Welcome to ProHealth’s Live Chat with Dr. Scott Olson (‘Dr. Scott’) – a Naturopathic Doctor, expert in alternative medicine, author, medical researcher, and nutrition counselor. “Definitely not your typical doctor’s advice.”
Spurred on by his patients’ struggles with sugar addiction, Dr. Scott was determined to learn all he could about sugar’s impact on health, and find ways to overcome the addiction. The result of that study is his book Sugarettes, which describes the addictive qualities of sugar and the harm it does to our bodies.
Welcome Dr. Scott!
Dr. Scott: Hi Everyone! When I was 16 years old, I picked up a book on diet (Pritikin) and was mesmerized by the thought that the food we eat had something to do with the diseases we might get. While it seems a bit stupid now, I had no idea that our food choices had anything to do with health. The Pritikin diet made claims of weight loss, but they also suggested that following their diet would stop or reverse heart disease. I was hooked!
I have spent a lifetime reading every health book I could get my hands on, and that passion is what drove me to become a Naturopathic Doctor and the author of the book Sugarettes.
Q: Doctor, can you tell me, does sugar in the diet increase the problems of a person with fibromyalgia? I was told I should stop eating sugar and white flour and this would help me. I tried it for two weeks and stopped because I can`t quit eating sugar – I love sugar! Help!
Dr. Scott: As you know, the underlying cause of FM is a bit of a mystery. What appears to be very common in people with FM and CFS is stomach problems: IBS, constipation… Sugar and foods that act like sugar are a feast for the bad bacteria that inhabit our guts.
These can lead to “leaky gut,” a heightened immune system, and a host of other problems. Our bodies are not designed to handle high sugar loads, or foods like grains.
Yes, you should stop eating sugar, and I would suggest stop all grains. And, yes, it is hard, but gets easier.
Q: What are the foods that act like sugar? And why grains? Aren’t they supposed to be healthy?
Dr. Scott: This was the surprise when I investigated the glycemic index. There are certain foods that act just like sugar (and some that act more like sugar than white sugar) in our bodies. Which foods? Grains, especially processed grains (ground and turned into flour), some starchy vegetables, and some fruits. There is a whole list of these on my website: OlsonND.com
The way the glycemic index works is that a scientist will measure the blood sugar of a volunteer and then feed that volunteer a single food. After two or three hours, the volunteer’s blood sugar is measured again. What scientists have discovered through this kind of testing is that certain foods increase blood sugar a little, others increase blood sugar moderately, and still other foods increase blood sugar dramatically.
Q: A friend of mine who has type II diabetes says a special pasta she buys is processed so most of the carbs can’t be absorbed & glycemic index is low. Can this be a healthy food?
Dr. Scott: Well in fact pasta, in general, is very low on the glycemic index. If you cannot stay away from grains it is good to choose pasta. The reason why it is low is a bit of a mystery, but that is what testing shows. Beyond that, if you must include grain in your diet, try to choose the whole grain, not the “white” version, and prepare it as most people make rice: boil and eat it. The whole grain with the lowest glycemic index is barley.
Q: Hello Dr. Scott – what supplements would you recommend for controlling blood sugar levels?
Dr. Scott: I like chromium and vanadium the best. Although I do like a change in diet better.
Q: Do you need to completely eliminate sugar to kill Candida [yeast overgrowth]?
Dr. Scott: Yes, that is the only way to get a hold of Candida. You also need to (sorry to say) eliminate foods that act like sugar. These foods are grains, starchy vegs, and some fruits.
Q: Lots of people are talking about how making our bodies more “alkaline” is a good thing, and we should eat the right foods for good balance. What is this all about, and is there anything to it?
Dr. Scott: Yes, eating for a more alkaline body is a great idea! This means including more fruits and vegetables in our diet. I recommend ideally a diet of 80% fruits and vegetables, 20% protein.
You can easily test your own acid/base balance by using pH strips and checking your urine or saliva.
Q: What fruits are acceptable?
Dr. Scott: Actually, most are okay. You want to choose the ones that are low on the glycemic index – The high sugar ones are bananas, watermelon, tangerines…
Q: Do you recommend taking an IgG food allergy test to identify which foods are causing you problems?
Dr. Scott: The answer to this is: Somewhat. The blood tests are great at finding food ALLERGIES. This means that you are allergic to the food and your body is attacking it like it is a foreign invader. Blood tests discover this interaction.
However, blood tests will not discover food SENSITIVITIES: foods that might not agree with you, but that you don’t have an allergic reaction to. In my mind food sensitivities are a much larger problem than food allergies.
The only way to discover all your food allergies is to go on an allergy elimination diet. The most common food allergens are wheat, nuts, corn, soy, eggs, dairy.
Q: You suggest staying away from sugar. What about honey and maple syrup?
Dr. Scott: Maple syrup, honey, agave and other “natural” sweeteners all act the same as sugar in our bodies and should be avoided. They appear to be more natural, but have the same consequences to our health as does white sugar.
Q: Any views on pros & cons of insulin pumps for diabetics?
Dr. Scott: I’m for insulin pumps because they mimic natural blood sugar control much better. The whole idea for diabetics is to avoid a spike in blood sugar. High blood sugar is toxic and destroys our blood vessels (leading to heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease… that are commonly seen in diabetics).
Q: What is the safest low glycemic sweetener to use?
Dr. Scott: Low glycemic would be xylitol, but no-glycemic would be Stevia. Stevia has recently been approved by the FDA and should start showing up in products soon.
Q: I saw a comment on your artificial sweetener story [<a href="http://www.prohealth.com//library/showArticle.cfm?libid=13986“>“What Is Wrong with Artificial Sweeteners?”] that xylitol in very small amounts kills dogs. Can this be true??
Dr. Scott: Yes, this is true, but understand that chocolate will also kill dogs. Xylitol is generally considered to be a safe sugar in humans and does have some benefits in the body. My preference is that people avoid all sugars (including xylitol).
Q: Do you think the sugar in dark chocolate outweighs the health benefits of chocolate?
Dr. Scott: Yes, sorry to say.
Q: Is there sugar free wine on the market?
Dr. Scott: Wine will always have sugar in it. The only non-sugar alchohol is 100% pure grain alcohol.
Q: I’d like to discuss gluten sensitivity. I’m new to this idea, but eating gluten free seems to be making a difference for me.
Dr. Scott: Yes, many people are allergic to gluten, more so in the ME/CFS and FM community.
Q: I’ve had FM for years. Is it necessary to avoid ALL gluten, or just the obvious wheat, rye and barley? Is the little bit added into some sauces etc. a problem if I do NOT have celiac disease?
Dr. Scott: I would suggest a period of no grains at all. You can pick how long, but usually around 2 or 3 weeks. Then, slowly introduce one grain at a time.
Q: I’m a little scared to reintroduce grains!
Dr. Scott: I actually don’t think we should eat grains at all. The proof of this is to imagine how much of a grain you could digest if you didn’t have any tools (nothing to boil or grind the grain). There is some research to suggest that upward of 40% of us are allergic to gluten.
The best test, as you say, is to remove it yourself and see. I see a large number of diseases disappear with a change in diet like that. [But if you’re going to be tested for celiac disease by a doctor, don’t go off gluten beforehand, as this could cause the doctor to miss evidence of celiac if you have it.]
Q: What about sprouted grains?
Dr. Scott: Sprouted grains are much better than non-sprouted. Higher in protein and better to digest. But there is still gluten in sprouted grains.
Q: Doctor, what do you recommend for a digestive enzyme product?
Dr. Scott: I like a mixture of both enzymes and HCL (stomach acid).
Q: How do you suggest a person “detox” from sugar addiction?
Dr. Scott: You have to consider sugar addiction to be like other addictions: Just as hard to kick as alcohol, cigarettes and even hard drugs. The best way to detox is to remove it from you diet, but be prepared for BIG cravings.
Q: Are there any supplements to take that eliminate sugar cravings?
Dr. Scott: None work super-great, but I like chromium, vanadium, magnesium, B-vitamins.
Q: Can steroids induce diabetes? I started having symptoms and was diagnosed after 6 weeks on prednisone.
Dr. Scott: Yes, this is a very common side-effect of steroids.
Q: I was over 50 when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (‘juvenile’ diabetes). Is this rare? And do you think diet or other factors are involved?
Dr. Scott: I wish this were rare. No, the older we get the HIGHER the risk for diabetes. It is now suggested that 35 percent of us will eventually get diabetes. That is a huge number! We should all do everything we can to avoid diabetes because having diabetes shortens our life spans.
Q: Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, can you get over it or manage without drugs?
Dr. Scott: Diabetes, in my estimation, is completely preventable and even reversible by a good diet. But this means sticking to the diet and continuing monitoring your blood sugar.
The sooner after you are diagnosed you convert to a sugar free diet, the better your chances. If you’re diabetic, though, kicking sugar out of your diet also means you have to watch your blood sugar very carefully – as many people’s gets too low.
Q: What are your thoughts on dairy, both cow and goat?
Dr. Scott: I think that dairy is a great food. It is high in Biological Values and a good mixture of protein, fat and carbo. The only problem? High Allergy. Goat is much better for digestability.
I suggest shopping the outside aisles of the super market: produce, dairy, meat, then get out!
Q: My husband who has fibromyalgia did a water fast. He said that after the first couple of days he felt… clear headed and much less pain. Why might that be? Do you think he might have a food allergy?
Dr. Scott: There are many connections between our diet and our health. Yes, he probably has a food allergy. People with arthritis experience the same thing: fasting improves their condition.
The thing to be careful about is, returning to normal eating can often cause symptoms to worsen. The best way to return to normal eating is to do an only-vegetable diet for a few days and then add in fruit. After that include proteins (one at a time).
Staying on a diet that is free of grains and sugar can really clear up a lot of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Q: I got type 2 diabetes and have had shingles twice this year. Any suggestions?
Dr. Scott: It sounds as if your immune system is really taking a beating. Besides a recommendation to change your diet out of a grain/sugar base and on to a vegetable/protein base, I have a few suggestions.
The first is that shingles and stress are closely related. While finding a solution to stress is a bit beyond this forum, think about exercising and anything else that will reduce your stress.
To boost your immune system, try Essential Fatty Acids, Vitamins A, C, E and B vitamins. Try Ginseng, Ashwaganda, Echinacea.
Q: Dr. Scott, could sugar & refined carbs have anything to do with my sleep problems?
Dr. Scott: The information that is missing from my book is how sugar affects our brains. The research in this area is just beginning.
There was a recent interesting article about how sugar affects our memory and may be responsible – in large part – for much of dementia and memory loss in the elderly. [See “Researchers link control of blood sugar levels to preserving cognitive health in normal aging,” which linked higher blood glucose to reduced activity in the brain’s memory & learning center.]
While I have no research to support this statement, most people report sleeping much better on a no-sugar diet. I think this has to do with low blood sugar causing the release of hormones that wake people up.
Q: Do you believe in a high protein diet?
Dr. Scott: While I don’t think that high protein diets are necessarily harmful, I do think there is a much better way to eat. I think that our physiology suggests that we are mostly vegetarian/fruitarian animals. I’m sounding a bit like a broken record, but generally mostly veggies and some protein works the best.
Q: I heard that taking folic acid can clean out small plugged blood vessels and that this is the cause of the numbness and pain in the feet with diabetic neuropathy. Is this accurate?
Dr. Scott: Folic acid is essential for so many different functions in the body – and nerve conduction is one of them. I don’t think folic acid can clear out clogged blood vessels, but, rather works to improve nerve functioning.
The destruction of blood vessels is important and is the reason why diabetics have such high amounts of diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease, eye disease, neuropathy… All of this destruction can be prevented by keeping blood sugar low.
Q: Dr., do you think there is any validity to the blood type diet theories? If you’re one type you should eat more meat, and so on.
Dr. Scott: Yes, but I tend to believe that we need to go back to a pre-agriculture diet: so-called Paleolithic diet.
Q: Please evaluate “Splenda” as a sweetener. I read other sugar-free sweeteners by name mentioned one way or the other health-wise, but not this one. Would appreciate your advice.
Dr. Scott: I think ANY artificial sweetener is bad. There is not enough room to talk about it here, but they are harmful to the body and don’t do what you want them to do: help you with weight loss.
Q: When becoming sick, people expect … to be fixed without doing anything about it… Shouldn’t people be informed that they made themselves sick and inspired by their medical helper to take responsibility for this?
Dr. Scott: Wow! Yes! When a 65 year-old smoker sits in his doctor’s office and hears that he has lung cancer, he knows that he is to blame for the condition he now finds himself in, but what about the 65 year-old who has diabetes, is overweight, or who has heart disease?
The smoker can look to the thousands of times he lit a cigarette and brought it to his mouth. But there is nothing more powerful to change the diseases we are likely to have than the foods that we eat. Diseases (for the most part) don’t just show up, they are largely the result of all the dietary choices we have made over a lifetime.
This is not to say other factors don’t play a role: exposure to toxins, accidents… but these you cannot control as much as your diet.
Q: Another gluten question… some say oats are ok, some say not? Are oats gluten safe?
Dr. Scott: It depends: WHO are we talking about? A person who is healthy, okay. A person dealing with a chronic disease: no. Sounds funny to base it on that, but that has been my experience. People who are ill cannot handle it, while others can. It may have to do with leaky gut.
Q: Peppermint and other mint oils – do you recommend for irregular bowels, and can it help irritable bowel syndrome?
But here is the real question: What is irritating the bowel if you are having irritable bowel syndrome? IBS, to me, is much more an issue about food sensitivities than it is about finding something to calm it. Once again, think about doing a no-grain/ no-sugar diet or trying an allergy elimination diet. Introduce foods slowly.
Q: Enzyme problem digesting my food? I am having a problem belching.
Dr. Scott: If you are having a lot of belching, the bacteria in your gut are digesting sugars and they are producing gas as a byproduct. This means two things: Either you are not digesting the sugars or you are eating too many sugars. Usually both are true.
Yes, digestive enzymes will help you, but reducing sugars and foods that act like sugars is also important.
Q: I am a 59 year old female who cannot lose weight. It stays at one weight and won’t budge an ounce! I think I eat pretty healthy. Saturday nights sometimes I have dessert after my meal, but it’s only 1 night! Is the one night the culprit??
Dr. Scott: To me, weight loss happens naturally when you align your eating to what your body needs. I have seen people dramatically lose weight when they switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD diet) to eating a diet that their body needs (generally a no-sugar, no grain diet).
While it sounds as if you are eating well, there is still room for improvement. Try the 30 Sugar Free Days Challenge and see what happens with your weight problem.
Q: What’s the 30 Day Challenge?
Dr. Scott: I have people go for 30 Days without sugar or foods that act like sugar. It is supported by a free e-book, support groups on Facebook or Yahoo, ability to ask me questions, and an e-mail coaching system. You can read about it at my 30 Sugar Free Days Website (http://olsonnd.com/30-sugar-free-days) – and see what you think.
Q: What supplements do you recommend for cracked heels and eczema on my heels and the sides of my feet?
Dr. Scott: There are two things I have seen that help eczema. The first is to change your diet. Very often there are food sensitivities. The other is to use Essential Fatty Acids. I like fish oil.
Q: Are there any natural foods that promote joint health? Or particular foods that I should avoid entirely? I am a 43 year old female with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Dr. Scott: Glucosamine, MSM, and Chondroitin are the best. I find, usually, that one of these will work for a particular person. You just have to test them. To reduce inflammation, try (here we go again!) a diet where you aren’t eating sugars or foods that act like sugars.
Q: Dr. Scott, can probiotics help while you’re on antibiotics? If so should they be taken at different times during the day?
Dr. Scott: Yes to both. Yes, I actually think you should take probiotics while you are on antibiotics; in fact, I think it is essential. And, yes, take them at opposite times of the day. [See: “Einstein researchers recommend probiotics be routinely prescribed along with antibiotics.”]
Q: Which is better: Rice or Wheat?
Dr. Scott: A tricky question. It is a bit like asking whether you would rather be shot or stabbed: they are both bad.
Rice has a low allergy aspect to it and people are used to eating it in whole-grain form (just boiled and eaten), but it also tends to turn into sugar easily. Wheat has a much higher allergy component, but if eaten in whole-grain form tends to be slower turning into sugar.
The best way to discover which is better for you (if you decide not to avoid them both) is to go without them for a while and then “test” by eating one of the grains and see how your body responds. Personally, I find I can eat rice with no problems, but wheat causes me distress.
Q: Is there a difference nutritionally between different kinds of rice? ie, basmati, red, long grain, short grain, etc.?
Dr. Scott: Some, but none that makes that much of a difference.
Q: I have diabetes and I wonder if anything would help circulation in my feet? Someone on the message board said grapeseed extract might help. Is this likely?
Dr. Scott: Grapeseed oil has been shown to help with blood vessel fragility (how fragile blood vessels are). The best way to get a hold of the circulation problems is to make sure your blood sugar is under control.
Q: I saw an ad for a liver detox product that has milk thistle & other herbs. How do you know if your liver needs detoxification?
Dr. Scott: Yes, milk thistle, dandelion and many other herbs help with liver detoxification. How do you know if you need detoxification? If you are reading this, your liver needs help.
In the modern world we are exposed to so many toxins that it is rare to find a liver that is not under stress. I generally suggest a liver detoxification in spring and fall as a way to give you body a rest and revitalize your liver.
ProHealth’s Live Chat Event with Dr. Scott Olson is about to come to a close. We thank Dr. Scott sincerely for his generosity in being here today. And thank you very much, everyone, for contributing to this interesting chat.
Dr. Scott: Since reading that first book on health, I have learned there’s actually a lot of medical research to show that how we live our lives – what we eat, how well we sleep, how much stress we have, how much we exercise, how close we are to friends and animals – all make a difference in our health.
I wish you all the best on your own personal journey toward a healthier life. I hope that we can share, explore, and learn together on this wonderful crazy adventure we call life!
Thanks so much for the really helpful information, Dr. Scott.
Awesome – keep it up, doc!
ProHealth’s Chat with Dr. Scott Olson is now closing. Be sure to visit his website (Olsonnd.com) to learn much more about natural ways to support your health.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in or addition to your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.