lot that I missed the first time.
For example, last night I realized that when Dr. Gundry talks about limiting animal protein (due to the presence of neu5Gc – N-glycolylneuraminic acid) he isn't just talking about land animals' meat (which I don't eat anyway), but also their eggs and dairy. Neu5Gc is linked to tumor growth, inflammation and aging in general. While it is relatively low in dairy milk, it is higher in cheese. It is present in dairy from cows as well as goats, sheep and bison.
I completely missed this the first time around, as Gundry emphasizes the importance of avoiding or strictly limiting red meat (which is the highest in neu5Gc) and mostly sticking to fish (which is devoid of neu5Gc) when it comes to meat. Prior to starting The Plant Paradox Program I was eating a vegetarian diet and much of my life from age eighteen to twenty-nine has been vegan (including full years at a time), so I actually introduced fish when beginning The Plant Paradox Program because I wasn't quite sure how to cut so many of my staples out of my diet (such as oats, rice, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers) all at once and be left with anything to eat.
As I wrote about in My First Three Weeks on The Plant Paradox Program I found fish to be tasty and conducive to my wellbeing. This surprised me, as in the past I had tried some fish and had a terrible reaction, but I explain why that was the case and why things are different now in my article from three weeks ago.
How much dairy is too much?
I've had some energy slumps since beginning this program, but looking back I've been able to trace every energy slump to high dairy consumption. The dairy I'm eating comes from an Amish farm and is raw, grass fed, antibiotic free, and casein-A2, so it isn't any of those factors causing the dairy to make me feel sluggish. I've noticed no tiring effects from a single slice of goat cheese, or a small amount of cream or butter. But I have noticed that consuming about ½ cup butter combined with a ¼ pound of cheese in a day being enough to make me feel like my blood is running like syrup.
As a result, I'm now scaling down my dairy intake for higher energy levels and instead eating avocados! This pleases me tremendously, especially because it vibes with my years of resonating with the raw vegan diet. While I don't resonate with being 100% vegan, I do resonate with the sheer power and aliveness present in a raw vegan cleanse – cashew-free of course.
How much fried food is too much?
Another change I've made is scaling way back on fried food. As I wrote in my three-week experience, I was eating cassava pancakes every day. (Recipe included in that article.) That was working surprisingly well for me for a while, but after about two weeks of that they began to taste different to me, and I began to notice that I was feeling heavy and sluggish after eating them.
Always pay attention to how energetic you feel after eating something! Your energy levels after eating something are an indication of how right for you a food is at this time. For a while, cassava pancakes every day was enlivening and exciting. After a while they became exhausting.
Cooking Fumes: A Hidden Health Hazard
In my particular case, I realized that part of the exhaustion factor was coming from the frying fumes. Despite wearing my mask for cooking, using an air filter and ventilating as thoroughly as I could, I was still generating enough smoke to start giving me headaches. So, I switched to making cassava bread in my counter-top convection oven – and, of course, I'm not making it every day.
Learning To Bake
Rather than following a recipe, I've been doing a series of experiments with baking in my convection oven. I didn't learn much about baking in the past because I went straight from a childhood where I detested cooking into an adulthood where I was embracing raw veganism.
To illustrate how odd this transition from child-that-didn't-cook to raw-chef was:
- The only cheesecakes I've ever had in my life were raw vegan ones (cashew-based).
- The first falafel I had were raw vegan (make in the dehydrator, flax-based).
- The only pates I've ever had were raw vegan ones (usually sunflower-based).
- The only pad Thai I've ever had is raw vegan (usually including zucchini pasta).
When I was first introduced to raw food I was excited. I'd been on a highly restricted diet for years because I only knew of a limited group of foods that I could eat without getting acid reflux and other nasty symptoms. My diet was very simple and included no desserts. Raw food changed that for me. While the cheesecakes upset my stomach, many other desserts became a regular part of my life, such as raw, spicy strawberry pie, cacao brownies, and apple-ginger pie. (Now I know that raw cheesecakes upset my stomach because of the cashews which contain lectins.)
In order to learn raw food thoroughly, I looked up a lot of recipes. I also did a lot of experimenting. Once I learned how magically delicious almonds blended with dates tasted (as the basis for a raw pie crust), I began trying every different nut with every different dried fruit. I discovered that dried apricots and prunes made particularly nice and interesting compliments, and that pecans were often tastier than other nuts in my recipes.
Now I'm going through this same process with baking. I tried just butter plus cassava flour. The result was something with pie-crust like flavor and texture. I rather enjoyed it, although my husbands thought it was strange. They both said they weren't really the sort to just eat a plain pie crust. Apparently, I am.
I also tried cassava flour with just apple sauce and butter which makes a tasty mush. Add eggs and you still have a mush, but it does form little pockets somewhat like bread. The air holes, I think, are caused by the fluid of the apple sauce boiling while the egg forms a binder that holds it together, preventing it from sinking into the boiling pockets of fluid. Add baking soda and lemon juice and it rises and you have an actual bread. Add blueberries on the bottom and you've got blueberry pan-dowdy. Stir in apple chunks and you've got something like an apple pie.
I've not been using measuring spoons or cups, but here is an approximation of my best cassava bread recipe:
Cassava Bread Recipe
- 2 Tablespoons avocado oil
- 3 duck eggs from pasture-raised ducks
- ¼ cup apple sauce (unsweetened, no funky preservatives)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup cassava flour (add more as needed
- 1 dash baking soda
- Spread the avocado oil over the bottom of a glass baking dish about eight inches by five inches wide. I've been using an oven-safe glass-lock dish in my counter-top convection oven. Crack eggs into the glass dish. Stab each yolk with a fork and whisk them around until well combined. I rinse and save the eggshells to use in my garden. Around the base of plants they prevent slugs and snails from climbing the plant and eatings its leaves.
- Add applesauce and lemon juice and stir in thoroughly. Sprinkle cassava flour on top. Sprinkle baking soda onto the cassava flour. Fold the dry powders into the wet stuff (avoiding sending the flour flying). Continue to stir it in until thoroughly combined. The result should be pasty, but still quite wet. If it seems slushy instead of pasty, add another spoonful of flour and stir until you have something pasty.
- Bake (uncovered) for twenty minutes at 350ºF. Adjust as needed, considering your cooking appliance. I came up with this using an infrared convection oven.
The result is lectin-free (including the gluten lectin), delicious bread. I particularly love the flavor of cassava. Cassava is a root vegetable, like sweet potatoes, so the flavor isn't what you might expect from bread. It tastes more like corn bread than typical bread, with a similar texture to corn bread as well. The flavor pairs very well with sweet flavors, dairy, and oils. Delicious toppings include apple sauce, A2 butter, A2 cream, and macadamia-nut oil.
You can modify the recipe into a dessert by pouring the batter onto fruit for a fruit-on-the-bottom cake, or by stirring fruit in. Thus far I've only tried this with blueberries and apples, both of which I enjoyed.
Past Lessons Encapsulated &/or Explained by Lectins
Looking back, so much of what I've learned over the years is encapsulated or explained by lectins. For example, Dr. Ritamarie teaches in her programs that anyone with any chronic condition will benefit from the complete removal of dairy and gluten. She actually boldly states that in 100% cases in over 60,000 patients with chronic conditions, every single one benefited from the removal of dairy and gluten. By removing these two foods she was getting her patients off of second-hand lectins found in dairy that are fed corn, soy and wheat. She was also getting her patients off of wheat-germ-agglutinin (WGA) when they stopped eating gluten. Also, by eliminating dairy she got people off of casein-A1 and lowered their exposure to neu5Gc.
Lectins, Omega Fatty Acids & Fructose – Three Separate Subjects
However, not everything Dr. Gundry suggests is about lectins. He also slanders omega-6 and fructose. In the cases of omega-6 I believe he is completely right. In terms of natural fructose present in fruit, I have my reservations, many of which I expressed in my article, My First Three Weeks on The Plant Paradox Program. In short, my most successful dietary approach in the past was fruitarian. I believe that, in part, this fruitarian approach was so successful for me because it excluded lectins. My previous article has an example of what my previous fruitarian diet was like.
So, when considering Dr. Gundry's food lists of what to say "yes, please" to and what to say "no, thank you" to, it is important to understand that not everything on his "no" list is there due to lectins. Harmful lectins are in the seeds and peels of nightshades, gourds, most seeds (beans, legumes, grains, grain-like seeds, cashews, peanuts), and unripe fruits (such as peaches) that were gassed to give them the appearance of ripeness despite being picked unripe. So if you're eating ripe apples of your backyard tree, there won't be harmful lectins present in that apple.
Avoiding Omega-6 (Ω6)
Grapeseed oil (for example) is not a source of lectins. The problem with an oil like grapeseed oil is that a single tablespoon of it contains nine grams of omega-6. Some health gurus suggest that you should stay below a single gram of omega-6 per day, or failing that, match your omega-3 consumption gram for gram. Other gurus who are more lax on this point say that you can have as much as three times as much omega-6 as omega-3. However, grapeseed oil has no omega-3 to speak of. In theory you could make up the difference and you could even ensure you consume the omega-3 first so that your body doesn't waste its fat-processing enzymes on the omega-6 and run out before the omega-3 arrives (which is what often happens in people's omega-6 rich diets). But in truth, it is just easier to stay away from such poorly balanced oils.
The following lists will help you evaluate omega 3 (Ω3) and omega 6 (Ω6) content in oils. The amounts are based on two tablespoons of oil.
Oils to Consume as Desired
Flax: Ω3 – 14.5 g, Ω6 – 3.9 g
Macadamia: Ω3 – 0.1 g, Ω6 – 0.6 g
ButterA2: Ω3 – 0.1 g, Ω6 – 0.8 g
Beef TallowGrass: Ω3 – 0.1 g, Ω6 – 0.8 g
Palm OilEco: Ω3 – 0.1 g, Ω6 – 2.5 g
Pork LardGrass: Ω3 – 0.2 g, Ω6 – 2.6 g
Olive: Ω3 – 0.2 g, Ω6 – 2.6 g
Hazelnut: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 2.8 g
Avocado: Ω3 – 0.2 g, Ω6 – 3.4 g
Almond: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 4.7 g
Acceptable Oils in Moderation2 tsp
CoconutHex: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 0.5 g
Hemp: Ω3 – 4.7 g, Ω6 –15 g
Sesame: Ω3 – 0.1 g, Ω6 – 11.3 g
Walnut: Ω3 – 2.8 g, Ω6 – 13.4 g
Canola/rapeseedGM : Ω3 – 2.5 g, Ω6 – 5.2 g
PeanutLectin: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 8.6 g
Rice BranLectin: Ω3 – 0.4 g, Ω6 – 9.1 g
CottonseedGM: Ω3 – 0.1 g, Ω6 – 14.1 g
CornGM: Ω3 – 0.3 g, Ω6 – 14.6 g
Poppyseed: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 17 g
Sunflower: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 18 g
Grapeseed: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 18 g
Safflower: Ω3 – 0 g, Ω6 – 20.3 g
Footnotes On The Above Oils
A2Ideally, all dairy you consume, including butter, should come from grass-fed, A2-casein sources. If there is no butter available from A2-casein sources, then I suggest either looking online or at the bare minimum ensuring that your butter is from grass-fed cows. The butter should be naturally quite yellow if the cows are truly grazing. If you have a local source of grass-fed butter from another animal, that's great. These usually will be nearly white, even when grass-fed.
GrassIdeally, seek a source of tallow that is from an ethical farm where their animals are raised on pasture, eating grass. This will improve the health benefits of the tallow, and it will be good for your conscience.
EcoMuch palm oil is harvested in unsustainable ways. Seek palm oil that is organic and "roundtable on sustainable palm oil" (RSPO) certified, like Aunt Patty's Red Palm Oil.
2 tspBy "in moderation" I mean a very small amount – one to two teaspoons per day, or if you only eat these on rare occasion, then perhaps a couple tablespoons.
GMUsually cottonseed and canola oil are genetically modified. Unfortunately this also means that most of the conventional cotton that people wear is genetically modified as well. In fact, 25% of the pesticides sprayed in America are sprayed on cotton. This is why I wear all organic clothing – a commitment I made in 2012 to stop purchasing any new cotton clothes. Canola oil is also usually created through a very chemical process including hexane, so even organic canola oil poses health concerns.
LectinPeanut lectins are some of the worst. Also, peanuts are vulnerable to molds which produce aflatoxin. Even after they've been roasted, that toxin is still present. This makes peanuts and their oil suspect. Similarly, if rice bran isn't healthy, I have my doubts that rice bran oil is healthy.
HexExtra virgin coconut oil is generally mechanically squished from fresh coconuts. However, refined coconut oil is usually made from dried coconut using a process that includes heating, hexane solvent, and filtering through bleaching clays. Refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point, making it more appropriate for cooking, but many people (myself included) are concerned about this chemical process used to make it. At the least, it isn't environmentally friendly.
Coconut is often vaunted for its medium chain triglycerides, but roughly 50% of the fat in coconut oil comes from lauric acid. Lauric acid (C12) has been classified by chemists as a "medium chain" fatty acid, but it doesn't bypass the digestive steps that caproic acid (C6), caprylic acid (C8) and capric acid (C10) does. These other three medium chain fatty acids take only three steps to convert to energy.
Typically, fats are absorbed by your intestinal cells, placed inside chylomicrons which transport them to your lymphatic system to be circulated to your liver and adipose tissue throughout your body. These lipids with long-chain fatty acids are more easily stored. Medium chain triglycerides go straight to the liver. Once in the liver, medium chain triglycerides can be used for instant energy, or they can be converted to ketones. Ketones are thought to be your brain's preferred energy source. Because medium chain triglycerides are converted directly to energy, they're not being stored as fat. But the hype about coconut oil being "mostly MCTs" is misguided, because only a small fraction (perhaps 15%) of the fat in coconut oil consists of caproic acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid.
Not that lauric acid is bad. It has its supposed benefits, like helping your body create monolaurin, a vital aid to your immune system.
All of that said, I've repeatedly had terrible stomach pain after consuming coconut oil in the past, so I recommend erring on the side of caution when it comes to coconut oil and at most, consuming it in moderation.
How much fat is too much fat?
As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as too much fat. Dr. Weston Price brought awareness to the world of the healing powders of butter oil and cod liver oil, and the importance of fat-soluble vitamins. I've been eating Green Pasture's Royal Blend (of butter oil and cod liver oil) mixed with heavy cream (A2, grass-fed) as a snack, both of which get 100% of their calories from fat. My other snacks these past few weeks are olives, avocados and cheese, all of which get 75% to 80% of their calories from fat.
Dr. Gundry actually suggests a very high-fat, high-ketone diet in The Plant Paradox for intensive care of serious conditions. I suspect many people stop reading the book after they've read the chapters on how to execute the main program, but chapter ten is actually one of the most fascinating chapters. I have yet to reread it, but when I do I imagine I will be re-inspired to try the more rigorous program he outlines there.
I've personally been astonished at how energized I feel by eating high-fat breakfasts. For years I assumed that fat was part of the problem, but in reality, it wasn't the fat in cashews that hurt me, it was their lectins. And I'm quite sure it isn't that coconuts are "high fat" that cause me to react poorly to them, as I've been having no trouble with my new best friends, avocado oil and macadamia oil. Perhaps, like avocados, I will be able to consume coconuts as my gut heals. I have not tried yet, as coconuts were never high on my list of favorite foods.
Thank you for reading and for supporting my work with your monthly contribution as my patron. If you enjoyed reading this and found value in it, please consider being my patron, even if only for a few months.