Written by Christopher Kelly
June 17, 2014
Robb: Howdy, folks. This is Robb Wolf and this is, in fact, not The Paleo Solution podcast. Today, this is the Paleo Baby podcast. How are you doing?
Julie: We're doing great. This is Julie and Chris.
Chris: Hi, Robb. Thanks so much for joining us today. It's fantastic to have you.
Robb: Sure. I did the heavy lifting of the intro since these guys kept muffing it.
Julie: Oh, you ratted us out as well.
Robb: Oh, my wife is Italian. If you're not ratted out on everything you do wrong, then you're not alive. They're throwing dirt on you by that point, so yeah.
Chris: I think you've underestimated how much time I'm willing to spend in the editing to remove this part.
Robb: See, I'm willing to devote nothing to it, so that's where I get confused. Yeah.
Julie: We need to adopt that approach. Awesome!
Well, we're really excited to have you here today and talk with us. Chris had a great time on your podcast a couple of weeks ago. So we kind of wanted to just jump right in, and one of the things, you've been around a while in this community and what we were just talking about a couple of…
Robb: Are you saying I'm old?
Julie: I was trying to allude to your vast area of expertise and wisdom in the area in the Paleo community. I promise.
But I was hoping that you could just tell us a little bit about your personal story because I think a lot of people come to you for advice and a lot of other things and you've got a lot to say. But we couldn't really find and we haven't really heard, recently at least, your background and where you came from and how you got started in all of this.
Robb: I guess the one spot that I really fleshed that out the most was probably the first chapter of the book, The Paleo Solution, but I've done bits and pieces online here and there.
Gosh, how do I even launch into that? I grew up in Northern California, had a good family but kind of simple in some ways. On my mother's side of the family, there was a physician maybe three or four generations back. Doc Pearce, I believe, was his name. Other than that, it was just multiple generations of double-wide, trailer park hound dog, NASCAR, I mean really good people but not much value in education, kind of wacky redneck scene. It's probably not super surprising that I have always been pretty geeky.
Both parents were very good at getting me reading at an early age and I became very excited about science. So I really got into science and I really got into like lifting weights and athletics, and those were the two things that I did.
I did an undergrad in organic chemistry mainly but more of a focus on biochemistry right at the end of my program at Chico State University. Right at that time, this was the mid '90s, it was really in fashion, very much in vogue, I don't know, more or less than it is now. But to tinker with vegetarianism and particularly on a college campus, like if you wanted to hook up with any of the superhot hippie chicks, then you know that cooking tofu and hummus and all that stuff was a sure route to do that. And so I kind of started tinkering with that stuff and then got into some graduate programs up in Seattle, Washington, and the wheels just fell off the wagon for me.
And looking back, I kind of understand much better what was going on. I was trying to get by on literally about four hours of sleep per night. Wrapping up my undergrad degree, I had shifted from a microbiology degree to a chemistry degree which meant I had to take a ton of physics, a ton of calculus that really wasn't in the curriculum that was part of my micro degree. So the last year and a half, I was taking 25 units of chemistry, physics, calculus, biostatistics-type stuff. Some of the chemistry classes that I had, the physical chemistry which is kind of where physics and chemistry overlap, I was taking chemistry classes for which I had not taken the calculus classes yet, so I actually learned the calculus in the chemistry class.
Julie: You're giving me heart palpitations without having flashbacks to grad school.
Robb: I have never worked harder in my life to get like a B or a C in a class, because I literally, like everybody else in there was completely functional with the material as far as the tools and I was kind of like, "Differential what?" and "Integral what?" and stuff like that.
I just pounded myself, so lots of stress, not much sleep and I did that for about a year and a half, and I was starting to head down this vegetarian track.
And then I moved to Seattle and lived in a small apartment that had a ceiling about three inches higher than my head and I'm all 5'9". It had a tiny window that looked out on to a house immediately next door to it. I would get to school at 7:30 a.m. which up in Seattle, most of the year, that's before the sun has come up, and then I would go home at 5:30 p.m. after the sun had gone down.
So looking back, I started developing a ton of gut problems. I developed ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome. I started losing weight like crazy and I went from just kind of lacto-ovo-vegetarian to vegan because I thought if I was just righteous enough and clean enough that everything would work. I checked out the Georgia Shalom Macrobiotic Institute and I did Bikram Yoga, and I did this and that. I just kept auguring in worse and worse and worse, just like a plain into a mountainside.
Looking back, I had way too much stress. Clearly I also had some gluten intolerance which I think was worsened by just beating myself down to a nub. I had super low vitamin D levels, I wouldn't be surprised if I was at a rickets level at this point because I was getting no sun and I was getting no dietary sources for vitamin D; and because of the inflammation that I had, I probably would have been incapable of manufacturing vitamin D anyway.
Normally, like right now, I walk around about 170-175 pounds, I got down to 135-140 pounds just due to malabsorption issues. I would eat the food and it would come out looking virtually the same. It was a conversation with my mom. My mom had had just a host of health problems for ages and gut-related and gallbladder and rheumatoid arthritis and this and that. But she had some sort of a flare that put her in the hospital, almost killed her, and her rheumatologist drew some blood work and some tinkering and fiddling, figured out that she had celiac, figured out the she was intolerant to dairy, intolerant to virtually all grains and also was super reactive to legumes.
And so I was talking to her on the phone and she was like "Yeah, I'm intolerant to grains, legumes and dairy," and I was like "Grains, legumes and dairy?" At this time, I'm vegan so I'm like, "Okay. I get the dairy piece but grains and legumes? What the hell do you eat then? What is there left?" And it was really just this kind of gestalty flow of consciousness thing and it was like, "Well, what did we eat before ate grains?" And it was like agriculture, pre-agriculture, and I had heard of this thing called a Paleo diet and this was back around like 1998.
So I went into the grad student housing I was in, turned on the dial-up, waited for the dial-up to boot up. And then there was this newfangled search engine called Google and so into Google I put the term "Paleo diet" and I found some stuff. There was a guy, Art De Vany, there was another guy, Loren Cordain, that seemed to be the two primary people talking about this stuff, and what I read was just kind of shocking and eye-opening. Mismatch between genes and environment, grains have these anti-predation chemicals that cause gut irritation. Removal of these items seems to improve a whole host of autoimmune and gut-related issues.
And so I literally went from reading that, walked down to Whole Foods and bought some grass-fed ribs and I bought some light fruit and veggies and I cooked some ribs and I ate and ate and ate and had the first good night's sleep that I'd had in maybe a couple of years. And the next day, my digestion wasn't spectacular, but it was better than what it had been in a long time. Like the food that I ate actually digested at least somewhat. That was kind of the path out of all that.
There have been lots of different diversions, cyclic low carb and now playing around with resistant starch and homeostatic soil organisms and trying to get out in the sun and manage my photo period and all that stuff. But that was kind of the beginning of the whole thing.
I ended up pinging Loren Cordain -- he had no idea who I was -- and I was like "Hey, you need a grad student." He's kind of like, "I don't really have the capacity to take a grad student," and I had said, "Well, I'm in Wyoming and I'm driving to Colorado so between the next seven or eight hours, you need to figure out how to get a grad student." So I basically landed on his front door and worked with him on a variety of things. One of the main things that got published was a paper on epithelial growth factors as it relates to insulin resistance.
And then I eventually opened one of the CrossFit gyms in Seattle with my friend Dave Werner and then moved back down to Chico, California, opened what was then the fourth CrossFit gym in the world NorCal Strength & Conditioning, CrossFit NorCal, and it's just been kind of off to the races from there.
Julie: That's awesome.
Robb: And that may have been much less or much more than what you're looking for but that's what you got.
Chris: No. That's fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
Julie: I loved it. Yeah. I wanted to scoop up the people that maybe hadn't heard it for whatever reasons.
Chris: So what was it like working underneath Loren Cordain?
Robb: Oh, he's great. Loren, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of this stuff. When he first started getting into this, he read Boyd Eaton's original papers. Boyd published that New England Journal of Medicine paper in 1986. I think Loren tracked that down in 1988 and then started tinkering with this.
He was an exercise physiologist and had done mainly like creatine loading and whey protein isolate studies and whatnot. I think one of his first papers was the atherogenic potential of peanut oil. He started looking at grains and was kind of like, "These legumes are kind of potentially pro-inflammatory, particularly peanuts, and these peanuts have all these lectins and different things that are seen to be kind of pro-inflammatory so let's check out the atherogenic potential of peanut oil."
That was one of his first papers. And then he did this just kind of landmark piece, cereal grain is mankind's double-edged sword. And that, I want to say, was maybe '98 or '99, maybe 2000, but I more want to say like '98, '99. And in that paper, he had a bunch of proposed mechanisms for permeable gut being the causative factor in autoimmune disease and all these other stuff and you know it.
Loren just doesn't get enough credit in this scene, and I think it's always a deal of once a person is dead, then all of a sudden everybody will quit bickering over the one or two things that they didn't get right and then realize what genius they had. But when Loren first got into all these, the word "PDFs" didn't exist, and so he would track down all of these articles and he had acres -- not literally acres -- but he had 15 or 20 of these like six-foot tall-file cabinets and he had these things indexed -- wheat germ agglutinin, peanut lectin and on and on and on and he had 35,000 or 40,000 peer-reviewed journal articles that he had read.
Back in 2001, when he was a little bit younger, he still had every single one of these things on the top of his head. We would be having a discussion and I'm like "What do you think about this?" He's like "Oh, well…" And he would run into his acres of file cabinets and pull the thing open and you'd hear him leaf through it and pull out the paper that he was thinking about. He's like "These people showed…" blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
So just a really amazing guy; very, very giving with his time; very smart and for me, still, painfully unacknowledged in the greater scene because he spent all of this time actually doing the heavy lifting so that a schlep like myself could basically become the used car salesman of Paleo and try to get this stuff out to people.
Had he not done the work that he did, I wouldn't be doing anything that I'm doing. None of this stuff would really exist. Maybe somebody else would have championed it or brought it to the forefront, but it was an interesting series of events. Loren became kind of Boyd Eaton's kind of student and then I became Loren's student. And then I got involved with the CrossFit scene and it'd just been the very active in just encouraging people to try this stuff. Not just try it but then tell me what worked, tell me what good, bad, ugly, whatever, how does this stuff work and then we've been able to refine this message and it kind of grow over time.
So Loren is just an amazing guy, consummate academician, always put the academics before business or anything else, sometimes to his own personal detriment in some ways, but just bulletproof character, just a really phenomenal person. I consider him a family member, like I love the guy.
Julie: That's fabulous.
Chris: I wonder, I've been talking to Joe Friel, and he told me that he's been eating a Paleo-type diet for over 20 years.
I'm wondering, how is this message not out there? So why am I just finding out about this like two or three years ago? Why is it that it's not like the first thing you learn when you're trying to -- I mean, it's not just athletes, is it? It's everyone that can benefit. So why do you think it's taken so long for the message to go out there?
Robb: Man, I don't have a good answer for that. When I first started mucking around with this stuff, there were maybe 100, 200 on the planet that if you said "Hey, what's a Paleo diet?" they would understand what you were talking about.
Now, if you got into anthropological circles, there would be lots and lots of people but people looking at this as like a potential therapeutic intervention. What was ironic about anthropology in the medical anthropology scene, they made these wonderful observations about how healthy these hunter-gatherers were, how they would just seem to be devoid of disease and so many of the Western diseases and that was it.
I guess kind of although engineers can clearly be scientists, engineers like to do stuff with the information that they have, whereas I find a lot of academics, they'll find something very interesting and then that's it. They don't consider any type of practical application.
And so when I first started playing around with this stuff, there were a couple of hundred to maybe a thousand people on the planet that knew about this. And so now I just did a couple of book-signing gigs with Chris Kresser helping him to promote his book, and the one in Boulder had 200 people at this thing; the one in New Jersey had about 100 people; we did a book-signing with Sarah Ballantyne here in Reno and we had 200 people at that which was the largest book-signing that this independent bookstore has ever had before.
So it's the 15-or 20-year-long overnight success. I really don't know why it's grown exponentially, but when you look at how many people there are, you'd still have several decades of growth before you even get to like 5% or 10% of the population. At this last weekend's book-signing deal that I did with Chris Kresser, there was a reporter there and he was asking us a lot of questions. And he asked me, "Well, what's the future of Paleo look like? Where will Paleo be in 20 years?" I said "If we do our job well, Paleo will not exist anymore because it's ridiculous that Chris and I are the main figureheads of this thing because this should be standard of care. Primary care medicine, evolutionary biology, evolutionary medicine should be taught in every damn medical school."
This should not be celebrity bat novel nutritional approach. This should just be basic operating parameters. And the fact that it's not is an appalling failure, like it makes me angry. It should not be me. We shouldn't even be having this podcast. Like when you go to your doctor, this evolutionary health, this ancestral health perspective, whether we're talking about kids or aging or wound care or whatever, we should have some sort of an orientation in this direction.
And so ideally, if you had two or three medical schools just say, "Hey, stop the presses. This next year of first year medical students, they're going to learn all these stuff from an evolutionary biology perspective. They're going to learn functional medicine intervention. We'll use our pharmaceuticals to the degree we need them but we're actually going to practice investigative medicine and fix the underlying problems which includes gut health and sleep and food and photo period and socialization and all that." And it would completely transform the medical scene that we have now and I would become irrelevant and that would be great because then I could go coach jujitsu and kickboxing like I really want to do, and I'd be done with this.
But you know what, as I go forward, if I do media pieces and I'm asked about, "Well, isn't this thing just fad?" I think my answer is going to be more an angry "No, this isn't a fad. This is a goddamned failure on the part of the powers to be to adapt the obvious." Actually, I'm no longer on defense. You guys are on the defensive position.
Julie: Yeah. I can't wait until it makes that transition of not having to be on the defensive. It's really frustrating.
I think the other thing that I find really frustrating and I've kind of keep running into talking to clients and working to people is that people get really mad when they realize that they've been banging their head against the wall and that the standard of care that they thought they were being given is actually turning out to be pretty negligent.
There's just this kind of cloud of negligence hanging over people that have been trying to deal with their doctors and get the health that they need in the typical allopathic setting.
Chris: So we wanted to ask about how all this knowledge has affected your home life. What was it like when you met Nicki, like how was she eating? How did the whole relationship thing work when you had all these knowledge about nutrition?
Robb: Oh, well, man, funny story. So when I decided to move back down to Chico, I loaded up all my stuff, drove the car down literally like peeing-in-a-bottle-type deal, like straight shot from Seattle to Chico, pulled in to Chico. And because Chico was kind of like the hinterland, backwoods, I was horrified after living in Seattle that they wouldn't have any good coffee.
So I walked into this coffee shop and there were three girls huddled around this counter. And I walked up to the counter and one of the girls who was actually behind the counter working was Nicki. She was the first person that I talked to having been gone from Chico for six or seven years, came back in, drove one-shot, walked up to her and I said, "Hey, do you guys roast your own beans?" She said "No," and then looked away from me. And I was like, "Well, do you know anybody who does?" And she said "Cal Java" and she looked away from me again. I was like "Okay, where is Cal Java?" and she like leans over the counter and says "Across town," and then looks away from me.
It turned out the she ended up being in this capoeira group that I helped to get a capoeira group that was already there kind of up and running and doing some more stuff, so we reconnected at the capoeira group. And initially, she hated me and then I eventually grew on her somewhat fungus-like.
At that time, she was actually vegan. She asked me what I was about and I'm like "I do this Paleo deal. I get the animal husbandry gig like I actually advocate for non-CAFO farming and I'm really interested in sustainability and all those stuff." And this is still really early in the evolution of this stuff -- 2003, 2004 -- so really, really early in this whole story.
And so we started hanging out and I would cook her some vegan food, and I was quite good at cooking it because I cooked it for a number of years. And I still had my pressure cooker and so I'd whip her up some hummus and I'd make some baba ghanoush and all the stuff, and I made some really good chow for her. But she would kind of look at her plate which had some veggies in it and everything, but because of what she was eating, she really had to eat a lot of what would just amounted to like brown food. And she would look at her plate and she'd look at my plate and she started asking me questions. She's like, "What about this? What about that? What about cancer? What about kidneys?"
I was super hands-off about it though. I would just answer questions and I was not proselytizing in the least, but I'll give Nicki some credit for which is possibly one of the biggest reasons why I married her. She is a wonderful person, much smarter than I am, but the one thing that I saw in her immediately from the beginning was a willingness to adapt and change. That was something that was like, "Okay. I could potentially grow with this person throughout my whole life." I think coming from the family of origin stuff that I had, again, really wonderful people in a lot of ways, but very inflexible, unadaptive to change, putting ego and other stuff before the need to grow and change and all of that.
So this stuff just kind of grew over time, and one of the real tragedies of all these stuff, when I very first met Nicki, when I first walked into that coffee shop, when I looked at her -- this sounds kind of crazy, maybe even sounds creepy -- I looked at her and I was just like, "I really want to hold this person." Like I just feel like this person needs to be held and loved. What Nicki was going through is two months before this her mother had died due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis.
So I was definitely picking up on some vibe with that, but then we started hanging out, and we had clients with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and we get them going on an autoimmune Paleo diet and they would have shocking, amazing transformations. This was still the time when Nicki losing her mother was still very. very, very raw and her mom has a really large extended family, this huge Italian family and they have folks in Santa Rosa and all over Northern California, and they would get together and have this huge wingding. Her mom, Candy, was really like the sparkplug of the family. She was the one that was just funny and dynamic. And when her mom died, the family, they still get together but I think there's so much hurt and there's so much loss there that it's never really been the same without her. Like it really changed the whole dynamics of this huge family, clearly changed the dynamics for Nicki, her father and her sister, just irreparably.
And I'd always, in the back of my head I'm like, "What if I had met her six months earlier?" Because what happened with her mom, her mom was going in for a bone fusion in her foot because of the rheumatoid arthritis. It should have been a pretty standard procedure and normally they put folks who are on immunosuppressant drugs like what her mom was on to manage her rheumatoid arthritis, usually they put these folks on prophylactic antibiotics. They did not do that this time and her mom got an infection. It went septic. It was almost a year-long process of battling this thing and just every example of mainstream medical mismanagement that you can imagine. I won't go into the details but the details are horrible, absolutely appalling.
And so some days when people are in this high-carb versus low-carb debate and people are just being nasty little shits on the internet and stuff like that, I'm just kind of like, "I could be done. I could hang it up." But then almost every time, whether it's a book signing or whatever situation I roll into, somebody walks up to me and they're like "Hey, I think you saved my life. I had rheumatoid arthritis; I had multiple sclerosis. Your book…" Clearly, it's not me; they did it. But I provided some information that they actually took action on. And I just kind of reflect. I'm like, "Well, how many families are out there have a Candy who might die? And if I quit, then that's not going to work."
So literally, sometimes I'd wake up in a cold sweat at night trying to figure out how to get this information out there to more people. My deal is not that I want everybody in the world to eat Paleo. I just want everybody in the world who's not as healthy as they think they could be or they have a health problem that mainstream medicine just seems like it can't address, maybe there's an option. Maybe not, maybe not, but maybe. Because for them, they didn't know that there was an option.
Here's a huge, huge irony. The same rheumatologist who figured out my mom's problem was the same rheumatologist who was managing Nicki's mom. And so he was able to connect the dots with my mom and I still don't know why, I still don't know what the story was with that, but then he didn't take what he learned from the situation with my mom and apply it to the rest of his patients.
That maybe got in a different direction than what you were kind of looking for but that's kind of the background story with it. Day to day, we eat more or less Paleo, like we have some corn chips here and there when we go out. Nicki is not gluten-intolerant the way that I am. If she ate a piece of bread, she would get like kind of a distended belly, but it doesn't lay her up for a couple of days and require a priest to exorcise the bathroom that I get to after I've had a gluten dose. We kick our heels up a little bit but it's more like dark chocolate and some corn chips here and there and stuff like that. Otherwise, five days out of seven, we're pretty much Paleo.
That's the way that we've largely raised -- we do some goat milk and goat yogurt with Zoe. She seems to really do well on it. I am completely nonreactive to goat milk, sheep milk, goat yogurts, but cow dairy, even pastured like the Weston A. Price camp, the raw and et cetera, et cetera and et cetera, cow dairy I just can't do. Like I get acne, I get joint inflammation, and it's an immediate thing and it's obvious. It could be blessed by the Pope and it's still going to cause me problems. Whereas I can eat some reasonably substandard goat dairy and I'm fine with it.
And so that's really been the way that we've tackled it. I've just tinkered and experimented over the course of time to see what I can get away with and what I can't get away with. I love beer. The best gluten-free beers are still not particularly good. Every five years or so, I'll grab like a Corona or something and I'll drink and I'm like "Well, maybe it's better now." And then it's like "Nope. It's not."
I haven't really been religious about it. We're not religious about it as a family. We've really tried to keep Zoe gluten-free. But even within that, so there are a couple of breakfast places that we go and I've discovered that like this one place that we go to called Squeeze In which they do a great breakfast, but where they cook their bacon is also where they do some pancakes and some stuff like that, so there's enough cross-contamination there that the stuff gets me sick.
But I also know that there's some immunological tuning that occurs when people are exposed to low levels of gluten in peanuts and different stuff like that. So I've never given Zoe like a piece of bread or a wheat cracker or something, but even though there had been situations where I know that the food is contaminated in a way that would be damaging for me, I've tried it with her just to see what her tolerance is and so far so good. She seems fine with that. She doesn't complain of a stomachache or anything like that. I'm going to try to keep the full-dose gluten exposure as far in the future as I can, but I haven't been completely neurotic about stuff.
We give her some corn chips here and there and some rice crackers here and there. They're by no means a staple and it doesn't happen day after day, but it's not a feeling of going to a super stringent, religious service or something where you don't know what to say or what you do because you can do the wrong thing. We try to have as much latitude as we can in this idea of like a risk-reward kind of story and that's what we've done.
Julie: Yeah. I think that's important because we are in like a similar situation because Chris has actual autoimmune conditions that he's got to balance the way he eats against and plus he's just one of those people who can go completely cold turkey and never eat something again and never worry about it. Whereas I don't have the autoimmune issues that I'm worried about or the gluten-sensitivity or a lot of these things and I don't really have a desire to eat those things but at the same time, it's that constant kind of balance. Like if we were as strict as I think Chris would like to be, we would have absolutely no social life.
When I was first pregnant with Ivy, one of Chris' first lines of questioning was "Well, what are we going to do when somebody wants to give her ice cream? What are we going to do if we go to a party and there's cake?" I was just like "Well, I'm not going to live like that, but you can if you want to."
Robb: And you know that's the stuff that we've kind of mapped out. Here's an interesting thing. Zoe, we've given her ice cream a couple of times, can't stand it. She doesn't like it. We've tried giving her some light kind of 60% chocolate, doesn't like it. 85% or 90% dark chocolate, she will destroy that stuff.
Nicki makes some gluten-free almond flour-based chocolate chip cookies and also these snickerdoodles and Zoe will -- this was something that I put on my Facebook page and it was so interesting the responses that I had. I forgot what the topic was but people were kind of talking about the emotionality of food, this hand-wringing inner child-type stuff. And what I was trying to get across was that it's not about emotionality; it's not about morality or anything; it's a reasonably mechanistic piece.
Now, there is emotional piece to it but what I was trying to free folks from was this sense of guilt and what I was pointing out it there's kind of this neuro-regulation of appetite piece. Zoe had never seen a cookie before. We made some cookies for Christmas. They were these snickerdoodle cookies. And for us, they're sweet but they just taste good, whereas for some of the people that we know that even if they eat gluten-free like they eat a ton of freaking sugar in this stuff, like I can't even finish one cookie or one cupcake that they make, they are just over-the-top sweet, Zoe can't eat that stuff but she tasted this snickerdoodle and she was like "More, more" and she was doing the sign language like "More, more, more."
The people on my Facebook page -- now, Zoe at this time is 14 months, 15 months -- and what I was pointing out was after that first exposure, Zoe had never really asked for more of anything. Bacon was the one thing. She'd be like, "More bacon." And if she was just cruising around the house, she would say "Bacon" but nothing besides that. When she was ready to eat, she would eat. But if it was sweet potatoes or whatever, she was pretty good about whatever we put on her plate. But that cookie, it was like crack cocaine for her. She was like "Cookie, cookie, cookie."
And what I was trying to convey to these people was that this thing wasn't so sweet that it totally blew her out of the water because her palate has not acculturated to a really, really sweet dietary intake. But at the same time, it was more sweet and more tasty than most of the stuff that she typically eat and relative to like sweet potatoes and egg yolks and stuff like that, and it got her all fired up.
And the folks in my Facebook thread were like, "You're just missing she associates it with Santa and the holidays." They started waxing us. I think about this, and I'm like "Projection much? Dr. Freud, your patients are here." It just kind of blew me away. So when kids are 12 months, 15 months old, they're kind of sophisticated, they don't know what -- Santa is a big notion. They don't have wistful nostalgic memories of Christmas.
Julie: I'm hoping to skip all of it, but I'd like to go to Mexico for Christmas.
Robb: Exactly. Yeah. Well, that's kind of our next gig is just kind of bypass that all together.
But what was so fascinating, so it was really interestingly how powerful the right does of sweetness and flavor really hooks Zoe in, whereas because we've had a reasonably low palatability diet I guess, or not super hyper palatable, a lot of stuff, it was interesting how powerfully she was hooked in. It's also interesting that if something is too sweet, she's not into it at all, although I'm sure over the course of time, we could ramp that up and have her taste buds broken.
And then it was also really fascinating, really telling to me how completely idiotic people were about the interpretation of this and how they just immediately jumped on this thing of this deep emotional content for Zoe that just didn't exist. Like literally like on a developmental level, she doesn't have the brain circuitry yet to even do that. I'm not being a dick about it. It's just this is cognitive development stuff. It's like the CPU is not there for that stuff yet. She's growing into that stuff now but it was there.
And then also this thing immediately jumped to "Well, you're not going to be able to control this her whole life. Someday she'll go to a birthday party and have a piece of cake." And I'm just kind of looking around and I'm like, "Where the hell did this come from? Where is this going?" The whole way I wrap this whole thing up was this has been a very interesting exploration into all of your psyches. That was it.
Julie: I think that's appropriate. I think that is exactly what you should say.
Robb: So again, I don't know if that paints kind of the picture you were wanting for like the Wolf family feeding trough, but that's kind of a picture.
Julie: No. I think it's important. One of the things we want to do with this show is to just kind of highlight what people are actually doing. How do you make this work on a daily basis? Just as Paleo should really be a template as a way of approaching life and eating, I think every family is unique just as every individual is unique and you've got to do what works for you. But yeah, sitting around, trolling the internet and proselytizing about Santa is probably not going to further anybody's health.
Robb: Yeah, I was just blown out of the water. Really what I was, again, trying to offer up there was this sense that like, "Hey, if you have problems with this, there's a really…" It's kind of like somebody turns around and the other pencil's sticking out of their eye that's been jammed in their eye or like it's jammed in their leg and they're like "Damn, man, my leg really hurts." And it's like "You have a projectile injury in your leg, like you have a compound fracture or something.
And that's what I was trying to get across to them was just this idea that yeah, this stuff can rewire your brain circuitry; and so if it's hard, that's okay, but you need to be aware of that if you want to do something about it. Do it or don't do it. I really don't care. But don't just sit and lament and pull out the rosary beads and self-flagellate over this stuff and think that if you were a better person somehow, this would be easy and it would change. That's like expecting that if you had like a compound fracture that if you were somehow a better person, it wouldn't hurt and the bones would magically knit back together. It just doesn't work that way.
Julie: No, it doesn't.
Chris: So how did you deal with people that you love not being on board with the whole thing? So you've already talked about how you've had some very close calls and even death in your family that perhaps could have been prevented. So how do you deal with it when you've got someone that's just not totally on board, "That's silly" and the usual suspects, the standard American diet? What do you do? Do you even get involved?
Robb: I really don't get involved now. I tried and tried with both of my parents. We lost my dad back in 2005. My mom died July of last year.
What it finally came down to was I decided to have a relationship with my mom and the best relationship I could under the circumstances. It was tough because she had type 2 diabetes. She had rheumatoid arthritis. We're able to help people with this stuff. It's like tripping and falling off a curve at this point. But she just was so stubborn. She wouldn't really buy in. But I just finally decided, "Hey, I want the best relationship I can with her" and so that's where I went with it.
I'm pretty lucky in that my brother and sister-in-law, Shawn and Chrissy, who run our gym. Chrissy wrote "Paleo Slow Cooking", I believe is her book, and then she has a blog, "Growing Up Paleo." They're on board the way that we are. Again, they're not zealots. They have some corn tortillas and they have some tacos every once in a while and stuff like that. But by and large, they eat more or less Paleo and they definitely get the gluten thing. Kayden has had some gluten exposures and it really wrecked his belly. He is five years old now and he's like "Gluten is bad. I don't need any of that stuff."
Nicki's dad eats this way. There are other chunks of Nicki's family and these folks are really wonderful people, and they just don't buy in at all. It's really interesting because her dad is 63. He has a couple of brothers that are right around those ages and Gary has been eating this way almost ten years now and he was always in pretty good shape. He actually owned a logging business way back in the day so he has always been pretty physically active and everything.
But Gary is kind of jacked, like he's got some muscle mass and he looks good and he moves well. The dude can work harder than I can. He helped me install some paper stones in our backyard and the dude can work harder than I can. He ended up kicking up my ass on that stuff but it's fascinating. You've got about a ten year vector now at a point in the life cycle where a pro-inflammatory diet really starts adding up, really starts mattering.
We ran Gary's blood work through the risk assessment program that we have here in Reno. We did this like three years ago. If the dude is going to die from something, it's not going to be cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes or anything. He has no problems with that. All of his siblings have peri-diabetes. All of them look puffy and inflamed. They know about this information. Gary has talked to them about it. They've asked me different times.
It's funny, one of the brothers, he has a daughter who is a pharmacist. She is super skinny and she eats whatever she wants to eat. So she's like this goofy and her mom is actually type 2 diabetic, but they "manage" it with pharmaceuticals.
So I am just in a very hands-off spot right now. The thing that will get my goat is when I have someone who clearly is having problems that they shouldn't before but they refuse to just give the basic protocol a shot. They just keep asking questions like "What about this thing that Dr. Oz said?" and whatever. It's like, "You know what, we're just not even going to have a conversation. You do this for 30 days and then we can have a talk." But if folks will do it for 30 days, there's not really a need for a talk. If folks are not bought in, that's fine by me. I have no problem with that at all other than if they are still suffering and still pestering me for ideas or questions and trying to figure out some way that they can continue doing what they're currently doing and get a different outcome.
Here's kind of a funny sideline. When I first met Nicki again, her sister Chrissy who now runs our gym, is a co-owner of the gym, wrote this Paleo Slow Cooking book and everything. When I first came on the scene, again, they were still strongly mourning their mother's passing and for the first time, Chrissy and Nicki were actually really close. They were closer than what they've been throughout most of their teenage years, the older sister-younger sister kind of weird dynamic. And then I came on the scene and Chrissy hated me. I mean hated me because I was pulling her sister away from her.
We did a couple of years of like Christmas and Thanksgiving and stuff like that and Chrissy actively tried to poison me with gluten. I would walk in and the turkey that we had cooked without putting stuffing in it and stuff like that, she was ladling gravy over it and then smearing it in and stuff like that that had wheat in it. I didn't say anything then. I called her on this, years later, and she like turned beet red and this was in like a group of like 20 people and she's like "Yeah, I hated you. I wanted to poison you." And also she's like "I just didn't believe it. I thought it was bullshit."
So yeah, it's pretty funny. And now they're like some of our closest friends and she's probably a more vocal advocate of this stuff than I am at this point, which is funny.
Julie: That's really funny.
Chris: So I wanted to shift gears a bit and ask you a bit about police officers because I know that you've done lots of work with them. We've got a couple in particular that become good friends. They're also eating super clean Paleo diet. Kendra is her name and she's a police officer. She just had a scare with her breast cancer and just had surgery, double mastectomy. She's been religiously squeaky clean with her food and everything now. She's been eating a ketogenic diet now but still very much Paleo, lots of vegetables.
What advice do you give to someone that clearly their job is just not really compatible with health? Like working night shifts, being involved in violent fights. How can you balance that stuff? What can you do for these people?
Robb: Man, you do the best you can. The work that we've done with the folks here at Reno, they get a yearly physical and then we've expanded on the physical. If we find blood markers that are indicative of a high inflammatory state, peri-diabetic, pre-diabetic, diabetic in some cases, we do a dietary intervention to the best of our ability.
Since I've come on the scene, we've really started talking more and more about sleep, more and more about pro-inflammatory foods and not just like protein, carbs, fat. And so we try to improve their sleep to the best of our ability, try to improve the food quality to the best of our ability, get them exercising.
CrossFit is pretty popular in police, military, fire scenes and it's really good so long as the dose is appropriate. If somebody has been awake for 36 hours and then they roll into their CrossFit gym and the workout of the day is one of these like 45-minute Hero WODs, that is the last thing in the world that this person needs. They have already hammered their adrenals, their immune system is already compromised, they're already on the ragged edge of existence, and then dosing them like that is doing them absolutely no favors. If they do anything, they lift some weights, they do a slow tempo on it, maybe they push a prowler or they do a really low level cardio, and then we get them home and they go to bed.
One thing that's really tough with folks that have these -- particularly if they're doing graveyard, part of the reason why folks will do this is that they feel like they can spend more time with their family. So they'll get off shift and then they do most of the day with the family and then they only catch like a two-or-three-hour nap and that nap is not anywhere near the period that our normal sleep period lies. It's not remotely long enough and they're continually sticking themselves in these periods of 24 or 36 plus-hour-sleep deprivation kind of scenarios. There's great literature showing that just one night of short sleep makes people as insulin-resistant as a type 2 diabetic, and when you're doing this again and again and again.
This is the story with Western culture at large. We don't sleep as much as we used to. We get exposed to hyperpalatable foods so we tend to overeat. We're a lot more sedentary than what we used to be. Our photo period is very, very different. We don't spend enough time out in the bright sun, or even if it's overcast, we're just not outside. Like even an overcast day versus indoor lighting, it's like a hundred thousand times brighter outside than it is inside even on an overcast day.
This is the stuff that entrains our normal circadian rhythm and that stimulates the correct melatonin production for us to go to bed. It has all kinds of these kinds of neuroregulatory and immunomodulatory effects on the body that help keep us healthy. That's the story at large in Westernized cultures.
The police, military, fire, and also a lot of our medical personnel, they take the Western lifestyle and then stick it on steroids. They sleep less. They are exposed to more stress. The ubiquity of cheap bad food is even greater. And because of the stress and everything that they're involved with, they are deprived of so many things. Oftentimes food is the one thing that they feel like they can kind of "Well, this is the one thing that I do for me," and so the classic donuts-and-cops kind of scenario. I got to say nurses and healthcare providers make the bad eating of cops look like going to a vegan, like a macrobiotic retreat, like our healthcare providers can crush our police with regards to how poorly they eat.
It's just trying to get a hold of these different pieces that aren't pinned down an appropriate way. So when you can sleep, sleep as well as you can. Sleep as often as you can. Take advantage of naps. Get a meditation app for your smartphone if you have a smartphone. And if you've got five or ten minutes, you pop that meditation app on.
There's one called Brainwave that emits this kind of alternating pulsing sound. I use it a lot, like I use it now when I'm writing. They have a couple of different features on it that are supposed to get you in different brainwave states and I have no idea if it's placebo or not. But I'll tell you, doing ten minutes of that, I feel really, really good, where before I would be inclined to grab like a cup of coffee because I’m feeling kind of run-down and I'll do that meditation app for five minutes and I feel way better, and then I'm able to get back in and work or be a better dad for Zoe or whatever it is that I'm doing.
So thinking about some sort of meditation, the appropriate dose of sleep and then clearly being as good with the nutrition as you possibly can, because you're not going to be able to control the sleep as much as you would like, you're not going to be able to control that shift work, the stress to some degree is going to be the stress. So the one thing, again, that you really do probably have the most control over is the food.
Julie: Yeah, we're finding out a lot. I think even just regular people who have normal 9 to 5 jobs, I think. That's why in our practice, that's one of the things we always ask people upfront is "How's your digestion? Are you eating? Are you sleeping?" those kinds of things. That's all the lowest-hanging fruit, right? It's not that complicated. It's not like we're rocket scientists doing miracle medicine or anything. It's the simple things that people can do to make their life a little bit easier.
Robb: Yeah. I forgot who said it, "It's simple but maybe not easy."
Julie: Yeah, exactly. "Simple but maybe not easy." That's a much better way of saying it.
I wanted to ask you your thoughts, and this is in the world of childbearing and having babies. This is very controversial. But I agree with that you said earlier, maybe it was before the call, that it's not nearly as controversial as the conversation about levels carbohydrates and fats and fat adaptation.
But one of the things that we're kind of in the midst of struggling with and figuring out is where we stand in vaccinations for Ivy. I'm not wholly against them but I'm not wholly for them. It's just really hard. We're people that do a lot of research before we make any decisions especially about where Ivy is concerned. We're just struggling with how do you even make that decision. Where do you even start? Because it just seems like literature is not very helpful in this decision.
Robb: It's not. I told my wife this all the time, I hate no-win scenarios. Like no-win scenarios make me really stressed out like to the point of like Hulk's smashed, punched holes in walls type stuff. I don't like no-win scenarios.
The vaccination topic, in a lot of ways, feels like a no-win scenario, because as a scientist, when I look at the information on this story. In looking back at it, I'm a little bit slightly a medical historian in that the book that I've been writing for like three years, I really delved into. This guy, Semmelweis, the person who kind of put forward this -- he didn't develop the germ theory of infection. But there was a period of time in Europe in particular that if a woman had a baby in the street and raised the baby like literally living in the equivalent of a cardboard shack on the street, her baby had a much higher likelihood of surviving than it did if it was born in a hospital. This was during a period of time when it was routine for the doctors who would deliver babies, they would go right from the morgue where they were doing autopsies, learning anatomy and poking around inside dead bodies, they would go up and deliver a baby and not wash their hands and the mother would die and the baby would die and it was almost like a guarantee kind of gig.
This guy started thinking, "Maybe there's some contagion on these dead bodies that is infecting the mother and the baby and it's causing some problems." So he developed a dilute solution of -- I forgot if it was a chlorine solution or -- yeah, I think it was a dilute bleach solution. But it was some sort of an antimicrobial kind of agent, and he started insisting that doctors wash their hands between patients and particularly between playing with dead bodies and then playing with newly live bodies. And the rates of death plummeted. He had fantastic early statistics on this.
This was some of the like early good work on kind of epidemiology. It was kind of the formative elements of epidemiology. Semmelweis' compatriots in the medical scene ridiculed this guy to the point that he went insane. He ended up dying in like an asylum at some point.
And then 20, 30 years after he had put this idea forward, then other people started looking at this and they're like "Oh, germ theory of infection, wash your hands," and now it's standard of care. We wouldn't even think twice about this idea. It seemed preposterous.
But these people weren't stupid. They're just as smart as we were. They had, by all accounts, actually some pretty reasonably advanced technology in medicine and whatnot. The idea of washing their hands was just kind of preposterous. But this was at a time pre-antibiotics and pre-vaccination when lots and lots and lots of people died from infectious disease. Millions and millions people died from infectious disease. People frequently didn't name their children for extended periods of time after they were born because it was so likely that they were going to die. They didn't even want the attachment to the child until they had made it a certain distance down the road. People just forget this.
I find also that if you haven't traveled much and spent time in like a developing country where children still develop polio, children still get whooping cough and stuff like that and die from these things. People are really, really ignorant.
Now, is there a potential risk with vaccination? Yes. There are a certain number of people each year who die from getting Botox injections. Something goes wrong and they get an infection or whatever and things cascade and things go south. So is there a risk with vaccinations? Yes. Has the US historically had some adjuvants that contain things like mercury and other items that are probably not the best option? Yes. But do we see outbreaks of whooping cough and other diseases where you have enclaves of people who choose not to vaccinate their kids? Yes. Could this thing rear up and really bite us in the ass at some point? Absolutely.
Now, all of that stuff said, so what we've done with Zoe, we deleted certain vaccinations. Like there's this thing called rotavirus and if the kid gets rotavirus, they get a couple of days of infection, diarrhea, which isn't fun. Definitely not fun, but it has virtually never failed. I mean almost never, very, very rare, only in immunocompromised kids. So I was looking at that, I looked at the influence of vaccine. The influence of vaccine is really hit-and-miss as to whether or not it works well. There's some pretty good data indicating that high vitamin D levels are either quite protective or at least mitigate the effects of influenza. Can people die from it? Yes. But there's still some tradeoff.
So what we did is we kind of went in and looked at the stuff at what's really, really dangerous, we're going to vaccinate with that. What is questionable, whether or not it's doing anything, like the influenza vaccination, then we deleted a couple of things like that. We slowed down the application of the vaccines so that they're spread out longer. She tends not to get as many of them at a single dose as what the pediatrician would normally do.
Her last round, I forgot what it was, but she ended up getting a 104 fever off of it, which is scary and it's kind of gnarly, but that's also that's part of what must occur for an individual to mount the proper immune response to get the antibody load and tune all of these T-cells and whatnot. If the individual is exposed to this later in life, then you still have that immune system there to fight this off.
We mainly did cold water baths to bring her body temperature down. I didn't really want to use Tylenol or something like that because that actually suppresses some of the inflammatory immune response piece. If it had gone above, if had stayed at 104 for an extended period of time and we hadn't been able to get that fever down, then I would have done something like a Tylenol to knock the fever down.
But it's tough, man, and that was scary. One, it's our first kid. Two, you kind of feel like you're turning your kid into a science experiment. I have no doubt when this thing goes up, there's going to be a bunch of people that are like "You're a horrible parent. How could you do that?"
But here's an interesting thing. N equals 1. You can't draw a lot of conclusions from it. Zoe's had two colds, maybe three colds. She's never had diarrhea -- actually, she did. She threw up once. There was one day, actually Zoe got sick. One morning, I walked in, and she was standing up at her crib. Because Reno is really dry, I run a humidifier in her room at night and I heard something weird like water splashing on the ground and then I'm like "Where is this coming from?" because the humidifier has water in it. I turned around and Zoe just has her head over the crib, like throwing up on the floor. I'm like "What the hell is going on?"
It was just kind of watery because she hadn't had anything in her stomach overnight and then she threw up a little bit later and she was really cranky and irritable and she went down for an early nap and then she woke up and she was fine. And about four days later, both the nanny and Nicki ended up throwing up and being really sick for a day. Luckily I managed to dodge that bullet, but that's it. That's all she's had.
She's never had rashes. She's never had ear infection. Over 50% of two-year-olds who typically had two to three courses of antibiotics by the time they're two. She never had any antibiotics. So again, I think removing the primary offenders. Wheat and cow milk, in my opinion, are the biggies as far as kind of plugging up the ears and making problems with that with regards to infection. But she's really good.
But again, it could be totally luck. It may have nothing to do with what we're doing from a scientific perspective, I have to acknowledge that. But so far, she's like at the 98th percentile on height; she's at 30th percentile on weight. She's tall and lean. Her cognitive development is way, way, way ahead of where it should be for her age, but she is in a very enriched environment. I spend half my day playing with her. We have a nanny that spends half the day playing with her so she gets lots and lots and lots of attention. She is also well-fed. We give her fish oil, blah, blah, blah. She had a way better upbringing than I had. I had two parents that chain-smoked with the doors closed.
Chris: How much fish oil? I have to ask, how much fish oil? Because I know you changed your position on this over the years.
Robb: The fish oil that I give her is the DHA-only variety. She gets a half milliliter of that most days. I forgot how much is in it. It's the Nordic Naturals kids fish oil and she actually -- the first time I gave it to her, she's going like "What the heck is this?" and then after that, this was another thing that she's like "More, more, more."
Julie: Ivy loves it.
Chris: I mean something is going on there that babies like the taste of it. If I open a capsule, again, the Nordic Naturals, and it's completely flavorless and odorless really. And she would just like suck on it like it's a teat and empty the capsule, which is probably too much fish oil for her, isn't it, in one sitting?
Robb: I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. This is a period of time when the brain is really developing and growing. Not as rapid as in utero but particularly the first -- they say that there's a fourth trimester when the baby is born. Compared to other animals, newborns are still essentially a fetus and like the rate of cognitive development and brain growth and all of that are huge and that's where we try to keep Nicki really consistent with the fish oil.
Here's an interesting side note. There's a great ancestral health symposium talk from last year and I forgot the name of the doc that talked about this. But the fact that the mother accumulates pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy in the thighs and hips is the primary fat used to breastfeed the child. And if the EPA DHA of the fish oil, essentially with the fish oil, but the essential Omega-3 fats, if those fats are at a high level in the diet, the mother tends to gain less body fat -- basically, the body is regulating how much brain material is getting stored on the thighs and legs. If you have a deficient diet, then you gain much more fat because it's occurring at a lower percentage. If you have a fish-oil enriched diet, then you don't gain as much fat because you don't need as much to be able to provide the raw material for the baby.
So that's another interesting piece of the whole obesity deal. Oftentimes when girls become pregnant, it's kind of like, "Okay, I have a carte blanche to eat whatever I want. I'm going to get fat anyway so I'm going to eat like shit." And there's all kinds of epigenetic triggers of that. And, again, people will want my head on a pike for saying anything like that.
Chris: It reminds me that the thyroid thing is like this as well. It's like almost like there's some sort of alternate consciousness going on in the brain that like slows the metabolism down when you don't eat enough food. It's like how do we know? How are we not conscious of this mechanism and just don't start eating more? It's really quite strange.
Robb: Yeah, yeah. That was a fascinating thing and I know it got kind of far afield from the vaccines. But we travel a lot. We end up being around people who travel a lot. We like to go to Nicaragua and places where not everybody is vaccinated and so we've made the decision to vaccinate and kind of vaccinate is what I hope is as educated a manner as it can be. I'm legitimately nervous about the growing population of people who have chosen to rely on herd immunity.
Here's something. I'll be a little controversial with this and this is something that I have been waiting to throw out on my Facebook page or in a blog post or something. People get really angry at me when I talk about like market-based solutions to healthcare, and they think that I want old people to die in the streets and different stuff like that, and they want kind of a universal healthcare thing which is kind of appalling to me but whatever. That's where I'm at. I'm a crazy libertarian.
But here's my deal. If you're an individual who believes in universal healthcare, but yet you are relying on the herd immunity of the people around you to protect your child, I call it bullshit completely on that. Again, is there zero risk with vaccinations? No. When we talk to our pediatrician, he was like "Oh, these are completely safe," and I looked down at him and I'm like "Doc, what medical procedure is 100% safe?"
Chris: Exactly. The general anesthetic is a really risky procedure but people have them all the time.
Robb: Yeah. And he was kind of like "Okay, yeah, you're right." It was funny. He is a really cool guy. He's an MD, PhD in Immunology and when we first met, I gave him my book and everything and he was kind of excited. And then on the next visit, he was pretty chilly.
But then ironically, Reno is a pretty small town, and apparently he was at some doc meeting in town and the Paleo diet thing came up and these guys were talking and they're like "Oh, yeah. Robb Wolf is in town. He is working with special health." And then our pediatrician was like "Yeah. His daughter is my patient." They're like, "You know Robb Wolf?"
Suddenly, when I came back in, I wasn't an asshole anymore. He was kind of like, "Okay. Maybe this guy is kind of legit." And I think before, he just gave the book a very cursory read and then he actually got in and read it. The fourth time I met him, he said, "You're actually pretty good with this immunology stuff," and I was like "Oh, thanks."
Man, it's just there's no 100% guarantees about anything yet every time you go get in the car and strap your kid into a car seat, there's a danger there. I think you do the best risk analysis that you can, but this is where I feel like the vaccination story is a no-win scenario to some degree because if you don't do anything and something happens, then you just lament the fact that you didn't do something. And then if you do vaccinate and something bad happens, then you lament that you had knowledge where maybe you shouldn't have done it.
And so it's tough. This is where when technology advances, things like in vitro fertilization and a whole variety of things, it creates more options but raises all kinds of moral issues and it creates some really challenging questions without a really solid answer. Like there's cost benefit-risk tradeoff stories that exist in all these stuff and there are just no two ways around it.
Chris: Absolutely. Well, I thought maybe we're going to wrap up with obviously you've seen a lot of change in the Paleo community over the last, probably 2, 3, 4, 5 years especially. I was wondering, what would you like to see more of? What type of change would you like to see more of and what are you seeing popping up and you think, "Oh, no, I want that to go away now. That's not helping the cause"?
Robb: Oh, man. Well, one thing that I don't see that's helpful -- there have been lots of people popping up Paleo desserts and stuff like that. And there's a group of people --
Chris: I was going to ask you that exact question.
Robb: There's a group of people that just get angry and out of their minds about that. They're like, "This isn't Paleo!" Okay, maybe it is, maybe it's not, but it's at least gluten-free." I'm grateful for this stuff because I can't eat anything with any type of wheat product and there are actually some cookies and cakes and stuff now that are really tasty. So when I have a birthday party, now I get to add something I enjoy for that day.
It raises an interesting question to me, and I guess this is just kind of the natural tendency for people to head towards. I get the sense that there are people out there that want some sort of policing of what is Paleo and what is not Paleo. At one time, I actually made a suggestion that maybe we needed like a Paleo Foundation deal and we would have a position statement on whatever the topic de jure was.
As we started trying to put the wheels on that wagon, what I figured out was that we don't have the answers to tons of stuff. There's lot of nuance. It wasn't going to provide an easy one-stop shop answer. It was going to look a lot like the American Medical Association, American Heart Association kind of story where the information becomes ossified, the people who are empowered that have maybe said one thing today and then the information changes tomorrow were going to have to fight so that they don't lose credibility within that scene.
And so I just buggered the whole notion of creating some sort of a governing body. I just hope, again, in this kind of market-based approach that people use their brains. At the end of the day, generally, what we're asking people to try is some sort of basic Paleo intervention. Get some exercise. If you have an autoimmune condition, then do autoimmune Paleo, and do that for 30, 60, 90 days. Track blood work before, track blood work afterwards. And if something's not working 100%, we have some tweaks, we have some flowcharts that we can mess with or maybe we get you hooked up with a functional medicine doc to do some further investigation. But we have a pretty damn good system for helping a whole lot of people and we don't need a governing body for it.
And so one of the things that I find damaging right now is the vitriol that people throw at some of these companies that are making like Paleo cookies and stuff like that. They're like, "Well, there's a bunch of ignorant overweight people who are just going to think that that's okay and it's just going to ruin things for them." I'm kind of like, "Well, that's likely to happen anyway." There's no guarantee that those people are going to buy in and that's what they have the Darwin Awards for.
At some point, people have to take some individual responsibility for their own health and we, as coaches and trainers and healthcare providers and whatnot, that's part of our job to help educate and steward these people through these processes. So that's one thing that's really annoying to me is the amount of anger and vitriol surrounding these Paleo dessert things like I just really don't care. And also, my question is okay, what do we do? And all of the solutions that I see are really scary to me. Once you start getting a police force involved with this stuff, I just don't like where that stuff goes.
So that's a concern. And then where I think things are going, where I hope things are going, I hope that ten years from now, I'm not doing this because every medical school, every dietetics program is using an ancestral health model to do business, and I shouldn't be doing this. I enjoy it and I've got a science background and all that stuff, but this is just a story where the fundamental system is just broken and it's appalling. It's not just money and this and that but I mean from a foundational basis. The fact that dieticians and doctors are not trained with an evolutionary medicine perspective from Day 1 is the epic failure of our system.
And then from there, not having what I would call some sort of a functional or evolutionary medicine approach to disease, really looking at causes instead of symptoms, if somebody has elevated cholesterol or elevated LDL particles, they don't have a statin deficiency. They have inflammation.
And so are statins appropriate in some people? Yes. Is metformin appropriate for some people? Yes. Are those pharmaceuticals addressing at all the foundational problems that that person faces? No. Some people may refuse to do that and so you need to offer the best line of care that you can within the parameters of where compliance is. I get all those stuff. But most doctors are not even making this recommendation from the get-go.
And then we've also created a scenario where doctors, over the course of time, have had less and less and less time to spend with people because of the very nature of our healthcare environment. With the enaction of the Affordable Care Act, most primary care docs are getting out of individual practice and getting into what are called ACOs, Accountable Care Organizations, where they work for hospitals and large health maintenance organizations, and their time with patients are even less. And the way that they are forced to do medicine is everything must fit within like an ICD-9 or an ICD-10 -- whatever they're up to now -- diagnosis.
So you must have like hypothyroidism. You must have Hashimoto's thyroiditis. You must have dyslipidemia, and those parameters must fit the exact guidelines that are laid down in these books. And if you don't fit perfectly in that, if you have something like adrenal fatigue syndrome, you don't fit anywhere and you don't get treatment. Like there's really not a treatment appropriate for you and the doctor doesn't have time to do the investigative medicine necessary to figure out that you've got small intestinal bacterial overgrowth that's leading to systemic inflammation and that's messing with your cortisol and your cortisol is down-regulating thyroid production. So even though your TSH looks okay, your reversed T3 ratio is messed up and so you're in a hypometabolic state, you're inflamed and your gut is all messed up.
The conventional medicine story, particularly with the direction that it's been driven towards, will never find that. And so that's part of what we're doing with the City Zero Project is trying to create a legitimate alternative health system so that people have access to this kind of evolutionary medicine approach and functional medicine and docs that are health savings account or cash and carry only and we just bypass that whole thing.
But ultimately, my hope is that hopefully there's not Paleo diet books being written 10 and 20 years from now. Hopefully it's just woven into the fabric of the culture and the medicine and everything. There will always be problems, there will always be people that don't want to comply and do those sorts of things. But I think that we would have a very different landscape if this stuff were just woven into the fabric of medicine.
Chris: It seems someone forgot a lot of stuff at some point in history, and I think it's important that we don't forget it again now that we've learned it or relearned it all.
Robb: Yeah, it's interesting. Again, on the medical history story, before we developed antibiotics, we had sulfa drugs that were pretty effective and then when penicillin hit, it was just amazing. Again, millions and millions of people died from infectious disease. Like a scratch while you were out tending your rosebushes could become septic and you could die from it. I think that that's actually Fleming who developed penicillin. There was a police officer who was literally like getting a cat out of a tree scenario. The guy got a scratch, it became septic. They started giving him penicillin, he started getting better, but they didn't have enough to completely reverse the infection and they started trying to extract the unspent metabolic metabolites out of his urine.
The very first patient who received penicillin died, but they saw a huge potential with it, and then clearly, it's transformed medicine. But what penicillin did, in my opinion, is that it focused all of medicine on a one disease-one cure story. We declared war on cancer, we declared war on heart disease, and these things are complex systems-based diseases that don't lend themselves well to a singular cure. They particularly don't lend themselves well to allowing the pro-inflammatory disease state that leads up to their genesis to just run wild. Those situations are just never going to lend themselves well to any type of like a pharmaceutical intervention.
And so I think medicine, it was so excited on this kind of gestalty level about penicillin and this idea about a magic bullet for all diseases that that's been the focus for almost 50 years. But we're finally starting like the idea of the gut biome and gut health and our beneficial flora are really taking some center stage now and that starts creating some implications about different ways that we need to practice medicine.
But we have a psyche and a psychology around medicine that is not well-suited to just simply practicing outcome-based medicine and trying to find the inherent problem going on.
Chris: Yeah. I think there might be a little bit of "I didn't spend seven years of medical school to do diet and lifestyle coaching," going on here as well, isn't it?
Robb: Right, right, right. Yeah. And there's some truth to that, and then it's tough because individuals are unwilling to pay a dietician to help them, most dieticians don't know what they're doing also so that's a whole other kettle of fish.
But yeah. It's complex because on the one hand are docs don't have time to do what they should be doing. They also have a lot of people that don't want to do what they should be doing. So it's a complex story. I guess as job security, unfortunately or fortunately.
Julie: Yeah, yeah, which I think we could probably talk about for the next five hours, but we should probably let you get you back to doing great things that you're working on.
Chris: You can't really see how much nodding has been going on during the conversation. We're kind of new to the audio format I suppose and don't realize that you can't just nod. Like people at home will know.
Julie: Oh, very good.
Well, thank you so much for your time, Robb. It's so great talking to you, and I'm sure this won't be the last conversation, but yeah, we had a great time.
Robb: It's a huge honor being on the show, and you guys are doing a great job and just honored to be part of the conversation.
Chris: Great. Yes. So if you want to find out more about us, you can come to our website. It's nourishbalancethrive.com
I was hoping, Robb, that maybe we could get something to syndicated on your side so that people actually hear this recording. I love it and I want people to hear it, so it would be great if we could post it.
Robb: Absolutely. Once this thing goes live, it will be everywhere. It will be everywhere you don't want it to be so yeah. Yeah.
Julie: Yeah, of course.
Chris: That's fantastic.
Julie: Very good. Thanks so much for your time, Robb.
Chris: Thanks again, Robb.
Robb: All right, guys. Take care. Bye-bye.
[1:21:37]End of Audio