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March 2011

Why Fiber Consumption Causes Flatulence...And Why You Need To "Fart or Be Fat!"

By Wendy Solganik

When I started a blog a year ago about my weight loss a few friends of mine who I haven't seen or talked to since long before high school graduation got wind (no pun intended) of what I was doing. They were very supportive, interested and inspired by how I had lost weight. So they too started to incorporate a lot more vegetables, fruits and beans into their diets (a la Eat to Live, Volumetrics, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, The PEERtrainer Cheat System and The Engine 2 Diet . . . talk about a fusion!).

Immediately, reports of digestive changes started to roll in. Let's just say their systems started to work a lot better. They weren't used to that with the Standard American Diet. But I wasn't sure if they were comfortable with the changes in their body brought about by their increase in fiber.

The amount of dietary fiber in the average North American diet is really very low. It ranges from about 9-18 grams of dietary fiber per day. This diet is however, very high in fat and processed foods that have been depleted of much of their original fiber and nutrients. As a result, we consume about 80% less of the fiber our ancestors consumed just 100 years ago. Current recommendations from the United States National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine suggest that adults should consume 20–35 grams of dietary fiber per day. But I would hardly consider those recommendations a "high-fiber diet."

The benefits of a high fiber diet are so well known that they hardly bear repeating here. But just in case you are not on the up and up about fiber, just do a Google search for "benefits of a high fiber diet" and read until your eyes glaze over! Fiber is amazing.

A few weeks ago I posted this YouTube video of Dr. Lustig about the science of sugar.

It made me think long and hard about my sugar habit. One of the most fascinating things that came out of Dr. Lustig's mouth was the following comment, which I memorized (it wasn't too hard) and can frequently be heard repeating:

"Fart or be fat."

Immediately, I thought of my old friends and how they had reacted to their change to a high fiber diet. They kind of acted like flatulence and bowel movements were weird. And even I thought flatulence was bad, a signal that you've overdone something or that a certain food doesn't agree with you. That same Google search on "benefits of a high fiber diet" will also yield you endless results on how to tame the gassy monster. So gas must be a bad thing, right?

Well, not so fast. What if what Dr. Lustig said was true, and what does "fart or be fat" really mean? What if it means "if you are not farting, you are not eating enough fiber" (you can quote ME on that!)? Maybe that's the angle we should be looking at this from.

What Is Dietary Fiber?

"Dietary fiber is found in the structural components of plants and cannot be digested by humans. Because it passes through the body undigested, it is not used for energy, but plays an important role in digestion and disease prevention," explains Lanah J. Brennan, RD, a dietitian in Lafayette, La.

Dietary fiber is divided into two categories, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Most foods that contain fiber have a mixture of the two types. "When mixed with liquid, soluble fiber forms a gel,” says Brennan. β€œIn your digestive tract, this gel helps to keep you feeling full and slows down digestion. Insoluble fiber does not form a gel. Instead, it passes through the intestinal tract intact, keeping things in motion."

Soluble fiber comes mainly from the insides of fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber comes from the skins of fruits and vegetables, and from whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Why does fiber consumption cause flatulence?

Your body does not digest and absorb fiber in the small intestine because of a shortage or absence of certain enzymes there. So this undigested food then passes from the small intestine into the large intestine, where normal, harmless bacteria break down the food, producing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and, in about a third of all people, methane. Eventually these gases exit through the rectum.

Everyone has intestinal gas and that is a good thing. The normal amount of flatus passed each day depends on whether you are male or female (men fart more) and what is eaten. Foods that can cause flatulence (gas) in some people may not produce flatulence in others. It all depends on the amount and type of bacteria each person has in the large intestine.

How does this all affect weight loss?

Fiber alone contains no calories, and it provides the bulk to your diet that gives you the satisfaction of chewing. Fiber gives us the feeling of a full stomach sooner and stays in our stomach longer than other substances we eat, slowing down our rate of digestion and keeping us feeling full longer. Foods with fiber are satisfying so you don't feel hungry between meals. Click here to see the fiber content of a large variety of foods.  

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when adding fiber to your diet. While fiber is normally helpful to your digestive system, without adequate fluids it can cause constipation instead of helping to eliminate it.

What's the moral of the story?

Don't fear the fiber! And if it does cause flatulence, embrace it. Like Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing!"

Wendy Solganik writes the blog "Healthy Girl's Kitchen" where she provides healthy recipe ideas that are plant strong!

Why Should You Reduce Wheat or Gluten In Your Diet?

When the suggestion is made that people ought to at least explore a reduction in wheat and gluten in their diets, it often triggers a sense of panic as people start to make a mental note of all the foods they commonly eat that have wheat and gluten in them.

The reality is that in the US and in the West, we eat a diet very high in wheat. The other reality is that something has gone horribly wrong with the wheat itself. Doctors, scientists and researchers are just starting to get a handle on why.

What we do know is that gluten-free foods are a rapidly growing market. Different people react to gluten in different ways. Some people put on extra weight in the gut, others develop intestinal discomfort, and others suffer from skin reactions.

A key component of the new PEERtrainer Cheat System is that we provide a structure to help you reduce wheat and gluten levels in your body. People are reporting that they are feeling better and have more energy on this (free) system. We also direct you to foods which help to serve as a replacement for the gluten.

What Is Gluten And Why Is It A Problem?

According to Alan Pressman, PhD: "Gluten is a protein, and it can be found in wheat, rye, and barley.  Many people are allergic to it, and millions of people are sensitive to it.  It can trigger all sorts of inflammatory responses in your intestinal track and entire body. It creates chronic inflammation throughout the body, and if you are sensitive or allergic to it can cause a 72 percent increased risk of death. That's pretty serious business."

As we have written before, inflammation is a serious issue and has implications for both your health and your weight loss. As you reduce levels of inflammation in your body, you become healthier and it is usually easier to lose weight.

Can You Lose Weight On A Gluten Free Diet?

A side effect of a gluten free or gluten reduced diet is often weight loss. The exact reason this happens is unclear, but would observe that most people who adopt a gluten free diet, tend to do so in the context of overall improvement in their diet. When people increase the nutrient density of their diet, they tend to feel more full and have fewer hunger cravings.

Does A Gluten Free Diet Give You More Energy?

From our own personal experience, a gluten free diet can lead to a dramatic increase in energy. Again, we are not sure if it is the absence of wheat or the presence of better overall nutrition, but when you start to remove breads, grains and pasta from the diet, you tend to replace it with higher nutrient foods. Which will increase your energy.

Can A Gluten Free Diet Target Belly Fat Or Beer Bellies?

It is very common to hear that one loses weight everywhere at once, at that you cannot "target belly fat." Lets pick apart that assertion by asking this question. Have you ever heard the term "wine belly?" According to Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist, consumption of large quantities of wheat can lead to what he calls a "Wheat Belly."

In his patients, reduction in wheat consumption has helped them. He advises people to go wheat free for a 4 week period to see what happens. He states that you will have more energy, you'll be less hungry, and you will have more stamina during the day. As a cardiologist, he also points out that your risk for heart disease will lower.

What Are The Downsides Of A Gluten Free Diet?

According to Alan Pressman, if you do reduce gluten in your diet, you need to make sure to eat foods that help to feed the "good bacteria" in your stomach. He states that  "It just so happens your probiotics - the ProDophilus that live in your body absolutely love gluten. it's a great source of food for those good bacteria.  It can be considered a prebiotic. Removing gluten from your diet is a good thing do, but you are starving out your Bifidobacterium and basilis, which is not good at all. Make sure that as you eliminate gluten from your diet, you replace the food for your bacteria...... Asparagus, bananas, fruit, green tea, yogurt and kefir, legumes, peas, and whole grains are excellent sources of these prebiotics."

How Do You Start Reducing Gluten In Your Diet?

An excellent way of beginning to reduce gluten and wheat is to find ways of being able to identify ways that you can practically do this. For those of you who have downloaded the PEERtrainer Cheat System, you will see that we have created a very easy framework that gets plenty of high nutrient calories into your diet. But this is in a context where there is plenty of "wiggle room" for you.

It is not restrictive, and lets you move towards your health goal at your pace. 

If you have not yet downloaded your free copy of the PEERtrainer Cheat System, you can do so here.

If you are looking for Gluten Free recipes, almost every single one that PEERtrainer has developed is gluten free. We haven't "gone public" with this until now, and wanted to see how easy it was for people to actually do this.

It is, and people are able to to many of our recipes. We got one email recently that said: 

"Hey team, prepared the insane man hunger bison recipe this weekend and my husband + I loved it. Brilliant."

More PEERtrainer Recipes Here.


How do you get gluten out of your diet?

This can be a long and frustrating process. There is wheat and gluten in so many things, some things that you enjoy very much. Once you do find foods that you enjoy, you'll find the process very easy in your home. At restaurants and on the road, it is more difficult. Avocado is an excellent go to food when you are traveling. It is nutrient dense, has a great mix of protein, fat, carbs and important micronutrients. There are a decent amount of calories in avocado, but this is actually a good thing because it is very difficult to be overweight on a gluten free diet.

Will Getting Rid Of Gluten Help Me Get Rid Of Eczema?

There is no "cure" for eczema, but the symptoms can be controlled. This too can be an extremely long process, but if you totally, 100% eliminate wheat from your diet, you might be very surprised at how your symptoms and discomfort decrease. You also need to make sure to take a high quality fish oil in high doses each day, which will help control your overall immune response.

There are many "internal" things you can do to control the symptoms of eczema. So much treatment focuses on the external. If you do things like eliminate wheat and dairy, increase your greens, start taking a probiotic, make sure to take a fish oil supplement- you are likely to see some improvement.

As an fyi, the PEERtrainer Cheat System was developed by a group of people very familiar with eczema and gluten intolerance. It is an easy way to eliminate gluten from your diet.

"I Have Type 2 Diabetes. Will Reducing Gluten Help Me?"

The answer to this question is that most people will benefit a great deal from a reduction of wheat in their diet. Type 2 Diabetics are no exception. If you are a Type 2 Diabetic having a hard time losing weight, gluten elimination is something to try for sure.

How Do I Cure The Damage That Gluten Has Done To My System?

There is a growing list of reasons you should not have gluten in your diet, or explore eliminating it for a period. Another important question is what to do after the damage has been done. Remember that inflammation is a key symptom among people who have a reaction to gluten. Fish Oil is something that will help to treat inflammation. But you have to focus on the gut itself, and building gut health. This is a tricky area because health experts are JUST starting to get a handle on how this works.

Nothing you read online can treat or diagnose anything. However, there are things you might want to explore. L-Glutamine in supplement form is something that is commonly used to treat the gut by health professionals. Probiotics are also commonly suggested by health professionals to help overall gut health.


5 Reasons To Remove Gluten From Your Diet


Do You Really Need To Eat Organic Food?

Someone just asked this question in the PEERtrainer community:

"I'm considering signing up for the PNR program. It sounds great. I'm wondering though if it is realistically possible to commit to the program without fully getting on board with the organic everything component. I like the idea of going completely organic, but it is not something I can commit to fully right now.

When faced with the choice, I'd prefer to buy locally-produced foods that aren't organic, than buy organic produce that is transported from growers far away from my home. Also, I'm super crunched for time and do my grocery shopping at night after putting my kids to sleep. I can't shop at farmers markets and specialty foods stores on a regular basis because their limited shopping hours don't correspond with when I can go shopping. I do my best with what's available at the grocery stores in my area - but that doesn't include bison or organic chicken or beef because they often aren't available.

Can I still benefit from the PNR program and Cheat System?"

The answer to this question is yes you can benefit and most importantly, there is not an "organic everything" component to the program.

But there are some incentives built into the Cheat System to guide you to certain organic foods when possible. And we wanted to share some of our thinking and experience on this issue with you.

The first thing to note is that this, like many food issues, is the subject of vigorous debate. Dr. Fuhrman for example, does not think that organic food is necessary. From his perspective, when you give your body enough greens and nutrient dense foods, your body has the ability to detoxify itself. That includes the ability to get rid of whatever extra pesticides you ingest from non-organic foods.

Other people we have met vigorously disagree with this point of view. We have a colleague in common with Dr. Fuhrman, a gentleman who founded a very large health insurance company. This person strongly believes in eating organic food. He even has built a very large organic garden at his country house just outside of New York City, and he worked for years to get it "certified organic."

From his perspective, organic foods are a critical piece of the health puzzle. This is someone who spent years looking at actuarial tables trying to figure out the levers that could be pulled to make people healthier..and his company more profitable! (He views PEERtrainer as one of those levers, and this is why you see us have a health focus as opposed to simply focusing on weight loss. Our whole concept of "Point Of No Return" is part of our effort to help get people to long term equilibrium.)

At PEERtrainer, we are always very aware of these kinds of debates, and especially aware of the fact that this stuff confuses people to no end.

In this area we have developed a view that incorporates both these points of view. If you do go "full Fuhrman" then you probably will do fine without organic food. The thing is, very few people end up doing his approach 100%. One of the reasons we developed the Cheat System, was that we saw a need for people to have an approach that was more nutrient focused than conventional diets. But we also saw that people had a really hard time with the very aggressive approaches, unless they had some serious health problems.

(And if you are in a serious situation, Fuhrman's online member center is an unreal resource for a variety of reasons. Highly recommended.)

The high nutrient focus of the Cheat System is likely to help your body be cleaner than it otherwise would. But it also makes sense to avoid as much "junk" as possible. There is no escaping the fact that since the advent of modern chemistry there are now all sorts of "creative substances" that we breathe in, drink, ingest and absorb. We have even altered foods that were perfectly fine (like wheat and corn) that have now become toxic to many. 

A more toxic environment is the simple reality of things. And some toxins pack more of a punch than others. Pesticides are something can have particularly nasty side effects, especially for people who are not at the weight they want to be or whose energy is not where it needs to be.

From our perspective, we would agree heartily with the person who asked the question above. It makes sense to eat organic, but the practicality is the big issue. What we have decided to do at PEERtrainer is to identify some of the areas that it makes sense to focus on. Meat and berries are two areas in particular that we address in the Cheat System.

Jonny Bowden is someone that we think has a very practical approach to this issue. He has a PhD in nutrition, and has extensively researched most issues surrounding food. We asked him to summarize his views on the question "Do You Really Need To Eat Organic Food?"

Here is what he said:

"The research on organic food vs "conventional" food is all over the map, with some studies saying the nutritional content is the same, others saying its higher in organic food. What makes it even harder to figure out is that there are powerful interests on both sides that fudge the evidence, fund studies to support their point of view, and cherry pick what evidence there is to make their case.

What does seem really clear is that nutritional composition aside, the real advantage of organic food is what it doesn't have- heavy loads of pesticides and chemicals. But the truth is organic is expensive. So I'm of the opinion that you choose your battles.

Anything that's on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables I'd buy organic, including for example strawberries and blueberries. I'm not as concerned about fruits that have huge thick skins like bananas and melons and pineapples.

I'd also buy organic coffee since coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. Finally, it's important to make a distinction between grass-fed meat and organic meat. "Organic" meat just means the factory farmed cows were fed organic grain-- a step up from sprayed grain, true- but the point is that cows aren't meant to eat grain.  

Grass-fed cows eat their normal, omega-3 rich diet of pasture/ grass. While many grass-fed farms are also organic, some don't quite meet the government standards for organic, but I'd still go with grass-fed over anything else. Nearly all grass-fed farmers are very conscientious and use only as little chemicals as possible if they use any at all."


We hope this reasoning and approach makes sense. You don't need to feel restricted or paranoid or any of that. Just know that there are certain choices and distinctions you can make. We think that a little less meat for the money is probably a good thing. You will get increased nutrients, decreased chemicals. Maybe shift a few of the calories over to the left side of things. Which is going to help get your body in balance faster.

We know that we throw a lot at you at PEERtrainer. Our view is that if you give yourself enough time, you'll be able to make some amazing changes. And if you haven't yet, please download a copy of the Cheat System and also definitely do the Point Of No Return Program if you have not yet. It is a special journey, that gives you a unique view on things.

And please keep the questions coming!


Review: The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth by Jonny Bowden, PhD

At PEERtrainer we recommend that you build a "health bookshelf" over time. The reason is that if you are at all engaged in improving your diet and health over time, you will have questions. We advise that you learn to draw as many of your own conclusions as you can.

The reason for this suggestion is that there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. From our perspective, many "experts" have a great deal of helpful information about their core area of expertise, but are often closed to the ideas of others. They often cling closely to the "rightness" of their position and simply lose perspective.

Jonny Bowden, who holds a PhD in nutrition, is one of those experts who does not fall into this category. We keep writing about him, because we keep using his books as references. If you see something that interests you that is written by him, from our perspective it will be a good fit for your library.

The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth is one book that we refer to often. At the most basic level, it is helpful to have a guide of all the "healthy" stuff in one place. If you spend any time going through the book, you are going to get some great ideas that may trigger you to act.

We are big believers in the concept of "what you focus on is what you will get." This book is well designed, easy to read, with plenty of pictures. You are not going to get tired reading it.

Incorporates The Input Of Other Experts

Bowden does a great job of including the input of a wide variety of other nutritional experts in his book. This is also a remarkable trait of his, because so many "experts" out there are very isolated and insular and think their view is the only relevant one.

For example, on his entry on Pineapple, Bowden cites Dr. Andrew Weil when he states that the fruit "is effective in treating bruises, sprains, and strains by reducing swelling, tenderness and pain."

Shows You The Specific Health Benefits Of Certain Foods

Our favorite is his entry on Arugula, where Bowden reminds us that ancient Egyptians and Romans considered Arugula to be an aphrodisiac. Based on clinical trials conducted at PEERtrainer headquarters, we have concluded that they might be on to something.

He also does a very good job of revealing lesser known nutrition facts of certain foods. For example, Shrimp are high in Vitamin D and Selenium. But they are also loaded with a substance called "astaxanthin" which is a powerful antioxidant. It is a red-orange pigment related to beta-carotene and lutein, but is more powerful in many ways.

It is important to note that researchers are just starting to crack the puzzle of what is in certain foods to promote health. Books like this one help you get a grasp on what is currently known.




Key Multivitamins and Supplements For Stress, Energy, Inflammation and General Health

Since we started covering supplements, people have asked us for guidance on what a very basic level of supplementation ought to be. We have gotten really into supplements for energy, because that is a primary problem facing PEERtrainer members. The feedback has been very positive on that.

But in this process, we have learned that there is a "basic consensus" among health professionals. Most people will benefit from three things. First is a whole food, organic multivitamin. These will cost more than your garden variety Centrum or store brand. But it is worth it. With a whole food vitamin, you are ingesting actual food, and not rocks or synthetic chemicals.

New Chapter is the quality leader in this market, and they have two interesting formulas linked to below. One has added herbs to clam you down if you are stressed. Another has added ingredients to help boost your energy and endurance. There are links to both of these variations further down in this post.

We have no relation to this company, but we have become very strong advocates for them and their approach. If you are taking any multivitamin with non-food or synthetic ingredients, we strongly suggest exploring an alternative. 

There are people who swear that their Centrum makes them feel great. Our view is that there is so much "junk" out there that your body ingests, inhales or absorbs on a daily basis that you need to give yourself as much "clean" stuff as you can. You don't have to be a "health nut" to appreciate this approach.

Centrum costs less because it is an inferior product.

The second thing we see recommended almost universally is fish oil. There are studies that tie fish oil consumption with better heart health, lower rates of depression, reduced inflammation, reduced cancer rates and better mental health.

The key is finding a fish oil tablet that does not give you "the burps." If you have had those, you know exactly what we mean. We have a recommendation below which we have personally tested for 4 months now on a daily basis, and zero burps!

A third thing that we feel people would be helpful to people is a general anti-inflammatory supplement from New Chapter called Zyflamend. One has to be careful about the health claims of any supplement, but from what we have read, the results can be powerful. Zyflamend is something taken daily.

Zyflamend contains extracts of Rosemary, Turmeric, Ginger, Holy Basil, Green Tea, Hu Zhang, Chinese Goldthread, Barberry, Oregano and Baikal Skullcap. New Chapter is known for blending ingredients from different traditions and cultures. Some of these ingredients are well known, others not so. Finding a reliable, non-hypey company who makes supplements like these is really important, especially when you are dealing with some unknowns.

PEERtrainer Conclusion: We are very comfortable guiding people to the supplements listed below. The fish oil was recommended (actually prescribed) by a doctor. And New Chapter is a company whose products we keep pulling off the shelves and buying ourselves.



Perfect Energy


Perfect Calm




A Fish Oil Capsule That Does Not Give You The "Burps"


An Awesome Healthy Eating Guide For Pregnancy

At PEERtrainer, over the years we have built a pretty big library of health, nutrition, and fitness books sent to us by authors and publicists. We have also purchased many on our own. 

If we like a book, we will promote it and if we don't like it we don't. Sometimes we don't get to all the books. One that we just started to look at but have had it for a while is Jonny Bowden's "The 100 Healthiest Foods To Eat During Pregnancy."

Every time we go back to one of his books to look something up, our appreciation of his work and his approach deepens. There are a lot of people out there who publish "healthy eating" books. 

What makes Jonny Bowden's books so special is that they are so easy to read, written with a sense of humor and designed incredibly well. You don't have to dig through anything with his books. Basically anything he has written will do well on your own healthy living bookshelf.

We don't often say this, but we strongly recommend that you a) develop your own "healthy living" library and b) include Jonny Bowden's books in it.

What Makes This Book Great

We spend a lot of time looking at research that backs up some of the claims made among people who promote preventive health through nutrition and supplements. It is a confusing but very interesting area to focus on. The most important thing that we look for is where consensus emerges.

As we went through the book, we found lots of suggestions that we have either seen made elsewhere, backed up by some good new research, or that simply made a lot of sense and anyone who is pregnant would benefit.

There are also some unusual observations that are likely to make women take action that will be health promoting. For example, on page 163, Bowden makes the suggestion that pregnant women drink peppermint tea or chew fresh peppermint.

This is a suggestion that we have been planning to make, and have discovered some very interesting research on peppermint and inflammation. The bottom line is that peppermint is awesome for you, and it is very easy to access. Every single Starbucks in the country sells "Tazo Refresh Tea" which has peppermint in it. Strongly suggest you check that out next time you are in Starbucks. (Even if you are a green tea drinker, you want to mix in some peppermint tea from time to time.)

Peppermint has lots of "good stuff" in it. Bowden (who holds a PhD in nutrition) points out that Peppermint contains the B Vitamin Niacin, which is helpful in repairing skin. This is the kind of advice that is highly likely to get women to take action on. 

Breaking Out The Food Suggestions By Trimester

In addition to some health suggestions, Bowden also outlines foods that will help deal with the symptoms of pregnancy. Men and women alike are aware of the pretty significant discomfort that occurs. There are tips in the book designed to help heartburn, bladder irritation, sleep, energy as well as some solid advice on supplements.


There is also helpful advice in helping quantify the amounts of helpful nutrients in different foods. For example, Bowden points out that spinach contains seven times the amount of folate than iceberg lettuce.

Naturally occurring folate has been shown to be critical in the development of the baby, and these simple suggestions can help make some real adjustments. For example, if a pregnant woman is at a salad bar and sees iceberg lettuce and spinach, after reading this book the odds of making the choice for the higher folate option are pretty high.

The book is full of suggestions like the two we outlined here. It is likely to be helpful.

The book is paperback and you can buy either a new or used copy on Amazon. The used books are usually a very good deal. You can build your library cheaply!


Related Link:  PEERtrainer's New Healthy Eating Guide For Energy and Weight Loss. It is designed to help implement many of the ideas we present to you. People have asked us for years for a very basic guide or plan to help keep them on track. You'll see a strong correlation between the suggestions we present in what we call the "Cheat System" and many of the books and ideas we present to you.