Thiamine: Why You Need It, Where to Get It

This is part of the series of notes for The Everything Diet (see introduction here).

Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is the name given to the nutrient that prevents and cures beriberi – a malnutrition disease that can make people absolutely miserable and eventually kill them if not addressed.

Our bodies use thiamine for a great many processes. One of the best-understood of those processes is as part of an enzyme (thiamine pyrophosphate) that our bodies need to metabolize carbohydrates and proteins.

Without sufficient thiamine, a person can develop deficiency symptoms, which include peripheral neuropathy (tingling and numbness in the extremities), edema, muscle atrophy, nausea, vomiting, and heart complications, among others.

Obviously, inadequate dietary intake of thiamine is a major cause of thiamine deficiency. But other factors can and do contribute.

Chronic alcohol abuse can produce thiamine deficiency because it can greatly reduce absorption of the nutrient. Alcoholism is commonly associated with forms of thiamine deficiency.

Other factors that can play a role in thiamine deficiency are thiamine antagonists, which include sulfites (used as food preservatives), many types of raw fish and shellfish, and some constituents of plant foods (tannins and some bioflavonoids).

However, when it comes to thiamine antagonists, as best I can tell, these are only a problem when consumed in very large amounts by people with marginal thiamine status. So there’s really no reason for most people to be concerned about eating sushi and drinking a cup of coffee, even on a regular basis, as long as thiamine intake is sufficient.

Thiamine supplementation is typically in the form of thiamine mononitrate or thiamine hydrochloride. And while these forms do effectively reverse most if not all symptoms of thiamine deficiency, it is difficult to know if these forms achieve everything in the human body that thiamine from foods can achieve.

The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for thiamine is 1.1 mg for women, 1.2 mg for me, and 1.4 mg for pregnant and lactating women.

The two best food sources of thiamine are pork and wheat germ. Some non-fortified nutritional yeast supplies very large amounts of natural thiamine as well.

Three ounces of pork tenderloin provides 0.81 mg of thiamine while half a cup of wheat germ provides about 0.9 mg of thiamine.

Other good sources include sunflower seeds, asparagus, green peas, Brussels sprouts, beans, whole grains, sweet potato, and many types of fish.

It’s not terribly hard to meet thiamine needs as long as a person eats a sufficient quantity of a sufficient number of these good sources of the nutrient.

However, it’s not difficult to see how many restrictive diets could shortchange a person on thiamine. For example, a strict Paleo diet that eschews grain, seeds, and beans/peas, could put a person at risk for deficiency if the person also does not eat pork or much fish. (And many people do avoid pork and fish for all kinds of reasons.)

And while there is absolutely no need to be worried about thiamine antagonists in most cases, if a person’s thiamine intake is marginal or below needs, excessive intake of coffee (also common among some Paleo circles) could hasten and worsen thiamine deficiency.

So again, a diverse and inclusive diet is a powerful and relatively easy way to ensure that you can meet your thiamine needs naturally and still enjoy coffee or tea or sushi.

Introduction to the Everything Diet

I have an idea for a new book that I’d like to eventually write. And I had the thought that I could make notes for the book here in the form of posts.

The working title of the book is The Everything Diet.

No, it is not intended to advocate for eating large amounts of M&Ms and Coca-Cola as staples.

The premise is this: we humans have complex nutritional needs, and we can best meet those needs by eating a diverse and inclusive diet.

That probably seems obvious. And it should be.

But in recent years (or maybe for the past hundred years or so), there’s been a significant cultural trend toward dietary restriction.

Most diets that are promoted these days are, at the core, about restricting “bad” foods.

Sugar is bad, cut it out. Fat is bad, cut it out, Meat is bad, cut it out. Dairy is bad, cut it out. PUFA is bad, cut it out. Grain is bad, cut it out.

You know the deal. You’ve seen a lot of it, I’m sure.

But like so much in today’s culture, these diets are superficial. They grab attention and mesmerize us for a while, but they lack real substance. And when it comes to nutrition, a lack of real substance leaves us devitalized in one way or another.

Before I go on, let me add the caveat that of course for some people at some times, it may be appropriate to cut back on ice cream or coffee or grain or whatever. And furthermore, not everybody needs to eat some of everything all the time.

The Everything Diet is not meant to be a new religion that insists everybody must eat a bit of sugar and a bit of dairy and a bit of meat and a bit of bread every day or anything like that.

There are plenty of examples of traditional diets that have apparently sustained human cultures for thousands of years that appear restrictive by today’s global standards. The traditional diets of most of the people of North America didn’t involve coconuts and oranges, for example.

But the point of the Everything Diet is that the ideological restrictions that are en vogue miss what may be the most important point: we all need adequate nutrition, and that is a complex thing.

So by ideologically eliminating all grain or all dairy or all meat or all sugar or whatever, we may inadvertently be causing ourselves malnutrition.

In The Everything Diet, my intent is to demonstrate that we each have complex nutritional needs that are best met by a diverse and inclusive diet.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, I hope to publish notes on some of the arguments for these nutritional needs.

Although I am not certain what the structure of the book will eventually be, my intent for now is to break it down by nutrients such as vitamins and minerals – to look at the importance of each nutrient, the sources of the nutrients, and so forth.

I also intend to eventually publish some notes about some specific diets (low carb, grain free, sugar free, vegan, dairy free, etc.) and point out the potentials for malnutrition in each case.

Horsetail (Shavegrass) and Safety – Part 1: Thiaminase and Vitamin B1

By joeylott / February 21, 2017

Horsetail (shavegrass) is used as a traditional herb for a variety of purposes.

And contemporary research has shown that apart from the high mineral content, horsetail may support bone health [1], contains antioxidants [2], and have a handful of other benefits.

But if you do a search for information about horsetail on the internet, nearly every monograph or article contains standard cautions that can make horsetail seem scary.

In a series of short blog posts, I want to examine each of these safety concerns to see what merit they might have.

In this first post, I want to look at the common caution that consuming horsetail is likely to result in a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency.

What Is the Basis of the Concern?

Almost all monographs and articles online about horsetail caution that consuming horsetail may result in a thiamine deficiency.

The logic goes like this: horsetail may contain a substance known as thiaminase. Thiaminase is an enzyme that breaks down thiamine.

There is research showing that in some animals – such as horses – if the animals eat enough thiaminase, they can end up with a thiamine deficiency.

Makes sense.

For example, in horses, it’s been shown that if the hay contains 20 percent or more horsetail, the horse will develop thiamine deficiency symptoms within two to five weeks.

That’s a lot of horsetail, though.

In other animals – typically because of confinement and lack of access to a diversity of foods – such as some predatory fish, feeding large amounts of thiaminase-containing foods can also produce thiamine deficiency.

So it is not entirely unreasonable to be cautious when it comes to horsetail.

But it’s also important to put this into perspective. Horsetail is not unique in containing thiaminase.

If you want to be afraid of all things containing thiaminase, you should also avoid fish, crab, clams, blueberries, beets, Brussels sprouts, and red cabbage. [1]

But how many people are reported as having a thiamine deficiency from eating fish, crab, clams, blueberries, beets, Brussels sprouts, or red cabbage each year?

None that I know of.


Well, for one thing, thiaminases are commonly destroyed by heat. So cooking – as is commonly done with these foods – deactivates the thiaminase.

But even in the foods that one might eat raw – sashimi, raw blueberries, raw beets, etc. – the amounts of food eaten (and the thiaminase content of the entire diet) are too small to produce thiamine deficiency.

Okay. Okay. That’s all great. But what about horsetail?

Does Horsetail Cause a Thiamine Deficiency?

Theory is fine, but in practice, are there any reports of thiamine deficiency in humans associated with horsetail consumption?

None that I can find.

And if you find any credible case studies, please let me know.

The closest I can find is a single report that dubiously links horsetail use during pregnancy to autism symptoms in the child. [2] This case study is highly misleading because what it actually reports is that the mother consumed alcohol, restricted her diet in an attempt to lose weight, and had B vitamin deficiencies during pregnancy.

Oh, and she also took a weight loss supplement that contained, presumably among other things, horsetail.

We have no idea whether any of these factors caused the girl’s autism symptoms, but of all of the things, the miniscule amount of horsetail seems the least likely causative factor.

In any case, given the many, many people who consume horsetail regularly, if it really posed a threat of thiamine deficiency, I would expect to find case studies demonstrating a consistent connection between horsetail consumption and thiamine deficiency in humans.

Since I find none, I am highly doubtful that horsetail – especially in the modest amounts that most people are likely to consume relative to their overall diet – causes thiamine deficiency.

Furthermore, it appears that heat deactivates the thiaminase specifically in the case of horsetail.

In the abstract of a study I found on the subject, the researchers report that water extracts of horsetail contain little to no thiaminase activity. In contrast, the dried and fresh horsetail samples were described as having “potent anti-thiamine effect”. [3]

The water extract in the study was made using water at 100 C (212 F), which is boiling temperature at sea level.

In other words, it seems reasonable that a standard decoction or infusion in which the horsetail is subjected to high temperature water for an extended period of time will deactivate whatever thiaminase is contained in the horsetail.

I highly suspect that even raw horsetail in the very modest amounts found in most supplements is unlikely to be a problem based upon the lack of case studies linking horsetail to thiamine deficiency in humans.

However, it seems to me that a standard hot water extraction (infusion or decoction) from the dried horsetail herb is likely to be free of significant thiaminase activity.

I cannot guarantee that your horsetail hot water extract is free of thiaminase activity. But personally, I don’t worry about it.

I don’t worry about eating raw blueberries either, by the way. 😉

Vitamin K2 Benefits – Part 1: Heart Benefits

By joeylott / February 19, 2017

Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin that most people don’t know much about. But what they don’t know may be indirectly hurting them.

Because vitamin K2 has important health benefits. In fact, in order to be considered a vitamin, a nutrient must be shown to be essential for health.

Vitamin K2 meets that criteria. It is essential for health.

If you’ve read my book, How to Heal Cavities and Reverse Gum Disease (formerly called How I Healed My Teeth by Eating Sugar), you probably know that vitamin K2 is important for teeth and bones. It helps to move minerals like calcium into teeth and bone.

But it also is important for other aspects of health, including cardiovascular health. And in this post I intend to provide some evidence for that benefit plus some suggestions for how to obtain vitamin K2 from natural foods.

What Is Vitamin K2?

This first section is a little bit sciency. Not too much. But a little. If you prefer, you can skip to the next section and get to the details about how vitamin K2 (also called menaquinone) supports heart health.

Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinone, is actually a group of related compounds. Each is structurally similar, but they have different lengths to their “tails”.

The “tails” are composed of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13 isoprenoid groups. Don’t worry about what that means. But I’m just explaining this much to help explain what the differences between the different menaquinones (vitamins K2) are.

The menaquinones are called menaquinone-4, menaquinone-5, menaquinone-6, etc. based on the length of their “tails”.

Each of these menaquinones behaves a little differently. So it is a mistake to view them as all being interchangeable. And of these, only a few (mostly menaquinone-4 and menaquinone-7) have been studied in much detail regarding their health effects.

However, as a group, research shows that menaquinone intake (including all different types in different amounts from food sources) is associated with better heart health. So for the purposes of this post, I won’t differentiate too much between the different menaquinones.

Note that vitamins K2 and K1 are different enough that they are not interchangeable in terms of heart health. Research has shown that only K2 intake is associated with heart health. K1 intake does not correlate to heart health.

Vitamin K2 is thought to be produced by some animals and bacteria from vitamin K1. So for some animals, eating large amounts of vitamin K1 (from green plants) can lead to heart health indirectly through production of K2. However, in humans conversion of K1 to K2 is thought to be non-existent or so low that K1 intake does not produce sufficient K2 to produce any benefits.

How Is Vitamin K2 Protective of Heart Health?

Research shows that vitamin K2 (menaquinone) intake from food is positively correlated with heart health (or inversely correlated with heart disease and mortality).

In other words, the more K2 that a person eats regularly from food, the lower the risk of heart disease or heart disease events.

One such study is the Rotterdam Study. [1] In this study researchers reported that high K2 intake is associated with (among other things), saturated fat intake, dietary calcium, and low polyunsaturated fat intake.

The researchers write that “intake of menaquinone (mainly MK-4 from eggs and meat, and MK-8 and MK-9 from cheese) is not related to a healthy lifestyle or diet, which makes it unlikely that the observed reduction in coronary risk is due to confounding”.

In other words, the researchers believe that a diet that includes eggs, meat, and cheese is associated with poor health. And yet, despite this fact (in their minds), the high intake of vitamin K2 is clearly associated with low risk of cardiovascular disease.

So this presents somewhat of a conundrum for the researchers because meanwhile, they found that high intake of vitamin K1 (which is associated with a “healthy” lifestyle that includes a lot of vegetables) is not linked to improved heart health after factoring for increased fiber intake. (Fiber intake is an independent factor that reduces cardiovascular risk.)

(It is worth noting that some research suggests that vitamin K1 intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. However, that research doesn’t make it clear whether it took into consideration fiber intake. [2])

So how is it that vitamin K2 (menaquinone) could have protective effects in the cardiovascular system?

Well, I’m sure that, as in everything, there are a lot of complexities that cannot be reduced to simple formulas. But one plausible explanation for how vitamin K2 could exert a protective effect is through moving minerals into teeth and bones and out of soft tissues and blood vessels.

One aspect of cardiovascular disease can be the calcification of arteries. And a deficiency of vitamin K2 could help to explain calcification of arteries.

There’s a group of proteins called vitamin K-dependent proteins (VKDP). One such protein is called MatrixGla Protein (MGP).

MGP has been shown to play a role in keeping calcium out of soft tissues and blood vessels. As a VKDP, MGP requires vitamin K2 in order to activate. [3]

In other words, without sufficient vitamin K2, MGP will not be able to move calcium out of the blood vessels and into bone and teeth.

As a result, arteries are more likely to become calcified.

Obviously, heart disease has a lot of other factors at play. For example chronic inflammation is thought to play a major role in the development of heart disease.

But a vitamin K2 deficiency seems to be another important factor.

Getting Vitamin K2 from Food

If you’ve read much of my writing, you know that I’m not a huge fan of reductionism or “magic bullet” thinking.

I believe that the best way to get good nutrition is through a variety of foods, which can include plenty of the things that many groups seek to demonize, including sugar, wheat, dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, etc.

And here again, that is kind of the point. By excluding foods, we can do harm to ourselves.

Just as fruit and vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, etc. that contribute to our health and sugar provides…uh…sugar, which is a nutrient and beans provide starch and fiber and potassium…

Many foods that many of us have excluded either by choice or because of their limited availability turn out to have important health benefits by providing, among other things, vitamin K2.

Of foods that are commonly available, those highest in vitamin K2 include egg yolks, cheese, poultry (especially poultry liver), and butter.

The levels are typically higher in foods coming from animals with free access to fresh, green plants to eat. The reason is that when animals can efficiently convert vitamin K1 (from green plants) into K2, the K2 content of those animals and their milk will be higher.

Before we go any further, let’s talk about how much vitamin K2 you might want to eat daily to get the heart benefits.

According to the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), the minimum recommended daily intake of all vitamin K (both K1 and K2) is 120 mcg for men and 90 mcg for women.

Those values are pretty low. And I suspect that if somebody did a study of traditional diets of cultures in which heart disease is virtually unknown, they’d find that the average daily intake of vitamin K2 is higher than the recommended total vitamin K intake from the FNB.

Still, in the Rotterdam Study, even 40 mcg of daily vitamin K2 intake is associated with significant heart health improvements over lower amounts of vitamin K2 intake.

Personally, I’d want to eat 100 mcg or even 200 mcg or more per day from food whenever possible. I wouldn’t be rigid about it. But I think there are enough benefits from adequate K2 that I am cognizant of what foods contain K2 in substantial amounts, and I give preference to eat more of those things that I like. I don’t force anything. I just am aware.

Let’s look at the amounts of K2 found in the foods I mentioned earlier plus a few more good sources.

  • egg yolks – 1 egg yolk contains approximately 6 mcg of vitamin K2
  • butter – 1 stick contains approximately 20 mcg of vitamin K2 (Kerry Gold tested much lower, however.)
  • cheddar cheese – 100 g contains approximately 21 mcg of vitamin K2
  • Jarlsberg cheese – 100 g contains approximately 76 mcg of vitamin K2
  • chicken leg and thigh (dark meat) – 100 g contains approximately 60 mcg of vitamin K2
  • chicken liver – 100 g contains approximately 12 mcg of vitamin K2
  • chicken heart – 100 g contains approximately 14 mcg of vitamin K2
  • pork sausage – 100 g contains approximately 380 mcg of vitamin K2
  • pork chop with bone – 100 g contains approximately 75 mcg of vitamin K2

Clearly, based on these values, the best way to eat significant amounts of vitamin K2 from food is to eat Jarlsberg cheese, the dark meat from chicken (chicken breast is relatively low in K2), and full-fat pork.

(Although pork is very high in vitamin K2, and it very well may contribute to heart health, it is worth noting that much of the vitamin K2 in pork is from long-chain menaquinones that haven’t been studied as well as, for example, menaquinone-4, which is found in chicken.)

In fact, despite the fact that at one time I rather simple-mindedly and zealously cautioned against eating too much poultry because of the polyunsaturated fat content, I have since realized that was wrong.

As I have written about in the updated edition of How to Heal Cavities and Reverse Gum Disease, I no longer believe that all polyunsaturated fat is created equal – even omega-6 fatty acids.

In honestly believe that you have to look at the whole food. Traditional Chinese Medicine holds poultry and pork in high esteem, for example. Poulty and pork is relatively high in omega-6 fatty acids. Yet they are both good sources of vitamin K2. Could this be purely coincidence? Sure. Then again, it might be that the K2 in poulty and pork is part of the therapeutic value the Chinese medicine practitioners have long valued.

I also suspect that kidneys are generally a good source of vitamin K2, but I cannot find much research showing this to be true across species. As I wrote about in an article I posted on my Naturally Reverse Dental Decay site, studies in rats and humans have shown that brains and kidneys contain large amounts of vitamin K2. So it seems likely that this is true of other species as well.

In any case, I do sometimes eat kidneys as they are available for purchase and because I raise some of my own animals for meat.

I am cautious about eating brain. Although it is quite delicious and highly nutritious, I am a little scared of the various prion diseases that can affect animals and their transference to humans. So despite the fact that brain is very likely a rich source of vitamin K2, I don’t eat it presently.

I have a hard time finding high quality pork. So I don’t eat much pork – though I am considering raising (small) pigs in the future.

So at this time, my primary sources of K2 are chicken (including dark meat, livers, and hearts), kidneys (possible source), cheese (I just eat regular cheddar cheese most of the time), eggs, and butter.

As a final note, some people may wonder if so-called high vitamin butter oil is a good source of vitamin K2.

It is…sort of…maybe.

High vitamin butter oil is what Weston Price originally recommended as a good source of vitamin K2. It is produced from the milk of animals grazing on fast-growing spring grass. So it does, in fact, produce much higher levels of vitamin K2.

According to some research, the high vitamin butter oil sold by Green Pasture contains over 80 mcg per 100 g.

That is about four times what is contained in regular butter.

But here’s the catch: high vitamin butter oil sells for about $60 for 8 ounces, which mean you’re getting somewhere in the range of 200 mcg of vitamin K2 per bottle.

That means you’re paying $0.30 per microgram, if I’ve done the math correctly.

On the other hand, Organic Valley butter sells for $6 a pound at my local co-op. And there is somewhere in the range of 80 mcg of vitamin K2 in that.

Which means I’m paying around $0.08 per microgram of vitamin K2 when buying the Organic Valley butter.

It’s possible that the green label Organic Valley butter that is produced from May-September is even higher in vitamin K2. I haven’t seen a test for that one, specifically.

Anyway, I highly suspect that high vitamin butter oil isn’t an economical source of vitamin K2. But time could prove me wrong.

I know I said that would be the last thing. But, I will also mention that if you’re interested in supplemental vitamin K2, I cannot tell you for certain that you can expect the same benefits as getting it from food. But it is possible.

Personally, I wouldn’t rely on supplemental K2 as a complete substitute for food-based vitamin K2. But it might provide some benefits. Certainly, there is research showing that supplemental K2 can be beneficial in some conditions such as osteoporosis.

I am not sure about the safety of any supplemental K2 long term. But I will say this: menaquinone-4 supplementation even in very large amounts has been shown to have no toxicity in medium term human research. Meanwhile, there are lots of reports online of people experiencing headaches, high blood pressure, and anxiety when supplementing with the MK-7 form.

So personally, when I take supplemental vitamin K2, I take the MK-4 form only. I am not saying you should do the same or that you should take any supplemental vitamin K2. But if you do, take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Should you decide you want to supplement with vitamin K2, here are some of the products on the market that I have either used myself or that appear to be good. (Note that these are Amazon associate links.)

As always, if you have questions or comments, please post below.

Oh, and ONE more last thing: if you are looking for a good resource to find vitamin K2 sources of food, Chris Masterjohn has a calculator available HERE (scroll down to find it).

My Potassium Deficiency and How I Corrected It (Plus a List of Foods High in Potassium)

By joeylott / February 18, 2017

In this article I will tell you about a potassium deficiency I had, the symptoms that I associated with that, and how I corrected that through simple changes in my diet. I’ll also give you a list of foods high in potassium – foods that I regularly eat to maintain healthy levels of potassium.

As you may know if you read this blog or my books, I don’t advocate for tightly-controlled or regimented diets. And this is no exception.

However, I also think that it is wise to use whatever information we may have in sensible ways.

Case in point, when I found out I had a mild potassium deficiency, I made a few changes (described below) that seem to have improved the quality of my life.

I didn’t go to an extreme. I didn’t start force-feeding myself foods I found unpalatable. I didn’t restrict anything. I didn’t overlook the importance of anything else (like getting enough calories regularly, which is something that I have a long-standing challenge with).

I just found simple ways to adjust my diet to support healthier levels of potassium.

My Potassium Deficiency

Over a year ago, I was having some new symptoms that I attributed to chronic Lyme disease.

Most of the symptoms were cognitive – what I would call “brain fog”.

I decided to get a blood test done to find out if anything showed up.

I paid through LabCorp, drove to Albuquerque to the blood collection, and then returned home to wait for the results.

I got the results a week or two later, and almost everything looked great. Homocysteine, iron, TIBC, WBC, RBC, etc.

Except potassium.

Potassium was 3.4 mmol/L with a reference range of 3.5-5.2.

Not super low. But low.

Okay. Now I had some information.

It wasn’t really exciting or complicated stuff. It was just straightforward: low potassium.

My Symptoms Associated with Mildly Low Potassium

With mild potassium deficiency (hypokalemia), most websites I’ve read state that symptoms are mild and rare.

Certainly, I didn’t have any of the deficiencies associated with more severe potassium deficiency such as muscle cramping and pain, tremors, or constipation.

I didn’t even have high blood pressure, which is typically listed as the most common symptom. But I have always had low blood pressure, not high.

But what I did have was “brain fog” symptoms and an increase in foot pain (a symptom I developed after getting Lyme disease). I also had recurrent kidney stones over the course of several years, which may have been related to potassium deficiency.

How I Corrected My Potassium Deficiency

Research on the internet turns up a lot of possible causes of potassium deficiency.

Most were not applicable to me.

For example, various drugs can cause potassium deficiency, but I did not and do not use any drugs (pharmaceutical or otherwise).

Other common causes such as chronic diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive sweating also did not apply.

The two most likely explanations were:

  1. I wasn’t eating enough potassium
  2. I wasn’t eating enough magnesium

Obviously, eating enough potassium is important to maintain healthy potassium levels. And although I ate a diet much richer in potassium than the average American (I ate and eat a lot of potatoes, orange juice, and milk – all rich in potassium), when I did the math, I was slightly on the low side of the recommended 4700 mg of potassium daily.

Magnesium may not be an obvious reason for potassium deficiency, it turns out that “potassium depletion cannot be corrected until magnesium depletion is corrected”. [1]

The reason is that magnesium helps the body to use and retain healthy levels of potassium.

So I had the two simplest and most likely causes (and solutions) to my potassium deficiency.

What I did was simple: I started including more potassium-rich foods in my diet and added a magnesium supplement to my diet.

As a result, my potassium deficiency has been corrected, and my symptoms have been relieved.

I can’t say for certain that the potassium deficiency caused my symptoms. In fact, I believe that some of the symptoms may have other underlying causes (something I will write about in another blog post). But it is clear to me that these simple changes have resulted in a significant improvement in symptoms.

As I’ve written about elsewhere, I am now somewhat conservative in my use of nutritional supplements. I think it is safest to rely on food because with supplements there are too many unknown variables.

But with magnesium, I mostly rely on a magnesium glycinate supplement, which I believe may be among the safest form of supplemental magnesium. I take anywhere between 400 and 800 mg of magnesium daily…when I remember and am inclined to do so (which isn’t always).

The List of Foods High in Potassium That I Eat Regularly

If you search the internet, you can easily find lists of foods high in potassium. That includes things like beans, green vegetables, and yogurt – none of which I eat daily.

I do like chard, spinach, and beans – all of which are high in potassium. But they are not staples in my diet.

So I wanted to focus on foods that I knew I would actually eat regularly.

[Note: as far as I know, potassium is not bound by oxalic acid or phytic acid, so sources of potassium such as beans and chard are likely good sources of potassium. But they are not good sources of magnesium because magnesium is bound by these acids, found in these foods.]

Here is a list of the foods high in potassium that I eat regularly. Note that I don’t eat all of these all the time. But I eat a few of these foods every day.

  • orange juice – about 500 mg per cup
  • milk – about 350 mg per cup
  • potato – about 900 mg per medium potato
  • avocado – about 900 mg per medium avocado
  • sardines – about 400 mg per can (also a good dource of magnesium) – I eat the bone-in sardines in water from Wild Planet
  • sweet potato – about 450 mg per cup
  • molasses – according to the nutrition label, Wholesome Sweetners blackstrap molasses contains about 600 mg per tablespoon, but the internet reports different values for different molasses products

I drink orange juice and milk and eat potatoes almost every day. I do so because I like them – not for any other reason.

I typically drink about 3 cups of orange juice and 2 cups of milk, for a combined 2200 mg of potassium.

I typically eat what I think probably is about the equivalent of 2 medium potatoes per day, which is about 1800 mg of potassium.

Between those, that’s 4000 mg of potassium.

Obviously, I eat more food in a day than orange juice, milk, and potatoes. So by including just a few other potassium-rich foods, I eat enough potassium to reach the recommended minimum of 4700 mg each day.

Truth be told, I frequently consume 8000 mg or more per day. Though on other days, I may consume less. I’m not rigid about any of this. I’m just cognizant of roughly how much potassium I’m eating and if I notice that I seem to be low for a few days, I will consciously include more potassium-rich foods for a bit.

The Outcome

I see health as an interconnected web. I don’t see symptoms as necessarily the result of a singular thing.

So I’m hesitant to say that increasing my potassium intake and taking supplemental magnesium has “solved the problem”.

But I can say that my potassium levels are now fine and I have relief from some symptoms that I was experiencing concurrent with low potassium levels.

Also, though it’s hard to proclaim victory in the case of kidney stones, I will say this: low potassium is connected with kidney stones (and adequate potassium seems to protect against kidney stones), and I have had no more kidney stones and no more indications of pending kidney stones since I corrected my potassium deficiency.

In any case, I don’t see any likely harm from an otherwise healthy person consuming adequate amounts of dietary potassium from real food and also consuming enough magnesium (though getting magnesium from a supplement is somewhat questionable in my mind).

Obviously, there are some conditions in which the mainstream recommendation is to avoid dietary potassium as much as possible. And I certainly am not suggesting that anybody should or should not reject that advice. I am fortunate enough that I appear not to have any such conditions.

I am merely sharing my story. As somebody who is otherwise healthy (with some lingering symptoms I attribute to Lyme disease and a legacy of 20 years of starvation), I found that correcting my potassium deficiency was helpful to my health and quality of life.

I hope my story is useful to you.

Is Bentonite Clay Safe for Internal Use?

By joeylott / February 16, 2017

A lot of alternative health sources promote bentonite clay for all kinds of proposed health benefits.

But is it safe for internal use?

This is something I wanted to know because I believe that I have received benefits from ingesting bentonite clay. But I also had concerns about the toxic metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, aluminum, etc.) contained in the clay.

So what’s the dealio?

Bentonite Clay Reliably Reduces Heavy Metal Toxicity in Livestock

Clays of various sorts, including bentonite/montmoroillonite clays, are used in livestock feeds. As a result, there is a fair amount of research demonstrating the health effects of feeding clay to various non-human animals.

Why the interest in feeding clay to livestock? Because livestock operations have a major problem with mycotoxin contaminants in the feed.

Mycotoxins are kind of a big deal. They can cause major health problems in all animals, including humans.

In livestock operations, there are lots of disease states that are commonly produced by mycotoxins.

For that reason, the industry wants an inexpensive and effective solution. And clays provide at least part of the overall solution in this regard.

Incidentally, reducing mycotoxin load in humans is one of the potential benefits of consuming bentonite clay internally. But in this case, I am just interested in looking at heavy metal safety of consuming clay.

So what does the research say in this regard?

Turns out that the research consistently shows that consuming clays such as bentonite clay reduce heavy metal toxicity in a variety of animals.

For example, some researchers had the horrific idea to feed lead. They also fed some of the fish clay along with the lead. The fish with no clay had predictable lead toxicity symptoms and lead accumulation in their organs. But the fish fed the clay showed no signs of lead toxicity and they did not accumulate lead in their organs. [1]

In another study, the researchers had the also horrific idea of feeding aflatoxin (a mycotoxin) to chickens. They found that feeding clay prevented harm from the aflatoxin (which is a consistent finding in all animals). But in this study, they also decided to measure the levels of minerals in the chicken’s bones. They found that the birds fed clay had no reduction in calcium or phosphorus. However, they did have a significant reduction in lead, fluorine, and manganese. In other words, clay actually reduced stored heavy metals in the body.[2]

In another study, the researchers simply fed pigs either their usual diet or a diet supplemented with clay. After 100 days they found that the pigs eating clay had massive reductions in stored lead in their bodies versus the other pigs. In other words, eating clay reduced heavy metal burden. [3]

Another study with sadistic researchers found that (not surprisingly) feeding cadmium had negative health effects in pigs. However, adding clay to their diets reduced the harm in the cadmium-fed pigs. And in pigs fed no additional cadmium, clay reduced body burdens of cadmium. In other words, clay seems to reduce cadmium as well as lead burdens. [4]

While I haven’t yet come across any research specific to mercury or arsenic in animals and the effects of feeding clay, I suspect that clay binds to and removes these metals as well. The reason for my suspicion in that bentonite clay is shown to bind to and remove these metals from water and acidic mediums. In fact, clay is used for water purification because of this property.

So Is Bentonite Clay Safe for Internal Use?

Despite the heavy metal content of bentonite clay, I believe that the evidence is fairly strong that it is safe for internal use.

I choose to use bentonite clay internally because I believe that I receive benefits. As I have written about many times, I have a fairly long history of health and digestive problems, and I believe that eating bentonite clay continues to help with my health and digestion.

I am not suggesting anybody else needs to eat clay. Nor am I suggesting that my decision about the safety of ingesting clay should be yours. I am merely giving you the information that I have found to be useful in making an informed decision for myself.

With that said, I do think that it is advisable to consume a clay that is produced for internal use. If a clay is not intended for internal use, it may have been processed with chemicals that have unknown effects in the body.

There are many quality clays available that are intended for internal use. I cannot tell you which is best. I think each likely has its own unique benefits.

I can tell you that the clay that I primarily use is one that comes from the Mohave desert in California. It’s the clay that I recommend in my book, How to Heal Cavities and Reverse Gum Disease Naturally. If you purchase from Earth’s Natural Clay, make sure you select the product that is labeled for internal use.


If you have questions about clay that you’d like me to write about in future posts, please let me know in the comments below.

Is Health a War?

By joeylott / February 7, 2017

The metaphors and stories we are immersed in can have sometimes profound effects on us.

I’ve noticed that the dominant metaphor for health in the mainstream (and much of the alternative) culture is one of war.

Much of disease is said to be caused by infectious organisms.

Sufferers of disease are often called warriors.

We’re told that we’re winning or losing the wars on cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.

We’re told to include various superfoods, nutrients, drugs, exercises, and lifestyle modifications in our “arsenals” against disease.

But here’s my question: are we sure that health is a war?

I’m not.

And I question these metaphors and stories and beliefs in my own life.

I don’t try to “combat” them with inverted beliefs, mind you. I don’t insist, blindly, that the opposite is true.

I just question. I just look. I am curious.

And I’m particularly curious what happens when I begin to act without so much influence from those stories.

Case in point. I became sick with what I’ve called Lyme disease in 2010.

I lived in the woods in New Hampshire. Literally sleeping on the ground outside. And I pulled ticks off of me multiple times every day.

This went on for months.

Then I had all the classic symptoms of Lyme disease. Sudden-onset and severe fever. Bulls-eye rash. Migrating joint swelling and pain for months. Later neurological and cognitive symptoms, fatigue, and on and on.

It’s easiest to call it Lyme disease. So I call it that.

And it seems reasonable that micro-organisms of various sorts (borrelia, protozoa, parasites, etc.) play a role in producing symptoms.

But are they the cause or merely agents? Or if they are the cause, are they capable of producing disease without proper conditions?

In other words, might viewing these organisms as the sole cause of the disease symptoms be myopic? Might the war metaphor be misguided or at the very least an incomplete understanding of the situation?

Again, I’m not suggesting that I know the answers to these questions or that they need to be answered. I am just saying that asking these questions and liberating myself from the limited mindset of the mainstream beliefs is, in and of itself, beneficial (to me).


Despite the fact that I have tried a lot of war-based things over the years, I have gotten the most significant symptom relief through nourishment.

I am not trying to set up a false dichotomy. I am not suggesting that, for example, nourishment and antibiotics can’t be used simultaneously.

I’m just stating that in my experience, I have received the greatest benefit personally from nourishment. In other words, adequate nutrition (including calories), adequate sleep, adequate rest, adequate time outdoors, nourishing relationships, nourishing activities (stuff I enjoy or enjoying what I do), etc.

I see the war metaphor crop up in a lot of ways in a lot of health-related stuff. Depending on who you listen to, grain is the enemy, sugar is the enemy, polyunsaturated fat is the enemy (I’ve been guilty of perpetuating this idea), fiber is the enemy, histamine is the enemy, dairy is the enemy, yeast is the enemy, meat is the enemy, and on and on.



In some cases, of course, this view may have some benefits for some people.

But to the degree that the war metaphor is not the whole answer for your perceived problems, consider questioning the story. Explore nourishment. Open your mind.

Dietary Religion, Dietary Agnosticism

By joeylott / February 5, 2017

Have you ever converted to a dietary belief system?

I have. Lots of times.

I was a vegan. I was a raw foodist. I was a fruitarian. I was a paleo convert. I was a low carb believer. I was a Peatarian.

Each time I adhered to a dietary religion, I tried to do it correctly. I tried to understand all the rules and follow them perfectly.

I hoped that in exchange I would be blessed with great and long-lasting health.

Unfortunately, what actually happened was that I was blinded to just how incorrect or hurtful many of the beliefs of those dietary belief systems are. In trying to do it right and in taking entire dietary thought systems on as a monolithic way of life, I got hurt.

Dietary agnosticism is literally not to know what is right.

I don’t know what is the one truth regarding diet.

I certainly have some opinions about what is not true. Because based on my experience, veganism doesn’t work long term. And neither do very low-carbohydrate diets.

But I don’t know for sure that I am right about that.

The beauty of dietary agnosticism is that I get to do whatever I need in any given moment.

If I need carbohydrates, I get to eat them. If I need meat, I get to eat it. If I need more fat, I get to eat it. If I need coffee, I get to drink it. If I need more fiber, I get to eat it. If I need fish, I get to eat it. If I need kale, I get to eat it. If I need sugar, I get to eat it.

There are certain things that I have learned that seem to be true most of the time for me. For example, it seems to be true that I need to eat a minimum number of calories regularly in order to feel well. It seems to be true that I need to eat a minimum amount of quality protein regularly in order to feel well.

But I get to learn what I need by having the flexibility to try different things rather than having to adhere to a strict set of rules.

How I Recovered from Anorexia Nervosa

By joeylott / February 3, 2017

This post is about how I recovered from 20 years of anorexia nervosa, compulsive exercise, orthorexia, and general eating disorders and body dysmorphia and self-hatred.

While this is about my experience, I’ve read enough and communicated with enough people who have struggled with or do struggle with these problems to believe that my experience is very instructive.

For nearly six years I have been free. Free to eat. Free to be. Free to allow all my feelings and thoughts without getting caught up in resistance.

I am alive for the first time. I want to share that with you.

I started restricting at age 11 or 12. I was a chubby boy with breasts. I was humiliated about that. I innocently decided to take matters into my own hands.

Over the years the restriction and over-exercise took many twists and turns. I was sometimes at a normal weight. For much of the time I was severely underweight. Sometimes I was so underweight that I was in danger of dying as a result.

I was sometimes so emaciated that I looked like a skeleton. I could barely walk from malnourishment/starvation. Yet I would frequently push myself to exercise.

I did a lot of different diets that I rationalized in a variety of ways. And apart from in the early years, I never had as my conscious intention to lose weight. I was trying to be “healthy” and “fit”.

I was vegan for 17 years. I was non-fat vegan for several years. I did grain-free vegan. I was a raw food vegan for a while. Then a fruitarian. I did whole food vegetarian. I eventually made a major shift to paleo. Then low carb paleo. And a variety of other hijinks thrown in along the way.

I did weightlifting. I did yoga. I did gymnastics. I did hiking.

Everything I did, I did fanatically.

And I did it all because I was obsessive.

And I was obsessive because I was terrified of feeling the feelings I felt.

I innocently believed that my obsessiveness would protect me from the unwanted feelings.

It didn’t work, of course. But I was stuck in a vicious cycle. I didn’t know how to reverse it.

I was stuck performing mental rituals day in and day out. I was checking nutrition labels ritually. I was examining my food obsessively. I was reviewing what I ate and worrying about whether it was okay.

All of which was miserable. And none of which actually got rid of the unwanted feelings.

But I kept doing it because I was terrified that things would be worse if I stopped.

When I tried to stop, the feelings were so intense, I eventually caved and started the obsessions and rituals again.

When I tried to eat less restrictively, the feelings were so intense, I eventually would restrict again.

If any of this sounds familiar, then I hope my story will be useful to you.

Eventually I was so sick and so miserable for so long that I had the good fortune to realize that I had to do something truly different.

And I had the further good fortune to realize that I had to address my avoidance of feelings along with eating enough.

Here’s what I did.

First, I began to inquire directly through my experience – not through thinking about it – to discover how I tried to avoid feelings and whether it was necessary.

What I found was that I was in the habit of holding a lot of tension all throughout my body – some obvious, some subtle – because I unconsciously felt it necessary to protect me from my feelings.

I realized that the tension didn’t protect me from the feelings. So even though it was scary to let go of the tension, I knew that the tension wasn’t actually protecting me.

So I began to persistently practice releasing the tension bit by bit. I tried to do it all in one go, but that turned out to be disastrous. So I committed to doing it slowly, bit by bit for as long as it took.

Through doing that, I discovered that I could accept and live with the feelings of openness, chaos, discomfort, and fear that I had tried to keep at bay for so long.

And that offered me a new freedom.

It wasn’t and isn’t always easy, of course. But it is free. And it is so much better than trying to always avoid my experience.

The second thing I did was commit to eating enough. I decided that whatever the outcome – if it made me fat and uncomfortable and ugly and unlovable – I was going to do it. I was going to keep eating enough every day to the best of my ability for the rest of my life.

I decided that whatever the outcome, it would be better to actually live than to hide from life.

So I started eating enough.

Along with that, I started researching the food myths that I had used for years to justify my restriction. I wanted to see if they were founded or not.

Turns out, they weren’t.

I write books now about this stuff. I’ve got a book titled In Defense of Sugar, for example. It is about how the demonization of sugar is unfounded. It’s about how I came to make peace in my mind with one of my demons.

Some people read a book like that and it opens their mind. It relieves them of the burden of hating and striving to be pure and perfect. It gives permission to be fully alive.

That’s why I write.

But sometimes people read my books and are unwilling to open their minds. They just want more ammunition for their war.

There’s nothing I can do about that.

But if you are somebody who is ready to let go of the burden, you may find some of my writing to be useful.

First of all, if you have’t already, get a copy of Cleansed, which is free on this site.

Second, you can get a free copy of Food Myths on Amazon.

And third, if you are looking for support on letting go of the emotional struggles in your life, you may want to check out my free book, Lose All the Way.

Is Coffee Good or Bad for You?

By joeylott / February 3, 2017

Butter, eggs, sugar, fruit, fiber, dairy, meat, and coffee.

What do all these things have in common?

Answer: people commonly have strong opinions either for or against them.

We want to know, are these things good or bad for us?

Today I’m going to look specifically at coffee.

But before I get to the nitty gritty, let me be clear: this whole “good or bad” mentality is not healthy or helpful in my view.

Life isn’t so black and white. It is nuanced and complex.

And coffee is like that. Nuanced and complex.

There’s a strong puritanical streak in American culture, and American culture has a strong influence in many places outside of the U.S.

The puritanical view is that coffee is a dangerous stimulant that wreaks havoc in the mind and body.

This is the essence of most of the arguments against coffee. Some of the claims now seem quaint and absurd. Like coffee causes cancer – clearly a variation on “coffee is a dangerous stimulant that wreaks havoc in the body”.

But the same basic view continues these days as people tend to throw in a caution that “too much coffee causes adrenal exhaustion”, which is just a veiled variation on “coffee is a dangerous stimulant that wreaks havoc in the body”.

There’s also another phenomenon that is quite common in American culture. And that is the rebel with science backing him.

The rebel with science backing him now likes to shout from the hilltops that coffee has been proven to be good for you.

They point to the studies that show that coffee consumption appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, brain cancer, and just about every type of cancer. Coffee seems to have a positive effect on liver health and may help to reverse non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Coffee consumption appears to reduce the risk of depression. And coffee is a rich source of antioxidants.

What was bad is now good according to the rebel with science at his back.

But there’s another view, which I am a proponent of. That view is to remove all unneeded, obsessive worry and fear around food and lifestyle, and to learn how to tune into the body and think for yourself.

Do you like coffee? Does it seem to agree with you? Is your sleep good?

Okay, great. enjoy coffee.

If we still have concerns that coffee is bad for us, we can use all information available to us to ease our concerns. After all, we can see from research that there’s a strong correlation between coffee consumption and a long list of health benefits.

So the notion that coffee is some kind of evil vice becomes less credible. And perhaps we become more freed up to trust in our bodies.

And maybe not worry about going to hell so much.

And maybe remember that this moment right now is all that is guaranteed. Live a little.

On the other hand, genuinely don’t like coffee? Or coffee causes problems for you? Then don’t drink it.

I know that seems so ridiculously over-simplified as to be pointless. But I think there’s something useful there if we’re all willing to let it sink in.

On this site an in my books I’ve sometimes made the mistake of arguing for or against some things. I’m not perfect. But it continues to be my intent to work toward undoing the chronic worry and the pursuit of right versus wrong.

I am convinced that health is much more accessible than we’ve been taught. I don’t think we have to learn lots of rules. I think we just need to tune deeply into our experience.

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