Optimizing Your Hormones with a Plant-Based Diet – Neal Barnard, M.D. on The Rich Roll Podcast

Check out The Rich Roll Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • “The closer you get to an entirely plant-based diet, the better off you’re going to be” Neal Barnard
  • A high-fiber diet flushes away excess estrogen, resulting in less menstrual cramping
  • Men who have too much DHA in their blood have an increased risk of prostate cancer
  • Women should limit their milk intake
    • One reason why: Lactose in milk breaks down to release galactose, which is toxic to the ovaries (galactose is linked to ovarian cancer and infertility)
  • In men, erectile dysfunction may indicate the beginnings of atherosclerosis

Intro

Books Mentioned

Less Meat = Fewer Health Problems

  • After examining a series of meta-analyses articles, researchers found that by reducing your meat intake, you reduce your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes
    • “And that’s not chance; it’s statistically significant. Meaning, it’s very unlikely that this is just some chance result.” – Neal Barnard
      • “This was just the benefit of reducing—what if you stopped eating it completely? The benefits are even greater.”
  • The two most unhealthy forms of meat: Sausage and bacon
  • Even with studies that recommend people eat meat, they dictate that the less meat you eat, the better
  • Our research and that of many, many other teams shows that if you just throw out the meat completely, and replace it with healthier foods, you do dramatically better” – Neal Barnard
    • “The scientific studies are so clear and so uniform—from observational studies to randomized clinical trials and everything else—that a plant-based diet is a healthy diet. The closer you get to an entirely plant-based diet, the better off you’re going to be.”

Reformulated Dietary Guidelines Lead to Confusion

  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans get reformulated every five years, so each industry (milk, meat, chocolate, etc.) tries to get studies supporting their product out to reporters in the hopes of swaying Americans to consume more of it, even if the official guidelines suggest otherwise
    • This, however, creates confusion and doubt in the minds of consumers
      • “For the average consumer, confusion is the product” – Rich Roll
      • 🎧 As long as there’s confusion in the consumer’s mind, companies can keep selling their product
        • One obvious example: Look at the tobacco industry

More Plants = Less Menstrual Cramping

  • Women with high levels of estrogen develop a thicker uterine lining. As the lining disintegrates during menstrual flow, it releases prostaglandins that cause cramping.
    • The thicker the lining, the more the painful menstrual cramps 
  • When women don’t consume enough fiber, estrogen enters back into circulation, causing blood levels to elevate
    • Neal once recommended a plant-based diet to a woman experiencing severe menstrual pain. After following the diet for a brief period, all menstrual cramps disappeared.
  • Neal once conducted a study with several women who experienced moderate to severe menstrual cramps, putting half of them on a vegan diet. The results?
    • The vegan group showed reductions in PMS symptoms, bloating, and mood fluctuations
  • Takeaway: A high-fiber diet flushes away excess estrogen, resulting in less menstrual cramping
    • Diets high in animal fat and vegetable oils increase estrogen

Drinking Milk and Being Overweight Impairs Fertility

  • In general, a woman’s fertility is impaired when she’s overweight
  • Why is milk bad for women?
    • Milk has estrogen (and remember from above, excess estrogen leads to more menstrual cramps)
    • Lactose in milk breaks down to release galactose, which is toxic to the ovaries (galactose is linked to ovarian cancer and infertility)
  • Neal recalls a patient who had endometriosis and was about to get a hysterectomy because of the severe abdominal pain
    • After switching to a vegan diet, her endometriosis disappeared

DHA: Good or Bad?

  • 🎧 Men who have too much DHA in their blood have an increased risk of prostate cancer
    • “We don’t know why, and I can’t explain it, but the bottom line is: if a person is supplementing with DHA, we suspect that at least for men, their cancer risk is going to be higher” – Neal Barnard
      • However, if your DHA levels are too low, you’re at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s
  • If you’re going to take a DHA supplement, make sure it’s vegan
    • “If you decide to supplement DHA, I would definitely do it with a vegan source”  – Neal Barnard

Male Health Tips

  • Men who eat cheese tend to have lower sperm counts
    • Why? – Dairy products increase estrogen
  • 🎧 In men, erectile dysfunction may indicate the beginnings of atherosclerosis
    • “When you reverse arterial disease, erectile dysfunction gets better too” – Neal Barnard
  • In men, excess meat consumption may increase the risk of baldness
    • “We still don’t know all the details on this, but it looks like excess meat might be aggravating age-associated hair loss—the hormonal changes from the diet are aggravating age-related hair loss.” – Neal Barnard
  • Removing dairy from your diet will improve your skin 

Sleeping Tips

  • If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try reducing your caffeine intake
    • People eliminate caffeine from their bodies at different rates (i.e., caffeine has a different half-life for different people – for most, it’s 6 hours)
      • If caffeine is still floating around in your system come 2 AM (and given caffeine’s average half-life of 6 hours, any consumed after 2 PM will make this so) it’ll definitely be affecting the quality of your sleep
  • Another sleep tip: Before laying down, stretch out your arms and let out a huge yawn, just like a dog or cat would (Neal recommends doing this four times)
  • A high-carbohydrate meal allows serotonin to become active in the brain and improve sleep
    • Tip: If you’re having trouble falling asleep, eat a slice of bread

Additional Notes

  • When reading a study, it’s essential to look at which parties paid for it (i.e., if there’s a conflict of interest)
  • Neal, as you might have guessed, doesn’t believe in the carnivore diet
  • “Kids who don’t consume cow’s milk have a lower risk of type 1 diabetes” – Neal Barnard
  • Early research has shown that a plant-based diet can help those who have thyroid problems or autoimmune diseases
  • Neal has a hunch that vegan diets can help boost your mood 
    • “People on plant-based diets do feel better, specifically with regard to reductions in anxiety and reductions in depression”Neal Barnard
      • “The ketogenic diet seems to have the reverse effect”
  • Neal believes soy isn’t responsible for causing “man boobs”
  • If you look at people who live in blue zones, their dietary staples never consist of things like meat or fishstaples usually consist of grain products
  • Neal’s daily breakfast: Grilled tofu (or tempeh) with broccoli (or Brussels sprouts) and a papaya
  • BPA is found in thermal paper (i.e. paper receipts) and is absorbed by the skin when touched
  • If you can afford organic food, it’s 100% the way to go