The Tao of Paleo: Finding Your Path to Health and Harmony


“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” ~ Jimmy Johnson

JG: Really Joe? Jimmy Johnson? You know I’m a Giants fan. I can’t stand that guy.

JS: I know. You’re well aware that I enjoy irritating you from time to time.

JG: Duly noted. What’s next on our list?

JS: It’s time to talk about supplements.

JG: I’ve been kind of dreading this chapter.

JS: Why?

JG: Because I don’t supplement very much myself - I seem to do quite well without any supplements. I know that others swear by them. I find myself in the uncomfortable position of not knowing much about the subject at hand.

JS: Why is that uncomfortable? I assumed you knew a lot about the subject of your hand.

JG: Thanks for the gratuitous auto-eroticism joke. I’m just not sure I can speak intelligently on supplements to our readers.

JS: Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. I invited someone over to join us in this chapter.

JG: Let me guess, Sylvester Supplemonty?

JS: There’s the door. Close, but not quite. Jason, meet Cecilia Supplementarian.

CS: Hi guys!

JG: Psst. Joe. You thinking what I’m thinking?

JS: Yep. Pointy jaw, sharp teeth, long, skinny fingers…looks just like her. Did you drop a house on her sister?

JG: Nope. Why is she staring at me like that?

JS: I think she ummmm…likes you. Hey, Cecilia, what’s that you just dropped out of your purse?

CS: Ooops, sorry, that’s a bottle of fish oil.

JG: Not the bottle of fish oil. Is that a nine inch butcher knife?

JS: Sure looks like it. And it looks like it’s still dripping human blood.

CS: No, it’s ummmm…ketchup. And before we go any further, I was acquitted. Not guilty. And the statute of limitations has already expired. Got it?

JG: Psst…JOE! Is that a severed finger wearing a wedding ring hanging on that chain around her neck?

JS: I’m glad you didn’t say that too loud Jason, because it might have been awkward.

JG: I’m going out the window if things go south.

JS: Cecilia! I was just about to say that Jason isn’t alone when it comes to his views on supplements. Many paleo people don’t know much about them, or they believe that we can get all the nutrients we need from food, and only from food.

CS: Well…we don’t eat the same foods that we have historically eaten for 99% of our existence as hunter gatherers. For example, we only eat muscle meat - and we don’t generally eat organ meat, or other parts of the animal which contain gelatin, which is important for our joints. Hey Jason…how’s your organ meat…situation??

JG: Ummm…err… I make bone broth regularly from gelatinous bones, just for that purpose, and I eat liver and other organ meats regularly, so that’s not an issue for me.

JS: There are some essential nutrients, like vitamin K2 for example, that you need to get in your diet somehow. If you aren’t eating liver or and aren’t making bone broth…

CS: Who has time to make bone broth? I work as a traveling salesperson and I barely have time to make my own food at all. So I carry a bag of grass-fed gelatin with me and just add it to my tea once a day, I am big on bagging tea myself, actually. How do YOU feel about tea bagging, Jason, you sexy caveman, you? Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind tasting some of your bone broth…

JG: Uh…Joe…

JS: Just relax. She can smell your fear.

CS: Sometimes I just eat a spoonful of the gelatin. You know, I’m happy to swallow just about anything that goes in my mouth.

JS: Yuck.

JG: Yuck.

CS: Hey, at least I’m certain to get what my body needs that way. I think liver is downright nasty. I tried dressing it up with spices and onions and veggies, but it just tasted like icky funk with spices and onions and veggies on top. So now I take grass-fed liver pills instead.

JG: Psst…Joe…why do I think she’s not talking about animal liver?

CS: Slander!!! That was never proven!!

JS: Don’t alarm her. Cecilia, liver pills?

CS: Yeah, they are basically liver, chopped into pill-size pieces. Don’t worry, you take them orally. You know, Jason, I like to take things orally.

JG: Now isn’t that extra special?

CS: And they are inexpensive. I take one every morning. And I also take a couple of grams of fish oil - also in pill form - to get the right ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat.

JG: Aren’t you worried that the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the fish oil are rancid? Why not just eat fish?

CS: Who has time for that? Plus, with all the other toxins that are in fish these days, like mercury in tuna and PSBTs in farm raised fish, who knows if it’s even safe to eat fish. Besides, most of the paleo gurus say to take fish oil anyway, even if you are eating fish each week.

JS: Depends how much.

CS: They also say the mercury issue in the fish oil is moot because the mercury shows up in the protein of the fish and not in the fat.

JS: How else do you supplement Cecilia?

CS: I take 5,000 IUs of vitamin D drops - they are more absorbable than the pills - every day. Because humans are supposed to get vitamin D from the sun, I make sure to only take it during the day.

JS: Cecilia, you are breaking my heart. Why not just go sit in the sun? Seems like that would be a lot easier and more natural. Jason and I just saw two huge meta-studies on Vitamin D that looked at data from more than a million subjects. It found that while supplementation may be helpful, the best solution is to get about 30 minutes outside in the sun a few times a week.

CS: Who has time to sit around in the sun? I have work to do and I don’t have time to lie around in the sun during the day.

JG: Geez. That’s a lot of supplements to be taking. Let me elaborate for a moment on these Vitamin D studies, conducted by scientists at Harvard, Oxford, and other elite research universities, because they are so significant. As we mentioned above, these two studies looked at the health history over a million people. Subjects with lower levels of Vitamin D were found to have a 35% higher risk of death from heart disease, a 14% higher risk of death from cancer, and higher mortality rates overall. It’s pretty clear that good Vitamin D levels are critical to good health. OK, let’s move on.

CS: I also take 500 mg of magnesium every day. I am careful to take magnesium malate, glycinate, or citrate so my body absorbs it properly. Who has time to eat 2.5 cups of spinach every day?

JS: Ok, well, you have a point there, that’s a lot of spinach.

CS: I bet Jason also has a point. A big one.

JG: Joe…Joe…she’s literally drooling now…there are big gobs of drool running down her chin.

JS: Oh, it’s cute. Cecilia, what else is in your supplementary repertoire?

CS: Well, I know it’s important to keep my gut flora healthy, but I think kombucha is nasty, and so is sauerkraut, and I can’t do kefir because I don’t tolerate dairy, so I take probiotic pills with 4 billion organisms in each. The only problem with that is trying to make sure they the probiotics are stored properly so they maintain their freshness. But I trust my sources.

JG: Is that all?

CS: I lift weights so I take 100% egg protein powder. I’m careful to avoid the stuff that says 100% egg but really has a ton of other ingredients and chemicals and flavorings. I get the pure stuff. I used to take whey - but it’s dairy protein and I want to be as paleo as I can be, so I now use egg. Whey can be inflammatory for a lot of people.

JS: Yes, for the dairy-sensitive folks in particular.

CS: I take a spoonful of creatine and one of L-glutamine every day to help my muscles build faster. My ex-husband used to take selenium, zinc, and NAC, and sunbathe naked to help boost his testosterone levels. One time I went out to him while he was sunbathing and I…

JS: Yeah that’s really very interesting, but let’s get back to supplements. Doesn’t it bother you that supplements are largely unregulated and can contain almost anything?

CS: I work closely with experts on the subject to make sure that the brands I buy are the best…Jason, you handsome hunk of grass-fed human, I would love to show you what I mean by working closely…

JS: Actually, this is the part where Jason and I start talking alone. See, here’s the script, and right here it says, “Cecilia makes one more revolting quasi-cannibalistic sexual innuendo bordering on the grossly inappropriate - or exceeding it - guaranteeing that no sane publisher would ever pick this book up, and then leaves Jason and Joe to speak alone.” We are obviously past that point. Thank you very much for stopping by Cecilia.

CS: Hey, wait, Jason, can I get your cell number?

JG: Yeah, sure. It’s seven.

CS: But that’s only one number!

JG: I’ve had a cellphone for a really long time. Give me a ring

Cecilia, and thanks for coming by. See ya!!

CS: But…but…

JS: Hey Cecilia! Is that a Navy ship that just docked out by the pier? It must be, look at all those young guys in sailor suits walking around looking desperate. They look very healthy and quite well-fed, too.

CS: Oooops! See ya guys! I’ve got a date with some seamen!!

JG: And right there Joe, we hit a new low.

JS: Sorry about that bro. At least it’s over. I swear she seemed quite normal on the telephone.

JG: So now that the freak show is over, what are we going to recommend to people reading this? She did seem to know her stuff. At the very least, I learned a lot more about supplements - and sexual harassment - than I knew before.

JS: I think we need to make sure people are getting the essentials in some form or another. The vast majority of people - paleo or not - do not eat a diverse enough menu each week to ensure they are getting everything they need.

JG: So you’re on board with something like organ meats, gelatin, 500mg of magnesium, 5,000 IUs of vitamin D, probiotics, and 2-3 grams of fish oil, like Cecilia?

JS: Yes and no. If you are not drinking bone broth regularly, magnesium is a good supplement. Take citrate, glycinate, or malate, like Cecilia said. I would ditch the gelatin for bone broth. I don’t care if it is inconvenient, they are not substitutes for one another. Bone broth has lots of minerals in it, aside from magnesium, and there is plenty of evidence that it’s superior. We’ve both heard stories of high-collagen bone broth and physical therapy healing joints in cases where doctors recommended surgery or even total replacement. Like mine.

JG: Yep.

JS: Organ meats are important for sure, because they are the only source of a few essential nutrients like choline. If you really don’t like liver and aren’t interested in blending it in with ground beef, then sure, go for the grass-fed liver pills, but there are plenty of tasty recipes out there you should try first. I can’t go along with Cecilia’s advice on D supplements. The jury is out on D supps. It is easy to take too much D, and that can be toxic. Instead, get natural sunlight for half as long as it takes you to get some color on your skin. The darker your skin tone, the more time you need in the sun to get the same amount of D. The meta-studies we mentioned earlier just make the case for getting D the old fashioned way - via good nutrition and the sun.

JG: What about the fish oil?

JS: I would consider half a teaspoon a day of a quality brand of fermented cod liver oil - for example, Green Pasture is an excellent brand – instead. Fermented cod liver oil contains Vitamins D, A, and E, in just the right proportions to have synergistic benefits. Tip of the hat to Chris Masterjohn and his work with fat soluble vitamins. And it’s fermented, so it’s good for the gut too. We do need to mention that Dr. Chowdhury’s meta-study on saturated fat says the jury is still out on fish oil, but it isn’t harmful and we think further research will confirm its value.

JG: How about getting the oil - and the omega 3 fats it contains - from eating the fish itself? Dr. Chowdhury’s saturated fat meta-study recommends it.

JS: That, too. Although it has many other amazing benefits, the omega-3 in cod liver oil isn’t enough by itself. Try to eat a pound of fatty fish each week - for example, that’s about one large can of wild salmon, or a few tins of mackerel or sardines. That shouldn’t prove overly expensive or inconvenient for anyone. Just add some lemon juice, Bragg’s vinegar, sea salt, and/or mustard and eat it right out of the can. It’s delicious.

JS: Be careful with large amounts of probiotic-dense foods like kombucha and kefir. They are good in small amounts but larger quantities can throw your gut flora out of balance. Ideally, get probiotics from food, but supplement if you have to or if you are intolerant of food-based sources. As Cecilia mentioned, if you need to use supplements, get a quality source of live bacteria.

JG: Was that before or after the bloody butcher knife fell out of her bag and we noticed the mummified finger?

JS: Not quite sure.

JG: Anything else you want to mention on supplements?

JS: Either get a butter oil supplement - again, I recommend Green Pasture, which makes a version blended with fermented cod liver oil - my kids LOVE the cinnamon flavored blend - or if you can tolerate it, eat some raw dairy or grass-fed cheese each week.

JG: Are you actually recommending dairy?

JS: Again: if you can tolerate it, and in small amounts. Other than organ meat and pastured eggs, it is one of the only good sources of vitamin K2, which has tremendous health benefits.

JG: Okay. What about taking multivitamins?

JS: No multivitamins because they almost always contain large doses of folic acid, iron, vitamin E, and/or calcium, all of which can be harmful in excess amounts. Thanks to Chris Kresser for his work in this area.

JG: How about natural testosterone boosters?

JS: You may wish to consider zinc, selenium, and iodine if you don’t eat a lot of shellfish. These are all important to get in your diet one way or another, and yes, the first two do boost testosterone levels. Don’t supplement selenium if you are already eating lots of shellfish, because some studies suggest that excessive selenium supplementation may have adverse health effects. And there are studies to back up NAC boosting testosterone too - that’s N Acetyl Cysteine.

JG: What kind of doses are we talking?

JS: 200 micrograms of selenium daily, 50 milligrams of zinc. As for iodine, take anywhere between 12.5 and 50 milligrams per day, but don’t take it at all if you suffer from an autoimmune disease. 600 milligrams of NAC.

JG: Great. Did we want to mention professional advice?

JS: Absolutely. There are a number of skilled experts who specialize in recommending supplements to treat various glandular issues, for example, thyroiditis, adrenal fatigue, et cetera. We would suggest you try this option before you opt for prescription drugs.

JG: Which are, generally speaking, not paleo.

JS: Right.

JG: Because they simply function to blunt or alleviate the symptoms, masking your body’s natural signals, and rarely address the underlying cause of the problem. And - serious plagues notwithstanding - people have been thriving for thousands of years without them and have been doing just fine.

JS: Exactly.

JG: I’m still not sure supplementation is right for my Tao, even though I’m starting to get the picture on how they can be helpful to many.

JS: A large chunk of the paleo community would probably agree with you Jason. Again, I have to emphasize that it is ideal to get all the nutrients you need from real food and, like with the cod liver oil, many of the recommended supplements are actually real food in another form. However, if it’s not practical or realistic for you to eat a complete menu each week, for whatever reason, then supplement as needed. And do it intelligently.

JG: Let’s touch on protein powder and aminos. My understanding is that protein powder, creatine, and L- glutamine don’t provide you with anything essential that your body doesn’t make or that you can’t get from eating real food.

JS: Right. However, a lot of paleo people still supplement with these because they want to build muscle faster and more effectively, and they don’t have the time, money, or appetite to ingest the extra food required, or just want to make sure they are getting enough of these muscle-building supps. Just remember to carefully vet the sources of ALL the supplements you choose to take.

JG: Absolutely. If you do use protein powder, just make sure not to get anything full of chemicals and flavorings. Avoid soy-based powder and use egg-based products.

JS: Just another word about boosting testosterone while we’re on the subject of supplementing.

JG: Yes. Men’s levels naturally decline after a certain age, so for many it may make sense to supplement the way Cecilia’s ex did. If you want to feel more youthful and build muscle more easily as you age, you might consider taking some supplements and doing some things that promote higher testosterone levels.

JS: You can try nude sunbathing or going to a tanning salon. Spending intimate time with your girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse and taking zinc, NAC, and selenium are also helpful. Just remember not to go overboard with the selenium. Just be careful of injections. They are expensive, and they can ruin your body’s ability to make testosterone naturally. As - er - aggressive as Cecilia was, she knew a lot about supplements, although perhaps she wasn’t going about taking them in the smartest way. She had some good information.

JG: …for a sexually predatory cannibal.

JS: Maybe next time we should do a conference call with her instead of having her here in person.

JG: As long as she is physically as far away as possible. On Neptune would be perfect. Preferably she should also be wearing a straitjacket.

JS: I think that about wraps it up for supplements.

JG: Wasn’t so bad.

JS: Nope.

JG: I just need to figure out how to get Cecilia out of my head.

JS: I’m just glad she wasn’t here when you mentioned your head.


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