Hormone Balance and Food Combining: How Proteins, Carbs and Fats Affect the Body’s Behavior

by drpaul

Balance your hormones by balancing the things you put in your mouth.  I don’t mean weighing your food or putting them on the scales of justice (although you should justify what you do eat based on how you will feel, both physically and mentally, POST consumption, NOT pre-consumption).  This is more about balancing the types of foods you eat.  That’s right:  the foods that you do or don’t eat and the combinations of them play a major role in the types of hormones that are released in your body.

The western (modern) diet basically tells our bodies one thing hormonally…GROW.  Yep, if you eat like the average American, you are eating a diet that gives you no chance at being healthy or having a “magazine-like” body.  And we’re not talking Cosmo, People or Muscle Media, we’re talking Shape or Women’s/Men’s Health, or any other magazine that depicts people who at least appear healthful.  You see, the average American eats roughly 50% of their calories from carbohydrates, and most of them come in the form of processed grains, sugar and corn syrup.

If you compare this to our ancestors’ diets, you will see a large difference in both the amount and the type.  About 25-40% of our ancestors’ diet was comprised of carbs, and those were pretty much exclusively vegetables with some fruit (not a lot).  This plays a huge role in our hormones and in our size.  Now, it is safe to say that nobody wants to be fat, but from a physiological perspective on the way that we eat in this country, it sure seems like that is the goal.  Not only are we eating tons of these processed carbs, but it is also the way that we eat them.  You see, different hormones are released, based on the food combinations that we choose.

Food Choices and Hormonal Response
What is a typical breakfast in the States (if it is even eaten)?  Cereal comes to mind, along with pastries, pop tarts, packaged waffles, bagels or toast right?  We’re not sure how mainstream media switched the good ol’ fashion steak and eggs to a sugar slap first thing in the morning, but it has happened.  Eating like this is just like a slap or a punch to the pancreas, telling insulin to be released and telling the body to grow, grow, grow.  We would have never eaten that high a sugar content or anything remotely like these foods in our hunter-gather days.  And remember, we are the same – our genes haven’t changed much, if at all, in the last 40,000 years.

You may be wondering what you should eat for breakfast; we have some ideas.

Carbs are going to spike our insulin, no matter what; however, we can curb that spike to some degree if we eat some protein and fat along with the carbs.  We are in no way recommending a high carb, high processed food diet.  It’s important to take it one step further when eating fruits and veggies.  It is best when we eat a balanced diet by consuming protein, fat and healthful carbs together at every meal.  This is the basis for The Zone Diet prescribed by Dr. Barry Sears.  Where we at Bonfire Health differs from Dr. Sears is when it comes to quality of food.  He goes into this somewhat, but we want you to focus on eating natural foods (from the earth, not processed), as well as balancing the macronutrient content (protein, carbs and fats).

By eating healthful carbohydrates (fruits and veggies), you will dramatically decrease the insulin released, which will decrease your body’s message to grow and store fat.  By going a step further, eating a small portion of lean protein (grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken, etc.) and fats (avocados, nuts, seeds) along with those carbs, you will in fact be balancing your hormones, which will keep you healthy or move you toward health!

For more info on balancing hormones through foods, as well as other great nutritional info, visit:

What is The Zone Diet

Crossfit Nutrition

The Paleo Diet

Robb Wolf

Wiki on Hormones

Vitamin D is not a vitamin, it’s a…

by admin


Yep, research is now confirming that vitamin D is much more than a “vitamin” – not that vitamins are chopped liver, mind you.

The take-away: 

  • First, low vitamin D levels are associated with many diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and hypertension.
  • Second, because of our modern culture’s misguided fear of sun exposure (think sunscreens), vitamin D deficiency is quite common in most parts of the world. Yes, it’s true we don’t want to “burn” our skin from overexposure to sun, but we now know that regular sun exposure is important for vitamin D, a critical hormone, to be manufactured by our body.
  • Third, vitamin D is made from cholesterol through activation of sunlight on the skin. [By the way, cholesterol is not bad – that’s an unscientific myth that has been shamelessly fed to the American public by misinformed doctors and the pharmacologic industry – drug companies – that drive the healthcare system today1,2,3,4].

Vitamin D has long been known as an essential nutrient, mainly for its critical role in calcium and phosphate homeostasis, which directly and indirectly affect many important cellular functions throughout the body, such as bone health (severe vitamin D deficiency has long been known to cause rickets; but also, remember adenosine triphosphate, ATP, from your high school biology – the Kreb’s cycle – for chemical energy transport and cellular metabolism and respiration); calcium and phospate biochemistry impacts nearly all cell functions.

In the past two decades, vitamin D’s influence on the immune system was discovered5. Now, more recently, vitamin D is being shown to be a significant hormone involved in many endocrine functions including the induction of cell differentiation, inhibition of cell growth, immunomodulation, and finally, regulation of other hormonal systems6,7.

What should you do?

  • Get regular exposure to sunlight, if possible.
  • If you live in an area that precludes you from getting regular sun exposure, especially in the winter, supplement with vitamin D3: (the Bonfire doctors take 4,000 – 5,000 IU per day).
  • Find a tanning salon that has updated technology (electronic instead of magnetic ballasts, UVB, Infrared, Red and Blue Light bulbs).


1The Cholesterol Myths, Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD
2The Cholesterol Myth That Could Be Harming Your Health, Huffington Post, Joseph Mercola, MD.
3Fat is Good
4Medical Science Gone Bad
5Mora JR, Iwata M, von Andrian UH. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stageNat Rev Immunol 2008; 8:685–698.
6Norman A. From vitamin D to hormone D: fundamentals of the vitamin D endocrine system essential for good health.  Am J Clin Nutr 2008; 88:491S–499S.
7Dusso A, Brown A, Slatopolsky E. Vitamin DAm J Physiol Renal Physiol 2005; 289:F8–F28.

Week 4 Fuel Insights: Carbohydrates and Insulin

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Carbohydrates and Insulin

Critical Concept:  Hormone Balance
Did you know that every time that you put food in your body there is a hormonal reaction?  Hormones are potent chemical agents that create sweeping changes in your physiology. Insulin not only plays the leading role in how food nourishes the cells of our bodies – it is the star of the show – it’s also one of the most powerful and significant hormones in regards to our health, period.  Insulin is also a primary stress hormone - its physiological influence is broad and varied, but for the sake of this lesson plan, we’ll focus on its most common moniker: The Fat Storage Hormone.

Carbohydrates are reduced to sugar during digestion and metabolism.  In the bloodstream, sugars trigger the release of insulin.  Insulin reduces blood sugar by acting as a carrier or transport mechanism, bringing sugar into the cells to be burned for energy.  Once energy needs are met, excess sugars (or calories) are stored as fat.  The presence of insulin promotes fat storage.

All carbohydrates stimulate insulin response, as do excess calories from any source.  Eating refined carbohydrates (think pasta, breads, cereals, crackers) or overeating causes “over taxation” of this insulin response.  Over-stimulation of the insulin response cascade results in chronically elevated blood insulin levels, which lessens insulin sensitivity, which in turn stimulates more insulin production.  This describes the common downward spiral that leads to what is called Metabolic Derangement.

Ultimately, this derangement leads to obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids and Type 2 Diabetes, and Coronary Artery Disease - all of which combined are referred to as the now common Syndrome X.

A food’s glycemic index is an indicator of its effect on blood sugar levels, but more specifically, the resulting blood insulin levels.  Foods that have a high glycemic index are considered the culprits in our current national eating disorder and resulting obesity and chronic disease dilemma.  The top offenders are all sugars, grains and dairy products.

The research is clear and compelling.  We must return to eating only the foods that were available to our ancestors during the period of time in which our biological needs (and genetic blueprint) were determined.  We must get back to eating an abundance of nutrient dense, fiber-rich carbohydrates: fresh fruits and vegetables as foundational elements of a health-promoting diet style.  Nutritious whole foods must replace the nutrient-poor, low-fiber, high-calorie refined carbohydrates that now dominate our modern disease-promoting diet.

As it turns out, our food pyramid needs to be reworked again.

Healthy people follow a simple, but profound diet style:  a “Paleo gluten-free diet,” consisting of vegetables, nuts, seeds, some starch, a little fruit, and quality protein; notice what’s absent:  grains and dairy – they both cause insulin spikes and gluten-containing grains cause chronic inflammation throughout the body.  This best practice will ensure that you are eating “live” whole foods, high in enzymes and nutritional components like anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, and avoiding foods that cause abnormal insulin spikes.  Using a high quality Whole Food Supplement is an excellent strategy to supplement a nutritious diet style, especially for those whose busy lives make it hard to get the recommended 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Because it has become increasingly difficult to find wholesome, nutritious foods “on the go,” packing your own lunch is a vital behavior.  Always ask:  “Where are the plants?,”Where is the fat?” and “Where is the protein?” when prepping your meals.

Proteins and fats moderate or mitigate the insulin response associated with carbs and sugars, so make sure to include them with every meal.

Always shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, even a whole foods store – this will keep you away from most of the refined carbohydrates and processed foods.  Nudge the scales in your favor.  Buy and prep healthy snacks and pre-empt the “crunchy-salty munchies.”  The battle is won at the checkout counter:  If you don’t buy it – you won’t eat it.

Week 4 Summary Checklist:  At this point you should be….

  • Drinking water as your predominant beverage
  • Eating lots of plant foods, and eating them first
  • Eating adequate amounts of high quality, lean protein
  • Consuming high-fiber, whole food carbohydrates (that’s vegetables!)