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Dr. Mark Hyman: Should We All Avoid Gluten?

Twenty years ago, most people didn't know anything about gluten. People didn't even know how to spell gluten. Now gluten-free diets have become all the rage. But are celiacs the only people who should be on a gluten-free diet?

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Dr. Hyman: 4 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

A reader tweeted, "I lost 30 lbs on The Blood Sugar Solution program. Now, I am following the guidelines from Eat Fat, Get Thin for the next 30 days. NO sugar/carbs—all veggies, proteins, good fats—but seeing much slower weight loss this time."

Weight loss plateaus are a very common and frustrating issue. When I am working with someone who is having trouble losing weight, despite doing everything right, there are a few things I look at, to see if we can uncover why they are hitting a weight loss plateau.

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Dr. Mark Hyman: Are You Still Consuming Dairy?

In this week's House Call, a reader asked, "If one is lactose intolerant, but has no other intolerance to dairy, (e.g. casein and whey) is it ok to consume dairy products while having Hashimoto's?"

By now, most of my readers probably know how I feel about dairy—it's nature's perfect food—but only if you're a calf. We have no biological requirement for this food, and yet, we've been told over and over again that dairy is a great source of calcium, milk makes healthy bones and we should drink it daily. I'm here to tell you that this is not true.

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Dr. Mark Hyman: So Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Not?

Did you know that 50 percent of media headlines about medical studies are dead wrong? And that many of these headlines don't accurately match the conclusions of the studies they cover? That's from a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It makes me sad and furious at the same time that journalists don't do their homework and create firestorms of confusion because of their negligent work.

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Health Benefits of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Scott, a 10-Day Detox participant wants to know, what are the best prebiotics and probiotics to take and how to keep his gut healthy.

The health of the trillions of bugs in our gut (which outnumber your cells 10 to 1) is one of the biggest things that impacts our wellbeing. We have to learn how to tend the flora of our internal gardens (our gut) by being selective of what we eat and how we live. We must feed the good bugs and avoid gut-busting habits—like eating too much sugar and starch or consuming too much alcohol or allowing stress to wreak havoc (yes, your gut bacteria are eavesdropping on your thoughts).

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Is a Glass of Wine at Night Healthy?

Drinking wine is like a U-shaped curve. A little bit is ok; a little more is bad news. For women, wine can be especially damaging. Why? Increased alcohol load means your liver can't metabolize estrogen well. Increased estrogen in the body can lead to breast cancer. Drinking just one glass of wine a day increases your breast cancer risk by 40 percent.

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Dr. Hyman: 5 Superfoods Part of a Healthy Diet

I'm often asked by my patients, "What superfoods are most important to stay healthy?"

I like to think that everything I eat is a superfood. When I walk into the grocery store, which I call the "Farmacy," I like to seek out powerful foods that are going to provide the right information for my body.

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The Blood Type Diet: Does It Work?

Have you heard of the concept of food as medicine? Have you ever wondered about the Blood Type Diet or the Ketogenic Diet? These are the three questions covered in this week's Housecall.

Food as Medicine

Our first question comes from Chrysanne who asked, "Is it really worth it to spend extra money on good food? Does it make a difference?"

The food industry likes to trick us into thinking that eating healthy is expensive, but this is far from the truth. My friends at the Environmental Working Group created an easy-to-use, comprehensive guide, called Good Food on a Tight Budget, to help consumers make the best food choices without breaking the bank.

When people tell me they cannot afford organic produce or healthy cuts of meat, I ask them to consider the gargantuan markup of many convenience foods. Manufacturers package them in "value-priced jumbo sized" containers and grocery stores promote them with price cuts to create the illusion that we are getting value.

Relying on inexpensive, overly processed food is tempting, given our demanding lifestyles and schedules, but the cost to our health is quite large. Feasting on the sodium, fat and sugar bombs disguised as food can lead to serious diseases that cost hundreds of dollars in doctor's visits and prescription drugs.

Food is not just calories; food is information. I've seen thousands of people transform simply by changing their diet, so why not give it a shot? You will only feel better. Here are my tips for eating well on a tight budget.

The Blood Type Diet

Our next question comes from Jenna who asked, "Eating for your blood type advocates say that those with O blood type shouldn't eat anything with coconut, but it's so good for you. What are your thoughts on this?"

I believe in the personalization of our diets. We are learning more and more about how to customize diets for every individual based on their genetics, metabolic type and more. The blood type diet was one of the first customizable diets, but it only focuses on one bit of information: your blood type.

Instead, I recommend looking at the whole picture. When I see a patient, I look at their genetics, predisposition to diabetes, food intolerances, detoxification symptoms and other factors.

My hope is that in five years or less, we will be able to customize our diets based on a simple drop of blood. But until then, my advice is to look at the whole picture instead of just one factor. You can do this by working with a Functional Medicine practitioner who can test you for food intolerances, check out the state of your gut, identify nutritional deficiencies among other factors, to give you a complete picture of the state of your body. From there, they can create a plan to customize your diet to get you back on track and optimize your nutritional intake.

Also, you know your body better than anyone else. If coconut oil works for you, use it. The smartest doctor in the whole room is your own body. Take note of how you feel after you eat certain foods. If you dig a bit deeper, you can find out what works for you and what doesn't.

The Ketogenic Diet

Our final question comes from Deanna who asked, "Is there such a thing as a vegetarian or a vegan ketogenic diet?"

I'm not going to lie to you, it is absolutely tougher to be vegan or vegetarian on a ketogenic diet, but it is possible.

You need to focus on two important groups to maintain a vegetarian ketogenic diet: proteins and fats. In fact, studies have shown that a low-carb vegan diet with higher amounts of plant-based fats and proteins has advantages over a high-carb, low-fat diet—including increased weight loss and improvement in heart disease risk factors.

Sources of vegetarian protein include:

  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs (if you're not vegan)

Sources of plant-based fats:

  • Organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • Organic virgin coconut oil
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Grass-fed ghee (if you're not vegan)
  • Avocados
  • Olives

Here's an easy guide to a vegan ketogenic diet.

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How to Repair Your Gut After Taking Antibiotics

"My doctor wants me to take another antibiotic for this cold that won't quit, but I've read antibiotics damage the gut and even can make me fat," a patient recently asked me. "I've read mixed reviews and I know you've given them the thumbs down in the past, but really, how bad are antibiotics?"

Firstly, let's not totally dismiss antibiotics. After all, they can be life saving and in certain situations, become absolutely necessary. They've saved millions of lives. Trust me, we do not want to live without antibiotics in the twenty-first century.

That being said, antibiotics today are over-prescribed and often unnecessary. Developments to prevent and treat infectious diseases—like sanitation, early vaccines and best-use of antibiotics—have dramatically reduced deaths from infectious disease. But there is a cost.

Take sanitation ... hyper-focusing on hygiene and sterilization using hand sanitizers and overusing vaccines and antibiotics has dramatically altered our gut ecosystem, spiking autoimmune and allergic diseases and contributing to things like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and autism.

While western medicine has greatly advanced with acute disease, we've failed miserably addressing chronic disease.

Louis Pasteur discovered the bug or microbe causing infections and Alexander Fleming discovered antibiotics to cure them. This simple cause-effect "cure"—single bug, single disease and single drug—might work for infection, but not so much for chronic disease.

Ever since, we have been searching for "cures" for chronic diseases (including cancer and dementia), yet we can't find them! Medicine's history has become the pursuit of a holy grail—a pill for every ill. This failed approach will continue to fail because chronic disease results from the complex interaction of our genes, lifestyle and environment. A magic pill or other "miracle cure" just isn't going to cure us. We need a well rounded, permanent lifestyle approach.

So back to the original question: Antibiotics can become detrimental because they damage your gut ecosystem, what we collectively call our microbiome, which is made up of 100 trillion bugs that live inside you and outnumber your cells an astounding 10 to 1.

True, antibiotics wipe out the bad stuff that is causing the infection; but they are like napalm—they take out everything in their path—including the good bacteria.

That becomes a real problem because while your gut has trillions of bacteria, they collectively contain at least 100 times as many genes as you do. That bacterial DNA in your gut outnumbers your own DNA by a very large margin.

That's important, because among its functions, this bacterial DNA controls immunity, regulates digestion and intestinal function, protects against infections and even produces vitamins and nutrients.

Antibiotics destroy these beneficial bacteria, which creates a wide open field for the overgrowth of bad bugs, yeast and candida, leading to numerous problems including mood disorders, food allergies, fatigue, skin issues and of course, digestive issues.

Overgrowth of bad bugs can also encourage cravings for sugary, processed junk foods, leading to weight gain and other problems that eating junk foods creates. So it is clear that antibiotics can potentially make you fat.

When a patient comes to see me, I ask if they have a history of taking antibiotics. More often than not, I've learned overuse has led to their gut issues, including leaky gut.

I recently had a patient born by C-section, who was then bottle fed and as a child suffered recurrent ear infections. Conventional doctors—doing what they felt was best—overprescribed antibiotics, eventually leading to irritable bowel syndrome during the patient's teen years and then an autoimmune disease as a young adult. I hear this story repeatedly, and much of this stems from not honoring, respecting and tending to your inner garden.

More often than not, the antibiotics children receive for viral infections, colds, sore throats and other ailments, for which they likely would have gotten better on their own, have damaged their delicate gut flora starting at an early age.

One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found 71 percent of children who suffered C. diff infections (inflammation of the colon caused by a specific bacteria called clostridium difficile) received numerous courses of antibiotics for respiratory, ear and nose illnesses 12 weeks before infection.

Another study published in the American Society for Microbiology found a one-week course of antibiotics could negatively affect your microbiome for long periods of time, potentially even for a whole year.

Other studies link long-term antibiotic use to diverse problems including depressed immunity, higher stress levels, behavior problems and obesity.

While antibiotics can sometimes be absolutely necessary, I highly recommend conferring with a Functional Medicine practitioner to discuss alternatives (including allowing infections to heal on their own).

If you must use antibiotics, I recommend a few things before and after using them.

First, add in the good stuff. Eat a low-glycemic, whole-foods diet and take quality probiotics and prebiotics. A high-quality, multi-strain probiotic helps populate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics, a form of soluble fiber, which also helps feed good bugs, which can be found in onions, garlic, resistant starch, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens and jicama.

Unlike regular starch, your small intestine doesn't absorb potato starch. Instead, your gut bacteria process it, creating molecules that help balance blood sugar and healthy gut flora. In other words, when you consume resistant starch, it "resists" digestion and does not spike blood sugar or insulin.

I like to supplement with my favorite resistant starch found in Bob's Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch. I suggest adding about 1 teaspoon to a glass of water.

Then, focus on gut repair—especially after you're finished using antibiotics. Utilize gut-healing nutrients including L-glutamine, omega-3 fats, vitamin A and zinc to repair your gut lining so it can resume its normal, natural functions. The use of digestive enzymes can help you digest your food better.

That's it … pretty simple but with amazing results.

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