[THE SEVEN] 1. Identify + Remove Dietary Allergens and Toxins


THE SEVEN: Principles Of Nutrition For A Life In Sync

This series is a distillation of our decades of researching, experimenting and generally obsessing over the question: What is the ideal way to fuel a human body?

From a list of many dozens of strategies and concepts, we whittled it down to these seven. We believe that when these seven principles are implemented, they reliably produce 95% of the potential benefit be had via the many forms of dietary tinkering.

  1. Identify + Remove Dietary Allergens and Toxins
  2. The Low-Carbohydrate, Metabolic-Flexibility Diet
  3. How To Drink Water...Intelligently
  4. Reducing The Cognitive Overhead Of Eating Well (i.e. Staple Meals)
  5. Take Care Of Your (100 Trillion) Gut Bacteria
  6. Eating Nothing (i.e. Time-Restricted Eating)
  7. The Truly Essential Supplements

Most dietary approaches out there naturally focus on the foods you DO want to be eating and - worry not - this Seven Principles series will also spend plenty of words on this topic. That being said, it’s our opinion that there’s a lot more to be gained in eliminating from your diet the foods you definitely DON’T want to be eating.

Meticulous calorie-counting and macronutrient-ratio-tracking won’t get you very far if those calories are filled with health-sapping food allergens and inflammatory toxins.

Given this, toxin elimination was our unquestioned Principle Number One in this series.

This isn’t just another “don’t eat unhealthy foods” article, though. You’ll notice that all the “problem foods” are easily replaced with delicious, healthy alternatives. Nutrition In Sync need not be about abstaining from entire food groups, but rather taking a bit of extra time to seek out the healthiest version.

The Benefits

The Fundamentals: Health Benefits

Reduced Inflammation

Improved Metabolic + Hormone Function

Improved Energy Levels

Improved Mental Clarity

Lower Risk Of Certain Diseases (Including Some Cancers)

It’s an unfortunate reality of modern, post-industrial life that we inhabit a very toxic world. The body has remarkable detoxification capabilities, but the diet and lifestyle choices we make can easily overburden these processes. This article covers the most effective dietary strategies for staying well shy of that point.

So why are toxins so dangerous?

Simply put: because they disrupt the essential functions of the body. Toxins sap our vitality and burden the body in a variety of ways:

Dietary toxins disrupt hormone production and regulation [1], trigger our inflammation response [2], interfere with nutrient absorption [3] and disrupt the microbiome [4] (just to name a few…)

By following the simple practices below, you’ll significantly reduce your intake of damaging toxins. Within a relatively short period of time, you’ll likely feel clearer, more youthful, and more energized. Here are a few of the benefits to expect...

Reduced inflammation

The body’s inflammatory response is a protective mechanism aimed at removing damaged cells, foreign pathogens, and other irritants. When toxins are continually introduced through diet and lifestyle, however, this mechanism is overwhelmed and inflammation becomes chronic—often leading to more serious health problems [5]. Toxin and allergen avoidance helps lighten the body’s burden, keeping inflammation levels lower.

Improved metabolic and hormone function.

Despite the body’s attempts at self-protection, toxins inevitably disrupt the critical functions of hormones, enzymes, and cell receptors. Damage can occur through oxidative stress (e.g. with free radicals) [6], through specific targeting of organic molecules (e.g. with mycotoxins) [7], and occasionally when the body mistakes toxins for nutrients and tries to use them accordingly (e.g. with heavy metals) [8]. Removing these disruptions helps restore your metabolism and endocrine system to a truly healthy, resilient equilibrium.

Improved energy levels

Depleted energy and sluggishness are common downstream effects of chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, poor metabolism, and disrupted hormone function. This is why toxin and allergen elimination is so powerful: once you remove these stressors, you’ll be amazed by how quickly your overall mood and energy levels improve.

Improved mental clarity

Brain fog is another classic symptom of all the disruptions discussed above, especially chronic inflammation. When the immune system increases cytokine production (a process used to regulate inflammatory response), these cytokines transmit signals that cause the brain to increase its own cytokine production [9]. In short, inflammation in the body leads to inflammation in the brain. Luckily, you can avoid the ensuing brain fog, memory impairment, and cognitive decline simply by avoiding toxins in the first place.

Lower risk of certain diseases

Studies have demonstrated that reducing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation (through proper diet and lifestyle) can significantly reduce the risk of many chronic diseases [10], including some cancers. The “inflammation theory of disease” is now well-supported. In one review, researchers report that inflammation is “intimately linked with a broad range of non-infectious diseases, perhaps even all of them.” [11]


The Fundamentals: Strategies For Implementation

Buy organic produce, and always wash it thoroughly

Minimize plastic use (and NEVER put plastic in the dishwasher)

Significantly reduce or eliminate consumption of corn, wheat, and dairy

Avoid peanuts, brazil nuts, walnuts and pecans (frequently mold contaminated).

Cook only with high-smoke-point oils like coconut, avocado and ghee

Buy organic, non-GMO produce

Yes, it’s really worth it. Conventional produce is almost always sprayed with copious amounts of herbicides and pesticides (including the infamous glyphosate) [12]. While the risks of these agrochemicals are still being researched, even at this point there’s more than enough evidence suggesting these chemicals are hormone-disrupting to some degree [13]. Buying organic is often more expensive, but this is still one of the easiest ways to remove damaging toxins from your diet.

Wash your produce thoroughly

Not even organic produce is 100% free of toxins (especially if it has traveled a long way to reach your local grocery store). Submerging your produce in room-temperature (or warmer) water, and then scrubbing it lightly, will ensure that none of those toxins make it into your body.

Drink clean water

No article on toxin avoidance would be complete without noting that truly clean water is essential for health, and conversely, unpurified water is a huge liability when it comes to toxin exposure. Avoid tap water—which can contain chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, and many other toxins—and invest in a high-quality water purifier. Berkey filters and reverse osmosis systems deliver the best combination of effectiveness and affordability. (Brita filters and similar cheap filters are unfortunately NOT sufficient).

Minimize plastic use (and NEVER put plastic in the dishwasher)

Remember the BPA scare from a number of years ago? Manufacturers of plastic products would love for us to believe that those days are over, and that “BPA-Free” means “Zero Toxicity,” but this simply isn’t the case. Low-quality plastics still often contain BPA, and even BPA-Free plastics still contain a multitude of other endocrine disrupting compounds.

Research out of the University of Texas looked at 455 common plastic products and showed that 70% tested positive for endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Seventy percent! These chemicals are much more likely to leach when plastic is heated, so if you can’t avoid plastic altogether, at least keep them out of your dishwasher. Otherwise, all of your dishes (plastic or not) will end up coated with a film of endocrine-disrupting toxins leached out of those plastics.

Avoid Corn and Wheat: The Biggest Sources of Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by molds in order to destroy competing bacteria and other strains of mold. Needless to say, they attack the cells of your body with the same vigor—unsurprisingly, mycotoxins have been linked with hormone disruption, immunosuppression, chronic inflammation, and even cancer [14].

The bad news is that mycotoxins are frighteningly prevalent in our food supply, and they tend to bioaccumulate in human tissue, which means their adverse effects can continue to get worse over time. The good news is that you can dramatically reduce your mycotoxin exposure simply by removing corn, wheat and certain nuts from your diet.

Why corn and wheat? Mycotoxins proliferate on grains that are stored for extended periods of time. Vast quantities of corn and wheat are produced in the U.S., nearly all of which are stored in grain silos prior to distribution. A testing of U.S. crops a few years ago detected the presence of mycotoxins in up to 93% of corn [15] and 80% of wheat samples [16].

While mycotoxins can be found in some other common dietary sources, if you do nothing but cut out corn and wheat, it will still make a tremendous difference. Nuts (peanuts, brazil nuts, walnuts and pecans are the worst offenders) and coffee also frequently contain mycotoxins, so try to ensure your sources are offering fresh products (some boutique coffee producers will have their product tested and certified mycotoxin-free).

More Reasons to Avoid Wheat

By now, you’re certainly familiar with the gluten-free zeitgeist, which was originally based on the idea that gluten adversely affects a small percentage of people (i.e. the 1% of the population with Celiac’s disease, and up to 10% with “gluten intolerance”). A growing body of research, however, suggests that gluten (at least potentially) poses risks for everyone.

There’s no shortage of great gluten-free products available, so there’s never been a better time to join the gluten-free bandwagon. If you’re still not convinced, though, here are some more research-backed reasons why you should take the plunge.

Mycotoxicity. I’ll begin by reiterating that 80% of all tested wheat was found to be mycotoxin-contaminated. In my opinion, this would be a perfectly good reason to avoid it, even if there was nothing else questionable about wheat products. But that’s just the beginning…

Zonulin signaling. Here’s how researchers think it works. A metabolite of gluten called gliadin appears to trigger a regulatory gut process known as zonulin signaling. Simply put, zonulin signaling makes the epithelium (the protecting lining of the intestinal tract) more porous and permeable. This is not good at all, because it allows particles of undigested food to slip into the bloodstream, which leads to chronic GI inflammation (because the immune system responds to the particles as threats) [17]. The severity of this varies greatly from individual to individual, but it does appear it affects almost everyone to some degree.

Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). Studies have demonstrated two worrying facts about this wheat protein: it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to neurons[18], AND it is highly pro-inflammatory [19]. It should go without saying, any amount of highly-inflammatory protein crossing the blood-brain barrier is no good. While WGA is present in very small quantities in wheat, it can accumulate in brain tissue over time and produce neurotoxic effects.

Opioid peptides. Last but not least, research also shows that isolated peptides from wheat exhibit “high opioid-like activity.” While opioid receptor activity is not an inherent health risk, it’s just kinda creepy to think that gluten may have addictive properties, especially given the adverse effects discussed above.

Avoid Milk + Other Dairy Products

Most of us were raised to believe that milk is healthy, but the research simply doesn’t support this. There’s a mountain of evidence to suggest that dairy is not healthy for anybody, regardless of whether you have a known allergy or intolerance. Forget everything you learned from those “Got Milk?” ads, which were essentially a whitewashing campaign designed to increase consumption of fundamentally unhealthy products.

A1 casein. Perhaps the most compelling reason to avoid dairy products is the prevalence of A1 casein protein. Casein comes in two forms, A1 and A2, and historically, dairy cows produced A2 almost exclusively. Over the past few decades, as dairy farmers have learned that A1-producing cow breeds yield more milk, they started raising these breeds almost exclusively.

As a result, nearly all commercial milk products today contain high levels of A1 casein, which has been shown to trigger gastrointestinal inflammation.[20] Another study confirmed that A1 casein triggers the pro-inflammatory Th2 pathway, while A2 casein does not.[21]

Hormones and antibiotics. The dairy industry uses hormones and antibiotics in staggering quantities - but not to combat disease as you might expect. Dairy farmers use antibiotics primarily because they are the most reliable tool for fattening cows and stimulating them to produce more milk.

Antibiotics, rBST, and IGF-1 and are routinely found in tested milk samples, whether conventional or organic.[22] [23] Inadvertent consumption of antibiotics in milk will inevitability compromise your microbiome, and thus adversely affect your digestion, immunity, and nutrient absorption.

Histamines and nitrosamines. These distinctly undesirable chemicals are frequently in cheeses (especially aged or ripened cheeses). Histamines are compounds used by the body to trigger inflammatory responses (including the sinus inflammation that accompanies seasonal allergies) . Nitrosamines, another byproduct of fermentation, are also pro-inflammatory and have been linked with gastric and oesophageal cancer.[24]

Mycotoxins. The vast majority of dairy cows are fed with low-grade, mycotoxin-contaminated grains, which means these toxins nearly always end up in milk products. Buying organic milk doesn’t lower your risk unless it’s also exclusively grass-fed.

A Possible Acceptable Dairy Option? If you can find a local source for raw milk and cheese from exclusively organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised Guernsey cows (or another confirmed A1-free breed), this could potentially be a source of dairy that avoids most of the problems listed above.

But do you really need to eat cow dairy that bad? The wiser, easier choice is simply to cut dairy out of your diet. Besides, the non-dairy alternatives these days are amazing!

After trying nearly every available alt-dairy product out there, these are my favorites:

  • Oatly and Milkadamia non-dairy milks
  • Violife vegan feta and parmesan
  • Chao vegan sliced cheese
  • Kite Hill non-dairy ricotta and cream cheese
  • Treeline fermented cashew cheeses
  • CoYo, Forager, and Kite Hill non-dairy yogurts

Choose Your Cooking Oil Carefully (Oxidized Fats)

The basic idea here is that all oils, when exposed to sufficient heat, will break down into oxidized fats that are highly pro-inflammatory. The temperature at which oils break down varies widely, and it’s important to choose an oil that will stay intact in the cooking process.

Unsaturated fats (e.g. nearly all vegetable oils) break down quickly when heated, and therefore should not be used for cooking. If you see smoke in the pan, this is indicative of the oil oxidizing.

Saturated fats like coconut oil, avocado oil on the other hand, have very high smoke points (450 degrees and 520 degrees F, respectively) - they’re both great choices for cooking.

Olive oil can be used for cooking, but it has a low smoke point (about 360 degrees) and should only be used away from heat. French chefs are taught only to add olive oil to a pan when the heat is turned off, for exactly this reason (oxidation also compromises the subtle flavors of oils).

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41574-019-0273-8

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4579563/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868080/

[4] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcimb.2018.00060/full

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868080/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164220/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4427717/

[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12676570/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037570/

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6963490/

[13] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221475001530041X

[14] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319610310000827

[15] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022030213001318

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5666349/

[17] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16635908/

[18] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8866643/

[19] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19332085/

[20] http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ejcn2014127a.html

[21] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24166511/

[22] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0039914011004498

[23] https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/1998/an/a804923h/unauth#!divAbstract

[24] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/4342/

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