In today’s health sphere, there are mountains of conflicting information; so much so that it’s easy to become confused. Furthermore, much of the information is often based on opinion and not backed by science. What’s worse is that there is a ton of pseudoscience out there that masquerades as being very scientific. Many walk around with unanswered questions such as, are lectins good or bad for you? Does homeopathy really work? Can muscle testing actually tell you whether a certain product is healthy? What does science really say about food intolerance testing?
In this episode, we get the answers to all these questions and more as I speak with Dr. Alan Christianson. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and a naturopathic medical doctor with a specialty in endocrinology, and an all-around brilliant and extremely knowledgeable evidence-based doctor. (He’s also a close personal friend and backpacking/rock climbing buddy of mine, so I’ve spent many days with him in person where we’ve had a chance to discuss everything imaginable related to health.)
Dr. Christianson has spent countless hours going through scientific studies on the topics we cover in this episode, and he is here to share his findings with you. So, if you wonder about whether lectins are truly dangerous, whether gluten actually causes thyroid disease, or whether mycotoxins in coffee are something to fear, then you should take the time to listen in.
- In this episode, Dr. Alan Christianson will cover
- Download or listen on iTunes
- Listen outside of iTunes
- Separating Myths From Science on Functional Medicine Testing, Lectins, Homeopathy, Muscle Testing, and More with Dr. Alan Christianson – Transcript
- Dr. Christianson’s take on why things are so conflicted in the health sphere
- How to sort through subjective opinions and factual truths
- Saturated fat and brain health
- The science on food intolerance testing
- Separating science from myth on gluten
- How whole grains impact our health
- The science on lectins – are lectins bad for you?
- What science says about homeopathy
- Dr. Christianson’s experience with muscle testing
- Dr. Christianson’s take on functional medicine testing
- Is caffeine good for you?
- The science on mycotoxins
- Iodine and Hashimoto’s
- What foods contain lectins? Are nightshades bad for you?
- Separating Myths From Science on Functional Medicine Testing, Lectins, Homeopathy, Muscle Testing, and More with Dr. Alan Christianson – Show Notes
In this episode, Dr. Alan Christianson will cover
- Why is there so much conflicting advice in the health sphere? (And why you should be careful about whose advice you follow)
- The reason why autoimmune hypothyroidism is called Hashimoto’s
- The placebo and the nocebo effects – how they relate to your health
- Separating myths from science on lectins
- Should I do functional medicine testing? If so, which is my best option?
- Can muscle testing tell me if something is bad for me? (Dr. C did a personal study on muscle testing and the results will blow your mind!)
- Why mycotoxins in coffee are not to be feared
- Are most functional medicine tests actually scientifically valid? (This one may shock you)
- Why food intolerance tests most often are flawed
- And much, much more
Download or listen on iTunes
Listen outside of iTunes
Separating Myths From Science on Functional Medicine Testing, Lectins, Homeopathy, Muscle Testing, and More with Dr. Alan Christianson – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m here with Dr. Alan Christianson for the second time. This is part two of our Podcast. So welcome Alan. Thank you so much for joining me.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, glad to be here. Always. Any excuse to hang out is worthwhile.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Part one was super fun, so hopefully we, it’s a nice opportunity to do another one. So, you know, real quick, just as an intro for Dr. Christianson. He is a New York Times bestselling author and a naturopathic medical doctor with a specialty in endocrinology and just all around scientific badass. And, you know, in particular, he’s become a great friend of mine over the last few years because, you know, I think what kind of sparked the friendship initially was the commitment to scientific rigor.
Dr. Christianson’s take on why things are so conflicted in the health sphere
And it’s interesting because right now we’re in the midst of this kind of, this drama that’s going on among health experts in one of the groups that we belong to, and kind of this diet wars phenomenon with all these people battling with all these conflicting dietary dogmas and ideologies. And it’s actually the perfect time to bring you on and have this discussion on this subject of kind of diet myths and, you know, who’s right, who’s wrong or why we even have this situation in the first place where so many people are, where we have all these competing dietary dogmas and conflicting dietary dogmas and why the general public is so confused about what’s healthy and what is the right way to eat, and what is the right, what are the, what things are actually good for us.
So, with that in mind, what’s going on in your opinion? And I know we talked about this the other day and you shared some insights that I was like, “Yes, we need to talk about this on the Podcast.” So, what do you think is causing this situation that we have right now where there’s just such an enormous amount of conflicting and contradictory information around health?
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, I heard someone summarize the state of affairs as, our current situation where, you know, conceivably within a decade or so we can be populating Mars, but yet we can’t seem to agree on what to pack for lunch.
Ari Whitten: That’s a pretty great description. Yeah.
Dr. Alan Christianson: How bizarre is that? We’ve got that level of technology. We can’t figure it out. But the funny thing is I think there’s like two different worlds. There’s one world that, almost like infotainment nutrition, you know, something like that. And then there’s like this academic side. And there’s, certainly, these things have connections.
But in this world, that’s where it seems the whole conflict lives and the further you get down in the realm of science, the less and less conflict there is. It starts to vanish. But yeah, I think we’re at a really unique time in which this is one symptom of this bigger way in which we’re all able to live within our beliefs and the extent to which we can find a few that share those beliefs that seems to help. But not really have there be any allegiance or connectedness to an external reality.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. On that note, you shared an article with me from the Atlantic a few days ago, which is a phenomenal article. I recommend everybody read this. It’s an article in the Atlantic called, was it “Fantasyland ” or “Welcome to Fantasyland” or something like that?
Dr. Alan Christianson: I think that was actually, I think I mentioned that I think that’s actually the subtitles. Isn’t is “Why America’s Lost its Way” or something or…
Ari Whitten: Yeah,
Dr. Alan Christianson: The book it was from, it was a smaller version of a book called “Fantasyland.” Yet a more descriptive title than the article.
Ari Whitten: Right. So if you Google, just the Atlantic and “Fantasyland” this article will come up and it’s just a phenomenal article. And one of the things that it talks about is, it’s mainly from a political perspective. And my intention here with this Podcast is not to go political or anything or to preach any particular political view, but it’s talking about kind of the current psychology of modern-day America.
And the fact that we now, it’s funny that I’m using the expression “the fact that” because the world today has really, we’ve gone to kind of a post-factual era where facts mean less, and less and personal opinions and ideas and intuitions have come to replace facts. And it’s like, well, expert opinion doesn’t matter anymore because, you know, I think so and so. And, you know, those opinions may not be grounded in anything other than a spur of the moment thought and no kind of expertise or knowledge or anything. But we have this attitude, I think especially in America, of feeling like our personal opinions are equally valid to any sort of knowledge or expertise or science or anything like that. And I think this sort of attitude has now permeated the health sphere as well.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know I’ve heard it said that we’re all entitled to our own opinions, but we’re not entitled to our own facts. In the health sphere, you know, the article discussed certainly a lot of relevance to politics. But, you know, economics, there are various disciplines in which people can get very biased on beliefs or ideas. But I think, and no one’s really talked about in this way, but I think in the health sphere, it’s even just the biggest danger. Because the beliefs and ideas, it’s not just that they’re there and we can inhabit them, and we can filter the world to fit them. I mean there’s that. But in the health sphere, there’s one more level in that, those beliefs in the ideas, they actually shape our physiology. And you can have an idea and that can actually create a cure or create an illness. So, they’re completely self-fulfilling.
What is the placebo and nocebo effects?
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And, yeah, like what you were telling me the other day, which was a huge aha moment for me, was kind of this, the whole placebo and nocebo phenomenon and how that kind of layers onto this current state of kind of the post factual, post-truth era. Where now, you know, it’s, when it comes to health, it’s almost amplified even more beyond politics or economics or any sorts of discussions in those realms because now we have not only my truth is equally as good as everybody else’s truth. But because of the placebo effect, because, we may do a diet that, you know, we heard about and we really believe in, and then the placebo effect now enhances the effectiveness of that diet and our experience of that diet.
Now we believe even more that, you know, that’s the real secret. That’s the one true best way to eat. And everybody else is wrong and everybody else is an idiot. And this is, you know, the one best way. Or, on the other hand, you know, if we come to believe that certain foods are bad, whether gluten or dairy or lectins or whatever and now we have that kind of paradigm operating in our brains. And now when we eat those foods, it changes our experience of that and introduces a nocebo phenomenon, which for people who are not familiar with that term basically just means that a negative placebo effect where kind of it’s a placebo effect that creates harm. And so now we eat foods that could contain those things. And now we have, “Oh, I’m noticing more…” You know, we’re more attuned to our, like our gastrointestinal symptoms. And, “Uh, I feel like I’m a little more bloated than normal. I feel like I’m a little more gassy than normal. I’m having a little more pain. It must be the lectins are the gluten or whatever.” And so, it’s interesting how the placebo and nocebo effects layer onto this whole post-truth phenomenon.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, I thought about a crazy analogy. So not to get political, but so you know, it’s been getting warmer here on this planet as of late. And people have interpreted that to occur for different reasons or different levels of significance. But it’s been getting warmer. No one can really debate about that. But if you were to draw the analogy between how things work in the health space and how things work in the context of climate change, imagine that everyone denying climate change made the earth get colder and actually stopped the earth from being warm. That’s how an imaginative state in the case like that, you could never have any progress based upon science if everyone’s shared ideas shaped what was occurring. But it actually does happen to some extent in the health space.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s a beautiful way of thinking about it. You know there’s also this other thing you mentioned to me the other day, which is in biology when we’re talking about biology we’re talking about physiology. We’re talking about something that should very clearly and very obviously have a factual basis. This is not subjective to everyone’s opinion of how a cell works. You know, where each, everybody’s random opinion of, you know, I just grabbed some random person off the street who knows nothing about biology and say, “You know, how do you think a cell works and produces energy, and how do you think the glands of the body produce hormones and how do these regulate certain brain functions and so on?” And whatever his answer is, is not equally valid to somebody who’s been studying this for 20 years and has read tens of thousands of scientific studies. I mean, we should have a very clear kind of central hub of agreed-upon objective reality of how the body works.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, so you’re going to go on, I’m going to jump on a plane on Wednesday and go to Florida. And, you know, there could be some guy who’s like out on the street who’s got his own ideas about how the best way to fly a plane. That’s not the one that I want in the cockpit.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, exactly, absolutely. Yeah, and I think when you put things in those terms, even the most hardcore radical subjectivist immediately says, “Yeah, I also want somebody with expertise flying the plane that I’m going to be on.” So, yeah, maybe all opinions are not equally valid, and all skill sets are not equally valid. But, you know, in America we have this weird sort of anti-expertise sort of vibe where we’re distrustful of experts, we’re distrustful of science. And a lot of us immediately have a reaction to these things where we think, “Oh, you know, it’s big science. It must be corrupt.” And we just have this kind of general attitude of distrust. And I think a lot of this is because people just don’t necessarily understand how scientific, how science works and the fact that it’s mostly conducted by just regular people who are interested in conducting research. Not big corporations that have some vested agenda in proving particular outcomes. Of course, that does exist, but, you know, for the most part, there’s a lot of just regular people interested in doing certain research on various things to find out answers to help people.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, and a source of one’s paranoia in the health space, there can be some valid concerns. So, for example, you can think about like knowledge and wisdom. So, you can have incredible molecular knowledge on various mechanisms by which yeast extracts block an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase and you can really be accurate and meaningful and correct and find various ways by which that would work. But is that the smartest way to lower cholesterol? You know, what’s the actual wisdom there? So, we can go very far down knowledge paths and apply real good science, but not always having asked the best questions going into it. And that’s a way in which people have gotten some valid concerns and mistrust. But unfortunately, the cure for that is not subjective. It’s better science and better wisdom leading good science.
How to sort through subjective opinions and factual truths
Ari Whitten: Yeah. It’s more facts and then more ability to zoom out and say, “Okay, well this line of thinking and this line of kind of pursuing the facts has led to this, but maybe there’s another avenue that we can explore.” So how do we find our way around this? And specifically lets zero in on health specifically because this is way too difficult. We’re not going to solve all the world’s problems when it comes to politics in this whole post truth era on a big picture level. But I think when it comes to health, the fact that we do, or we should have this central hub of objective reality can ground us in some kind of consensual reality of how things work. And sort of an objective set of truths about what’s good for us or what is likely good for us and what is likely, not good for us and have some kind of way of reality testing all of the different contradicting claims that are out there. How do we do that?
Dr. Alan Christianson: I think it comes down to really just acknowledging a couple of key facts. And one of which is that we are poor judges of our experience in the short term. You know, we all have symptoms that ebb, and flow and some things are better and worse. And it’s hard to link exact causes and correlations to things that are occurring. Do we know that something triggered an event or just associated with it? So, I think having just some skepticism in our short term experience is one. And then part of it, too, is realizing that a lot of things that matter to us are things that we could never evaluate in our personal experience. You know, is diet “A” apt to make me live longer than diet “B”? I can try that once. I can’t answer that question. So, we’ve got to realize that the limitations of our own day-to-day experience. And then acknowledged that “Hey, facts matter, facts exist.” And I think we can go deep in this one, and facts exist within a certain hierarchy. So, there are ways by which, when they conflict, there are ways to say which ones are more meaningful than others.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And, yeah, I’m glad you brought that up because with today’s body of evidence on so many different subjects. And you know, we talked a bit about this in the first Podcast. But it’s always possible to find one or two studies supporting or contradicting just about anything. So, the key really when you are looking for some kind of objective answer is that you can’t do that. You have to adhere to the rules of the game where you say there are no, there’s no cherry picking allowed in this game. And we all have to agree that we’re going to look at the entire body of evidence. Not say, “Oh well, you know, those five studies don’t work with my preconceived notions, so I’m just going to ignore those.” And then write a book with only, you know, these other three studies, right? So, we all, it comes down to I think health experts having the agreement to play by the same rules of saying “We’re all going to look at the overall body of evidence and not cherry pick.” And also, to look at this hierarchy of evidence and say, “Okay, well, how can we grade these different studies? These ones are kind of low levels of evidence. These are higher levels of evidence. Here’s systematic reviews and reviews of the entire body of evidence and what did those conclude.” And basically, put all the pieces together in a non-cherry picked way and then figure out, “Okay, is there something to this or is there not?”
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, and that’s awesome. The cherry picking, the idea of selecting some data and ignoring other data. Thankfully you mentioned about how there are reviews and meta-analysis that actually weeds through some of that. So, things are all put together. And it’s almost like, a good example of the cherry picking would be like say a batter could not count nine times out of 10 that he goes to bat. And suddenly now everyone looks like their batting average is like a superstar.
Ari Whitten: Exactly.
Dr. Alan Christianson: And the other big distinction that I think about, you know, I call it like facts and ideas. So, in the medical literature, there are some things which are actually the results from studies. Like, “Hey, let’s see what happens if a bunch of people do this thing and what’s the actual outcome.” Now, a lot of the rest of the literature is more so really ideas. It’s things that we saw from test tube studies, from animal studies or even just frank hypothesis, just things that experts sat down and said, “Hey, I think this would happen.” And so often when we see concepts that seem to be dissonant like we can talk about specifics, but like say someone can claim saturated fat will make your brain healthier. Well, that’s based upon some ideas. It’s based on some hypothesis and some models of the way they think the world works. And it’s so common that you can make… You talked about how you can find data to support anything. It’s even easier to make up ideas that support anything. Even without data. And somewhere along the way you’ve got to say that, “Hey, look. Ideas shouldn’t go away but they should be seen in perspective.” And if they’re really good ideas, those are good things to do studies on and see if they do pan out or not. But until they’ve actually had studies done on them, they’re not things that we would act there. They’re just curiosities until then.
Saturated fat and brain health
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Well said. So, with all of that in mind, let’s get into some of the nitty-gritty. And, you know, I actually asked my audience. I told them that we were going to be doing this Podcast and said, “What, you know, things that you’ve heard out there are things that you’d like us to address in this Podcast? What sort of ideas are out there that you’re unsure about? Are they, do they have evidence to support them? Do they not?” And so, I’ve a list here from the members of my Energy Blueprint Program that I asked this question to. Yeah.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Can I choose one to start on because I’ve got some topic in mind?
Ari Whitten: Please. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I just want to preface by saying to anyone, if we cover anything that you happen to believe in, and, you know, what we’re saying is there’s not really much evidence to support that, please don’t be offended. This is not personal. We’re just trying to take a critical evidence-based lens to all the different things that are out there. And, you know, if something works for you despite the fact that we’re saying that it doesn’t have any evidence and you love it and you found it really beneficial, by all means, carry on. We’re not trying to remove that from you. But just a little preface. Don’t take any of this personal. We’re just trying to give the best evidence-based recommendations here.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. So, one thing I just mentioned briefly, and I thought of a really good analogy for, is the whole idea about how saturated fat affects brain aging. And there’s, the idea is that your brain, the cells, they do use saturated fats for repair and for rebuilding their structure. So, one could make a very plausible argument that if the brain uses these things then more of these things must be good for the brain. And, therefore, diets that are ketogenic, diets that are very high in saturated fats, you would think they would supply a lot of building blocks for it. Now the thing that’s always been curious is almost everyone in this space now identifies the fact that certain people, that’s especially a bad idea for. So, we’ve got a gene variation called the APOE variation. There’re people that have an APOE4 genotype, the 3/4 or the 4/4, in which their brains cannot process fats very effectively. And these are the people that get Alzheimer’s. So those that have the 4/4 variation, I’ve seen numbers vary. It may be 20 to 60 times the risk for Alzheimer’s, but it’s big. And those with the 3/4 variation, it may be about like two to six times the risk, but it’s also much more risk. So, these are the people that get premature brain aging. And even a lot of the strongly saturated fat keto experts are now qualifying their statements to say that it may not be a good idea to do this if you’ve got that gene variation. And it struck me as odd. So, it’s one thing to say it may be a bad idea for some, but it’s good for everyone else. So, let’s think of an analogy. Let’s say that the track team just hired a new coach. And this coach hasn’t done a lot of coaching before, but this person has some ideas and this person has read a few science books. And this person read about the concept of inertia and thought, “Wow, if a runner had more inertia, you would think they could go faster for longer. It’s going to keep them going, right? “So, he tries this out and he gets like a 50-pound backpack and he puts it on some of the runners. It happens to be some of the slower, newer runners and they try 100-yard dashes and some of them barely finish. And so, the conclusion is, well, this extra weight, this backpack may be a bad thing for the slow runners, but it’s probably still going to be good for everyone else. And so that’s almost the kind of logic behind the concerns about saturated fat with the APOE genotype. You know, someone’s prone to get this type of brain damage because they can’t process fats, well, maybe the extra fat is bad for them because they’re vulnerable. But everyone else is going to work, make them actually work better.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And I know that you had a discussion recently with a diet book author on the subject of brain health. And there were some claims made in that book that you found particularly spacious and that was not in line with the evidence. And, I know, well, I’ll let you, it’s better if you tell the story here on kind of just how this conversation took place because I found it fascinating.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah. I was so, so curious. And so those that had this gene variation. Some of the studies have said, let’s look at these people separately, but most studies that have looked at dietary patterns and then brain aging have not made that distinction. And they’ve just seen population-wide effects. And there’s now been 12 pretty good studies done to date on the question of how the saturated fats affect brain aging. And this is one of those things I’d like to pass on to our listeners that you can’t answer by yourself in the short term. We have no way of knowing for sure how this will affect you based on how you feel today or tomorrow. This is only a question you can answer over the course of decades. So that’s a beautiful thing about research is that they’ve already done this. They’ve already looked at thousands of people and looked at their patterns and seen what has happened. So…
Ari Whitten: And if the answer is a bad one, then you’re pretty much out of luck at that point because you have been doing it for decades.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Right. So, if you were a participant in the study and you contributed to that data, you can help the rest of us, but we can benefit from knowing that now. Yeah, of those 12 studies, one of the 12 saw no big patterns either way. But 11 of the 12, and sorry I should say, saw no patterns in the sense of early cognitive decline. But all the 12 studies saw strong associations with Alzheimer’s disease and other versions of age-related cognitive decline. So, it’s been studied, and the answer has been found already. And many have thought, “Well perhaps if they looked at how coconut oil would work differently or maybe if it was like grass-fed something.” Maybe, who knows. We don’t know that yet. But the speculation doesn’t really trump the evidence in cases like that.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And to make this even clearer, this particular diet book author was recommending, you know, the consumption of high levels of saturated fat as being beneficial for brain health as if it was already proven. Basically, what you said to him is like, “Here are the 12 studies that have been conducted on the subject. One doesn’t show any effect either way. Eleven show that… 11 contradict your claim. Like what’s the deal here? Like how are you saying this?” So, this is unfortunate that these claims are just so common even among our peers and people with impressive credentials. And there seems to be this weird, you know, as you put it, I think a greater allegiance to kind of trends and to other people in the space and what they’re promoting rather than to the actual evidence.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well and it makes me nuts because you know, these are… I don’t know, if it was something about if it was like fashion blogging or something I wouldn’t care. I don’t care where the hemlines go or the color or whatnot or… But this stuff really matters. And, again you can’t know how it will play out for you in the short term. So, these decisions are just huge. We only have one shot at it, and we’ve got to get it right.
The science on food intolerance testing
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So, I know we have a lot of topics to cover here. We probably won’t get to all of them, but let’s try and get to the next one, food intolerance testing. And I would love if you could tell your little spiel on all the different split testing that you’ve done on this because I think people will find it fascinating and it will save many people many hundreds of dollars.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, there’s a couple way you can evaluate the utility and the meaningfulness of medical tests. And some of the ways in which you evaluate their clinical relevance as to whether they really work and they’re really helpful. They can get complicated, but one of the first steps you can do is just see how reproducible the data is. You know, for example, if we took a tube of your, two tubes of your blood and you wrote Alan Christianson on one tube and Ari Whitten on one tube. You know, you and I should get the same results if it was really all from Ari Whitten.
Ari Whitten: You would think.
Dr. Alan Christianson: So, in my earliest days of practice, the consortium that I worked under, they also owned a medical testing laboratory. And I saw firsthand the technology of food allergy testing. You’ve seen like Bingo cards. Imagine like a Bingo card and each slot has a small vial. And each vial has some proteins from food. So, the person’s white blood cells are isolated from a blood draw and microscopic amounts are added to each vial. They’re mixed and then a laser light is shined through there. Now the idea is that if you, if your immune cells mix with something that you would react to, they clump up and they clot. If anyone has ever done like a blood type test as a science kit, you can easily mix incompatible blood types and it makes this big clotted mess right away. That’s an extreme reaction. So, when you shine light through that whole vial, if it’s all clotted, the light is broken. The light gets scattered and there’s a lot of gaps where the big clots stop light. But if it’s a smooth mixture like a Kool-Aid type mixture, the light gets spread out evenly. And so, you can quantify how even or how broken that light is to say how much coagulation occurred.
So that’s the basic science behind it. Now the drawback is the accuracy of measurement for the quantity of the white cells. And also, how the white cells are handled in the hours before coming to the lab completely change that outcome, like just night or day. And I saw that firsthand and it’s left me with a healthy skepticism. So, as I got going with that lab, very first one, I would just do a lot of split samples with them. I had my blood taken and tested many times and I had, you know, eight different reports from eight different tests that did not sync up. So, when that lab folded and I left that consortium and I started practicing on my own, I wanted to make sense about if there were issues someone had with a particular food, but I knew that there were some pitfalls with that. So, I analyzed probably a dozen and a half labs over the years with that simple thing. Just checking the same person’s blood two different times under different names. And it made me realize that wow, most people that had food allergy tests done, they’re acting on data that is randomly generated, sadly.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And not only are the results not reliable from one test to another with the same blood from the same individual. But, you know, there’s also quite a bit of science basically bringing in the whole IgG food testing into question as to, even if you were to get the same tests from two vials of your own blood, there’s still a question of whether those results actually mean that you are in fact intolerant to those foods.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well then that’s the clinical relevance layer of it. And yeah, and that’s a valid question. But if the data is just completely random, it’s… But that’s a good question. There is a lot of data questioning the relevance of that. As to whether or not, there have been studies looking at whether or not you can find reproducible symptoms if someone is consuming a diet, not knowing whether or not it has certain foods.
Ari Whitten: Now I’m curious, on a practical level, what have you found is actually useful for identifying food intolerances?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, and so just another thing to talk about. There’s the idea of doing an elimination/reintroduction diet, too. Many talks about that as a gold standard. And I like the, I don’t know, the idea behind it seems sound. I mean it’s your own body and your own reaction. But the difficulty is it’s not a real world experiment and here’s why. If you make your diet as narrow as some of the more stringent guidelines encourage, you’re pretty much down to like lamb and rice. Maybe, apples and tea. But there’s not a lot of food you’re eating.
Ari Whitten: By the way, on that note, I’ve actually seen people get a food intolerance test results that show that they’re allergic to lamb.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, almost a joke. Of tests that may be more accurate, pork is one of the rarest allergens. So yeah, if you do a very restrictive diet for a couple of weeks to let all these reactions calm down, and then add foods back in one at a time, a couple things go on. One of which is that your flora has changed. And also, the secretion of your stomach acids, your pancreatic enzymes, those have also adapted. And so, this food you’ve not eaten, it may affect you not because it’s an incompatible food, but just because you’re not used to it.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I mean it’s the case for like anybody who goes from a meat-heavy processed food diet, if they incorporate, for example, large amounts of unrefined plant foods and large amounts of veggies, they’re going to have bloating, they’re going to have gas, they’re going to have gastrointestinal pain for a period of time. And that could potentially be interpreted as, “Wow, I must have, I must be intolerant to these foods.” When all that’s really going on is kind of a mismatch between the food that’s being consumed with the current flora in the gut.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, we’re omnivores. And the beautiful thing about that is there’s almost nothing that we could have removed from our diet, provided we had adequate amounts of food, that we couldn’t keep on going. You know, there’s almost no limitation of a diet by which we could still run around and pop out babies and not get killed for a few years, you know. But we really thrive having the biggest range of food diversity. And so, the pitfalls of that is that you can do some kind of restrictive diet and see no obvious harmful effects. But your body adjusts to that. And if you change your diet radically, that itself causes symptoms. And I’ve seen just really some tragic stories of people who have gotten their diets narrower and narrower. And to some extent, there can be psychological changes of fear and there can be nocebo effects. And there can be purely physiological reasons by which it’s harder to digest food with fewer foods you eat. And actually, people get painted it into these very small corners of just like almost no foods they tolerate.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And so, the solution is mainly around reincorporation of those foods in small amounts to help adjust the gut flora while also kind of reconditioning the mind to not be so fearful of all these different foods.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, you know, and the irony is that as far as the effects go upon the gut flora, not all food categories are created equally. And we’re in, you know, the worst carb phobic phase. And that’s all your flora lives off of is carbohydrate derivative. So, the more devoid your gut is of that, the less butyrate you produce and the more apt you are to develop legitimate problems and limitations with your gut barrier and your gut’s ability to break down macromolecules and assimilate micronutrients.
Separating science from myth on gluten
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And that’s actually a beautiful segue to the next set of questions that I have. There was a recent, I guess you could call it a literature review that was published in November 2017 trying to make sense of all the recent studies around non-celiac gluten intolerance and wheat tolerance. And so why are these reactions to gluten and wheat becoming so widespread even in people who are, who don’t have celiac disease? And there’s been a few studies that are somewhat conflicting in recent years and some are, you know, have said, “Oh, it’s the FODMAPs that are causing these reactions.” And there’s been a number of kind of relevant studies to this. And what this study was saying, the one that just was published, was it was basically trying to make sense of all these findings that have come out.
And essentially what they said is that there’s, the first step in what happens is that there’s an underlying gut dysbiosis that happens and a deficiency in butyrate producing bacteria. And this butyric acid or butyrate is a compound that’s extremely healing to the gut lining and is protective to it. And so, when you have dysbiosis, an imbalance of good to bad bacteria, that leads to less butyrate being present to help keep the gut healthy. It leads to this kind of susceptibility where then other foods start to be reactive. And its wheat and various compounds in grains, gluten, and other compounds as well as, you know, I think it’s maybe reasonable to speculate that maybe lectins. Maybe the reason why so many people seem to be reacting negatively to lectins, if they’re true reactions rather than just nocebo effects, may also be because of that sort of dysbiosis leading to poor gut lining function. And then the gut becomes reactive to all these things. In which case it’s not so much that these foods are inherently harmful, but that dysbiosis and poor gut barrier health is kind of the underlying thing that’s actually the problem.
Dr. Alan Christianson: And our main dietary sources of butyrate are carbohydrate foods, especially legumes and potatoes and tubers. And so, in the absence of those foods, we set the stage in making the intestinal tract less able to process grains and other related carbohydrates.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And resistant starch in particular.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Another analogy you can think about is like astronauts. There is so little stimulation of their bones due to gravity, their bones just begin to atrophy. And the gut is the same way. If your body’s not using some facet of it, you’ll lose that.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, with that in mind, you know, I just introduced the possibility that this could… And really this is, what I just said is very speculative. This is not like grounded and really strong evidence. But it’s some, I think fairly reasonable attempt to explain why there seem to be more people claiming negative reactions to these types of foods. But with that in mind, I would love if you could kind of just do an outline of the actual evidence around, I guess we could start with grain consumption and then go to lectins.
Dr. Alan Christianson: As far as those things causing various harms?
Ari Whitten: As far as like, well, we have claims around these in lots of popular diet books now, “Wheat Belly,” “Grain Brain.” There are Dr. Gundry’s books recently villainizing lectins. What I’m getting at is does the evidence actually support those claims that these, that gluten and grains and lectins are the central dietary villains?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, so, you know, different things. Gluten itself, one of my biggest focuses has been thyroid disease. And many take it as a given that gluten is the cause of all things thyroid disease. And it’s very easy to go onto PubMed or into Google Scholar and do a search on gluten and thyroid. And there’s really only a handful of studies. And what they’ve shown in those studies is that there’s a slight rate of comorbidity between celiac and autoimmune thyroid disease.
Comorbidities just mean if you’re sick in this way, you’re a little more apt to get sick in that way. And the overlap is such to where if someone does have known thyroid disease, their risk of celiac is about three to five percent rather than about one percent. So, they’ve done studies as to whether or not gluten triggers thyroid disease in those that have celiac and it’s, it does not.
So, if someone has celiac disease and they avoid gluten or they do not, that has no bearing on their risk of lapsing into thyroid disease. And they’ve even done studies as to whether or not people with celiac disease, if they’re compliant or not in their diet if that changes their absorption of thyroid medication. It doesn’t even seem to do that. So that’s about the sum total of research on the link between gluten and thyroid disease.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I mean, just to emphasize that a little bit more, a couple things. One is those percentages. If it were the case that gluten is a significant causal factor, those percentages would be massive. Instead of the difference between one percent to three or five percent, it would be the difference between one percent versus say 50 percent or 80 percent.
Dr. Alan Christianson: That can still exist without there being a correlation. There can still be comorbidity without there being causative correlation.
Ari Whitten: Right.
Dr. Alan Christianson: But they’ve looked at, they’ve tried to separate that out by seeing of the populations of celiac that are well controlled on diet versus those that are not, you know, what are the rates of progression to thyroid disease in those, how does it differ in those populations? And it does not. So, it seems that the rate to which people with celiac disease develop thyroid disease is independent of how compliant they are. So basically, gluten is not causing it. There’s some underlying mechanism behind both autoimmune thyroid disease and celiac disease.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And yeah, I think in addition to that, I mean there’s just a, there’s a huge gap between kind of the popular claims around this being such a significant factor. And when you go to the actual evidence, there’s hardly anything there. There’s hardly anything that has even tested it, let alone kind of proven any sort of link.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, and here’s the tough thing because you and I have some dear friends who are, who do a lot of work in these spaces. And some have talked to large numbers of their readers and followers and gotten data from them on what seems to work and what does not seem to work. And it sounds like a very noble direction to take and it completely makes sense and it sounds very heart-centered. But the drawback is if you have some data that’s… I mentioned before about how it’s so hard to be accurately aware of our own symptoms and exactly what is affecting us on a daily basis and not have that be affected by biases or any other number of errors. So, if you take that individual difficulty and you take, let’s say you take data and… I’ll make this up.
So, you have like data that’s like rock solid at 10 or data that’s really shaky at one. And let’s say that my take on my day to day symptoms, that’s around a three. You know, put it out there that I’m sure I’m not clueless, but at the same time it’s not perfectly validated, so say it’s a three. Now let’s say that I had like a thousand clones and we all got together. It’s still a three. That didn’t change the equation and it’s not better. You don’t have a stronger link or a stronger chain by putting a thousand links that are all week. It’s still that weakest link that it comes down to. So that’s a pitfall. And those types of trends as far as like a lot of people saying, “Hey, this works for me.” You could see how that could certainly be swayed by the fads and the fashion of infotainment in the nutrition space.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So, yourself, as a thyroid expert, in your patients, that you’ve treated for, how many decades now have you been in practice? Twenty years or something?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Coming up on 22 years.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. What have you found as far as grains and gluten?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, just not big factors either way. And that’s, the literature suggests that it’s not a real strong correlation. Now I certainly do encourage screening for celiac. And I’ve picked up scores of people over the years that had undiagnosed celiac disease. And the testing is not perfect. So, there are those to where I actually screen annually. And there are those where they’ve been negative before and then it does show up. And if you confirm that, that’s valid and you can completely change their long term risk for colorectal cancer and other problems. But some have argued, too, well, if that’s there why shouldn’t everyone just avoid gluten? And a drawback is we’re seeing some data play out on those that have avoided gluten and we’re seeing some negative health outcomes for the populations.
How whole grains impact our health
Ari Whitten: Interesting. So, what about grains more broadly?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Grains more broadly. You know, I was just looking at a few papers before we got on this interview. The data about whole grains, their impact upon health, is one of the most solid things that we have in medicine. Populations that consume more whole grain consistently have lower rates of almost every cancer. This is a funny thing, but I stumbled across this because someone sent out a link saying that whole grains cause thyroid cancer. And I said, “Whoa, hold on.” So, I had to follow the reference and I found the actual reference and read the whole article. And what the article actually said was that they showed that whole grains lowered the risk of about 12 different cancer types. But there was no discernible effect upon thyroid cancer risk. And in fact, the way in which it influenced thyroid cancer was it seemed better on a higher dose of whole grain than a medium dose. So, if it was making it worse, it should have been worse on a higher, there should have been some linear relationship. But there was not. And they said there was, they were not saying it made thyroid cancer worse. They were just saying that was the one kind of cancer they saw no clear effect for in this study.
Ari Whitten: But it did positively affect several other types.
Dr. Alan Christianson: It did positively affect every other type studied. And there was like a dozen, it was like a lot. It was mostly solid and non-solid cancers.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And as you said at the beginning of this, it’s easier not just to cherry pick the literature, but just to make up your own idea about what the literature says and cite a study that doesn’t even say what you’re claiming it says.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Right. Or it says 50 other things and like one little sentence out of context.
Ari Whitten: Right. So, what about… And by the way, I mean this is another area where it’s just, the gap between kind of popular claims and what the actual literature says is remarkable. I mean, for anybody who doubts this just go on PubMed right now and type in “whole grains.” And, to be clear, we’re talking about whole grain consumption, not refined grain consumption. There’s definitely negative data around the consumption of refined grain products.
Dr. Alan Christianson: I’m sorry, there’s one more thing I should have mentioned. So, the other big dogma is that grains are the cause of autoimmunity. And you can search that as well. So, rates of autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. They are much lower in populations that consume more whole grain than less. And we also see this in terms of diabetes and “Whole grains spike, blood sugar.” Well, then why do people have less diabetes and less visceral fat and heart disease and pretty much everything significant. Oh, and also brain function. So that’s also been studied by a fair amount of literature and the same correlations. We see better brain longevity and lower rates of brain aging.
The science on lectins – are lectins bad for you?
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So, what about lectins? Lectins are kind of the latest dietary devil that’s been popularized mainly by Dr. Gundry. And I know that there are a number of very fervent kind of believers in this idea that lectins really are an extremely harmful thing in our diet and are killing us and causing all sorts of problems. What does the evidence actually say about lectins? Has Dr. Gundry represented the literature accurately on that one?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, no. Sadly not. So, lectins are glycoproteins. They’re protein-sugar moieties, or combinations, that are used for cell recognition. Here’s how I think about that. So, you know, the pirate ship has the Jolly Rogers flag, right? The skull and crossbones. So, ships have these flags to know who’s who and who’s doing what and who’s in what condition. So those little flags on the ship, that’s all lectins are in the microscopic world. That’s how you know good guys, bad guys, friends, foe, if a cell is healthy or not. It’s which flag they have got up. And lectins are really just that. They are glycoproteins that go from cell membranes and allow surface recognition. That’s all they do. And as such, it’s no more you could say that you know, flags cause ship damaged. You could say, well sure, this ship that has a Jolly Rogers flag.
Maybe that’s a bad thing to be going by, unprotected with a lot of valuables on board. But the flags are not dangerous. And lectins are the exact same thing on a molecular level. They’re just flags, they are surface markers. And if someone has an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, tragically peanuts could be dangerous for them and it’s peanut lectin that can cause that. But that’s the flag. That’s not an inherent problem for peanut. So, one trend that has happened a lot, too, amongst many of the health experts is that they’ll find things that are legitimate in a narrow context and then try to conflate that to a general phenomenon that’s relevant in all circumstances. So, all lectins, all people. So, about the only, besides the peanut reaction, there are kidney beans, one of the other that have the most data in the literature. And kidney beans, if they’re cooked at low temperatures or uncooked, they have lectins that can cause agglutination reactions. And they can cause, you could theoretically die from large enough quantities. More likely you’d puke and have enough diarrhea to get it out. But there is legitimate harm from that. But again, that’s a flag on a ship. That’s not an inherent problem with the flag.
Ari Whitten: And that’s, yeah, and that’s eating kidney beans that have not been cooked thoroughly.
Dr. Alan Christianson: And the paradox is that these same glycoproteins in different formats are probably things that are beneficial towards us. You know, the odd thing that I love that you talked about a fair amount is that the things that help us in plants, we’ve got some things that are building blocks and some things that are cofactors. And you got the macronutrients, proteins, fats, and carbs. We’ve got the various micronutrients. But putting those aside, there’s a lot of other things in plants that seem to be really good for us and do a lot of really good things. And all those things in that category are not good for us because they’re warm and fuzzy. They are good for us because they’re flipping toxic. Just little tiny amounts of them make us stronger and healthier. And yet…
Ari Whitten: On that note, sorry to interrupt. There was a comment that I read on Robin’s recent article, the one that was on keto. And somebody wrote a comment that was talking about, she said, she was, it was a negative comment about the article saying, you know, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Keto is amazing. And, you know, plus plants have all these compounds in them that are toxic like phenols and like oxalates and phytates, phytic acid. And, maybe she mentioned one other, oh lectins and maybe one other thing. But I don’t get into Internet arguments these days. I don’t spend time on that these days. But I was very tempted to post all of the literature talking about, you know, kind of on here’s the literature showing that phytic acid is actually protective of many different kinds of cancer. And that phenols, in particular, are like responsible for hugely beneficial effects on health. And there is a mountain of science…
Dr. Alan Christianson: Quercetin, resveratrol, you know…
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and there is just a mountain of science showing that these compounds in plants are massively beneficial to human health. And yet it is possible to distort things in a way where you say, “Oh, these are toxins.” And you label them with that word. And so now you have people going around thinking that these are bad and need to be avoided when they don’t realize that yes, they are toxins, but the human body is designed to metabolize and process those toxins in a way that is actually beneficial to our health and makes us stronger, more resilient, more energetic, and helps us resist disease and live long.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, it’s really a disconnect between biology and psychology. The biology is just straightforward, but psychologically we are much more apt to be motivated upon negative fear messaging. This bad thing. I thought this plate of food is okay, but there is some poisonous thing that snuck in there. That stuff goes viral and that can lend itself to simple sound bites and simple messaging.
What science says about homeopathy
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So, another one, perhaps a controversial one, homeopathy, I would love to get your thoughts on this because I still see a lot of people out there talking about homeopathic remedies. And I know that you in your education kind of received some education around this. And, yeah, without any further drama, you take it from here.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, it’s a tough thing. And I’m a naturopathic medical doctor. And there’s a beautiful lineage that I’m a part of that goes back hundreds of years. You know, we’ve talked for a long time about how a simple wholesome diet, having healthy relationships, fresh air, mobility, exercise, how these are the real cures. And that’s a beautiful lineage that I am really proud of. There have been a few things that are baggage that got stuck along the way that we’re due to letting go of. That’s one of them. So, homeopathy, and it’s funny because we were talking about before with toxins, you’ve written about hormesis. And many conflate those concepts. And they really don’t belong together. So, homeopathy, “homeo,” similar, and “pathos,” or suffering. So, the idea is that a tiny bit of something that could cause a symptom could stop the symptom.
So, in theory, a micro-dose of coffee could make you go to sleep is the logic behind that. And what happens is that the method by which these remedies become made and diluted takes it so extreme that the likelihood of having one molecule remaining is literally like the odds of winning the lottery. So, you’ve really got nothing there. There’s nothing physically left. And some apologetics will talk about how there’s still some resonance or some vibration. I’m not sure what. But just think about it this way. There’s a lot of things we did develop and take on around the 1800s like homeopathy. Like electricity is an example of that. And there are some things we can still sort out on exactly how electrons are conducted and how they work. But there’s no debate as to whether or not electricity works anymore. You know, we’re not having that discussion any longer. But homeopathy, that’s still being debated. I think that alone is pretty revealing.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and it’s also revealing that even the studies that are still testing this in the last 10 years have a lot of trouble discerning whether there is any effect beyond placebo.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well and that’s the thing is that we so commonly devalue the real power of a placebo effect. Like how much it can actually do and how many people it can actually help. You know, I’ve seen studies in which there have been 70 percent responses in many digestive issues. Now the funny thing is there’s a category of recurrent chronic symptoms that many of us have on a day to day basis. We can think about pains that might vary in location. Back pain is actually a real big one. Certain allergic symptoms, certain digestive symptoms, mood changes, anxiety, sleep disturbances, fatigue patterns. These are symptoms that we can have that can come and go. Those particular ones are incredibly susceptible to placebic and nosebic effects. Like the golf bands, for example, a classic example of that. It works for certain types of pain. But there are other conditions…
Ari Whitten: What are they, “golf” bands? Is that what you said?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, like the sports bands, like the ion bracelets…
Ari Whitten: Oh, the ion bracelets and I’ve seen ones with like little holograms in them that are supposed to do things. Whenever I hear people invoking quantum physics to explain how their product works. I mean I’ve, I know you have too, but I’ve actually read a lot of books and taken courses in the university on quantum physics. And I find that almost everyone who I’ve encountered who invokes quantum physics to explain how their method works doesn’t actually understand anything about quantum physics. Or they just, you know, because there are things going on in quantum physics that are kind of spooky and weird, they say, “Well, my product works because it’s spooky and weird. And so, there are spooky and weird effects going on and quantum physics has things that are spooky and weird. Therefore, it works by quantum physics.”
Dr. Alan Christianson: I’ve not taken those courses. So, homeopathy, back to homeopathy, I’ll answer that one out. The things that it works on are the things that are highly amenable to placebic effects. If it did work in a clear way, we would see things like reversals of amputations or whatnot. And that’s not happened.
Dr. Christianson’s experience with muscle testing
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Very, very, very interesting. So where should we go next? I have a good one for you. Muscle testing. How do you feel about muscle testing and what’s your take on the evidence? I actually did a review of all the evidence I could find recently because someone asked recently about it. So, I wanted to actually see if it’s been tested and review it. But I’m curious what your experience with it is.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You should talk about your search in the literature. I’ll talk about my personal experience.
Ari Whitten: Okay.
Dr. Alan Christianson: So also, something that was part of my training, there was a gentleman who is considered one of the top national experts. And not even national, he trained international on various techniques. And for listeners who may not have heard, the idea is that if something is like an object, here’s some Chapstick. If this Chapstick is good for me and it’s held in my field and you were to be here pushing down on my arm, I should have normal strength to resist you. But if this were something poisonous and bad for me, you would put a slight push and I would just collapse. I would have a weak muscle because this thing somehow made my energetic field disturbed and broken or something. So, we’re being taught this, and many were talking about disbanding with doing medical testing with blood and urine because you can just find out with these methods. And some would talk about having the operator even just simply hold the thought of which body part or which remedy or what was the diagnosis going through this testing.
And I proposed a simple study we could do right there in the classroom. A week or so before then we had many students who were sickened by a cleaning product that was used in large quantities in one part of the school. And it was hexane. It was some toxic stuff and it was like all over. People got headaches from it. And so, what I proposed was, we had a medicine area joining the classroom. And so, I got all these amber vials that were used for tinctures. And I think I got like 20 of them. And one of them had hexane. And I did my best to seal it tight, clean it off so you couldn’t smell it and the others were just water. And the tester who was teaching us the muscle testing, he agreed that yes, water should have a neutral effect and hexane should have a negative effect.
It should show that was a bad reaction. Hexane is not good for anyone. So, we had all these vials and I had them just numbered and I had them randomly numbered and there was a code which none of us were aware of. I had someone else help out and write the code for what was what. And then they left the room. And so, the practitioner then proceeded to have himself and a few others who did muscle testing, just take people and do a line of each vial. So, each person held each vial and got tested. And we did about, I think four testers and about 10 participants, and then every vial for everyone. So, we had this huge dry erase board covered with all the numbers of yes, no, yes, no. All the data on this. And to cut to the chase, he did worse than random chance at identifying what was the hexane and what was the water.
Ari Whitten: Wow. That’s awesome. I love that experiment. There has been a number of, to my surprise actually, there’s been a number of studies over the last 20, 30 years on this subject. Not that many, which I think in itself tells you a lot. I could only find, I think about, I want to say nine or 10, something like that, you know, over the course of 30 years, not very much. Which, I think to put this in different terms if it were actually true that it was possible to test people this way and find, let’s say food intolerances, which is a common thing that people who do muscle testing will test for. Or the kind of thing that you’re talking about is something bad for you, you can test for it that way. If it were possible to test in that way, this would be an extremely widespread method of testing and there would be a massive amount of studies on it.
It would be a pretty amazing thing. And there would certainly be studies that you could find that validate it. There’s a number of really well-controlled studies. And oftentimes they take muscle testers with 10 plus years of experience, so they’re taking very experienced people. And they almost, I think all of them except for one, showed that it was totally invalid. And, you know, just to mention a few examples here. One study compared the results of muscle testing from three different practitioners who each had 10 years of experience. It showed they agreed on when some muscles were tested and disagreed when others were tested. There’s one where they were testing for nutrient deficiencies. Their conclusion was, “The results of this study indicated that the use of muscle testing, applied kinesiology, to evaluate nutrient status is no more useful than random guessing.”
There was another one with dentists who were saying that they could identify dental materials that a patient was intolerant to. They showed that the dentist did not accurately identify which materials were in a patient’s mouth or which ones they were intolerant to. There was one particularly interesting one where they took a group of people who were diagnosed officially with an allergy to, like an anaphylactic allergy to wasp venom. And then they took vials of wasp venom, and then vials of placebos, kind of similar to what you did. And asked if the muscle testers could simply identify based on muscle testing these patients with clinically diagnosed wasp venom allergies, which vials are the placebo, and which are the ones with the wasp venom. And they found that they could not identify which ones had wasp venom.
And then a number of other studies found that there, basically, it’s no more useful than random guessing. So, what’s really interesting about this to me, I’ve actually, I know a number of people who do muscle testing. I’ve had it done on me since I was actually very young. And I’ve had, I know a number of people who do this, and I’ve had them make really all sorts of wild claims about what they can actually diagnose. I mean way beyond just saying, “Is this poisonous or toxic to you?” But even things that go so far as to say, “I can muscle test you to find out about your past life karma or, you know, your energy meridians or what particular sound frequencies will be healing to you.” And, you know, muscle test, “Is it 523 hertz? No, 524 hertz, no, 528 hertz”
Dr. Alan Christianson: Oooh, that’s the one.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and you know, things like that. So, but what’s remarkable about this to me is I’ve had people do muscle testing on me in a way that, especially when I was young, seemed really miraculous. And seemed almost as if they were psychic and there’s no possible way, they could know these things without any sort of psychic powers. So, the experience of it can be very, very impressive and can appear like this amazing technology.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, a couple of answers to that is not to discount the fact that they may have a fair amount of experience with people. And they may have some good intuitions and some good judgements and good hunches. And I’m not even questioning their own beliefs or motives. They may believe what they’re doing. But there certainly are ways by which subconsciously, their judgments and their perceptions may be influencing the exact amount of force they’re using. And the other factor, too, is that oftentimes they’re choosing between, they often do it in ways where they’re choosing between like different supplements or different foods. And the choices may all be equally helpful. You know, it can be that, “Should you have more broccoli or more cauliflower?” Well, you going to do okay either way. “Do you need 300 milligrams of vitamin C or 330?” Well, it might be useful in either capacity. So, there are a lot of ways by which it could perceive to be helpful, but really just benign choices or some level of valid judgment or hunches.
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. So, a couple more topics that I have, if you have time for it? I don’t want to…
Dr. Alan Christianson: Oh, I’m doing great.
Dr. Christianson’s take on functional medicine testing
Ari Whitten: Okay. One, I actually have a more general question. Do you feel there are, other than food intolerance testing, do you feel there are any other common tests within functional medicine that are just really inaccurate and not useful?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Boy, sadly almost all of them.
Ari Whitten: Oh, wow.
Dr. Alan Christianson: There are so many tests that had been proposed to measure various things. Even basic stuff like just nutrient status or whatnot. And they’re things that I would find very valuable clinically. But luckily, I had just enough skepticism to use split samples on many of these tests and there’s only a handful I actually do use and have found to be consistent. And yeah, there’s just the consistency and then there’s the clinical relevance. And putting both of those together there’s a small number that I’ve found useful and that I do use. But there’s so many that I can certainly see why they would be found to be appealing.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I mean it’s weird in the sense that there are so many tests out there that ostensibly they seem very scientific, very cutting edge. And yet when you dig a little deeper, you find that they’re not really reliable or…
Dr.Alan Christianson: There are some popular tests that can be reliable but are not clinically meaningful. So, a big one I’ll just mention right now is the random urine sample test. There’s a popular test that takes urine samples at different times of the day as an attempt to gauge the body’s circadian cycle relative to cortisol output. And many reasons by which urine and the timing of urine is not an accurate vehicle for that. Cortisol does show up in your urine, but in terms of the timeframe, it’s always lagging by about six to 10 hours after secretion. The other drawback is that you’re seeing conjugates of cortisol in the urine, some of which end up there and some of which go out the biliary route through your stool. And it’s not a consistent fraction. You can’t make a lot of inferences on cortisol output in the short term by the urinary levels and certainly not in that moment because it’s just so lagged. So that’s one example of a popular test that’s not accurate. It has survived the split test that I’ve done ‘but not clinically relevant.
Ari Whitten: Got you. What about a lot of the detox testing that goes on? And, I know there is still quite a bit of disagreement among practitioners about which methods are actually valid and which are not. And in the actual evidence, there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus there either. So, what’s your take on all that? I mean, there’s so many different methods of testing for heavy metals and various toxicants.
Dr. Alan Christianson: None are perfect. You know, I threw that out at the beginning. If you could somehow do an analysis of brain tissue, a nice big biopsy of brain, liver, and fat. That would probably be one of the perfect tests. But for a lot of reasons that’s not practical and not available. Hair tests are out. And there is… And some of these tests have merit at a population level. Meaning hair mercury, for example. If you check hair mercury for a thousand people, you may have a sense about what that population’s ingestion or excretion of mercury is. But down at the individual level, it can be so variable you can’t really have good diagnostic information on that. In the…Oh, go ahead.
Ari Whitten: Sorry. With regard to hair tissue mineral analysis, I’ve also seen so many differing opinions among people who are even advocates of this method of testing and who use it and who think it’s amazing. I’ve seen so many of those clinicians actually disagree with one another about the right way to interpret certain findings.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, they do a lot of detailed interpretations, not just on toxicants but upon macro minerals, electrolytes, and micro minerals. And the hair is just not a good representative for most of those. A couple, it’s a good representative, again, at the population level, but not at the individual level. So, what I mean by that is a given individual could have multiple readings be so variable, you couldn’t really say what their scores were. But a thousand people, you can get a trend about if they’ve got too much or too little of like zinc or selenium or manganese. About those three are the extent of it.
Ari Whitten: So, what do you feel are the most valid methods of testing?
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, we used to have fat biopsies available. And I’ve done those myself personally and on a few others. They are quite fascinating, but they’re not available, they’re not practical. So, the difficulty about toxicants is that the ones we are most concerned about are the ones that lodge themselves deep in our tissues. The ones that keep floating around in our blood and our urine, they get out by and large so they’re not really as significant. Or if they are, what we’re seeing here represents just the shortest term window of exposure. You can look at someone’s blood level of lead and have a good sense about their exposure from the last couple of days, but not their lifelong burden because most of it builds up in the bone tissue. So, challenge tests where you give someone something that pushes toxicants out, they are valid tools. However, the world of chelation has about three different facets that are all pretty different.
So, in one realm chelation was claimed to be an effective treatment for heart disease. Another realm it was claimed to be a treatment for autism. And in very conservative mainstream toxicology, it’s a known tool for many different toxicants that can build up. And it has all kind of gotten jumbled in together. And some of the shortcomings of these ideas have been spilled over into this world, unfortunately. But there are valid protocols using chelating agents, weight-based dosing. And then, levels that have been validated in terms of urine output as one of the better ways to see a chronic burden of toxic metals. There’s also red blood cell analysis which shows about a three-month window of what’s in circulation. So, it’s kind of like a blood test but a larger timeframe, not just a few days.
Ari Whitten: Right. So, it’s not going to tell you about lifelong exposure or things that, you know, maybe are trapped in fat cells or bone cells that are from a year ago or five years ago. But can give you a snapshot on kind of maybe exposures on a regular basis in your typical life.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, and there are pitfalls with all this. So, the red blood cell test, I like them, but just by the chemistry, some metals have a higher affinity for attaching themselves to red blood cells independent of exposure. You know, like arsenic, for example. A little bit is a lot in the red cells. And then the challenge tests where you take a chelating agent, that’s really a function of how that agent works, which metals it has an affinity for and also how good your detox mechanisms are working.
Ari Whitten: And there doesn’t seem to be any standardized protocols for which specific chelation agents to use and the doses. There seems to be a disagreement among, about the doses among different proponents of challenge tests.
Dr. Alan Christianson: There are are some protocols used by toxicologist that have been a bit more uniform. But you’re right. So, a problem is that someone could use different dosages and different agents and from that get completely different results and that that would be a shortcoming.
Is caffeine good for you?
Ari Whitten: So, a couple more topics here, quick ones. One is caffeine. Do you have any thoughts on caffeine and like performance and energy boosting?
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, you know a lot about this too, so…
Ari Whitten: Well, you were the one who actually turned me on to some of this a few years ago and kind of let me know about this and made me go and really explore the research and find all the studies and dig through it all. But your take on it is very interesting.
Dr. Alan Christianson: So, my take on it, and please help me out. My take on it is that caffeine has some dramatic effects in the short term for non-regular users of caffeine. So, if you’re a regular user, most of the effects are really just moving into or out of caffeine withdrawal symptoms. You know, most symptoms you get from caffeine withdrawal are going to include being foggy headed, being less energized, you know, being less alert, being lower mood. And those withdrawal symptoms vanish from caffeine ingestion. But in terms of the effects from day to day, regular intake, it’s a bit of an illusion to feel like your performance is peaking. It’s not that you’re going from baseline above it, you’re going below baseline, back to baseline. Having said that, I think there are legitimate circumstances, rather narrow parameters by which mental and physical performance can be improved for nonusers or light users for brief periods of time with a refractory response below baseline afterward.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and this is interesting how these layers onto the placebo and nocebo effects that we were talking about earlier. Because someone who’s actually having the subjective experience of what you’re describing here is going to perceive, “Well I need my caffeine because caffeine gives me energy. And when I don’t have caffeine, I don’t have as much energy.”
Dr. Alan Christianson: “And the moment I drink some I feel better. So proof positive.”
Ari Whitten: Exactly. And, you know, also you talked earlier about this kind of timeline of how we’re so limited as far as our subjective perceptions being so limited to short term. And one of the things that happen with prolonged caffeine consumption is that it is lowering baseline mood and energy and performance in a very subtle way that is really imperceptible. And we don’t really notice that it happens. All we notice is that when we take caffeine, we feel better and we have better performance, physical and mental and better energy and so on, and, you know, compared to when we don’t have it. So, there’s, it’s kind of interesting how the subjective experience maps on to that, kind of what the science shows about chronic caffeine consumption.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, there were some earlier studies that would look at, they would show that caffeine had various effects as a cognitive ergogenic. We would be sharper, more alert. But the difficulty was that they were looking at regular users within certain peaks of exposure. And if you take those same people and you do a washout process, now their baseline exposure is pretty much what their peak exposure was with caffeine use.
Ari Whitten: Right. Absolutely. So, on the subject of coffee, what do you think about coffee enemas? And this is actually a subject that I have personally not really looked into at all as far as if there’s any research on. And so, I really know nothing about this…
Dr. Alan Christianson: When you started talking about your personal experience, I was waiting for this to go any number of directions,
Ari Whitten: Well, you know, I do eight coffee enemas a day, not because I’m concerned with the health benefits, but just because it feels nice.
Dr. Alan Christianson: So, you got to try the orange mocha Frappuccino.
Ari Whitten: But, yeah, I’ve heard a number of claims around this obviously, as I’m sure you’ve heard. I’ve heard it boost glutathione levels and helps in detoxing things from the gut itself. And I would imagine, knowing you, that you’ve probably looked into the literature on this one,
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, I’ve not really seen much in the literature in terms of hypothetical mechanisms. So, your colon has a direct venous contribution to your liver. So, whatever gets in your body from your intestinal tract goes through your veins to your liver before it goes anywhere else. So, things from your colon, medications are sometimes given that way, they hit your liver quicker and harder than they would from the intestinal tract. Caffeine is a strong agent acting upon phase one liver pathways. Your liver has a couple of main ways by which it works. First, it takes chemicals and it makes them more reactive, it actually oxidizes them. And then it takes them, and it packages them. And they’ve got to be packaged to get out and they have got to be reactive to get packaged. So that’s phase one and phase two. And caffeine is a strong stimulant of phase one pathways. And you could see how at a cursory thought that might sound good for detox, but there are many circumstances by which phase one pathway are outpacing phase two conjugation. That you’re shaking this stuff up faster than you can package it. So, yes, I could see that a coffee enema would probably have a strong effect on inducing phase one. But you really don’t want to do that in a detox world. If anything, phase one is often overactive.
The science on mycotoxins
Ari Whitten: Very interesting. So, we have a couple options here. I’m looking at my list here of topics. What’s left on the list is carbs and circadian rhythm. The question of mycotoxins. There’s been a number of claims around mycotoxins and, you know, negative health effects. Mycotoxins in coffee and so on. And then the last topic is iodine and thyroid health, which I think we need to address that one.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Let’s do that one. But the second one, just maybe this is a cursory one, but I just haven’t seen a lot of data on the whole mycotoxin issue that’s legitimate.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I’ve looked into the coffee aspect of things and there seems to, you know, obviously we’ve heard these claims around coffee that’s free of mycotoxins being so superior and mycotoxins are widespread in coffee. From what I’ve looked into on this and spoken to coffee growers, they seem to be like, “Yeah, that’s why we do the roasting process is because it gets rid of the mycotoxins.” And the testing that I’ve seen, which is limited, I think I’ve only seen one data set on this. But it seems to show that pretty much all the mainstream coffee brands are, and especially organic coffees, are very low in mycotoxins to the point where it’s largely insignificant. It’s well below the threshold of, the established threshold by the, I don’t know if it’s the EPA. I forget who it was that established some kind of threshold for health of the allowable level of mycotoxins. I mean all the brands are well below that level.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, and this is a hard thing in psychology, too, to separate out the effect from the dosage because mycotoxins are harsh. I mean your liver shuts down and is destroyed if you get significant exposure to them. So psychologically it seems easy to think of anything that could have them must have some level of suspect. But that’s almost like the whole lectin/kidney bean thing or, you know, it’s not all the same based upon dosage and individuated responses. I don’t think it is such a big thing. And the more I keep reading, it’s a funny thing. There’s basically the last century of literature on it and then there’s the last decade of stuff from the infotainment space. I’m not sure what to call this, but I need a new term. I don’t know, the health-tainment, nutrition entertainment. I don’t know, but there’s…
Ari Whitten: Pop nutrition.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Pop nutrition. Maybe that is the best one, I don’t know. But yeah, the pop nutrition space, there’s been a bunch of stuff that came out around 2004, a little more than a decade ago. And it’s actually one of the most studied nutrients on the planet, if not the most studied nutrient. You know, we figured out a long time back that this is highly linked to thyroid function, thyroid size. And another big picture concept is that nutrients act as catalysts. They don’t act as direct stimulants. So, my best analogy I’ve come to is like keys for the car. You know, if you lose your keys for your car, your car is not going to go very fast. Once you got your keys, assuming everything else is good, you are fired up and you can go where you want to go. But 10 sets of keys do not make your car go 10 times as fast? And that’s the mistake we make a lot with nutrients is that we think that they’re not keys, they are almost like stimulants.
And the more you’ve got the better this whole thing works. And, no, they are keys. And the odd thing is that in almost all cases of nutrients, there’s a point at where to make a silly example. Say you poured 10,000 sets of keys inside the car with you. You couldn’t see what you were doing. You wouldn’t go fast at all. That happens on even an easier scale in the level of chemistry where there’s some sweet spot. And if you’re below that sweet spot, there are more bad things that emerge. If you’re above that sweet spot, oftentimes the same bad things show up. So, nutrients all have this sweet spot. And iodine is so distinct amongst nutrients. Because most nutrients do literally dozens or hundreds of roles throughout the body and they’ve got a relatively broad sweet spot. Iodine does one role that we can discern. And that’s it helps to, it makes the building block for thyroid hormones. And it’s got a really narrow sweet spot. So many have seen, have understood that a lack of iodine can trigger thyroid disease. And then their mind said, well let’s get 10 sets of keys and drive like a Ferrari.
Iodine and Hashimoto’s
Ari Whitten: I remember we had this discussion years ago and I said to you, “Well, you know, do the Japanese people, since they eat a lot of seafood, have higher rates of hypothyroidism?” And you responded by saying, “Well, they don’t call it O’Malley’s disease.” Meaning, of course, that it’s Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism because, you know, you were implying that it is actually much more prevalent in Japan.
Dr. Alan Christianson: All types of thyroid disease are more prevalent in those populations. And, yeah, that’s why Hiroko Hashimoto in 1907 was the first to identify the mechanism behind autoimmune thyroid disease. He had more to work with.
Ari Whitten: So, this is worth emphasizing because there are so many supplements out there, natural thyroid supplements that are being promoted for thyroid health that have iodine in them. And that, I mean God knows how many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people are buying these supplements all the time thinking that they’re benefiting their thyroid health and helping themselves get out of hypothyroidism by taking iodine supplements.
Dr. Alan Christianson: It’s huge. And the sweet spot that I alluded to is probably about one to 300 micrograms. Now I say that, there’s been a paper I read recently suggesting that that’s in terms of onset of thyroid disease. But what’s the therapeutic sweet spot for those who have thyroid disease? I might be reframing that even lower based upon some new stuff that I’m looking at. There was a dramatic paper showing that if you could take people that had been recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism from Hashimoto’s, and in the study, they had roughly 70 people and they were all very overtly hypothyroid. They had TSH scores of averaging 14. And they put them on a low iodine diet for I believe it was, two months, and low is under 100 micrograms per day, which is a little bit of work to get to. But they saw over 80 percent of the people completely regress out of hypothyroidism with no other treatment.
Ari Whitten: Wow.
Dr. Alan Christianson: So, yeah, the one to 300 is probably the sweet spot for the lowest rates of onset of thyroid disease. And that one to 300, we’re all at the high end of that just by default. The one exception would be if you were using non iodized salt, no sea vegetables and you were raw food vegan. You could get on the lowest side of that. But all the rest of us, we’re well within that or at the upper limit. And the pitfalls for those with thyroid disease is that the supplements you talked about and then pretty much every multi, honestly, every multi besides a few that have been made just for those with thyroid disease have more iodine also. So, they’re getting pushed up. Now your thyroid pumps in iodine at ratios of 50 to 100 fold greater than what’s found in your blood.
If your gland passively made thyroid hormone once iodine got in, and you ever got a surge of iodine, you’d crank out so much thyroid hormone you would shut down your heart. You would have a heart attack from that much big of a burst of thyroid hormone. So, it’s got a built-in fuse. You know, like if you’re in your house, if you suddenly got 50 amps in a 10 amp wire rather than your house burned down, you know the lights go out because the fuse blew in the fuse box. So, you’ve got a fuse in your thyroid because it’s so powerful. And that’s called the wold chicoff effect. And if you get a surge of iodine, you shut everything off for about three weeks. And that’s the basis for using iodine to prevent against damage from radioactive iodine exposure. It’s also one of the most effective mechanisms to pull someone out of hyperthyroid storm in the emergency room.
You give a big bolus of iodine. So, you shut down your thyroid by getting a lot of iodine. And people who probably do need thyroid help, sadly they’re taking the supplements or they’re taking multis that have it, or they’re adding it in various ways. There’s also iodine in thyroid medicine. So those on thyroid medicine, they’re probably at this high end or above it just before getting anything else going.
Ari Whitten: And is that true of T4, like Synthroid as well as natural desiccated thyroid?
Dr. Alan Christianson: So, the “T” that you talked about and the four, the four is atoms of iodine attached on the thyroglobulin. So T4, T3, T2, they’re all iodine containing. And yet all thyroid medicines have varying quantities of iodine that are significant. So, an average dose of natural desiccated thyroid is about 190 micrograms of iodine. So that right there, you’re at that upper limit. And Synthroid is not significantly different. You’re talking about 100, 150 micrograms per a typical dose.
What foods contain lectins? Are nightshades bad for you?
Ari Whitten: Wow. Fascinating stuff. The one thing that I think maybe I jumped topics too quickly is lectins. And I feel like you had some more thoughts on lectins to kind of wrap that topic up and maybe I cut it off too fast.
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, one small point that I didn’t mention I guess is that we’ve talked about certain foods as being the high lectin foods and the low lectin foods. But honestly think about it like, I don’t know, we shined a spotlight in a few areas and not in other areas. So, a lot of foods we’ve not really assayed lectin content. All the data I’ve seen from, you know, biologists who understand the mechanism of the relevance of lectins, they are in everything. You know, every cell has lectins and uses lectins. So, there’s some that we’ve known have biologically active lectins that we’ve talked about and analyzed and studied. But if you were to avoid lectins you would not be able to consume food.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I know you, when we talked about this when we were on a hike earlier this year or last year, you mentioned to me that the amount of lectins in eggs and in various animal foods as well. As we, you know, we’ve kind of, you know, the book’s titled “The Plant Paradox.” And, you know, kind of this whole demonization of lectins has really focused on plants. But what you’re saying is a lot of these lectins exist in a lot of animal foods, too. And they haven’t even been assayed for their lectin content.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, yeah. Some have, many have not. But literally, every biological cell has lectins of various sorts. So, yeah, beef has lectins. Eggs have lectins, Coconut even has lectins. There’s no way to really get to avoid them.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Last question. Nightshades.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah.
Ari Whitten: There’s, this is another area where there’s a lot of talk of nightshades causing problems for people, joint pain, gastrointestinal problems. What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Alan Christianson: You know, and I’d like to briefly preface with something you talked before about, really respecting people’s experience and I never want to contradict someone’s direct experience. But what happens is that people, our experience is not always clear. People want to know what’s going to work best. And so, in those cases, we’ve got to look to what does the science say about how large groups respond to these things and what’s the most likely response for the largest numbers of people. And this is funny, but it’s the same exact idea about being fearful of phenols because some things in the category are dangerous. Lectins, the main, I’m sorry, nightshades, the main thing that has become a question is an alkaloid called solanine. That’s like the epicenter of all things nightshade. And this is pretty bizarre, but you know the cover of the book, and actually, a lot of concern about nightshades as well as lectins has been tomatoes. And tomatoes don’t possess any solanine when you look at assays of them. They don’t even have it.
Ari Whitten: Really. But they do possess lectins.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Well, they have an alkaloid called tomatine, which is not solanine and it’s actually non-toxic. So even if you bought like green tomatoes or whatnot, or tomato leaves, that’s tomatine. It’s not even water soluble so it doesn’t assimilate inside of our bodies. So first off, whenever tomatoes are included, that doesn’t make sense. They don’t even have it when you get down to the molecular basis. So solanine is a compound from nightshades. And nightshade, it’s a scary sounding name and rightfully so because some plants like belladonna or atropines with active derivatives from aconite. These are things that are toxic. And so, some members of the genus are toxic. This genus of plants makes very active insecticide. So, nicotine, for example, is one of them and these things can have some biological activities. Tobacco is nightshade. But, solanine, the main one in question, it definitely is toxic in quantities that you would get if you’re using like laboratory purified solanine. I would encourage anyone with concerns about nightshades to just look at medical research on solanine and health effects. And the amounts we get from food, this is the crazy part. Solanine cuts our risk for many cancers. It also has beneficial effects upon the immune response and autoimmune disease risk.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say on the subject of lectins as well. So many of these foods that are demonized for being rich in lectins, if you actually look at the data, they are linked with beneficial health effects and prevention of various diseases. I mean, tomatoes are a good example of this and tomato skins and so on. They are linked specifically with the prevention of all sorts of different diseases. And, you know, more on the subject of nightshades, I just saw a study very recently on hot pepper consumption showing I think a whopping 14 percent decrease in all-cause mortality from people eating lots of hot peppers.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Wow.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I mean, it’s wild,
Dr. Alan Christianson: But it’s the same thing. It’s, these things are, I talked about this category before, about the macronutrients. The stuff that we physically build our bodies from and make, use for fuel. Then we’ve got the micronutrients, the keys in the car. But then plants have a whole lot of other accessories that are not essential nutrients and they’re not building blocks and they’re not fuel. But they happen to seem to really help us out. And by and large are toxic. I mean, if we could mainline any of those things, we would just fall over dead. But the amount that we get in food seems to be really helpful. Not only does that, I think, diffuse a lot of the fear over oxalates as well, or nightshades or lectins, but it also puts a perspective on the idea of like the supplements and the extracts. You know, you probably wouldn’t want to take those things at some massive concentration. You see this with the green tea extracts, for example, that high concentrations from supplements don’t seem to work as well as the low concentrations you would get from a few cups of tea per day.
Ari Whitten: Right, you know we have this biphasic dose response where you kind of got to be in, like you were talking about with iodine, you need to be right in that right sweet spot of the dose. And taking these ultra-concentrated doses of things. I’ve even heard another doctor friend of mine talk about how he’s become really skeptical of like curcumin supplementation because it stimulates certain pathways in liver detoxification but not others in kind of maybe bad proportions in ways that are not really natural and may cause problems when done in the long-term.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Something that you have talked about that I love, also, is just the idea of having a lot of rotation amongst some of these superfood things. And, you know, however, we adapted and evolved along with these plants, we never had the same thing in mega doses day after day after day.
So, yeah, just have a good variety of lots of good foods. And also, I think that we conflate certain superfoods as being so different. Like you can look at, for a while when antioxidants were the rage, things like acai were popular. And people would often confuse how much it would work gram per gram, not thinking about the fact that say blueberries, which maybe were one 10th the potency, but you’re going to consume hundred times as much in one blueberry.
Ari Whitten: Right. Well, Alan, this has been so much fun. It’s been an absolute pleasure, and thank you so much for staying on so long with me here.
Dr. Alan Christianson: My pleasure.
Ari Whitten: We got through pretty much all these topics I wanted to cover, and it’s been a blast. So, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom on all of these topics with my audience. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Alan Christianson: Yeah, I love your work, Ari. Take great care. Hope to see you soon.
Ari Whitten: Thank you, brother.
Separating Myths From Science on Functional Medicine Testing, Lectins, Homeopathy, Muscle Testing, and More with Dr. Alan Christianson – Show Notes
Dr. Christianson’s take on why things are so conflicted in the health sphere (1:39)
How to sort through subjective opinions and factual truths (13:11)
Saturated fat and brain health (18:38)
The science on food intolerance testing (26:08)
Separating science from myth on gluten (34:00)
How whole grains impact our health (43:09)
The science on lectins – are lectins bad for you? (45:45)
What science says about homeopathy (51:26)
Muscle testing (55:55)
Dr. C’s take on functional medicine testing (1:04:40)
Is caffeine good for you? (1:12:00)
The science on mycotoxins (1:17:40)
Iodine and Hashimoto’s (1:21:55)
What foods contain lectins? Are nightshades bad for you? (1:26:45)