Balanced Bites Podcast #120: special guest Chris Kresser, author of “Your Personal Paleo Code”

The Balanced Bites Podcast Episode 120 | Special Guest Chris Kresser of Your Personal Paleo Code
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The Balanced Bites Podcast Episode 120 | Special Guest Chris Kresser of Your Personal Paleo CodeTopics:
1.  Your Personal Paleo Code background information [3:22]
2.  Individualized diet approach [10:50]
3.  Hot topics like red meat, fat, and cholesterol.  [14:14]
4.  Meat digestibility [24:11]
5.  Gut bacteria and health [26:38]
6.  A personal story from Chris [38:11]
7.  Updates and offers on Your Personal Paleo Code [42:46]

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Chris Kresser
Your Personal Paleo Code

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Diane Sanfilippo: Hey everyone! Diane here, and today I have a very special guest with me for episode number 120 of the Balanced Bites Podcast. I have Chris Kresser with me. He, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Chris’ work, I will say snap to it {laughs}
Chris Kresser: {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: And hop over to Make sure you get to know his work. You can tune in; I think we had Chris on, probably episode, I want to say 8 or 9. Really, really early on. We talked all about gut health, and I’m super excited today to welcome him to come talk about his new book, Your Personal Paleo Code, which just released this week, so welcome Chris!
Chris Kresser: Thanks Diane, it’s a pleasure to be here again.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}
Chris Kresser: I’m impressed! You guys are already at episode 120. I think you’ve already passed me up.
Diane Sanfilippo: I think so. I mean, we’re doing episodes every single week pretty solidly, so.
Chris Kresser: Hm-mmm. You lapped me.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} yeah. Well, I don’t know that we’ll ever catch Robb, but …
Chris Kresser: {laughs} That’s a… yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: He’s just cranking away.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I just recorded with him the other day, and it was like episode 5 billion or something.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}
Chris Kresser: It was crazy {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: I know, I actually laugh because I do listen to his show, and when they kind of get to the point where they are like “we’ve answered so many of the same questions”
Chris Kresser: Right.
Diane Sanfilippo: I’m like, I don’t know how you’re still doing it.
Chris Kresser: {laughs} Right.
Diane Sanfilippo: But, you know, it’s fun, especially for an episode like this, you know, we do find that bringing guests on really just helps to mix it up.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And it helps give our listeners something different for those long drives, so they’re not just hearing myself and Liz drone on and on.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I feel the same way.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} for an hour every single week. Anyway, so I’m excited that your book is now finally coming out. I want to let you just basically introduce some of the background of how you decided to kind of shape the book, because I think we pretty much all know that you have a very wide array of knowledge on this whole paleo, just holistic health subject matter, and it’s also a very deep set of knowledge, as well. So, in order to bring information, I guess more to the masses, you know, how did you decide what to kind of boil it down to.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And then can you just kind of get into a little bit about how the book is shaped.
1. Your Personal Paleo Code background information [3:22]
Chris Kresser: Sure. Well, I guess the first thing to say is I wasn’t very successful in my first attempt. When I finished the manuscript, I can’t remember if I told you this, Diane. It was about 725 pages {laughs} I was working with my editor, and I said I’ve never written a book before. I’ve written lots of blog posts, and you know, other stuff, so how should I approach it? And she said, just sit down and write. And I’m not sure she knew who she was talking to {laughs} because everyone knows how verbose I am, so I just sat down and wrote, and when I finished it was 725 pages. So, I had an idea of what I thought I wanted to include in this book, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this in writing your books. There were so many things I wanted to include, and thought should be in the book, and when I included all of them it was 725 pages, so. Obviously we weren’t going to publish that book.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} the Gary Taubes dilemma.
Chris Kresser: {laughs} yeah, exactly. But the good news is, there is this thing called the internet now, and it’s very easy to repurpose content. So what I did is I took… I had originally included in the book 10 bonus chapters on customizing paleo for particular health conditions, and talking about not only diet but supplements and lifestyle changes because I’m a clinician and I do this kind of work with patients, so we moved those to the website, so there are over 200 pages of free bonus chapters that you get if you buy the book on the website, everything from hypothyroidism to autoimmune disease to digestive issues to blood sugar disorders, and then we moved some other material from the book to the website, so the good news is all of that 725 pages is still part of the book, it’s just not all in the print version of the book. And for the print version, what I wanted to do, as you know, Diane, my big thing is personalization. I’m a huge believer in personalizing the diet, not only diet but also lifestyle and supplementation to meet each person’s individual needs, because that’s what I found was so important in my own journey back to health, and I’ve also found that to be extremely important in my work with patients on a daily basis. So, the dilemma when I was sitting down to figure out how to write the book was, personalization I think is the key to success, so how do you translate that into a book that is going out to a mass market audience, you know? Obviously, we have to offer some basic guidelines that everybody can follow, but I also wanted to teach people how to personalize their diet in the same way that I would if I was working with them as a patient in my practice. Fortunately, over the years I’ve developed this 3-step process in my work with patients and also teaching seminars and my blog and radio show, so I’ve had a lot of time to experiment with it. And, that’s the way that the book is structured. So, step 1 is reset, and that is the 30-day paleo challenge or reset, which is what I call it. And, I really think of strict paleo these days as primarily an elimination diet. So, it’s something that you do for 30 days, and you see how you do at the end of that period. It’s a really good way to reduce inflammation and quell a lot of symptoms of chronic disease, and get yourself to a place where you can determine what your kind of normal baseline disease. And then in step 2, I encourage people to consider reintroducing some really nutrient dense healthy foods that I believe are beneficial when they are well tolerated, like full-fat fermented dairy, dark chocolate in moderate amounts, alcohol is, you know there is some mixed research on its benefits, but certainly in moderation it seems to be either benign or maybe even beneficial. And even some grains like white rice and fermented and sprouted properly prepared grains and legumes might be a worthwhile addition for some people. But these all fall into the category of grey area foods that, the research suggests there’s nothing wrong with them, but you really have to check out whether you tolerate them individually. And then step 3 is where you do the real fine tuning and customization. So we look at macronutrient ratios, like what percentage of protein, fat, and carbohydrate to eat. We look at customizing your diet for your activity level, so someone who is mostly sedentary and trying to lose weight would have a different approach than someone who is a marathon runner, for example. We talk about paleo super foods, and I think this is a really important topic that I know you really emphasize a lot, Diane, but the importance of eating organ meats and nose to tail, you know ,the tougher gelatinous cuts of meat that are rich in glycine, bone broth, things like fermented cod liver oil, and sea vegetables, which are probably the best source of iodine in the diet. And then we also talk a little bit about supplementation and a few other aspects of tweaking it to meet your unique needs, and then or course the bonus chapters on particular health conditions, so. The idea is that by the end of this 3-step process, you will have your own ideal version of the paleo diet. And you won’t need to listen to me, or Diane, or Robb, or anyone tell you exactly what to eat because you will know exactly what works for you based on your own experience and your own trial and error as you move through this process. And the beauty of that is that this can change. Once you learn how to do this, you will have this tool or this skill for the rest of your life. And as your circumstances change, you can tweak and tailor your diet accordingly. Because the things that determine what’s optimal for us change as we move through life. So for example one of the factors is our health status. So, if you are primarily healthy, and you’re just looking to optimize your health, that might lead to one approach, but if you are chronically ill and dealing with a certain health condition, you’re going to have a different approach. And that, of course, can change as we move through life. Activity level can change. Goals can change. You know, as we get older, certain physiological changes happen in our body that make us more likely to deal with certain issues like high blood sugar or sleep difficulties, and so our goals with our dietary approach may change. So, your diet should change as you move through life because your circumstances are going to change and your goals are going to change. And once you know how to do that; once you know how to match up your food intake with what’s happening in your life, then the power is really in your hands.
2. Individualized diet approach [10:50]
Diane Sanfilippo: I think all of that is just really important for people who, especially who are listening to this show, to think about, because a lot of us… well, a lot of listeners perhaps, may have this idea that following a paleo type of diet really means they should be following “The Paleo Diet”
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And, there’s a certain set of, you know, foods that are paleo and others that are not, and if they eat these foods they are doing it right, and if they don’t eat, you know, if they include other foods, they are not doing it right, and I think that sort of dogmatic approach is just… it’s not what any of us, I know myself, you, Robb, even Mark Sisson, the way that we teach this whole thing is a lot more about, you know, understand why you make that choice.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And then you know, there are nuances to it that, you know, different people are going to need to incorporate different types of foods, and it’s not that legumes in the form of, you know, some soaked black beans are what are, you know, at the
Chris Kresser: Driving the obesity epidemic {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: At the crux of what, yeah, it’s not like carbohydrates from beans are making people sick.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: Like, none of us have ever said that. It’s just, hey, you know, if you’re not feeling great, I don’t know if those are the best, most nutrient dense foods to include.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: Along with the pop tarts and the cereal and the ho-hos, and all the other stuff.
Chris Kresser: {laughs} Exactly
Diane Sanfilippo: So, you know, or even just the Kashi cereal that people think is healthy.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And it’s that whole grain nonsense.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: But, I do think it’s really important that people understand that that is what your approach is, and I’m really glad that, you know, we kind of connected however many years ago, too, because it really just … it helps to shape what’s happening out there, because when I realized how many people my book has touched, you know
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: I’m just glad that I’ve had that really balanced approach to things.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: It’s funny how people get sort of mad that I covered dairy quality in my book.
Chris Kresser: Oh, really?
Diane Sanfilippo: In a food quality guide. They’re like, well dairy is not paleo, and you’re confusing my mom.
Chris Kresser: Right.
Diane Sanfilippo: And I said, well, I’m sorry, but I need to teach you..
Chris Kresser: {laughs} You’re confusing my mom.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah! I think somebody said something like that, like, when I give this to someone, they are getting confused
Chris Kresser: Yeah
Diane Sanfilippo: Because you are saying not to eat dairy. I’m like, well, actually if you read what I said, you know, if you don’t just read the list
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: of foods, if you read the actual information. So, anyway, I love that you are giving people that background information and all of that. So, maybe we can get into a little bit more sort of of the nitty gritty of things that people do get confused about when it comes to paleo, and the paleo diet
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And perhaps too, in talking to others about it, because again, most of our listeners are kind of already eating paleo, they are with it, they believe it, but
Chris Kresser: Sure.
Diane Sanfilippo: Maybe they can see your book as something which I know this is what happened with mine, that they can give to their friends or their family
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: Who are asking questions. And so I know that your book is going to be next to my own {laughs} books that I will recommend
Chris Kresser: Of course.
Diane Sanfilippo: Especially for those people, who, you know, for the people who want a little bit more of that, just, let me read something that’s going to tell me all about it. I don’t need recipes or pictures {laughs} or all this like, song and dance, you know {laughs}.
Chris Kresser: Right, right. Yeah.
3. Hot topics like red meat, fat, and cholesterol. [14:14]
Diane Sanfilippo: So, let’s talk a little bit about those kind of hot topics, things like red meat, and just meat in general, and fat and cholesterol, and why don’t you just touch on some of those big questions that people have.
Chris Kresser: Ok, sure. Yeah, so, you know red meat, of course, has been demonized for certainly my entire life. I’m almost 40 now, and before that as well. There are several different claims that are made about red meat in terms of why it’s not a good idea to eat. So, one is that it will cause cancer. That’s often bandied about. The next would be that it’s a bad food because it contains saturated fat. Which is interesting, because a lot of types of red meats that are commonly eaten, like leaner steaks and leaner ground beef don’t actually have a lot of saturated fat in them, especially if it’s pasture-raised meat. But, certainly some other cuts of red meat do have saturated fat. Um, those are probably the two main issues. And, it’s interesting when you look at the research that there’s not really a strong connection at all between red meat and any kind of disease or problem. So, for example, there were a lot of studies early on that suggested an association between red meat and colon cancer. But these studies suffer from something called the healthy user bias. And this is really crucial to understand when we’re talking about nutrition research, so I’m just going to pause and go into a little bit of detail on this. The healthy user bias describes the phenomenon where, when we are looking at nutrition research, for example with something like red meat, if red meat has been considered to be unhealthy for, you know, 50 years, and then we look at a study of people who are eating a lot more red meat than another group of people, and we see that there are connections with, you know, they have a greater chance of having certain diseases, the problem is in that type of study, the people that are eating more red meat are very much more likely to be doing behaviors that are harmful, like smoking, not exercising, just not taking care of themselves in general, eating more sugar, eating more processed and refined flour, because red meat is considered to be unhealthy and they are eating more of it, then they have demonstrated that they are willing to do things that are not healthy, whether or not they are actually healthy or not. So, this is a big problem in nutrition research, and it means that when you see one of these studies that shows an association between red meat and other diseases, if they are not controlling for those other factors like smoking or sugar consumption of physical inactivity or hypertension or any number of other things that could actually increase the risk of disease, then you can’t really take those results at face value. Fortunately, the awareness of that is changing, has changed over the last 10 or 15 years. I mean, you still see a lot of studies making claims that can’t really be supported because of the healthy user effect, but the more recent studies, for example there was a really large review of the association between red meat and colon cancer in obesity reviews, which is the highest impacts or one of the highest impact scientific journals in the world, a very prestigious journal, and the authors concluded at the end of that review that the current evidence does not support an association between red meat consumption and colon cancer when you consider these other confounding factors. So there’s really no reason that we should believe that red meat causes cancer. And then in terms of saturated fat, that’s a whole other ball of wax. I cover this in a lot of detail in my book and on my website, of course, but the short version is that early studies did suggest that saturated fat increases cholesterol level and then, you know, the idea was that high cholesterol levels contribute to heart disease and that’s also a complicated subject, but it’s not quite as simple as that. But, later studies actually showed on average eating more saturated fat doesn’t increase cholesterol levels in the blood. Now, when I say on average, that means, truly on average. That means, if you do a big study, some people will eat more saturated fat and their cholesterol will actually go down. Other people will eat more saturated fat, and their cholesterol will stay the same. Other people will eat more and it will go up. But, when you average it all out, there’s no difference. There’s no statistically significant difference. That’s number one. And number two is, when they look at the relationship between red meat and heart disease without considering an intermediate variable like cholesterol. So rather than saying, making the argument red meat increases cholesterol levels, and we know cholesterol causes heart attacks, therefore red meat causes heart attacks, they just went straight to the source and they looked at heart attacks, and also early death with consumption of such saturated fat, and these studies have actually never found that eating saturated fat increases the risk of death. So, no strong evidence there that we shouldn’t be eating saturated fat on average. And then the last thing would be the direct connection between red meat and heart disease or cancer. So again, eliminating the intermediate variables like cholesterol and saturate fat, and just looking at the relationship between red meat and disease and death. This again is where the healthy user bias comes in, because as I mentioned, a lot of people in observational studies who are eating more red meat are engaging in behaviors that actually are less healthy, so it’s really different to draw any conclusions. Nevertheless, there have been some very large studies. One that was published in the Journal of Circulation with over 1.2 million participants that found no association between fresh red meat consumption and heart disease. But my favorite study on this topic was actually one that tried to control for this healthy user effect, and I think a pretty ingenious way. So what they did was, they studied people that shop in health food stores. And both vegetarians and omnivores who ate not only red meat, but you know, poultry and fish and other animal products, and this was I think really smart because people who shop at health food stores, I mean, we can’t guarantee that they’re doing more healthy behaviors, but it’s likely that they are because they are health conscious enough to shop in a health food store, and they are paying more for their food, they are demonstrating a willingness to invest money and extra energy in their health, and there actually are some studies that show that people who shop in health food stores typically smoke less and exercise more and engage in healthier behavior, so there is some evidence behind that. And so they divided those people into two groups, vegetarians and omnivores, and what they found was that, perhaps not surprisingly, people who shop in health food stores do have longer life spans on average than people who don’t, and they have lower rates of heart disease. But guess what? There was no difference in heart disease or lifespan between vegetarians and omnivores who shopped in health food stores. So that tells us when you control even generally for the healthy user effect, the association between eating meat and red meat and heart disease and shorter lifespan disappear. So, as you can probably gather just from those examples, this is often a lot more nuanced and involved than the typical media headlines that you see would lead you to believe.
Diane Sanfilippo: For sure, and I think, you know, also as you kind of rounded out that whole, sort of… I don’t know, it’s not really an argument for meat, just more, hey we need to calm down, this isn’t really something we should be scared of.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: But I think also a lot of paleo eaters sort of, they want to defend their way of eating or they want to say it’s better than something else, and I think your point about just that last study even, you know, there can be vegetarian diets that are perfectly healthy for some people. And if that works for them, you know, I think the kind of over-arching thing that we share is that, you know, we have this bias towards being health conscious and we are avoiding refined processed foods, and those are kind of the biggest issues is avoiding those refined foods, even though, of course, we think there are a bunch of great nutrients that we need to be getting from animal foods. You know, it’s not really as much about that for the overall consensus of what it takes to be a healthy person.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: It’s often more about what we’re not eating, and then those little pieces of what we add back in, I guess.
Chris Kresser: Right.
4. Meat digestibility [24:11]
Diane Sanfilippo: I think the other thing that I get a lot of questions about is meat being hard to digest, or rotting in the colon, you know,
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm. {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: It’s almost like a vegan-vegetarian scare tactic that’s come across.
Chris Kresser: Right.
Diane Sanfilippo: Which, I don’t like scare tactics. I don’t like it for grains any more than I like it for meat.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: But I think, you know, what do you usually say to people who say, well isn’t meat hard to digest? Doesn’t it just sit and rot in our colon? {laughs}
Chris Kresser: Yeah, well, that’s a misconception. I mean, meat really shouldn’t be getting…there.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} totally.
Chris Kresser: At all, so {laughs}. The way our digestive tract is designed is a lot closer to a carnivore’s digestive tract. Carnivores have larger stomachs and then shorter intestines because they eat meat, and the stomach and the small intestine, the upper part of the small intestine, is where proteins are broken down. So you eat a meal, your stomach secretes hydrochloric acid, pepsin, you know, some other enzymes that are released in the upper part of the small intestine, and that’s what breaks down the proteins in the meat, and that’s where it’s absorbed. On the other hand, herbivores, that eat a lot of plants, which would be like cows and sheep, for example, they have smaller stomachs, although they have several chambers in their stomach with special enzymes that help breakdown the nondigestible fibers in the plants that they eat, then they have extremely long digestive tracts because it takes so much time to break all that stuff down. And they have extremely large numbers of bacteria in the digestive tracts because the bacteria are what feed on those indigestible fibers. We have those bacteria too in the colon. So, if anything is fermenting or rotting in the colon, it’s fiber.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. {laughs}
Chris Kresser: Not meat. So {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: I just like to hear how other people explain the answer to that question, because I of course often take sometimes a little bit of silly route, and start to talk about poop, and I say, you’ve often seen flecks of corn in the toilet, I’m sure, but have you ever seen a piece of steak {laughs}
Chris Kresser: Right, yeah, a piece of meat, yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: In the toilet. It just doesn’t work that way.
Chris Kresser: Not likely.
Diane Sanfilippo: It’s so funny. Well, I think that’s kind of a good segue into perhaps one of maybe the last, I think we’ve got about 10 more minutes here.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
5. Gut bacteria and health [26:38]
Diane Sanfilippo: I think it would be great if we talked a little bit more about two topics, just so I make sure we cover both of these. One, I want to talk a little more about gut bacteria and health.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: Just kind of overall, because I think there’s just a lot of things to talk about there.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: And also, well let’s start with that one.
Chris Kresser: Ok.
Diane Sanfilippo: Because what I want to sort of have people understand, perhaps a little bit more about, too, is that, I mean I think what we’ve all seen is that really seems to be at the crux sort of everything.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And it almost is becoming where, you know, lucky you if you {laughs} if you were the one as an infant or even before infancy had sort of a better head start.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: In terms of your gut microbiome. So, can you just talk a little bit about that and how that really affects basically how you may end up going through the 3 steps in your book and all of that.
Chris Kresser: Absolutely, yeah. It’s really fascinating. It’s of course one of my favorite topics, and probably if, when I write another book, although that’s the last thing on my mind at the moment {laughs} it will be on gut health, because it’s just so profound the effect that our gut has on our overall health, and what’s interesting to me is that this was known a long time ago. Hippocrates famously said, you know, 2500 years ago that all disease begins in the gut. And I feel like there was a period of time where this knowledge was then lost, you know, and then modern medicine where the gut was completely neglected, nobody paid any attention to it at all, really, and now we’re experiencing this kind of renaissance of attention where you can’t, you know, open up the newspaper or a magazine or a scientific journal without seeing new articles, seemingly daily, on the importance of gut health and the gut microbiota on our overall health. So I would say that that the biggest change that has happened in recent years too, it kind of goes without saying that your gut health is important for your gut health, {laughs} right, you know? The bacteria in your gut might affect how you digest food and how you absorb and process food and things like that, but now what we’re really coming to understand is that the bacteria in our gut, which is referred to as the microbiome, affects everything from our brain and mental and behavioral health. There are strong connections between disruptions of the gut flora and things like autism spectrum disorder, for example, and depression. There is a new way of understanding depression called the inflammatory cytokine model of depression that holds that depression is primarily an inflammatory disorder, and it’s usually inflammation in the gut that is driving it. There is a strong connection between the gut and skin health, and in fact if someone comes to me with skin problems, the very first thing I’m going to do is test their, you know, do some stool testing and urinalysis to test their gut health, because that’s almost what is at the root of their skin problems, whether it’s acne or psoriasis or eczema. I recently saw a study that suggested that over 80% of patients with fibromyalgia have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and that treating SIBO can significantly improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Diane Sanfilippo: Wow.
Chris Kresser: Yeah. Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: That’s huge. I know people with fibro are usually like, kind of at a loss. They feel like they don’t really know what to do.
Chris Kresser: I can’t believe this hasn’t been, you know, trumpeted more notably through the media, and stuff, but 8 out of 10, that’s really…
Diane Sanfilippo: That’s huge.
Chris Kresser: Significant. And there are a lot of things you can do for SIBO. And as you pointed out, fibromyalgia is often really kind of mysterious and different to treat. So that’s definitely the first place I look if someone comes to see me. And then we have connections between the gut microbiota and metabolism, of course, which I’m sure a lot of people have heard about by now. There are some really famous, at least in the scientific world, studies where they transplant the gut microbiota from obese mice into lean mice, and the lean mice become obese. And then they did the same thing the other way around, they took the gut flora from the lean mice and put it into the obese mice, and they became lean. So that’s a really powerful demonstration of the impact that gut microbiota can have on weight regulation and diabetes and other metabolic factors. So, really, I think it’s probably not a stretch to say that there is no chronic, inflammatory, modern disease that the gut health doesn’t impact. Autoimmune disease, of course, some have argued, like Alessio Fasano, who is a real pioneer in the study of gluten intolerance and autoimmune disease, when he came on my show, he basically argued that you can’t, you can’t develop autoimmune disease without have a leaky gut, intestinal permeability. That it is a precondition of developing autoimmunity. SO, I don’t think we can really overstate how important gut health is to our overall health, and in particular, how important the gut microbiome is. I’m sure a lot of your listeners have heard these numbers, but they are really remarkable so I’ll mention them in case they haven’t. The gut contains over 100 trillion microorganisms, so that’s just an incomprehensible number. It’s almost impossible to imagine. From 1000 different species. And there are 10 times more microbes in the human body than there are human cells. So it’s not inaccurate to say we are more bacterial than we are human. And together, those microbes have 100 times more genes than the human genome does. And genes drive a lot {laughs} as I’m sure you know. Genes and how those genes express then determine what proteins and enzymes get produced, and proteins and enzymes are running the body. They influence everything in the body. So this bacterial genome or microbial genome in our gut has 100 times more genes than the human genome, so that means it has a profound capability of influencing our physiology through genes and gene expression. There is a microbiologist at Stanford named Justin Sonnenburg who has this quote that I love, I’m paraphrasing it here, but it’s that humans are essentially elaborate vessels for the propagation of microorganisms {laughs}.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} That’s awesome.
Chris Kresser: It really sheds a different light on our concept of self and our identity. But, if you look at it from an evolutionary perspective, it’s probably true. So, I like to remind people now that when you are thinking about your own health and what you put in your mouth, you always should be thinking about the health of your gut bacteria, and how whatever you put in your mouth is going to affect your gut bacteria. Whether that’s a medication, or a food, or a beverage, we always should be thinking about feeding our, you know, the beneficial bugs in our gut and not feeding the pathogenic bugs in our gut. So, fortunately the paleo template is a diet that naturally has a lot of foods that are beneficial for gut health. A lot of fermentable fibers, at least the way that Diane and I talk about it. It also has fermented foods, and bone broth which are great for digestive health. You know, plenty of fruits and vegetables with lots of different kinds of fibers in it are good for gut health, and it eliminates the foods that would tend to feed the bad bacteria in your gut, like white flour and refined sugar and all kinds of processed and refined foods, and then of course, your diet, having a healthy diet makes it less likely that you’re going to get sick and infections, which would then lead to antibiotic use, which you know further impacts the gut flora in an adverse way, so eating a healthy diet and then other lifestyle things, like managing your stress, making sure you’re getting enough sleep, physical activity, these are all also important for protecting your gut microbiota. So you want to think of sort of cultivating that garden. You are the caretaker of that garden, and there is a symbiotic relationship between you and the gut microbiota, and it’s in your best interest to keep those bugs happy, so to speak {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Oh, it’s kind of like awesome and creepy at the same time.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm. A little creepy!
Diane Sanfilippo: But you know, what’s funny what you said, I know I’ve listened to Alessio Fasano’s interview with you, and I think also with Robb, probably well over a year ago or maybe two, I remember that was a long time ago.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: But, what he said also about, you know, you can’t really have AI conditions, you can’t have an autoimmune condition without a leaky gut. I think Datis Kharrazian had probably said something similar
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: In a leaky gut talk that probably you and I went to {laughs}
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t remember how many years ago now as well, and when people ask me why I eat paleo because I didn’t lose any weight when I changed my diet, I didn’t have an autoimmune condition diagnosed when I changed my diet, I basically you know, according to most people, was not sick. You know, or overweight, so it’s like why would you do that? And when I found out that one side of my family was riddled with cancer and one side is riddled with autoimmunity, that was really that light bulb moment where it’s like, hey if I know that I can prevent these things through diet, and cancer was the first thing that I thought, well, that’s pretty interesting, if I eat more blueberries {laughs}
Chris Kresser: Right.
Diane Sanfilippo: That was like, the Dr. Oz approach at the time. This was years ago. But really learning that autoimmunity is something at some point we have some control over. I’m not saying, you know, if you have a diagnosed condition it’s your fault, it’s just, we do have some control. And if we have some control, and I think we all have this compelling inner motivation that if we can control something, and it’s potentially something dangerous or fatal, we want to do something about it. And so for me the reason why I eat paleo is to prevent developing autoimmunity. I mean, it’s just, for me it’s that plain and simple, you know.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t want to have, I don’t want to lose my gallbladder
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t want to develop any of those conditions that the rest of my family has been suffering with. So, I think that’s pretty important. You touched on a couple of non-food issues with health, and I know you get into a ton of other lifestyle factors in the book that people can really dive into and use it as a guide that they can really walk through the whole program step by step, and really take advice that is more than diet.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: It is kind of taking that beyond paleo, which I know has been one of your series of blog posts.
Chris Kresser: Slogans {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, one of your sort of slogans, and they can really take advantage of all that information right in the book in Your Personal Paleo Code, and I think it would be great if we have you kind of wrap up with just anything else you want to leave people with, and I know you had some additional updates for folks too.
6. A personal story from Chris [38:11]
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I guess I’ll just finish with a personal story that illustrates the importance of lifestyle factors and I think sometimes it can be much more important than diet, or at least the final tweaks of the diet. So, many of your listeners may know that I struggled with my own chronic illness for a little over a decade. I mean, it was a long haul. I got sick while I was in my early 20s traveling, and it just turned into a really complex, mysterious, debilitating journey back to health. At one point, about halfway through it, I had a complete breakdown. I was just totally demoralized, I had tried everything under the sun. I had flown to three different countries to see the top specialists in the area that I was dealing with. I had taken every supplement, medication, done every special diet, I had seen shaman and energy healers, you know {laughs}. I mean, everything that you can possibly imagine, I did, and I was still sick. I just hit bottom, and it became clear to me that I just needed to find a way to recharge my batteries and nourish myself and bring more fun and joy back into my life, and social connection because I was feeling pretty isolated. All of the special diets I had done, and just, the nature of being ill is often quite isolating, too. And so I decided to create like a pleasure program {laughs} where I basically didn’t think much about what I was eating, although I’ve always eaten a fairly healthy diet, so it’s not like I was really going off the rails, I just really wasn’t making any huge priority and doing anything strict at all, and if I felt like eating something that was “not healthy” or “not paleo” or whatever, I did. I put all my energy and attention into boosting endorphins, which you know, these are some chemicals that are produced inside the body that have profound impact on all aspects of health and physiology, and they are released essentially when we are experiencing pleasure. So, I got regular massages, I made sure to spend… I scheduled time with friends every week. We took walks on the beach, in the park. I went surfing as much as possible. I was doing this really fun improvisation class where I would act like a big energy, it’s something that I have fun with and I feel really alive when I’m doing it, when I’m up on stage, and I just designed this program where I was nourishing myself as deeply as I could, and that’s one of the things, I think, that really helped me to turn the corner. After several months of doing that, I felt like I had kind of a new lease on life, I was hopeful for the first time in a long time. I had more energy, I was sleeping better. I just, I started to, you know, think about what I wanted to do with my life and my future, and then I also had more energy to kind of dive back into the nitty gritty details of diet and supplements and things like that, and it wasn’t long after that that I discovered the Nourishing Traditions/Weston A Price approach, and that kind of evolved into my own version of the paleo approach, you know, and then I started to get well after that. So, I hope that that just illustrates, I mean, it was kind of, you know, a lot of people aren’t dealing with circumstances as severe as mine, but in my work with patients, I often try to remind them that there is a lot more to health than food, and supplements for that matter, and sometimes the best thing we can do to improve our health has nothing to do with diet and it’s more about stress management, improving our sleep, increasing our pleasure and connection. For example, there is this really great study in my book that shows that having adequate social support is a better predictor of your lifespan than things like body mass index, physical activity, and even smoking 15 cigarettes a day, which is pretty unbelievable {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: That’s pretty amazing, yeah.
7. Updates and offers on Your Personal Paleo Code [42:46]
Chris Kresser: Yeah, and you know, just spending time outdoors and having contact with nature, and play, which is a really crucial part of being human. So, there’s a whole big section in my book, as Diane mentioned, about these lifestyle factors and not only how important they are, but some really easy tips for how to, you know, integrate them into your life and make sure you are doing what you need to be doing. So, yeah, I’m excited about the book. By the time this airs, it will have been out for a few days, and we did a bundle campaign to incentivize people to preorder the book, so, you know, with the goal of getting on the New York Times’ best seller list so I can reach as many people as possible and spread this message of personalized paleo. It was so successful that we decided to extend it a few more days, so I think it’s going to be available until the 5th or the 6th, and essentially I give you a bunch of free stuff if you order the book. So all you have to do is order the book…
Diane Sanfilippo: Everybody loves free stuff!
Chris Kresser: {laughs} Yeah, exactly! And it’s not shwaggy free stuff.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, yeah.
Chris Kresser: It’s actually good free stuff that’s worthwhile and valuable. So we have smaller bundle, like one book, even just buying one book you get some great stuff, and then 3 copies, 10 copies, and then there are some bigger bundles for gyms and health clinics, but I imagine they will probably already be sold out because they are close to being sold out now, and we’re in mid-December here. But, go to to check them out, and if you’ve already ordered a copy of the book, you still automatically qualify for the one-book bundle, so all you have to do is fill out a form and send us your receipt and we’ll make sure you get the free stuff.
Diane Sanfilippo: Cool. We’ll link to that from our show notes so that people can go right from the blog post.
Chris Kresser: Thanks.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Cool.
Chris Kresser: And I want to congratulate you, Diane, on your second and third books! Jeeze.
Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}
Chris Kresser: I don’t know how you do it.
Diane Sanfilippo: Laughing you. No.
Chris Kresser: {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t know either. I wish I could take a break.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: But, it doesn’t seem to work that way.
Chris Kresser: It doesn’t seem to be in your DNA, huh?
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t know.
Chris Kresser: {laughs}
Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t really know. Anyway, well thank you. And I’m really excited for you. Yeah, I’m just pumped about that book. Like I said, I’m really excited too, because I think, for those of us who follow a paleo diet and have been feeling for, you know, a couple of years now like there were some great resources when we all started, but now we’ve been in this community for a long time and we have been hoping and wishing that there was another sort of sciencey book that we could refer people to that really encompasses what we sort of as the community currently think about how people should approach paleo.
Chris Kresser: Mm-hmm.
Diane Sanfilippo: And that’s really what I got from reading through your book, that, like this is really how most of us see it now, and I don’t want people to have this dogmatic, here’s the list of what makes your diet paleo, and if you aren’t eating that way it’s not, you know, perfect. It needs to be unique and individualized, so I think this is really going to help tons of people, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes.
Chris Kresser: Thanks, Diane, I appreciate it. Yeah, I’m excited too.
Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining me. Thanks everyone for listening. Tune in next time for more answers to your questions, or perhaps another fantastic interview with another author of an upcoming book, and we’ll see you next time.

Thanks for listening!
Liz & Diane

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