How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)

Ruh-roh. (Photo Credit: We Love Costa Rica)

Following our Paleolithic ancestors, our Neolithic ancestors lost an average of six inches in height. Most people now have those last 5-10 pounds that seem impossible lose. The causes for both, surprisingly, may be the same.

Robb Wolf can explain. Robb, a former research biochemist, has functioned as a review editor for the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism and is co-owner of NorCal Strength & Conditioning, one of the Men’s Health “top 30 gyms in America.” He’s also a former California State Powerlifting Champion with a competition 565 lb. squat, 345 lb. bench, 565 lb. deadlift…

I have known of Robb for several years, but I only met him through a friend a week ago. Several weeks earlier, that same friend had sent me a copy of Robb’s book, The Paleo Solution, which I ended up devouring in a few sittings. The chapters on digestion and improving digestion were particularly fascinating to me, and, for that reason, this post is a book excerpt. It details a particular problem and specific solutions. Enjoy.

Enter Robb Wolf.

A Common Problem

Below I describe several people who at first glance appear different, but in fact they all share a common problem. They had significant health issues with no apparent cause or solution and assumed they had no treatment options, as their doctors were stumped and could offer few solutions.

For you, this chapter may represent the “missing link” in your quest for improved performance and health.

Alex, Age Five

I first learned of Alex from my friend Kelly. She related a story of a little boy who was very sick, underweight, and suffering from constant digestive problems. If you like kids and other small, scurrying critters, Alex’s features and symptoms were literally heartbreaking. He had painfully skinny arms and legs, attached seemingly at random to a torso dominated by a prominently distended belly. At night Alex thrashed and turned in his bed, wracked by diffuse pain in his arms, legs and, especially, his belly. Alex had severe lethargy and a “failure to thrive.” His doctors ran extensive tests but found nothing conclusive. They recommended a bland diet of toast, rice puddings, and yogurt, but with no benefit to the little guy.

Kelly contacted me on behalf of the family and asked if I had any ideas that might help Alex. I made a few specific recommendations, which the parents enacted immediately. Within ten days, Alex’s perpetually distended belly was flat and normal. He gained six pounds in a little over two weeks and was noticeably more muscular in the arms and legs. His sleep shifted from the thrashing, restless bouts that left him listless and tired, to the sleep all kids should have: restful, unbroken, and filled with dreams. Alex’s energy improved to such a degree that the other kids and parents could hardly imagine he was the same kid. He was healthy and happy, all because of a simple adjustment he and his family made to his eating.

Sally, Age Sixty-One

Sally was referred to us by her family physician. Sally’s doctor had worked with her on a variety of issues: low thyroid, osteoporosis, gall bladder problems, depression, and high blood pressure. It was an impressive and ever-growing list of ailments that both Sally and her doctor attributed to “normal” aging. Her doc was pretty forward thinking, however, in that she recommended that Sally perform “weight bearing exercise” to help slow the progression of the osteoporosis and muscle wasting that been accelerating in the past four to five years.

When this recommendation brought Sally to us, she was a bit reluctant to get started with a strength-training program and was very reluctant to modify or change her nutrition. We were gentle but persistent.

Our recommendations focused on specific changes to her nutrition and lifestyle. Within two months Sally was off her thyroid medications, her gall bladder issues were gone, she was four pants sizes smaller, while her symptoms of depression had disappeared. After six months of training with us and following our nutrition recommendations, it was discovered that she was no longer osteoporotic.

Of all the improvements, Sally’s doctor was most impressed with the increased bone density. She asked Sally what she had modified to affect this change. When Sally told her doctor how she had changed her nutrition, her doctor pondered things for a moment, then said, “Well, it must be something else! Food can’t do all that.”

Jorge, Age Forty

Jorge started working with us primarily to lose weight. At five feet nine inches and 325 pounds, Jorge was heading down a path of significant illness stemming from type 2 diabetes and obesity. Compounding Jorge’s situation was a condition neither he nor his doctors could figure out. Nearly every time Jorge ate, he would break out in a rash and his tongue would swell. Like really swell. Jorge had to keep an epi-pen on his person at all times, similar to someone who has a severe allergy to bee stings or peanuts.

Jorge is a practicing attorney and several times a week he would dash out of the courtroom on a mad trip to the emergency room, where he would receive antihistamines to bring his tongue swelling under control. His doctors were (again) stumped. His blood work did not show a specific allergy, nor did he appear to have a full-blown autoimmune disease. Certain immune cells were obviously overactive, but in an atypical fashion that left the allergists and rheumatologists scratching their heads.

We recommended a nutritional change for Jorge, which he fought tooth and nail. God has never made a person more appropriate to be an argumentative lawyer! Part begging, part threatening, we finally won Jorge over and told him, “Just do this for a month. If it does not work, what have you lost? If it does work, what will you have gained?”

Jorge gave things a shot and his tongue swelling disappeared. Now a year later, Jorge is down to 255 pounds and making headway toward his goal of a lean, strong 225 pounds. Thankfully, Jorge now argues for us instead of against us! Not to beat up on the physicians too much, but when Jorge told his docs what he changed, they too did not believe the cause and effect staring them straight in the face.

So, What Did We Do?

It will come as a surprise for most people that the underlying cause of all the issues described above, in these very different people, was the same thing—a common component in nearly everyone’s diet. Gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye oats, and barley. Other grains such as corn and rice have similar, but less problematic proteins (we will talk about that later).

OK, calm down, I get it. Bread, pasta, and cookies are yummy. They are also likely killing you. The other sections of this book I’m willing to give you a “pass” on understanding the technical points. Most people kinda get the insulin/high-carb issue. People are slowly realizing there are “good fats.” So, I’ll not hold you responsible for that material. However, I insist you read this grain issue, ponder it, and then do what I recommend.

We are going to learn the whole story about gluten, grains, and their roles in disease. I’ll then give you quantifiable measures for determining how much healthier you are without them. Then it’s all up to you. If you want to be healthy, you will find some level of compliance that works for you.


We have all seen pictures or videos of smokers dying from lung cancer yet still smoking through tracheotomy holes in their throats. Amazing, right? How can people do that? Well, gluten consumption is on par with a pack-a-day smoking habit.

Like most things, we need to start at the beginning.

Grains Anatomy

When I say “grain,” I am talking about one of many domesticated grasses in the gramineae family. This includes staples such as wheat, rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, and sorghum. These plants are derivatives or descendants from wild grasses that have been managed and bred for 2,000–5,000 years. All grains have the following anatomy:

Bran:

The bran is the outer covering of a whole, unprocessed grain. It contains vitamins, minerals, and a host of proteins and antinutrients designed to prevent the predation, or eating, of the grain. When you see brown rice, the bran is the flakey outer covering of the rice.

Endosperm:

The endosperm is mainly starch with a bit of protein. This is the energy supply of a growing grain embryo. When you see white rice, this is the endosperm with bran and germ removed.

Germ:

The germ is the actual reproductive portion of the grain. This is where the embryo resides.

In the wild, the cereal grain is distributed by the wind, and when conditions are right, the germ (embryo) begins the process of growth using the endosperm for energy. It may come as a surprise, but plants are not benign, altruistic organisms just waiting to send their next generation of young into our mouths in the form of sushi rice or French bread. Grains, like all critters on this planet, face the challenge of surviving long enough to reproduce. This is particularly problematic for grains in that their most nutrient-dense portion (the part we eat) happens to be the reproductive structure.

Sidebar: Oats, Quinoa, and False Friends

Hey Robb, I appreciate your concern, but my dietician told me Oats are gluten-free, so no need to worry about my morning bowl of oatmeal? Yep, I love oatmeal too, but it contains similar proteins to gluten. Cereal grains tend to have proteins that are high in the amino acid proline. These prolamines (proline rich proteins) are tough to digest, and thus remain intact despite the best efforts of the digestive process to break them down. The result is gut irritation, increased systemic inflammation, and the potential for autoimmune disease.

Corn has a similar prolamine called zein. Now you can heed or disregard this information as you please, but grains are a significant problem for most people. Upon removal of these grains, you will notice that you feel better. With reintroduction of grains…well, you feel worse. Keep in mind this inflammation is also a factor in losing weight and looking good, so don’t dismiss this if your primary goal is a tight tush. What I’m asking you to do is take 30 days and eat more fruits and veggies instead of the grains. See how you do. Not so hard, right? And just to head you off at the pass, let’s tackle two other grain related topics: “Whole grains” and Quinoa.

When we factor in their anti-nutrient properties, and potential to wreck havoc on our GI tract, grains are not a sound decision for health or longevity. For the purposes of our discussion, consider dairy and legumes in the same category.

[Note from Tim: Many of you know that I consume some legumes and beans. Normal cooking will reduce anti-nutrients in both, but, when possible, I also soak them overnight beforehand in water with a tablespoon of baking soda. Soaking for 24 hours at room temperature has been shown to remove 66% of the trypsin (protease) inhibitor activity in mung bean, 93% in lentil (this is what I eat most often), 59% in chickpea, and 100% in broad bean. Remember also to distinguish “in vitro” (e.g. red blood cells in a petri dish) vs. “in vivo” (e.g. after normal digestion) studies.]

Quinoa pops up frequently and the refrain goes like this, “Robb! Have you tried this stuff Quinoa (the pronunciation varies depending on how big a hippy you are). It’s NOT a grain! It’s fine, right?”

Well, you’ve likely heard the expression, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…” Quinoa is botanically not a grain, but because it has evolved in a similar biological niche, Quinoa has similar properties to grains, including chemical defense systems that irritate the gut. In the case of Quinoa, it contains soap-like molecules called saponins. Unlike gluten, which attaches to a carrier molecule in the intestines, saponins simply punch holes in the membranes of the microvilli cells. Yes, that’s bad. Saponins are so irritating to the immune system that they are used in vaccine research to help the body mount a powerful immune response. The bottom line is if you think grains or grain-like items like Quinoa are healthy or benign, you are not considering the full picture.

One for Me and One for You

Some plants, like blueberries or similar fruits, have evolved a strategy of “give a little to get a little.” Critters (us included) eat these fruits, then pass the seeds in a convenient, warm fertilized package that all but guarantees the next generation. Sewage systems aside, this is a reasonable trade off. The critter that eats the blueberries gets a little nutrition in exchange for spreading the blueberry seeds for subsequent generations of blueberries.

Other plants take a different approach and try to dissuade all predation by shrouding themselves in nasty substances that are either irritants or outright poisons. Consider poison oak or poison ivy. These plants have developed chemical warfare capabilities and use oils that have a tendency to work their way through the skin of animals that come in contact with the leaves. This oil sets off an alarm that irritates the immune system. Lymphocytes and other white blood cells attack the oil and in the process release pro-inflammatory chemicals that lead to a rash. Keep this idea in mind as we talk about grains, as it will help you to wrap your mind around what is happening when we eat this “staple” food.

If we compare grains to the strategies listed above, “give a little, get a little,” like the blueberry, or “bugger off,” like the poison oak, we see that grains are much more like poison oak. If a critter eats a grain, that’s it for the grain. That does not mean that the grain goes down without a fight! Grains are remarkably well equipped for chemical warfare.

Lectins:

Grains contain a variety of proteins, some of which are called lectins (not to be confused with the hormone leptin). In simple terms, lectins stick to specific molecules and thus play “recognition” roles in biological systems.

For our purposes, we will look at wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which is one of the nastier lectins, but also one of the better studied. Keep in mind, WGA (or similar molecules) are found in all grains, but it’s my opinion (and that of many other researchers) that wheat, rye, and barley, which are the gluten-containing grains, are likely the worst of the bunch with regard to health. Millet is similar to oats, in that it contains a protein only a few amino acids different from gliadin (the main problem in gluten), and it is therefore problematic for digestion. Be careful with “gluten-free” snack foods that seem too good to be true, millet-based or otherwise. Corn and rice can also be problematic, but they are safer if consumed infrequently (we will look at this later). WGA and similar lectins are problematic for several reasons:

  1. Lectins are not broken down in the normal digestive process. This leaves large, intact proteins in the gut. If you recall, most proteins are broken down in the digestive process, but the structure of some grain proteins makes them very difficult to digest (for the geeks: these proteins are high in the amino acid proline). Grains also contain protease inhibitors (dairy and some other foods also contain these), which further block the digestion of dangerous lectins. This lack of adequate protein digestion leads to serious problems, as you will see.

  2. The lectins attach to receptors in the intestinal lumen and are transported intact through the intestinal lining. Remember how amino acids and sugars are transported out of the intestines during digestion? Certain lectins “fool” transport molecules in an effort to gain entry into our bodies intact.

  3. These large, intact protein molecules are easily mistaken by the body as foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, or parasites. It’s perhaps unpleasant to think about, but the intestines are not the nicest place to hang out. This area is a major source of infection by bacteria and viruses, and the immune system lies primed, waiting to pounce on any invading pathogen. Not only does WGA enter the system intact, it damages the intestinal lining, allowing other proteins to enter the system. Why is this a problem? Our immune system mounts an attack on these foreign proteins and makes antibodies against them. These antibodies are very specific to the shapes of these foreign proteins. Unfortunately, these proteins also tend to look like proteins in our body.

Brother from a Different Mother—Molecular Mimicry

Proteins are made of molecules called amino acids (AA). Let’s imagine for a minute these amino acids are represented by Legos, with different shapes and colors denoting different amino acids. Imagine a string of Legos with a specific sequence; let’s say its five to ten Legos long. Now imagine another, identical set of Legos attached on top of many more Legos. The top five to ten of the long piece is identical to the short piece.

Let’s assume the short piece is WGA and the long piece is a protein in the beta cells of your pancreas where insulin is made. If the WGA is attacked by the immune system and an antibody is made against it (because the body thinks WGA is a bacteria or virus), that antibody will not only attach to WGA, it can also attach to the protein in your pancreas. When that WGA antibody attaches to your pancreas, it precipitates a wholesale immune response—attacking that tissue. Your pancreas is damaged, or destroyed, and you become type 1 diabetic. If that protein happened to be in the myelin sheath of your brain, you would develop multiple sclerosis.

Celiac:

Most people are familiar with a condition called celiac, which is an autoimmune disease caused by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and millet. It is clearly understood that celiac is an autoimmune disease caused by lectins. It is also clear that other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s, multiple sclerosis, and a host of other autoimmune conditions occur at much higher rates in celiac patients. However, this association, for whatever reason, was largely dismissed as an anomaly until researchers recently made the connection between the development of celiac and other autoimmune diseases.

We now understood that WGA and other lectins have a significant effect on the enzyme transglutaminase (TG). Transglutaminase is an enzyme that modifies every protein we make in our body. How many proteins does TG modify folks? That’s right, all of them. Heart, brain, kidney, reproductive organs—all of them. So, if lectins can cause problems with TG, and if TG modifies every protein in our body, how many things can lectins cause problems with? I hope this is obvious—lectins can and do affect every organ system. Reproductive issues, vitiligo (a skin condition where the individual loses pigmentation in the skin) Huntington’s, narcolepsy—we have found literally hundreds of conditions in which lectins appear to be the causative factor. Not only do we have science to support this, we have observed clinical resolution of these conditions upon the removal of grains, legumes, and dairy. I hate to do this to you, but we have to go back into the intestines.

Really? Digestion? Again?

When food is emptied from the stomach into the small intestines, it is mixed with bile salts that are produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Remember, bile salts are much like soap and are critical for our digestion and absorption of fats. In addition to bile from the gall bladder, the pancreas releases digestive enzymes that are critical to digestion. And lest you forget, much of the digestive process happens at the tiny structures in our intestines—the villi and microvilli. Now let’s see how lectins interact with the intestinal lining to produce autoimmunity.

Lectins such as WGA bind to a receptor in the microvilli, allowing WGA to be transported into the body. This is the mechanism of the autoimmune cascade I described above. If the gut wall (microvilli) becomes damaged, the entire contents of the intestines can now make its way into your system. Yes, that’s as bad as it sounds. You are not only in a position to create antibodies against WGA, which leads to autoimmunity, but you now have the potential to develop multiple allergies due to a permeable gut lining and inadequately digested food. This is how you can develop allergies to chicken, beef, apples, or other normally benign foods.

Additionally, if your gut is damaged, you expose yourself to a host of chemicals that would normally remain in the intestines. This can lead to conditions such as multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, which is regarded more as a psychiatric problem than legitimate medical condition.

Let me be crystal clear about this: Anything that damages the gut lining (including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, as well as alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy) can predispose one to autoimmunity, multiple chemical sensitivities, and allergies to otherwise benign foods.

As my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach says, “This no opinion is, this fact is.”

“If the gut wall (microvilli) becomes damaged, the entire contents of the intestines can now make its way into your system.” [Note from Tim: this is where the “feces in the bloodstream” post title comes from]

Full of Bile

While this digestive disaster is taking place, there are several other problems brewing. As you recall, the function of the gall bladder is to release bile salts into a meal as it is emptied into the duodenum from the stomach. When the intestinal wall is damaged, the chemical messenger, cholecystokinin (CCK), is not released. CCK usually sends the “on” switch to the gall bladder and the secretion of pancreatic digestive enzymes. When this signal is blocked, we do not properly digest our foods, particularly fat and protein. The lack of bile release allows cholesterol crystals to form in the gall bladder, which leads to gall stones. The standard medical practice of removing the gall bladder is effectively killing the “canary in the coal mine.” Gall stones are a symptom of a problem, an alarm. Instead of treating the cause (remove grains) we cut out the gall bladder. People who have had gall bladder removal are almost certainly undiagnosed celiacs and likely have a number of other progressive diseases. In my experience, these individuals are plagued with digestive problems, culminating in dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

Achtung!

The disruption of CCK and related hormones (PYY, adiponectin) in the signaling cascade of digestion is a really big deal. Not only is the digestive process severely damaged, much of our satiety signaling is taken offline as well. We cannot properly digest our food, we are always “hungry,” and the very food we crave, refined grains and sugary junk, happens to be the cause of the problem.

It Gets Better

Another piece of the chemical defense system used against us by grains is a group of enzymes called protease inhibitors. Protease inhibitors prevent the breakdown of proteins. This means that when you consume grains you do not effectively digest the protein in your meal. Protease inhibitors also stymie the digestion of lectins such as WGA, making these already difficult-to-digest items virtually indestructible. This leaves more large proteins in the intestinal contents, which increases our likelihood of developing autoimmunity, allergies, or chemical sensitivities.

Osteoporotic Much?

If you do not have a bellyache thinking about grains by now, let’s look at one more player: antinutrients such as phytates. Phytates are important for seeds and grains because they tightly bind to metal ions (like magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and copper), which are crucial for the growth and development of the grain. If the metal ions are not tightly bound by the phytates, the process of germination can happen prematurely and this can spell disaster for the grain.

When we consume grains, the phytates are still active and powerfully bind to calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. This means the calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron are unavailable for absorption. Because of the action of antinutrients such as phytates combined with the gut damaging characteristics of lectins and protease inhibitors, our Neolithic ancestors lost an average of six inches in height vs. our Paleolithic ancestors due to the Neolithic diet of grains and legumes. Are you concerned about osteoporosis or iron deficiency anemia? Do you suffer from fatigue or heart problems that might be caused by magnesium deficiency? Have you diligently consumed a “smart” diet of whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy as per the recommendations of your dietician and doctor? Do you see how ridiculous that suggestion is in light of what you now know about grains, legumes, and dairy?

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another!

Here is a recap of how grains cause malabsorption issues and how that affects our health and well-being:

  1. Damage to the gut lining. If the gut is damaged, you do not absorb nutrients. We need healthy villi and microvilli to absorb our nutrients, be they protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, or minerals.

  2. Damage to the gall bladder and bile production. If you do not absorb fats and fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, K, and other nutrients, you will have problems utilizing any minerals you do absorb, to say nothing of the nutrient deficiencies from inadequate essential fats.

  3. Phytates tightly bind to metal ions and make them unavailable for absorption. Analytical chemists actually use purified phytates in experiments where it is necessary to quantify the amounts of metal ions like calcium, zinc, or iron in a sample because the phytates bind to these metals tighter than just about any other molecule. The same thing happens when you eat phytates, and this is not a good thing for bone health or iron status.

  4. Open door for autoimmunity and cancer. Once the gut lining is damaged, we are at exceptionally high risk of autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and several types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The pancreas is assailed by grain-induced inflammation due to CCK problems and elevated insulin levels. This inflammation is a potential cause of pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

Why does all this happen? Because grains are pissed that you want to eat them and they are willing, and able, to fight back.

Here is a short list of the problems associated with leaky gut and the autoimmune response:

• Infertility

• Type 1 diabetes

• Multiple sclerosis

• Rheumatoid Arthritis

• Lupus

• Vitiligo

• Narcolepsy

• Schizophrenia

• Autism

• Depression

• Huntington’s

• Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

• Hypothyroidism

• Porphyria

But I’m Not Sick

Some of you, however, may think you have no issues here. You have eaten grains, legumes, and dairy your whole life and are “fine.” Well, maybe. But I suspect that is not the case. I’ll bet that if you completely remove these Neolithic foods from your diet for one month, you will notice a dramatic improvement in how you feel and perform. Why? Because if you are consuming these foods, I’ll wager you have gut irritation and other systemic inflammation issues.

A recent study looking at children with type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune condition) found that a significant number of them had overt gut pathology, i.e., celiac. Some had a positive antibody test for celiac, but a number of kids were negative on both the WGA antibody test (a common blood test for celiac) and on an intestinal biopsy. So doctors would think there was no gluten influence in their condition. Interestingly, however, nearly all the kids showed antibodies in the deep tissues of the microvilli to . . . transglutaminase.

The study authors suspected most of the kids would at some point develop what is commonly described as celiac. What this tells us is gut damage can be fairly benign (few symptoms) but still lead to autoimmunity. Once initiated, autoimmunity can and does progress to other problems. Your doctor or dietician will likely dismiss this information, especially if you are “negative” for any of the standard blood work or lab tests for celiac. They are foolish in this regard, but hey, it’s only your health.

Trust your medical professionals, they always know best. Or, try a simple experiment: Follow a Paleo diet, and assess how you feel and perform. I know, I can hear the MDs now, that it’s “just anecdotal.” If you are going to save your ass you are not likely to get much support in this matter unless you have a forward-thinking and aggressive primary physician.

What is the ultimate gold standard in all this? How do you know for sure you do or do not have an issue with these foods? The answer seems obvious: remove the potentially offending foods! Reintroduce them after thirty to sixty days. See what happens. Now there is a caveat to this. You only need to be exposed to things like gluten once every ten to fifteen days to keep the gut damaged. This can bedevil people as they “cut back on gluten” but do not notice an improvement in their overall health. I’m sorry but there is not a pink “participant” ribbon given out for doing this “almost correctly.” You need to be 100 percent compliant for thirty days, then see how you do with reintroduction.

Now, I’ll be honest, the reintroduction is for you, not me. If I did a phone consult with you, I’d ask, “How did you do when you had that piece of bread?” I know exactly how you did—I’ve seen this scenario thousands of times, but you are the one who needs convincing. When you reintroduce gluten you will not feel good. Sorry kiddo, it’s just the way it works. Now it’s up to you to decide if health and a long life are worth forgoing some of these foods more often than not.

Does all this seem hard to believe? Well, remember how I described the effects of poison oak on your skin? It’s a similar deal here with gut irritation and lectin exposure. If you want to get the full power of this program, you need to actually give it a shot. Worst-case scenario: You spend a month without some foods you like. Best-case scenario: You discover you are able to live healthier and better than you ever thought possible.

But I Like Bread and Pasta!

Yes, I like that stuff too, but they make me sick. I suspect it makes you sick, as well. Not only do grains make you sick by raising insulin levels, messing up your fatty acid ratios (n-3/n-6), and irritating your gut, but they are also addictive. Grains, particularly the gluten-containing grains, contain molecules that fit into the opiate receptors in our brain. You know, the same receptors that work with heroin, morphine, and Vicodin? Most people can take or leave stuff like corn tortillas and rice. Suggest that people should perhaps forgo bread and pasta for their health and they will bury a butter knife in your forehead before you can say “whole wheat!” Sorry folks, I don’t make these rules, I just have the lovely task of educating you about them.

Why I had to focus on gluten-free living, exercise, and trying to get you healthy, I will never know. I should have just peddled hookers, cocaine, and pastries! So much easier.

Instead, here’s a one week food plan. There are hundreds of great options, but this is a simple menu to get you started:

Week 1

Monday

BREAKFAST: 2–4 poached eggs, almonds, small piece fruit or berries

LUNCH: Chicken fajita salad

SNACK: 2 oz chicken, apple, few avocado slices

DINNER: Grilled salmon, roasted green beans, side salad

Tuesday

BREAKFAST: Leftover salmon, walnuts

LUNCH: Lettuce, tomato, onion, and condiments of your choice over 1–2 burger patties, orange, almonds

SNACK: Jerky, macadamia nuts

DINNER: Rotisserie chicken, steamed broccoli, side salad

Wednesday

BREAKFAST: Leftover chicken w/salsa, ½ avocado

LUNCH: Tuna and cabbage salad

SNACK: Remainder of tuna and cabbage salad

DINNER: Crock-Pot pork loin, tomato sauce, zucchini, chopped cauliflower, basil. Make a large portion, leftovers will be used for several meals!

Thursday

BREAKFAST: Slice of ham, 2–3 scrambled eggs, fruit

LUNCH: Leftover pork loin

SNACK: 2 hard-boiled eggs, almonds

DINNER: Stir-fry beef salad. Serve over bed of greens with balsamic vinegar

Friday

BREAKFAST: Sausage stir-fry breakfast

LUNCH: Easy ceviche

SNACK: 2 oz chicken, apple

DINNER: Spaghetti squash (Note from Tim: this is delicious) or kelp-noodle spaghetti: cook either choice with marinara sauce, ground meat, olive oil

Saturday

BREAKFAST: Chicken apple hash

LUNCH: 5–6 oz deli turkey, ½ lb steamed broccoli, drizzle with olive oil

SNACK: 2–3 oz turkey, carrot sticks, almonds

DINNER: Indian-style coleslaw, leftover pork loin, side salad with olive oil

Sunday

BREAKFAST: Western omelet, sweet potato hash

LUNCH: Lamb patties, tomato, lettuce, strawberries

SNACK: Turkey, avocado

DINNER: Halibut, roasted asparagus, berries with balsamic vinegar

For full 30-day meal plans, recipes, and more, this is the resource.

###

Afterword: Holy religious war, Batman! Hundreds of strong comments below, including a few very smart contributions from MDs, nurses, etc.. Robb has also answered some of the most common questions in the comments.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply to David Hennessey Cancel reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

1,395 Replies to “How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)”

  1. Great Stuff!! I seem to remember reading that antibodies from gluten can take up to 90 days to clear your system. My doc had me give it up for 3 months min before he’d ask me if I felt better. When it make a huge difference, he asked me to give up grains when I tested hyper thyroid.

  2. After reading most of this I’m certain that a regular diet consisting of cigarettes, coffee, bourbon and chocolate is the plan to stick with. And an occasional apple or banana. (kidding of course…maybe) 😉

  3. This is fascinating stuff – what is difficult I find is to convince people this is really that bad from them. At a molecular level these sound intense and in cases the results are pretty dire for some. However I have had people point to plenty of people who have lived long lives (80-90+) without any of the modern day ‘diet fads’ as they refer to them as. I’m not saying this isn’t true but sometimes I wonder if we over analyse things so much that we lose perspective. I love eating healthy insofar as possible and do also have my moments. But being an Indian vegetarian I don’t see what the hell I’d have to eat if I cut out so many grains from my diet. Any alternatives for that would be very welcome as I have cut down wheat intake at home (Indian flat bread known as roti) and am trying to get my parents to do the same. Thank you!

  4. Hi Tim!

    I read several articles about gluten sensitivity and got myself tested, but am negative on Transglutaminase antibodies.

    My question is why earlier generations as well as populations in developing countries didn’t/don’t show all these lifestyle diseases as mentioned above though bread/wheat/rice is/was their main food? And why does not everyone develop these diseases though we follow a similar diet?

    I think the theory is interesting, but it might be only one contributing factor.

    Thanks,

    Anja

  5. Ahhhh! After I’m finished slapping my specialists and GPs, I’ll hit them in the face with my computer screen, this article zoomed with full brightness. I keep telling them what grains do to me. I show them my rheumatic, Reynauded, chilblained hands, and all the other symptoms. I tell them the symptoms disappear whenever I quit grains. They tell me to eat rice, say it’s weird anyone would react to lectins. I want to cry that they can legally treat people.

    Two article criticisms:

    1. “literally heartbreaking”. No.

    2. Nuts are recommended in the food plan. And tomatoes. These are high in lectins. They do me as much misery as corn chips and buckwheat. You may be inadvertantly steering readers right into a small room with the monster you just warned them is outside.

    Otherwise, thank you. x 1000. Now, please please please write an article on healing intestinal permeability. It’s become clear my physicians aren’t going to help, and I need my health back so I can start living a real life before my youth is a pale, sickly memory.

  6. Definitely something to this! I’ve been on the 4Hr Body diet for some time now. No tremendous weight loss but I found that my body does not like glutens. At the end of my cheat day I feel tired and terrible and I don’t really go that much overboard. As important as eliminating glutens is to eliminate all chemical additives. As a result I no longer have sweet cravings.

  7. Why no mention of sprouted grains? When you soak beans or grains, aren’t you effectively starting the germination process, and that’s what breaks down these harmful proteins? I want to know if I’m wasting money buying more expensive sprouted breads and delicious english muffins.

    Also, what’s up with canned beans? They are soaking in water already. Does that count?

  8. Thank you so much for writing this Rob and for posting Tim…the more attention to it, the better.

    Anyone with time for a personal case study, pretty pretty please??

    The short version:

    After years and years of health problems (largely digestion related, depression, inability to lose weight…eventually with inflamed joints and chronic sinusitis and candidiasis as well), many doctors, antibiotics, workout plans, allergy tests, adrenal tests, thyroid tests (all golden perfect), sinus surgery…I finally saw a naturopath.

    I took out gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, alcohol, caffeine, etc. strictly for 3 months and after that, stuck to it at about 95% for 4 years. I had minor improvements, but definitely no dramatic results.

    The depression, brain fog, fatigue and weight are still a problem…so about 8 months ago, I became stricter with it. I took out all grains and also had to take out nuts because I found they made me puffy and uncomfortable. I also had a hair analysis test done to find out how my vitamins, minerals, metabolic state was doing. As a result, I am taking supplements to balance out what was completely out of whack.

    I sleep 8-10 hours every night, meditate, drink tons of water and work out 6 days a week (typical work out would be running stairs for an hour at Red Rocks in Denver, yoga, cycling or hiking for an hour or two). I only eat free range, grass fed organic proteins. No processed food. I believe in being balanced/healthy not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, spiritually and socially too.

    This was 8 months ago. The first three months of that, I slept for about 15 hours a day. Now I’m back to 8-10, but all of these problems still persist.

    I know it would be a million times worse if I incorporated any of this back into my diet and I won’t and I do feel strange for getting so personal on a blog post.

    But anyone out there with any ideas? Rob? Tim?

  9. I like the article, thank you very much for it. But there is something that always bothers me. Every new thing in health and eating is plagued with all the theory as to how this is healthy and so on. Now it may very well be that this is correct. Being a Physicist myself, I have doubts about those theoretical explanations. What I would REALLY like to see would be a study where they let people eat different diets and monitor how they feel. With many people. Robb is right when he thinks someone will say this is anecdotal. Because it is. I read an interview with (supposedly) one of the first doctors to shed some light on this issue, and he thought that this problem may only concern 5% of the population, that the rest would be hype.

    Furthermore, all the other stuff you should take care of not eat confuses me. Tony Robbins is a big fan of eating alkaline things. Doesn’t that mean eating less meat? Yes, both diets agree on vegetables, and that seems for me the only thing to be sure about: eating veggies is healthy.

    To make my point clear: Please, please, stop holding up all that theory. It may be right, it may be updated in a few years or completely rewritten while the results may still be true. What counts, are the results. Please quote studies that look at results of different diets in many people. How come I have not come across a single article covering that? I would love to hear about that.

  10. Hey guys/Tim,

    Real stupid question from a n00b, but does this post imply that people using the “Slow Carb Diet” should avoid gluten even on cheat days? The article says that you only need to eat gluten once every 15 days to trigger the autoimmune response, but I go to town on grain-based foods once every 7 days on my cheat day. Obviously, eating a bunch of grain products on cheat days is fun, but it’s not worth it if I’m screwing up my metabolic system.

    Elliott

    1. I hope not, I’ve been eating gluten pretty much every day for years (seitan, excellent protein source) EXCEPT on cheat days – on which I have a 5-7 course lunch including cheese and multiple desserts 🙂

  11. Irritating and condescending. “Sorry kiddo….”

    “I know exactly how you did…I’ve seen this a thousand times…”

    “Sorry folks, I don’t make these rules…”

    “OK, clam down….”

  12. Don’t ditch bean! As it comes to lentils and beans, lectin is in ton’s of stuff and lectins have healthy properties when in proper amount. Thing is you can easily and completely denature most of the lectins in lentils and beans by cooking them, either for 15 minutes at 100*C or for 2 hours at 80*C. The left over Lectins are quite healthy in smaller amounts.

  13. I love and trust U, Timothy Ferris! Whenever I hear something new related to health, I always research what U have to say on the topic…Ur opinion comforts me, because I know how much time U spend on getting the facts and the science behind any given topic!!!

  14. I started feeling better when I stopped eating bread, due to swallowing problems. (Something to do with my skeleton, and jumping off motorbikes at high speed, Osteopath is sorting that out)

    I noticed I was feeling better. For the last two years, I’ve been eating big amounts of pasta, (easy to swallow) three or four times a week, and feeling pretty rough. Weak, irritable, unmotivated, tired, and so on.

    So after reading this, I stopped the pasta for a week.

    Had one meal, and felt not good the next day.

    Stopped again for ten days, had a pasta meal, and felt bad.

    Stopped again for over two weeks.

    Last night I had pasta for last meal of the day.

    Today, I though I was dying………

    That’s it, no more Gluten.

    Thank you Mr Wolf, Thank you Mr Ferriss.

  15. I’ve found ‘dry-fasting’ to be the most effective way to rest the digestive system and give it a chance to heal itself. Meaning, if we go without food or water regularly, 12-20hours daily and 3-5 days monthly, the body becomes more ‘fat adapted’. As we become more adept at shifting our energy processes from glucose to ketones, the desire for carbs and sugars fades away. It’s only our inability to ‘shift gears’, from processing sugars to processing fats, that causes the discomforts that make it challenging to go without food at all. Going ‘dry’, in a ‘hard fast’ entails no physical contact at all with water, and no ingestion of anything into the alimentary canal; and in a ‘soft fast’ contact externally with bathing and tooth brushing is done but it slows the ketogenic process down some. The idea that we must eat and drink daily is a myth, with many now documenting 10+ days ‘Dry’ with only healing results, and yet we will never hear about this from the Government/Corporations that profit from our overconsumption that makes us sick and fills their coffers. There are no profits and no taxes to be made from informing people that they’d be healthier if they ate and drank less often… Also, no profit motive to inspire scientific testing of the benefits to humans and laws preventing the testing on animals. Animals can’t volunteer, so severe calorie reduction below 30% of normal isn’t allowed by law in the US at least. The Russians have done the most study of ‘medical starvation’, as many there experienced it by circumstance and not by choice.

  16. Wold you have advice for someone who is hypoglycemic? I would love to try the above, but it will not carry me through the night.

  17. People should look up the earth’s Blue Zones. Some meat is eaten, but rarely and on special occations. Common for all Blue Zones is high intake of plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, etc.

  18. Tim: for slo-carb, you don’t have a problem with legumes, in fact it seems to be the main source of carbohydrates. What’s your take on Robb’s position?

    Robb: Judging by the suggested meal plan, there is not a significant amount of carbohydrates (at least in comparison with other diets that allow oats and legumes), are you suggesting that we do not need nearly as many carbs as we typically eat? If so, what’s your response to metabolic damage (and/or leptin levels) for cutting carbs down to that small of an amount?

    Thanks guys!

  19. No way! I’m eating that much meat or follow a strict meal plan.

    Something I take for breakfast that my bowels seem to love is chia seed pudding. I don’t care if it has phytic acids. My bowels rule, and they seem happy when I eat this. They say pasta and bread are painful, and oats are even worse. Indeed.

    I may do the grain fasting for one month. I have done the same with milk, and now I don’t have milk or yogurts at least most of the time, still occasional milk in desserts and a little butter. I just don’t like the way I digest it so I don’t feel deprived and very little amounts. Not perfect. But sustainable forever for me.

    I’m always going for a balance between what my mouth wants and how my bowels respond otherwise. Cravings alert!!!

    It seems my bowels can tolerate some grains better than others. But they are much happier digesting carrots. They love some fermented foods and are not kin on chickpeas even soaked. Still looking for a trick to make them more digestible.

    I’ll never eat a perfect diet because I know the cost of going the perfect route. My diet is “mouth and bowels” driven. In other words, tasty and highly digestible most of the time. I can see you cringe and say “but it must perfect”. That’s OK. I respect your knowledge and passion as well as my body’s wisdom. There are just too many doctors with conflicting theories. I have learned to trust myself and my body in this cacophony.

    That being said, your results for osteoporosis are astounding. One of my very dear friends has had it for ten years, and she’s not even 40. Alas, no doctor seems to be able to help. I’m going to share your article with her. Thanks a million for that.

  20. Hi Tim and Robb

    Fascinating stuff. I could give up grains. I notice I feel bulky after bread or Muesli.

    Legumes are trickier. I have 2 cans of butter beans a day. I’m veggie so need protein that isn’t meat. Can you advise?

    Thanks

    Al

  21. It is difficult to believe that people are commenting on this after SIX years (myself now included.) I am a 22 year old Type 1 diabetic who was vegan for two years (2012-2014.) I feel much better now that I am consuming meats. Eating is more convenient and my blood sugar is now more stable. Hair growth, nail growth, muscle mass, and menstruation are now much more normalized. While I do feel bad for the animals that are slaughtered in order to feed myself, I now realize that flesh consumption is a way of life. Animals eat one another all of the time.

    On another note: Why does everyone argue through comments here? The main point of all of this is to eat naturally/when hungry and to avoid toxins found in wheat products, legumes, and dairy. This is feasible on any sort of diet and is ideal for optimal health. Please reply if you agree. (Sorry to be late to the conversation.)

    1. The main point wasn’t to eat naturally! It was to avoid gluten even if you don’t have Celiac disease. It’s medical hogwash. Bad science. And as a diabetic, I can assure you you can eat a vegan diet and be fine if you watch your carbohydrates. Well, type 2. Type 1 requires insulin as your body doesn’t produce it.

  22. Awesomely funny and relevant view on this subject!

    “Because grains are pissed that you want to eat them and they are willing, and able, to fight back”

    …and some really intense discussions under here 😛

  23. First off, I think the jury is out for claiming Paleolithic ancestors are 6 inches taller than Neolithic people. Even if they did, to blame this on grain is questionable. I can understand some of the cases and the reasoning to cut the portion of grain intakes, but to make this a case against the whole categories of food source is absurd. Plus, if all of us do that, I assure you the world will running out of food in no time. For anyone interested, watch Michael Pollan’s documentary Cooked on Netflix. He has something to say about Paleo diet and the concept of gluten free.

  24. “Yep, I love oatmeal too, but it contains similar proteins to gluten. Cereal grains tend to have proteins that are high in the amino acid proline. These prolamines (proline rich proteins) are tough to digest, and thus remain intact despite the best efforts of the digestive process to break them down. The result is gut irritation, increased systemic inflammation, and the potential for autoimmune disease.”

    Proline in oats? This is the same proline that is found in collagen/bone broths? Does this not mean those things would have negative consequences too?

  25. So I’m having blueberry yogurt added to my pancake mix for… you got it blueberry pancakes while reading this article. My past reaction to the Q; Is it gluten free? Was here we go again w/ first world issues… Truth is I never knew what the point of a GF diet was and being relativity fit I dismissed looking into it BUT now this article is knocking me all up side my I’m into health&nutrition head.

    Thanks Time to know the facts … but 1st my pancakes getting cold

  26. I am thrilled that I came across this article. I had a bout of candida in my gut which took two years to diagnose, 5 doctors, 20 appointments, tons of blood work and $4000 later, my latest PA found it in a simple allergy test.

    So I went strict Paleo and did a 60 day candida diet. I I have never felt better. More energy, better sleep, flatter tummy, no headaches, more energy, better memory, no stuttering, no brain fog. Candida even made me stutter! Very odd indeed. I was literally sick for 2 years and I was about to give up. It was not a good place to be.

    I am now pregnant. I have had a severe gag reflex and could not stomach much meat so Paleo went out the window. All I have craved were carbs. So I thought ha, maybe I need to try and eat bread, crackers and maybe a little dairy to help sustain my blood sugar (which I read was good). So my diet consisted of cottage cheese for a week, bread, crackers, beans and fruit, no meat. 3 weeks later, I have had severe blood sugar issues, haven’t been able to sleep, bloating like crazy, hazy brain, a cold sore on my lips and hives on my face.

    So I can attest to the Paleo life that’s for sure. It works for me and I’m getting back on track. I believe that we all have the privilege to consciously choose what we eat and figure out what works best for us without judging and condemning others on their ways of eating.

    We may know what’s best for us and maybe we can even be an example of what’s possible for others. It’s not our job or responsibility to change what other people do or choose in their life because unless we want change, we can’t force it upon others and nor should we.

    However, what I know, after this awful month of “trying” to listen to what my body was craving has absolutely steered me in the wrong direction. And I know it’s a necessity for me to eliminate grains, dairy, beans and gluten once again. I have realized for me it’s all or nothing and I can’t just be pick and choose when I can eat Paleo. I have to eat Paleo and follow the regime ALL the time.

    Good luck on your journeys everyone!

  27. Yet another person who thinks we should severely limit our diet. I eat the dreaded bread, dairy, legumes, gluten, etc., and I’ve been healthy as a horse my whole life. LMAO

  28. Coeliac disease is an inflammatory reaction to gluten. If you don’t have it, and very, very, very few do, gluten is harmless. This is snake oil being sold as science. People, do a little bit of research before you believe guru led BS. If you want to lose weight you simply burn more calories than you consume: everything else is shear, utter BS and a waste of time. Was I rude? Or just bluntly truthful?

  29. Dear Tim,

    Many thanks for this blog post, and for everything you do to make life better for so many people.

    Just wondered if you had heard of Dr Steven Gundry? Check out his latest book The Plant Paradox . He would be a great guest on your show. Lectins are his big enemy number 1 for gut health…and they are hiding in all nightshade (including tomatoes)…

  30. Quick question: how about beer? How does this compare to eating barley/wheat directly? I’m wondering about the chemistry when yeast breaks down the sugars. But again, I have no idea.

    Please help!

  31. Ok so on the side note from Tim he mentions cooking and soaking the beans/legumes can dramatically decrease the composition of such reducing the effects explained by the article and Robb Wolf (great last name by the way). The question than becomes to achieve these results explained by Mr. Ferris does anyone know if they have to be whole beans, or when I buy say a can of black beans (already in whater) that process is already in affect? Minus the baking soda?

    Would love to hear some info…. you see I am originally from Brasil and black beans are a staple! Completely eliminating such would be a hard task… But if there’s a better way to consume it, why not?!?!?

  32. Hi, fantastically detailed article, I can’t help but draw parallels to content in the SCD book – refraining from posting link here – is called ‘Breaking the Vicious Cycle’ . I also personally know one person who followed th(e similar) steps to save his health

  33. Tim, as always informative, comprehensive and helpful blog. The way you write about each subject helps me, and I am sure other people, to get it. Thank you.

    How about nuts? I have read that nuts have the same lining as grains and need to be sprouted before consumption.

  34. You left out a very very important thing here… on your example of a diet to eat you’ve included nightshade vegetables. Surely surely you realize that nightshades are absolutely poisonous to those of us already plagued with the rheumatoid arthritis . Tomatoes potatoes… etc… but when I excluded these I almost immediately felt so much better. Pain level went down . Beans, nuts,…

    and dairy , eggs, cheeses, were equal poisonous.

    It’s very very complicated , you go have to do your own research but it’s so much easier w our cell phones in our hands than it was pre search engine days👏

  35. Dear Tim

    I have had lumps and pustules around my neck and jawline for many years. Others suggest by their own struggle with adult acne that I am gluten intolerant. Since ditching gluten two weeks ago I no longer have ibs at least these last weeks. But the spots persist. Could it be that my body is still eliminating toxins from the gluten? Do you believe there is a link? And in another note what about tapioca? Thank you so much for the scientific breakdown above

  36. I ingested a lot of wheat germ containing WGA approx 6g a day for 3/4days, and could feel the effects on my mood, memory, and it was causing head aches. I’ve stopped now and only the headaches remain 3 days later. How do I get the WGA out of my brain and body?

  37. Tim – Love your work, listen often to the podcast, bought Four-Hour Body. Would love to hear more women interviewed on the podcast. I appreciated the tips “for the ladies” in your books, and your open-mindedness. Best…

  38. Thank you for the great article. I have made all of the lifestyle changes cutting out gluten, sugar and dairy for three years now. What I am beginning to notice is that I am stuffy and congested after eating rice and potatoes in particular. After reading this, I can now understand why especially since my body is still trying to heal from leaky gut.

  39. Tim mentioned over-hydration in a recent 5-bullet friday. I would be very interested in learning more about that. An internet search really didn’t touch on the topic or side effects.

  40. I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was 47. My gastroenterologist describes my upper intestine as looking like cellophane. We guessed that I had had a low level of the disease my entire life which became full on celiac disease when I came down with a stomach virus. Immediately I went to a strict gluten free diet. After doing the diet for a couple of years and still suffering from bloating and digestive problems we tested me for soy sensitivity and casein sensitivity. The amount of casein in my system was off the charts! So now I am on a gluten free, dairy free diet. I am also on a no fod, low fod map diet. I still continue to have gut issues, and my doctors are stumped. Actually I fired them. I exercise regularly, drink enough water to fill a reservoir on a daily basis and do everything they say. But I have had enough of the blank stares and “live with it” advice. Any suggestions from anyone are appreciated. PS: as of today I am staying away from quinoa.