Hungry, naked, and desperate

Imagine yourself a primitive member of the Homo species: standing around 4 feet tall, nearly hairless, with limited ability to navigate the trees like the chimpanzees and other apes. You are virtually helpless against the vicious predators of the savannah–no claws, but fingernails; no large canines but diminutive canines, incisors, and larger molars. You can run, but not as fast as some of the larger predators. You are unable to tear the throat of an antelope with your hands, nor can you rip open the abdomen of a gazelle. You can’t fly and have only limited capacity to navigate water.

But you’re hungry, experiencing an intensity of hunger you and I have never felt. This is when instinct kicks in. You WILL find food. It might be found in an insect mound, or a wounded or aged monkey, nuts that you learned could be eaten if you cracked open the hard shell with a rock, the roots of plants dug out by hand or heavy sticks. Hunger drives instinctive behavior, an innate knowledge of what to do, what to eat, in order to survive.

We have lost that connection to instinctive knowledge. Wouldn’t it be great if, upon meeting a dietitian to counsel you on diet, she simply said, “Well, follow your instincts: Then you’ll know what to do!” It doesn’t work that way in a modern world where we are divorced from our internal wisdom.

I have a beautiful little Boston Terrier, Sophie. She is loving, throwing herself on her back in that unique way dogs show submission, hoping for a tummy rub. She was raised her entire life on (grain-free!) kibble that I purchase from the pet store. I never showed her how to hunt or kill. Yet, when I let her out into the backyard, this lovable, submissive creature reverts to a killer carnivore, stalking squirrels, rabbits, and birds. And she’s been successful, tearing the throat of a rabbit, for instance, then consuming the flesh and organs.

Why do animals maintain the instinctive knowledge of what represents “food” while we lose this capacity? How is it that we are so influenced by such non-instinctive factors such as clever marketing, even if the product can be classified as “food” only in a very loose way? Is abundance the driver of this separation? Is it due to the presence of artificial enhancers of appetite that fool us, such as those in wheat flour and cornstarch, or the sugars in sweets?

We have somehow been separated from our own internal natural knowledge–it’s there, to be sure!–of what is food. We spent 2.4 million years since our transition from Australopithecines exercising our internal script in finding food. Between 4000 and 10,000 years ago (differing in the various parts of the world and with different grains) we began to view grasses, plants inedible in their native state, as food: wheat (einkorn and emmer), rices, maize, oats, sorghum, millet, barley, and sugarcane. Until that relatively recent time, Homo had not regarded members of the Poaceae family of plants as something that was consistent with the instinctive notion of food.

Grasses: ubiquitous, hardy, populating virtually every corner of the earth, from tropics to tundra. We learned that, by processing the seeds or other parts of the grass, we could eat these ubiquitous and often non-perishable items and survive another day. It was not part of our evolutionary programming, it was not something immediately evident as food. Grasses were something, like poisonous tiger blowfish or deadly toadstools, that we managed to incorporate into diet through various manipulations.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Christina

    But these same grasses enabled larger groups of people to live off the same land, which built up societies and culture. Even if we were not as healthy because of them, we were, in quite another sense, more healthy since they provided a constant source of food for the times when food was scarce. Those who adapted their ability to digest survived the change, which is why true Celiac is rare. Eating wheat to survive a famine today but risking health issues 30 years down the line is a good adaptation. Eating ONLY franken-wheat and sugar processed into chocolate-covered sugar bombs which causes health issues now (in a time of plenty) is the problem.

    • Boundless

      > Eating wheat to survive a famine today but risking health
      > issues 30 years down the line is a good adaptation.

      Particularly when:
      a. wheat excels at putting on weight for winter, when food scarcity would burn it off whether that was your plan or not, and
      b. your life expectancy was only 40 years anyway

      The hazards of a glycemic diet were probably only marginal factors in longevity for ancient humanoids. A short life span was less due to what they ate than what they didn’t. In addition to malnutrition, they got to die of injuries, infections, predation and intra- and inter-tribal violence. Apart from tribal violence (now promoted to national scales), these hazards are largely under control today.

      For ancient humans, the cyclical summer carb gorging probably did have health consequences for the few individuals that managed to survive past 40. Such elders might have been revered by their tribes, and given preferential access to any winter stores of berries, dried fruits and syrups, thus assuring that they wouldn’t be elders much longer.

      Yes, life expectancy on the western glycemic diet has since zoomed up to 75 or so, but may have bounced off. We now get to die of things paleo people were never even aware of – almost all complications of a full-time excessively glycemic metabolism aggravated by two particularly pernicious ingredients: wheat and fructose. Virtually all of these ailments are ramping up out of control at the moment. Only those awakened to the problem are escaping the trends.

      > Eating ONLY franken-wheat and sugar processed into
      > chocolate-covered sugar bombs which causes health
      > issues now (in a time of plenty) is the problem.

      Dr. D. has made the case against techno-wheat pretty convincingly. Sugar has always been a disaster whenever introduced into a culture. Modern sugar is a triple disaster because it’s cheaper than ever and isn’t just sucrose any more. HFCS is predominantly fructose, and free fructose at that.

      It’s pretty clear to me that we are still adapted to stow fat for winter whenever carbs are available, particularly fructose (which historically was ripe fruit, and consumption of which predates eating grass seeds). The problems are:
      1. that metabolic “winter” never comes anymore, and even if it did
      2. we live long enough that the consequences of the annual glycemic/keto cycle might still be an issue.

      The solution is probably not trying (most likely failing) to revert to a seasonal cycle. The ideal is apt to be:
      * dumping the human-hostile food elements, and
      * either living near the glycemic-keto border (as WB does), and avoid tripping the fat switch, or living predominantly on the keto side of the border. I can’t predict what effect, if any, either approach might have on life expectancy, but I do predict that either would have salutary effects on health, as we see from the steady flow of testimonials on this blog.

  2. Donna

    Who knows if we would have evolved over time and it would be okay to eat the grains, but Big-Food had to step in and wreck it , manipulating it to their advantage, so we will never know….maybe over thousands of years we would have adapted to the original grains, and it could have been a good food source, but now it is polluted beyond belief in the name of the all-mighty dollar and we’re all getting sick because of it…that is, those of us who don’t know about this or have not seen the light. Hooray to those of us who are actively refusing to buy the poison and box-filled chemical concoctions….those of us who will speak up against GMO’s….

  3. I think much of the ways humans got their food over the past 2.5 million years were learned: how to knap a stone tool, how to stampede a herd over a cliff, how to break open a skull and bones of a carcass while your buddies distract predators, how to make a fish trap, which plants are worth digging up for their roots, and so on. Agriculture was another thing we learned.

    • Jen

      I saw a different story on this yesterday. It is BEYOND disgusting that people are talking about printing out food using fake stuff that is shelf stable for 30 years. I understand the rationale of using it to save money on space missions, but come on – no human should be eating this, in any circumstance.

      • HS4

        I agree, Jen. 3-D printing has some fascinating possibilities (I saw something online about doctors using it to print an emergency air tube (tracheal?) for a child – that’s fantastic) but not for food.!

      • > … printing out food using fake stuff that is shelf stable for 30 years.

        I’m not sure that extrusion or shelf life, per se, imply poor nutrition. I’d personally be interested in a total nutrition keto bar that was good for at least a year.

        The elephant in this 3D kitchen is not even mentioned, and that’s the target macronutrient profile. NASA still thinks:
        “For a healthy diet, calories should come from the following sources: 50 to 60% from carbohydrate (found in foods like rice, breads, or pasta), 30% from fat (found in foods like whole milk, meat, and nuts), and 10 to 15% from protein (found in foods like whole grains, dairy products, beans, and meat).”
        (source linked from my user ID above)

        The other space news this week is that the Curiosity mission has confirmed the worst-case estimates for radiation exposure en-route and on Mars:
        http://www.spaceflightnow.com/mars/msl/130530rad/#.UaoWg9gQM-U
        “Over the course of a 500-day Mars mission, Semones said most astronauts would exceed NASA’s health standard, which limits an individual’s radiation exposure to levels that would cause no more than a 3 percent increase in the risk of fatal cancer. ”

        On the current NASA space diet, yep, yer gonna die.

        If they switch to a keto diet for space, that would dramatically reduce the odds of cancer all by itself. Since they’ve now concluded that a manned mission is unsafe with current and near-term flight hardware, they have some years to figure out that their dietary recommendations are upside down (and dangerous even on earth).

  4. Ellen

    Love the story about your dog and her instincts. My sweet affectionate kitty was very sick a while back when she developed diabetes (which I learned was my fault for feeding an obligate carnivore dry cat food which is 30-50% carbohydrate!). We mysteriously had some small birds trapped in our screened in porch and we let her out there to watch her reaction. She literally went wild, jumped up and knocked several of them out of the air (even though she was sick and weak) and ate 3 or 4 of them, bones and all, while my daughter and I watched in amazement. Talk about instinct!

    • Dr. Davis

      Deep inside of us, Ellen, I’m convinced that we could exercise similar impulses if hunger were sufficiently intense!

    • Jimmy

      A quote from Ellen,
      “She literally went wild, jumped up and knocked several of them out of the air (even though she was sick and weak) and ate 3 or 4 of them, bones and all, while my daughter and I watched in amazement. Talk about instinct!”
      This account is very telling in that our pets need to eat raw meat and the bones to be healthy. Dr. John Lonsdale has been helping his clients in Austrailia to feed their pets Raw Meaty Bones. An animal carcass is best. But any raw meat with the bones will do. Dr. Lonsdale has a very informative website. Check it out.
      http://www.rawmeatybones.com/

    • organicguy

      Lol,smart cat. Or is it stupid food by stupid food companies. I only buy organic red palm oil and organic coconut oil. That hvo is a killer. Also some scary news about l-carnatine and meat on dr.oz today. I guess salmon is still a star.

  5. wrotek

    Do You think that detox may be needed from wheat ? Like exercising ? Are wheat poisons fat soluble ? Meaning that accumulate ?

  6. Barbara

    Keep in mind that we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the purveyors of all the foods that are doing so much harm. Did anyone ever think that a Cheese Doodle, puffed or crunchy, even made with REAL CHEESE might be a healthy option for you to eat? How about a Twinkie? Cool Whip? All those in-store bakery departments that have an endless variety of goods to buy, all made with wheat, chemicals and high fructose corn syrup, expanded greatly because the baked goods sold quickly and inexpensively. Who bought them?

    As a culture, we forgot how to eat and prepare real food and then let advertisers tell us what to do and how to do it. Along the way we bought all the ready made, frozen, processed and prepared foods which manufacturers delightedly provided. Company chemists made sure the products tasted good to us. We even bought stock in their profitable companies!

    That our government sold out to big business and their endless lobbying is nothing new either. Only when we stop buying the garbage being sold as food and demand that our government be accountable will things change. This is happening one person/family/election at a time. As the government tries to cope with the explosion of diabetics with heart conditions etc. that are straining our medical and disability insurance resources, thanks to Dr. Davis and people like him, there will be even more people taking responsibilty for what they put in their mouths. We have met the enemy and he is us.

    • Linda

      You summed it up beautifully.

      I have simply adopted this idea…………………..
      If it is advertised on TV, radio or in a magazine, I don’t buy it or eat it.
      Makes those “what to eat” decisions very simple and a lot less time consuming.

      Get back to the kitchen America!

      • Noel

        My general rule of thumb is: If it has a “Nutrition Facts” label, it’s most likely processed, therefore not good for you. This works for most foods, although there are some exceptions (packaged foods like nuts, seeds and oils, for example), so my second rule is to read the list of ingredients – if it is a single ingredient food, it’s fine, if not, it’s suspect.

      • Clever, Linda. How right you are about going back to the kitchen. It’s sad that the things we have invented to make us happy and contented are making us stressed and depressed.

    • Jimmy

      A quote from barbara,
      “That our government sold out to big business and their endless lobbying is nothing new either. Only when we stop buying the garbage being sold as food and demand that our government be accountable will things change. This is happening one person/family/election at a time. As the government tries to cope with the explosion of diabetics with heart conditions etc. that are straining our medical and disability insurance resources, thanks to Dr. Davis and people like him, there will be even more people taking responsibilty for what they put in their mouths. We have met the enemy and he is us.”

      It appears that gluten is the next trans-fat and hydrogenated fat scare to be removed from most foods. Restaurants now have menu items advertising ‘no trans-fat.’ When enough people realize that any gluten eaten is causing damage to their bosies irregaurdless of a lack of symptoms, they will demand only gluten free foods.
      I predict that one day all beer will be brewed gluten free, at 10ppm or less. Brewers can brew with barley and wheat but use an enzyme(Brewers Clarex) during fermentation to break apart(cleave) the gliaden peptides into smaller fragmants.
      With bread and pasta they will have to revert back to growing the ancient forms of wheat like Einkorn Wheat.

      • Boundless

        > I predict that one day all beer will be brewed gluten free, at 10ppm or less.

        Still high carb. A single GF beer is at or above your whole-meal net carb limit (assuming the container actually has an NF panel that tells you). If Dr. Johnson’s uric acid “Fat Switch” theory is correct, beer also contains high amounts of components that trip the switch, entirely apart from grain and carb load.

        > With bread and pasta they will have to revert back to growing the
        > ancient forms of wheat like Einkorn Wheat.

        Still gluten-bearing and high glycemic. Eating this stuff has always been a mistake. It just took modern wheat (plus HFCS) to make the problem straightforward to isolate.

  7. Uncle Roscoe

    I think the answer lies in which people’s bloodlines expanded, versus which people’s ancestors attempted to continue persisting as they always had. Families who gathered into agrarian communities expanded exponentially as individual lives shortened. Hunter gatherers were overwhelmed. Although hunter gatherers were stronger, they were overwhelmed by sheer numbers and by technology-produced war machines. Agrarians are dumber, but communication produces smarter weapons. Agrarians build on the knowledge of people who came before them, and the people around them. The dumbest agrarians survive by the wits of the smartest agrarians.

    A couple of ancillary observations…..
    1. Even though the West is largely peopled by ancestors of agrarians look at our distribution. Hugely we congregate within 100 miles of saltwater …….a reflection of our affinity for water, and a vestige of when we lived in, and ate from, the surf zone.

    2. We maintain an inherent attachment to small carnivores ……a vestige of when we followed their trail of kills, harvesting the brains and bone marrow ……a vestige of when we domesticated carnivores to hunt for us.

    • Dr. Davis

      It is truly a Faustian bargain, eh, Uncle?

      We traded the storable excess calories of grain for all the adverse health consequences, a virtual deal with the devil to live another day.

  8. Bella w

    Hello Dr.Davis. I have been doing some research about this diet, and about wheat. It is said that wheat AND milk contain opiates. This diet advises us to eat cheese, which is a milk product. Is it still safe to consume? And the wheat belly recipies on this blog contain baking soda/powder, which contains cornstarch. Are trace amounts of cornstarch also safe to eat?
    Thanks.

  9. Roye

    Forgive me if this is off topic but I see Dr. Oz is running the show again when Dr. Davis was on and on Dr. Oz’s website giving information about the Wheat Belly Diet, I saw this statement:

    Step 3: Add Wheat Replacements
    Instead of wheat bread, make your own loaves using ground almonds and coconut flour. Try Dr. Davis’ Wheat Belly Bread.
    Swap wheat pasta for shirotaki or konjac noodles and spaghetti squash.
    Add non-wheat grains, including quinoa, millet, sorghum, brown rice and oats.

    I didn’t think any of the above was allowed; quinoa, millet, sorghum, brown rice and oats??
    Can we eat those things? I really miss my oatmeal in the morning :).

    Thank you,
    Roye

    • Boundless

      Oz. > Swap wheat pasta for shirotaki or konjac noodles and spaghetti squash.

      This is correct, other than the spelling.

      Oz. > Add non-wheat grains, including quinoa, millet, sorghum, brown rice and oats.

      This is completely incorrect. Oats and millet are “never”. Quinoa and sorghum are extremely limited. Brown rice is limited. All are “never” as flours.

      It’s all a matter of net carbs, and these grains are high glycemic. Oats being the worst. There are any number of resources on the net for discovering net carbs for arbitrary foods. It should not be necessary to memorize lists of arbitrary names.

      You may not have 1/2 cup daily of the non-wheat grains listed, with the possible exception of lower glycemic rices, and that would be 1/2 cup of the cooked whole rice.

      • unterderlaterne

        Boundless, I can not believe I made that Mistake, you are right of course! I only have brown rice or quinoa, 1/2 cup very, very rarely! I am glad that you caught my mistakes! That is what one gets when staying at the computer way , way past one’s bed time .LOL.

        • unterderlaterne

          Well now I am really embarrassed because I wrote that piece in the afternoon!