11

votes

What if eating some amount of toxic foods on purpose is a positive for robust health due to hormesis?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 21, 2011 at 9:19 PM

If an employee works just 2 hours a week, they are still technically on the payroll. What if we treated the internal mechanisms that handle food toxins like super part time employees just to keep em around? Dr Ayres says that we shouldn't fear bacteria because diversity can promote a strengthened immunity. Might this apply to poor food choices? What about the 3 horseman? Wheat, Linoleic Acid, and Sugar (primarily fructose).

Every now and then I will eat something on purpose that completely doesn't qualify, like pizza, regular pasta, chips and salsa, or maybe some bread and butter if out at a restaurant, or maybe just order whatever meal I want at a restaurant, regardless of the healthiness factor.

Sounds pretty odd, but usually I feel just fine after doing this, and sometimes even better than when I eat the good stuff. And I know we cannot go off of 'feeling' as the measuring stick. I remember reading a comment by one hacker that asked something like "why yould you want to eat a certain food item every now and then just so that you will not develop an allergy to that particular item due to abstinence". In other words, if you know it's bad for you, then developing an allergy to it shouldn't be a problem. But I am very reluctant with that idea. I would estimate that I am at least 90%, maybe more, so I don't mind a few crazy meals here and there and I think the freedom to be able to eat whatever whenever is a great thing in the context of an otherwise purposefully healthy lifestyle.

Aside from eating/drinking sugary items (which I don't think hold any particular value for the body), is it possible that occasionally eating some of the items that we all know don't qualify could be good overall due to some kind of hormetic bodily response that strengthens immunity? I'm not talking about 'cheating' for psychological sanity. I'm talking about actual physiological reactions to ingesting some foods we normally consider poor choices.

3864f9a2af09b1b447c7963058650a34

(3703)

on April 23, 2011
at 06:20 PM

One strain of gut flora actually help to negate apparently some of the toxic effects of gliadin from wheat/gluten grains: Bifidobacterium lactis Enzymatic detoxification of gluten by germinating wheat proteases...2009, Vol. 41, No. 5 , Pages 390-400 Lindfors et al Leads me to believe that some people with great gut flora do fine on some gluten and the brief, limited exposure may indeed have beneficial hormetic effects as some research links small benefits to low dose ionizing radiation. we're omni-wh*res...potentially tolerating anything!

B485f0cf678c0b420941e883adfea28d

(304)

on April 23, 2011
at 02:38 AM

haha, short and sweet: This!

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on April 23, 2011
at 12:37 AM

some poignant thoughts here shirley. thanks for your comments.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on April 22, 2011
at 02:13 AM

lol. Kamal brings up a good point, but then again, so does Thomas. I only mentioned those items as examples. It just so happens that most of them were grainy, but my point was that eating poor food choices every now and then in the context of a 90% paleo diet may have benefits. but forget wheat gluten. pretend I didn't mention any examples at all and just asked the question straight. I think in very small doses, the body can handle quite a bit. a lot of peeps have chimed in with good answers here. that's what it's all about friends. Hack it to pieces!

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on April 21, 2011
at 11:54 PM

What would the hormetic effect be on? Our intestine?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 21, 2011
at 11:43 PM

I feel like people are concentrating too much on the fact that he mentioned wheat. How about cigarette smoking or certain doses of radiation? There have been studies that suggest some benefit in small doses. How about marijuana? There have been studies that suggest chronic doses shrink the hippocampus while occasional acute doses actually promote neurogenesis. And, as somebody mentioned above, how about vegetables? I know people who won't eat vegetables because they contain toxins. Yes, those very toxins have a hormetic effect, no?

E91fd339d760ed76cc72570a679ebf5a

(2369)

on April 21, 2011
at 11:00 PM

I think this is an important idea. My goal is to be healthy eating the widest variety of foods possible, not by restricting more and more. My favorite Matt Stone analogy is if you have weak legs and go to a trainer at the gym, you're not going to be told to avoid squats because you can't tolerate them, you're going to start squatting to strengthen your legs.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:55 PM

I doubt we would have had any of those foods more than very occasionally. We mostly would have eaten ruminant fat and seafood. Of course this is mostly speculation, but it is supported by the fact we have no way to regulate fatty acid ratios at a cellular level. Omega 6 is a problem because it *isn't* treated as a toxin.

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:26 PM

good point, I think people who eat a perfect diet all the time might develop a delicate system. To me it goes along with the idea of occasional fasting. Keep the body tough.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:15 PM

yah when does it become deleterious. i wonder about linoleic acid in small amounts though, since it is in almost all animal fats, nuts, and even avocados.

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10 Answers

4
3020fb359dfbedaf90f1611b036d3432

(1138)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:16 PM

That's why I eat vegetables.

B485f0cf678c0b420941e883adfea28d

(304)

on April 23, 2011
at 02:38 AM

haha, short and sweet: This!

2
E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on April 23, 2011
at 12:07 AM

I think it's important to distinguish what exactly is meant by toxic. Most have focused on the kinds of foods that cause allergies or sensitivities, but I categorize toxins as the kinds of things that cause cancer, like pesticides, BPA, PFCs and other chemicals that have been studied and shown to be endocrine disruptors, etc. I don't see any good reason to purposely ingest any of those. Probably no good reasons to ingest HFCS, either.

One disadvantage that justanotherhunt hints at is that some of these foods are addictive, and that "just one time" may trigger a lot of cravings in the future or even help put you back on the slides to SAD. I've indulged in a few things lately, and am having much more cravings now and harder time resisting urges that I didn't have for over a year (namely chocolate).

I learned years ago that anyone can become allergic to anything at any time. Since then, I've seen this happen to others, some who were exposed regularly to the newly harmful substance, some exposed occasionally, and some only once in a while. I also read results of some studies a few years ago that some people become more likely to develop an allergy to bees the more times they are stung. Hormesis may be very effective for some things, not others. I don't know that there is a flat solution or one size fits all for this.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on April 23, 2011
at 12:37 AM

some poignant thoughts here shirley. thanks for your comments.

2
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on April 21, 2011
at 11:25 PM

My hunch is no.

The line between "toxic foods" and "clean foods" is not as clean as reading paleohacks might have one believe. We can digest and absorb a variety of foods, including frankenfoods. The reason we didn't eat wheat before is not because it would kill us, rather that it's not so nutritious and is quite bad for the gut without lots of processing (and still not great after that).

Rather than a hormetic effect, it might be good to do stuff like give a kid some wheat just because they will be confronted with it later on in life. Because we live in the real world, not in the paleolithic world, there may be issues with adapting to that world, for those paleo babies out there.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 21, 2011
at 11:43 PM

I feel like people are concentrating too much on the fact that he mentioned wheat. How about cigarette smoking or certain doses of radiation? There have been studies that suggest some benefit in small doses. How about marijuana? There have been studies that suggest chronic doses shrink the hippocampus while occasional acute doses actually promote neurogenesis. And, as somebody mentioned above, how about vegetables? I know people who won't eat vegetables because they contain toxins. Yes, those very toxins have a hormetic effect, no?

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on April 21, 2011
at 11:54 PM

What would the hormetic effect be on? Our intestine?

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on April 22, 2011
at 02:13 AM

lol. Kamal brings up a good point, but then again, so does Thomas. I only mentioned those items as examples. It just so happens that most of them were grainy, but my point was that eating poor food choices every now and then in the context of a 90% paleo diet may have benefits. but forget wheat gluten. pretend I didn't mention any examples at all and just asked the question straight. I think in very small doses, the body can handle quite a bit. a lot of peeps have chimed in with good answers here. that's what it's all about friends. Hack it to pieces!

1
072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on April 22, 2011
at 02:15 AM

I like this question. I don't know the answer. While I used to be "sensitive" to dairy and feel average after I ingested some, it CRUSHES me now anytime I have any. If nothing else, this can be inconvenient if I'm eating out or at a gathering and accidently have some in a food I thought was "clean." I have often thought that I should add in some here and there when I know that if I have some negative effects, I have time to myself to work through (e.g. a Sunday afternoon).

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 21, 2011
at 11:04 PM

3 of the 4 cheats you mentioned(pizza, pasta, bread) contain lots of gluten which can have a drug-like effect that is especially apparent after you avoid gluten for so long.

The "feel good or better than usual" is probably just the Gluten exorphins(like the drug morphine) having their euphoric, relaxing opiate effect on your brain and body and you suddenly feel it wasn't bad afterall.

When I was not paleo and only gluten free I ate couscous on accident cause I thought it was made with gluten free grains. I remember having a very happy, almost stimulated and giddy/euphoric mood after eating a bowl of it. I had muscle relaxation as well....then I felt horrible hours later and the worst symptoms happened 1-2 days later.

You may be more tolerant to gluten than others(especially if you have mostly Germanic blood/northern European) and are just enjoying a nice high from these foods lol. It's probably not the worst for you but I wouldn't get into the habit of eating it often. For some people it takes lots of re-exposure for it to hjack your body or cause symptoms or permanent damage to the gut.

I'm convinced that cheating on gluten is far worse than cheating with gluten free baked cakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls made with good ingredients, even if they contain sugar.

Another thing to keep in mind that if you eat at a restaurant their breads always contain terrible additives like high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, MSG, dough conditioners, cheap flour.

Most pizza places use MSG unless you're eating at TOP NOTCH places that cut NO corners. Some way or another these industrial additives make their way into the food we have loved.

1
Medium avatar

on April 21, 2011
at 10:43 PM

There are toxic byproducts occurring as a result of the digestion of 100% "clean" foods, so I'm not sure if there's a positive hormesis effect or if it might just be comforting to think of these meals as such. In essence the implication is that in your case it's better to eat some gluten than none at all and that abstaining completely will result in a gluten deficiency. I'm not sure I'd agree. If you're going to choose something like that, maybe eating a bunch of honey or something would be more biologically appropriate.

1
1fc9c11cf23b2f62ac78979de933ad83

(2435)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:20 PM

I agree with you. I let my daughter occasionally consume wheat products so she'll never be THAT kid who can't eat anything. Social health is also very important.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:58 PM

Well, you should frequent the hormesis website where we discuss this very question. There is a lot of information on hormesis there and there is a forum where we experiment with hormesis and discuss it. My answer is "YES". The most familiar form of hormesis is resistance weight training, as it is a type of damage that makes you eventually stronger and better if done at the right dose. This website carries some of the best scholarly articles on hormesis.

0
Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:06 PM

It's definitely plausible. Perhaps wheat would be hormetic in small amounts? The problem is finding the bottom of that j curve though. How do you know when the negatives outweigh the positives?

Also, some things, like linoleic acid, just aren't hormetic.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7304)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:55 PM

I doubt we would have had any of those foods more than very occasionally. We mostly would have eaten ruminant fat and seafood. Of course this is mostly speculation, but it is supported by the fact we have no way to regulate fatty acid ratios at a cellular level. Omega 6 is a problem because it *isn't* treated as a toxin.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on April 21, 2011
at 10:15 PM

yah when does it become deleterious. i wonder about linoleic acid in small amounts though, since it is in almost all animal fats, nuts, and even avocados.

0
04293f705870e1837b8670d3c1cd5f67

on April 21, 2011
at 09:30 PM

I get your line of thinking and wonder the same thing. I was recently at a seminar and one of the "specialist" I recall saying, changing it up once in awhile was a good idea.

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