Should I Really Eat More Fat?
Fat has gotten a bad rap for so many years but we are starting to finally hear in the media about why fat might not be so bad after all. We are in firm belief here at Live Simple Eat Well that adopting a whole food, nutrient dense diet and getting far away from the standard American diet is how we can achieve optimal health. Fat has never been bad, and never will be, but what we as a society have done to it, like highly processing and creating fats that were never made to enter the human body, is why they can be “bad.” If we are to adopt a whole food, nutrient dense diet full of fats the way nature intended we will begin to see the amazing benefits that fat has to offer us! If you are in to the science of how the body operates this article has plenty of great information for you, skip ahead to “key points” if you want to read past all of the sciency stuff.
In order to benefit from the fats we are eating, we must be able to digest them. Fats that are undigested become an assault on the immune system for a variety of reasons. First, high quality fats are a vital part of our diet to improve health, but in today’s society the fat that is generally consumed is extremely low quality and easily rancid which can lead to a whole host of problems in the body. When our bodies are functioning properly and after our food is chewed and mixed with gastric juices becoming chyme in the stomach, the process of digestion continues as chyme is released into the upper part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Chyme should be very acidic and this acidity triggers the small intestine to secrete mucus as well as hormones secretin and CCK into the bloodstream. Secretin signals to the pancreas to release bicarbonate and pancreatic juice and CCK signals to the gallbladder to release bile.
This is important because the pH of the chyme must be brought up in order for the bile salts that have been released to continue to complete the digestion of fats, as well as protein and carbohydrates. Still in the small intestine, fats are broken down into glycerol and fatty acid molecules and the millions of villi collect the nutrients and send them out into our bloodstream where they are needed by the entire body.
There are many points in the digestion process that are commonly disrupted and when digestion is off at any point, including our mental perception of our food, this can hinder the absorption of the nutrients we consume. Approximately 90% of americans suffer from producing too little stomach acid which poses a major problem in digestion. Stomach acid is essential to maintain the proper pH of the stomach or else foods aren’t properly broken down, in the case of fats they will rancidify. We learned that chyme has to maintain a low pH (1.5-3) in order to be released into the duodenum. If stomach acid isn’t present to maintain this low pH the chyme will stay in the stomach for an extended period of time and fats will continue to rancidify. We also know that the pH of the chyme is critical for proper bile salt and hormone release, and if chyme is to alkaline in the duodenum secretin will not be released to trigger the release of pancreatic juices. All of this will lead to the improper and incomplete digestion of not just fats but proteins and carbohydrates as well.
Our modern society is notorious for not just eating low quality and a low amount of fats but also for having low stomach acid, and this combination is detrimental to our health. This combination leads to gallbladder dysfunction because a poor quality fat or low fat diet does not stimulate the release of bile causing the bile to sit in the gallbladder waiting to be used and while stagnant becomes vicious. The gallbladder will become stimulated but won’t be able to release this now vicious bile and since bile is absolutely necessary to emulsify and absorb fats, fats will not be absorbed. When our bodies aren’t able to absorb the nutrients we need, the lining of our small intestine that was once strong and able to pick and choose what was supposed to end up being expelled by the body or to be absorbed, now can’t differentiate between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys. This allows the inappropriate sizes of fats to be expelled into the bloodstream which sends our immune system into a spiral.
Key points: in order for our bodies to process and absorb the nutrients we need in our food (from a properly prepared, nutrient dense diet), we must have a properly functioning digestive system and an adequate amount of stomach acid. A high majority of americans don’t produce enough stomach acid which leads to a whole host of problems, including malabsorption/nutrition, acid reflux and autoimmune problems. An inadequate amount of stomach acid should be the first place physicians and nutritionists investigate to heal because of the amount of symptoms and illnesses this can lead to.
Some practical ways to help improve your digestion of fats:
- First, consider removing processed foods and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats from your diet and replace them with some of the suggestions below
- Check for and eliminate any and all food sensitivities
- Digestion starts in your brain, so what you think about your food matters
- Chew and enjoy your food
- Add digestive bitters to your meal routine
- 1-2 tlbs of ACV 30 minutes before meals
- Add supplements that help with digestive enzyme and bile action like Betaine HCl, pepsin and pancreatin (this should be after underlying condition of low stomach acid is healed and all above methods have been explored)
Examples of some healthy fats (in no particular order):
- Olive oil
- Grass-fed beef
- Raw dairy (if you can handle it)
- Grass-fed butter or Ghee (depending on your sensitivity to it)
- Nuts & seeds (always in moderation & preferably sprouted)
- Please consult with your doctor or NTP before stopping or adding any supplemental protocols and medications.