The Sustainable, Whole Food Advantage

The food as medicine, health benefits of clean eating with nutritionist Autumn Smith.

Whole foods are the centerpiece of the food as medicine movement, and have clear health benefits. In this episode, Nutritionist and founder of Paleo Valley Autumn Smith, shares how clean eating helped her heal her own health challenges, and inspired her to create whole-food, sustainably sourced products for others who need healthy clean eating options.

In This Episode

Episode Intro … 00:00:44
Where it Started … 00:04:45
Gut Health & Mental Health … 00:08:18
How Lifestyle Impacts Gut Health … 00:17:16
Putting Better Products Into the World … 00:25:50
It Started with a Beef Stick … 00:33:11
Greenwashing … 00:37:05
Ask the Hard Questions … 00:42:12
Protein Bar … 00:47:22
Episode Wrap-Up … 00:54:22

The Sustainable, Whole Food Advantage - Podcast289b AutumnSmith

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Hi everyone. Today I speak with Autumn Smith, who is a holistic nutritionist, and also the founder of Paleo Valley. We get into a few different topics. The impact that the paleo diet had on her life, but also some lingering skin and mental health issues that required her to take some additional steps. I think this will be very insightful for people who might be struggling with some lingering symptoms, even after improving their diet. We also talk about how consumers need to be even more careful with what supplements and food products that they buy. We go into some detail about how, alarmingly so, companies are able to cut lots of corners. Even if you read the ingredient label, that is not sufficient to guard against sketchy items, compounds, ending up in your products. We also discuss some ways in which consumers can help to push the field in a better direction by giving feedback to companies.

We also discuss some of the products that Paleo Valley has and some of the labors they had to go through to make a healthy product. Definitely a lot here, all the way from the personal story of a holistic nutritionist, finding her way back to health and some of the tips that she would offer others. To how consumers need to be careful with where they’re buying products from. Unfortunately, it’s worse than even I understood. You can have two different labels with the same ingredients on the label that actually have vastly different contents in the product itself. She also gives some tips for how consumers can better use their voices and their funds to steer in a better direction. Everything from food products to supplements, even up through labs. This was really a wonderful conversation. I definitely recommend connecting with Autumn Smith online and/or with Paleo Valley. With that, we will now go to the show.

➕ Full Podcast Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio radio providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up-to-date on the latest topics as well as all of our prior episodes, please make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates, DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking to your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Hi everyone. Today I speak with Autumn Smith, who is a holistic nutritionist, and also the founder of Paleo Valley. We get into a few different topics. The impact that the paleo diet had on her life, but also some lingering skin and mental health issues that required her to take some additional steps. I think this will be very insightful for people who might be struggling with some lingering symptoms, even after improving their diet. We also talk about how consumers need to be even more careful with what supplements and food products that they buy. We go into some detail about how, alarmingly so, companies are able to cut lots of corners. Even if you read the ingredient label, that is not sufficient to guard against sketchy items, compounds, ending up in your products. We also discuss some ways in which consumers can help to push the field in a better direction by giving feedback to companies.

DrMR:

We also discuss some of the products that Paleo Valley has and some of the labors they had to go through to make a healthy product. Definitely a lot here, all the way from the personal story of a holistic nutritionist, finding her way back to health and some of the tips that she would offer others. To how consumers need to be careful with where they’re buying products from. Unfortunately, it’s worse than even I understood. You can have two different labels with the same ingredients on the label that actually have vastly different contents in the product itself. She also gives some tips for how consumers can better use their voices and their funds to steer in a better direction. Everything from food products to supplements, even up through labs. This was really a wonderful conversation. I definitely recommend connecting with Autumn Smith online and/or with Paleo Valley. With that, we will now go to the show.

DrMR:

Hey everyone, that’s Dr. Ruscio. Welcome back to Dr. Ruscio radio today. I’m here with Autumn Smith, co-founder of Paleo Valley and holistic nutritionist. She is someone who I’m actually really enjoying chatting with as I get to know her more. Autumn, welcome to the show.

AutumnSmith:

Thanks for having me, Dr. Ruscio, we are big fans of what you’re doing, so it’s quite an honor to be here.

DrMR:

Well, thank you. I really appreciate it. You and I had a nice conversation just now when I was interviewed for your show. I think we’re on the same page with a lot of the perspectives that we bring to healthcare, which is kind of practical, non-heretical, putting the person first and not necessarily the philosophy first approach. Trying to take information and help mold it to them rather than kind of shoehorning people into a certain set of beliefs. Maybe we can use that as a springboard into your work regarding diet. I know that you are currently consulting with people. So you have that foot in the real world where you see that maybe low carb, low FODMAP, low histamine, low salicylate sounds good academically but it’s going to be super challenging for someone. Let’s use some of your background there to launch into a conversation about all things, health and wellness.

Where it Started

AS:

Yeah. Awesome. Yeah, we definitely do align. When I read your book, I was like, Oh, this is going to be my new digestive Bible, so to speak. That’s because when I was young, I was really happy and healthy. Then right before my teens, around when I was 12, I started to have really bad digestive stuff. I looked pregnant after meals. I would wake up in the middle of the night in agonizing pain. I once had my mom take me to the emergency room, for them to tell me “you’ve got gas”. It just seemed so much more serious. The doctors that we had at the time were kind of unable to do anything for me, other than tell me that I had irritable bowel syndrome and to take Beano and reduce stress.

AS:

So I kind of just like moseyed on and didn’t really have any answers. Now we know there’s this really profound gut brain relationship and pretty soon I started to suffer some serious mental health issues as well, I became anxious and depressed. I suffered from an eating disorder and also just felt really hopeless around it all. I leaned on substances to try and calm down. I was a smoker. I mean, if you told someone in high school that I would found an organic food company, nobody would ever believe that. I was a little bit of a train wreck. I even got kicked out of my parents’ house before I graduated high school. So I just kind of continued along this path. I went to college. I’m a very, very avid learner. I love to learn.

AS:

So I kind of just made things work. I even became a fitness trainer, really successful. Worked for Tracy Anderson, toured the world. It was amazing. But even though I looked really fit, I wasn’t thriving. I was still having these breakouts. At the end of the day, I’d come home and just like crumble into a pile and cry. I had these muscles that were huge, but my belly was also huge and I looked pregnant. It wasn’t until I moved in with my husband when he said, Whoa, what is this? You are not what someone would expect. I wasn’t what he knew, until he actually saw it firsthand because I hid it and put on a smile and just realized this was my life.

AS:

He decided after we got married that we needed to try and take matters into our own hands. We were living in Los Angeles and we saw a few more doctors. No one really did anything. So the paleo diet was the first diet that came up on our radar. Way back in like 2010. So I decided to try it, even though I was reticent. Basically we just cut out processed foods and started shopping at farmer’s markets. In literally 30 days, my digestive issues were pretty much gone. The mental health piece has been a longer journey. I’ve found a few little pieces I had to dial in there, but I was so impressed with how important high-quality food is and could be that I decided to stop my job as a personal fitness trainer for Tracy Anderson, go back to school, get a master’s.

AS:

What I noticed was I’m a person who loves to travel and rather than educating people, I wanted to kind of give myself and everyone else all the products. Really high-quality products and food products like beef sticks and all the things that we make that could make a really healthy holistic lifestyle possible in a modern world. So I founded Paleo Valley and we also have Wild Pastures, which is the sister to Paleo Valley. We can talk about it all. Basically I had a lot of digestive issues. I found food as medicine, and I’m just here to share that message.

Gut Health & Mental Health

DrMR:

I love it. Especially the bit about the mental health implications of suboptimal gut health. Sometimes I fear that for the people who need it the most, the information on diet can also kind of be a double-edged sword when it’s taken overly literally. That’s why I like the perspective that we both bring, which is, trying to use this information to empower people, but not necessarily to handicap them. I am interested in what other factors you found helpful for mental health? I think there’s a facet of our audience that has seen some improvements with anxiety, depression, or whatever mental health symptom they are struggling with, but there may be some lingering aspects of those symptoms present. So if you’re open to sharing, I’d be curious to hear more about what got you the rest of the way there beyond the paleo diet.

AS:

Oh yes. There’s a lot of them, but I’m going to break them up. The paleo is a great starting place, but there were three other dietary pieces that I had to dial in. I also talk about eating psychology, which I studied and some other more life-related things that have helped. The first three things were: I did the paleo diet first, I was hitting the dried mango really hard. I remember getting these huge bags of it and so I was driving around from appointment to appointment eating dried mango. What I also realized was that I am very sensitive to caffeine. So it just happened that after one of my friends at the studio challenged me to 30 days without caffeine, the crying spells I was having at night went away.

AS:

I would eat this dried fruit, and we would buy like 14 apples every week. I was just kind of overeating all of that kind of stuff. So stabilizing my blood sugar was one of the most important things that I’ve ever done in terms of finding stability. Because I was up all the time, feeling really excited and then down throughout the day and crashing hard. Usually that is when people find paleo, it’s kind of a lower carb approach. But I have that extreme kind of personality. I always say that the only thing I do in moderation is moderation. So when I was keeping the dried fruit and the caffeine, it was to an extent that wasn’t healthy for me. Just removing caffeine and making sure that I was being mindful of my blood sugar and eating 15-20 grams of protein with every meal, carrying high-quality protein snacks rather than just eating the dried fruit.

AS:

That piece was really, really helpful for me. The other piece was learning that even though gluten and dairy and processed foods are inflammatory foods for most people, not all people, but a lot of times eliminating them can help. For me, I had other foods, namely garlic, that was causing inflammation for me and leading to these terrible skin breakouts. I wanted to believe when I was younger that even if I was breaking out, I had so many other areas of my life to be grateful for. I wouldn’t let myself go to that place and just admit the sadness I felt around having really poor quality skin. Identifying garlic as a culprit for me was really important. I was actually juicing garlic daily. Just taking the time and experimenting. I actually had to do food sensitivity testing, which I know it’s not always a great way to go because the accuracy isn’t always there. However, for whatever reason, probably because I was juicing it daily, garlic came up on that test.

AS:

That was really helpful for me. The last one was just being really mindful of the nutrients that are really important specifically in mental health, because I grew up a ballerina. One of the first pieces of information I was told around diet is that a calorie is a calorie. So I decided, well, I want to maximize pleasure so I’m going to eat a lot of candy because it doesn’t really matter. It’s just fuel. So what I’ve done now is realize that isn’t the case. If you go to chronometer, it’s a wonderful software that you can use. I never do this more than like three days in a row, but you can just put in what you’re eating and drinking throughout the day and it’s going to tell you your vitamins, your minerals, your nutrients, where your gaps are, so that you can then go and kind of cater or personalize your diet. There are a lot of nutrients that you might be missing if you’re just blindly applying one of these diets and not ever getting a little more specific. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and B12 and vitamin B vitamins in general and zinc.

AS:

These are all really, really important for mental health. In fact, they see this association with people who have eating disorders and like zinc deficiency. I think it’s important to not just try and be paleo or try and do the FODMAP, but also go beyond that and find out what am I eating and what am I short? Those three pieces have been very, very helpful and I can get into some more lifestyle stuff too. But if you want to comment on that, I want to give you a bit.

DrMR:

Yeah, I love it. Definitely want to get into the lifestyle piece. As you’re saying that, I can’t help but just again, be reminded of the fact that we can point to perhaps any food that has touted health benefits, but also that it can be quite a reactive culprit food for some people. I mean, there are certainly articles, maybe even books written about all the health benefits of garlic, right? Clearly that is a food that people react to. Same thing with grains. You know, there are some people that, really tout how important whole grains. Even something like broccoli as our audience knows as being high FODMAP. So, you know, I just think it’s worth kind of reiterating what took me a while to wrap my head around. For me it was eating a bunch of high histamine foods that I was just downing constantly. Then I realized maybe the reason why when I try to have two soups a day, I get really bad brain fog and depression is because it’s just more histamine, at least at that point in time than my body could process. Definitely improving my gut health has allowed me to enjoy more histamine.

DrMR:

There’s a lesson here that there’s a lot of good we can extract from learning about the health benefits of certain foods, but we should always have on the other side of our mind, maybe that internal skeptic or that person that always wants to honor their own response. This will help keep us grounded and not get swept away. Garlic is a great example. It’s so good for me that I’m going to juice it and take it to the next level and that didn’t quite work out. So this is a great example.

AS:

Yeah, it is. I remember that day and you’re right. I had let every expert supersede my own intuitive guidance. I remember being in the bathtub and just crying because I was doing everything right from the garlic juicing every morning and my breakouts were so bad. So yes, that is definitely what I’m saying or trying to convey. Finding your own inner wisdom and just staying open to experimentation definitely helped me a lot.

DrMR:

Yeah. One other personal anecdote I’ll offer just in case it helps drive this point home for people. I was having a conversation with my good friend, Anthony Gustin, who’s the owner of Perfect Keto the other day. He kind of interrupted me and said “It’s funny, you’re so into the evidence-based model and the RCT evidence yet you’re doing some of these other crazy things with breath work and Wim Hoff and cold exposure and these other spiritual endeavors, it’s funny that you go so far in either direction.” I think that’s because to kind of come into that inner wisdom, there’s stuff that science can tell us, but science can’t tell us everything. There hasn’t been an RCT done on every facet of health and wellbeing. That’s where we should try to hone into what our intuition is guiding us towards and kind of oscillate back and forth so that we can grab some information from science and learn from it, but also not be limited by what the evidence has found.

AS:

Thank you for saying that because that’s exactly where I was. hat was the next phase of my healing. Not living so much in my head where I kept thinking I know I can find the perfect template and apply it and then things will be all okay. A kind of stick to the science and you’ll be fine mentality that never fully addressed my issues. So yeah, that’s definitely my story too.

How Lifestyle Impacts Gut Health

DrMR:

That may tie into lifestyle cause I’m sure that probably informs some of your day-to-day lifestyle activities. What there do you think is worth expanding upon?

AS:

So lifestyle. I do a number of things related to lifestyle, but one major shift that I want to talk about that I think was really pivotal for me was being able to voice what I was experiencing. I felt hopeless around my health for so long and felt like I couldn’t voice that because I was such a privileged person. I came from a really great family. So I kind of left my body. As an eating psychology coach, I work on this a lot with people. I was totally disembodied. That’s why I always try and give people the opportunity to address the intuition piece, if they are not yet dialed in. There are like tools that they can use. What I find is a lot of people are in their heads, not actually like living in their body and not even having a connection with it’s feedback.

AS:

One of the first things I had to start doing was just paying attention to what my body was saying and doing this throughout the day. I made one time around mealtime, the time that I was going to become very, very present and just start really looking for my body’s feedback. Sometimes we’re just on automatic pilot and we’re just eating in a way that’s hurried or stressed or we’re multitasking. Research has shown that can almost completely shut down nutrient absorption and this constant state of stress, whether you understand your stress or not, a lot of us are living there. I definitely was and had no idea. So one of the first things I had to do was make sure that meal time was focused. Just one meal a day. I’m not saying you have to do this at every meal, but justsit and then take deep breaths. Five deep breaths before, and then you take a bite and you take time to notice the taste, the smell, the texture, the sounds around you.

AS:

This is basically like mindful eating. Then you notice how it felt when it went down and you notice what’s going on with your belly right after. After 30 minutes. After 60 minutes. I just turned the way I was eating into a mindfulness exercise every single day and that eventually brought me back into my body because I work with a lot of women and I see this. Another example would be if you’re avoiding the mirror or you’re really feeling like the body that you have is not your own or that you’re going to be happy sometime in the future, once you reach this goal or once you lose the 15 pounds or once something else happens. I think this takes us all out of our body and out of our experience. It wasn’t until I was able to kind of like drop in and have this mindful practice every day that I was really able to slow down and hear what I needed as I move forward. Not only in eating, but in all aspects of my life.

DrMR:

Yeah. I love that. I think it really is important for people to listen to their bodies. Again, coming back to my earlier comment about kind of oscillating between the two, sure we can use certain evidence points of maybe I never thought about reducing FODMAPs. Maybe now I’ll try that. But we also have to kind of weave back to let me sit, listen, and learn from my body. This actually, now that I’m thinking about it, really parallels what a good clinician will do with the patient. They will reflect some of their experience and comments back to them to help them have that aha moment that they may not have had otherwise, because perhaps they didn’t take enough time and just look at the evidence of their own experience objectively.

AS:

Yes. That is something I’ve done so much of. My husband has to cut me off sometimes. I’m someone who fully understands that though I’m conscientious and trying, I can’t always understand everything and I can’t see my blind spots. So I have a number of coaches in the mix who work with me. Like you said, just to reflect that experience back to me and help me get those blind spots out of my way or help myself move out of my own way in certain aspects of my life.

DrMR:

Yeah. It’s a great point. I’ll just piggyback on that really quick. Bringing in outside counsel, if you will, for me, has been so helpful. I recently had some hip musculature imbalances and it’s so funny how, when something is off, and I’ve just observed this in my own monitoring of my inner dialogue, you will go to the worst possible case scenario. I thought maybe I have a tumor in my lower abdomen. That was actually a thought that ran through my head. I just had some glute medius weakness and it was causing some feeling of tightness. But I have this little voice that just offers up the worst possible thing, maybe it’s cancer. Nope, it’s your glute medius. My friend, who’s a chiropractor found it in about 30 seconds. I started doing some glute med exercises.

DrMR:

I feel kind of like Jane Fonda when I’m doing them. I mean, they’re not the most masculine things to do. So I sorted it out. Everything’s fine. But for a few weeks there, I thought like maybe I was going to die. For audience, when I make those criticisms, I myself am in that same boat. That’s why it’s so important just to, sometimes, spend the money to get some perspective. Who knows how long I could have ruminated around the potential fictitious tumor in the gut causing this weird pelvic sensation when it was actually just a simple, common glute weakness.

AS:

That’s one of the things I’ve had to learn in my own journey. I’ll make an observation. Then I will go to the absolute worst place possible and then ruminate on that and turn it into something it’s not and make a number of assumptions. Remembering the thoughts aren’t facts is like one of the most important things I think I’ve ever had to learn. I can just be an observer of these things that I’m thinking rather than attaching to them and making something out of them that isn’t necessarily true or helpful.

DrMR:

Great point. Awesome.

SponsoredResources:

Hey, everyone, I wanted to thank Paleo Valley for some very tasty beef sticks of which I’ve been having one, sometimes three per day and who have helped to make this podcast possible. Their beef sticks are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. Important to look for that because some start on grass, but finish on grains. They use beef sourced from small domestic farms in the US. They ferment their beef sticks, which obviously creates naturally occurring probiotics. They are quick, convenient, tasty, healthy, keto friendly, and they also use real organic spices to flavor rather than conventional spices, which can be sprayed with pesticides, can be irradiated and are oftentimes from GMO corn. If you go over to paleovalley.com/ruscio you can get 15% off your first order. The coupon automatically will apply at checkout when you go to paleovalley.com/ruscio. Check them out. Guys, they sent me a box of samples, and I actually have to say, I am now, like I said, having one to three of these per day as a nice little snack to get me through windows when I’m busy and otherwise don’t have the time to cook a full on meal. So thank you to Paleo Valley and give them a look.

DrMR:

So maybe shifting gears for a moment, I want to thank you for you sent me a bunch of samples. Your Beestix are phenomenal. I probably have two or three of those per day now. They’re a fantastic kind of mid-morning don’t want to fully break my fast, but want a little something kind of snack. Your bars are also really good. They’re loaded with healthy fats. I really like them. They’re clean. So I just want to thank you for those things. I also want to praise what you’re doing. This is something that I was thinking about the other day. I came across some sort of comment, I think it was on our Facebook or Instagram page, someone said something along the lines of, “well, I would never trust recommendations of a doctor who makes supplements”, which I think is an absolutely fair criticism to levy.

DrMR:

Putting Better Products Into the World

DrMR:

Certainly, there are enough doctors who are bought and paid for by supplement companies just to tout their brand, that the consumer should be circumspect and cautious. 1000% agree. It’s also very possible that you can have someone who wants there to be better products in the space, working as a clinician in that space and decided to take it upon themselves to make things that were consumer forward products. I would juxtapose that with big companies that come in and say, Oh, look, gut health is really hot right now. What product could we make that will sell? That’s the product forward focus rather than the consumer forward focus. There aren’t many of them in this audience, but I’m assuming that people who have that suspicious perspective, perhaps we should speak to that. Also factor into the analysis here that we as consumers and perhaps I’m a bit biased here, but we should probably be looking to support these smaller operations, because if we just keep buying from the biggest companies on Amazon, we’re gonna feed this further monopolization of healthcare product creation to the biggest companies.

DrMR:

I have serious questions if very, very large companies have the limberness, so to speak, to really adapt their products to people. I’m assuming as these companies grow larger and larger, you’re getting more of a corporate structure put in place more corporate decision-making, and it’s much more about numbers. There’s this distancing of the people, the corporate heads making decisions, and those who are clinicians working with people and saying, boy, it’d be great if I had XYZ. So while I totally understand this person’s suspicion, and it is suspicion we should bring into all of our decisions. It shouldn’t be a disqualifier. There are definitely people out there who are starting smaller, grassroots companies who are trying to offer better. I do think we should support those people. Again, if not, we’re just going to have this further drift to Nestle and whoever else is gobbling up all these companies and kind of absolving them into their corporate structure. Then these things are going to be much more about profit. That’s not to say every large company is a bad company, but the larger the companies get the poorer the communication is between the end user and the decision-makers in the company. I’m assuming you agree with me in most part, but just wondering what thoughts you have there?

AS:

Oh, absolutely. I’m so glad you raised this point because actually just had to look into this for one of the classes I’m in. When you go to a health food store, it looks like you have so many different healthy options, but you’re exactly right. What happens is these big companies, who are better marketers maybe than they are product creators in terms of consumer health as one of the end goals they’re just looking for, okay, what is the market doing? Which little company can I acquire? What are their profits looking like? Can we make money off of this? Then they acquire them. I have friends who’ve actually gone through this process. Once they’ve acquired the quality of their products can change. Not saying it always changes. This will be different and specific to each interaction.

AS:

But a lot of times they change.There are certain meat sticks on the market that have recently been acquired and their product quality in terms of their sourcing has gone down. Where they used to source a lot higher quality animal products they are now making shifts and making changes. That’s because, like you said, most companies are prioritizing profit over consumer health. In their minds, these little shifts here and there, can mean a lot for their bottom line, and maybe they don’t understand the health repercussions, or maybe they just don’t care. I don’t know what it is, but it’s important that you know that when there are these big corporations behind it, not only are they not looking out for consumer health, but a lot of times the sourcing is not as localized, you’re not supporting your local economy. We now know with regenerative agricultural practices, we can do a lot in our communities for the soil and for just the economy. When we’re buying from big corporations, it’s just a few guys in an office somewhere sourcing from whoever or where ever they’re getting the best deal. You’re not necessarily doing anything for your health, or the health of your community or the health of your bioregion. So I think that’s a very important point.

DrMR:

Thank you for that. For our audience, for whatever it’s worth, I try to do the same thing. It’s easy sometimes just to drift over to Amazon, point click buy and have it two days later. I appreciate it and understand the appeal of that. It’s been actually interesting as this relates to coronavirus. I saw someone the other day did a good video about this saying that this has been a huge transfer of wealth more in the corporate direction where some of the smaller mom and pop shops are being shut down, but you can still buy some of the same products online from Amazon. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, and there’s definitely a multitude of things that have to be factored into that analysis.

DrMR:

I think it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t been good for small business. COVID-19 certainly hasn’t been good for small business, but it’s important to keep those things in mind. To your point Autumn, and I’ve noticed this where with some of the products that I’ve bought at health food stores when they started off as just the company. Then when I learned about a few being acquired, I have definitely seen a sacrificing of quality as some of these companies have scaled. So for whatever it’s worth, I do think it is important to support the smaller operations. You also want to look cause there are charlatans. I wish I could just name names on this podcast. If you just look closely at people’s arguments and hopefully I provide you with tools to be able to adjudicate who’s full of BS and who isn’t. Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re smart. But when you can, try to support the smaller operations. Again, I really liked the products from Paleo Valley.

DrMR:

Tell us a little bit more about how that started, anything else that you’ve learned as you’ve gone through the formulation process and what some of the favorite products are that you’d like to tell our audience a little bit about.

It Started with a Beef Stick

AS:

Yes. First, thank you for saying to support little guys. I just want people to know that if you’re cruising around the internet, what I’ve learned being in the business is that many times some of these best-selling products are actually made by marketers. Literally they are like I can write a nice blurb about this and this thing could be really convincing to people. Instead of what is this actually doing for people’s health? That is not always on their radar. We started the company because I ended up going on this world tour right after I found this “food as medicine” piece and had my revelation. We were literally sometimes in like two different countries in a day. It was amazing, but I didn’t have the food staples that allowed my health results to be maintained.

AS:

When I came back to America, my husband and I decided that we were going to create the products that we want in our lives so that we can give this better health away to everyone we know, and anyone else who might want to go that direction. Our flagship product was just a beef stick. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be making a beef stick, I would never have believed you. I found this really interesting piece of research by Dr. Felice Jacka, that red meat can be protective against depression and anxiety. When she went into the research, she assumed the opposite, that it might be detrimental. Then I read more about protein and how important it is.

AS:

Your amino acids are important for the production of neurotransmitters. I already knew stable blood sugar was important. So I wanted a meat stick that I could carry as a snack. When I looked into our options, I found this loophole that most manufacturers were using. In order to preserve them and to drop the pH, they’re using something called encapsulated citric acid. When you look on the label, it just has to say citric acid, they don’t have to put on the encapsulated part at all. It’s the industry standard. Basically encapsulated citric acid is derived from GMOs and then coated in hydrogenated oil with these little beads so that when they put the citric acid in the product, it literally melts in, drops the pH and that’s how they preserve them. But for me, as someone who made these products, because I wanted to consume them and give them to my future children, I just felt really bad about ever putting something out on the market.

AS:

Even if it was a small amount, I just thought hydrogenated oil, no way. So I got on the phone and I called about 200 different manufacturers. I tried to get someone to ferment the sticks. People were fermenting meat back in the day, not necessarily super popular today, but I think it’s a better and more healthful option. So finally found some people willing to take a chance because it takes four times longer to ferment the sticks. So no one wanted to do it. We source the highest quality beef we can find. 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. In addition to that, they are raised on regenerative farms. Regenerative agriculture is agricultural practices that replenish the microorganisms and the health of the soil. So we did that. We added organic spices and then we made sure to ferment them and that’s basically it.

AS:

So they’re not like jerky, like a lot of ones on the market. They’re moist with a little snap, something like the hickory smoked summer sausage that you might get around the holiday times. We do them in an original, which is a smokey, peppery flavor. We have a jalapeno, which is actually not that spicy. You just get a little heat on the end and some garlic summer sausage flavors. The summer sausage is great for kids. Teriyaki too, for people who like something a little sweeter. We also did a turkey stick because people in the AIP community, I have a lot of people or a lot of friends with auto-immune conditions and they wanted a snack option that they could have when they were adhering to that protocol. So we did a turkey and orange cranberry, and then an herb.

Greenwashing

DrMR:

You know, as I’ve been speaking with more manufacturers, it’s kind of alarming the amount of stuff that does not need to be disclosed on the label. If you want it to be sketchy as all heck, you could. You would think reading the label is sufficient, but the citric acid example is a beautiful example. We were just having a conversation the other week, our team with someone from a manufacturing company. They said, well, as long as you do XYZ, this doesn’t have to be listed on the label. It’s standard practice. So the opportunity, if someone is not mored by any ethics, to just sneak stuff in is definitely there. It was actually pretty eye opening to me. It’s like, wow, you don’t even have to put this on the label.

DrMR:

You have a fork in the road from a formulary perspective and one fork is healthier and the other fork certainly is not yet that fork does not need to be disclosed. There’s kind of this like umbrella term, like you said, citric acid is a good example of that. I didn’t realize the extent of that. For consumers, I used to think just reading the label, looking for maybe organic or non-GMO was enough. But there are all sorts of tricks and corners that one can cut to make a label that looks similar for different products, but one product could be significantly better than another.

AS:

Oh man. Yeah. There are consultants who work just on that. Like how can you get away with things. Like trans fat, you can have below 0.05 grams of trans fat in a serving and it can still be labeled as zero grams of trans fat. Then there’s the grass-fed situation where we wanted to make our collagen protein. But we’re just sticklers about quality, not only for health, but also for the environment. So we called all the suppliers and we said, okay, we want to make a powder. Are you grass feeding and grass finishing? I think originally we just said, are you grass feeding? and they would say oh, of course. Then the question that I don’t think people ask, or maybe they don’t care is are they ever fed grain? Then the answer was well, yeah, of course.

AS:

But you have a lot of companies out there labeling it grass-fed which isn’t regulated. So it doesn’t really matter. No one is going to get in trouble, but they’re definitely not grass-fed and grass-finished. There are a lot of examples. There are also carriers. You can have products that are carried on things like different kinds of fat or would never have to be labeled because they’re just carriers. If you don’t know the company and know their intentions, it’s harder for me to say it’s always a safe bet. You just gotta kind of got to do your own research.

DrMR:

Yeah, it’s a great point. It was pretty eyeopening for me. It’s made me narrow the circle of products that I personally consume because I can’t rely on the label anymore. So now I really try to use products that I know that a major part of their mission statement is making a healthy product. Some products look healthy and they make healthy claims, but again, they may just be back to the earlier point about marketers getting into a space. Unfortunately now health is in vogue. So the marketers are looking for how to put healthy stuff on the label, but keeping their costs as low as possible and cutting some of those sketchy corners in order to do so.

AS:

Absolutely. It’s called greenwashing. It’s a thing. They just put all the buzzwords right on the label and then cut corners elsewhere.

DrMR:

I feel bad for consumers because how do you keep all this stuff straight?

AS:

I know, I know. It is really, really a challenge. That’s why I just invite you to get to know the companies. Never be afraid to ask questions. This is one of my favorite things when people write in and ask me the hard questions. Like can you share your results from your heavy metals test or your microbial tests or whatever. I always think lovely, thank you for reaching out, thank you for being curious and thank you for asking questions. If you get any other response from a company that you reach out to I just wouldn’t ever buy from them.

DrMR:

I think that’s a great point. This is something that on our recent podcast, I kind of implored our audience, especially clinicians, but also just lay people to start asking some of the functional medicine stool labs to publish proof of concept study for the methodology that they are using. I think that market pressure is going to really either steer the field of functional medicine lab testing in a better direction, or just allow it to be a “hey, our test helps with XYZ” and all the bells and whistles yet they’re not doing anything to prove their concept. There’s a few other gut health products that make fairly sizeable claims and they’re not super small companies.

Ask the Hard Questions

DrMR:

However, they haven’t even taken like 30 people and done a simple proof of concept study. So I think it’s really incumbent upon the consumer base to be the thorn in the side of some of these companies and give them a polite, supportive market pressure. Well, actually, this is different than with food, but for a lab let’s say, or a supplement, prove the concept. If you’re telling us that XYZ is so revolutionary and so awesome, could you take like 30 people and at least have something to point to?

AS:

Yes. Consumers don’t even realize how much power they have. We’re responding to you. I’m constantly looking at our analytics and what’s selling well and what’s not, and what should I be more focused on. All of that comes from your dollars and your power and your support. I am currently in a doctoral program and designing studies that I hope to one day conduct around our product. I’m starting with just like a little tiny trial, uh, around our Oregon complex but I just want to say that so that people know that I’m not interested in just making grandiose claims. I do hope one day that I can create those little trials that you’re talking about.

DrMR:

I love that. I help a lot of the future of this field, both from the food perspective, from the supplement perspective and from the lab perspective is going to go more towards small operations that are trying to substantiate their claims with some scientific backing. Otherwise you just have these big companies that want to make marketing claims and never have any evidence to support their claim. What’s also sad, and this is something I think our audience is hopefully doing, is if you go to a company’s product page and look for their science or their support, and then you just check their references, you can fairly easily tell if that reference is like medical hypothesis. Is it just an abstract that’s in pub med, but it’s not an actual intervention.

DrMR:

It’s just someone who wrote a paper and made a statement, but had no support. It’s not actually that hard to check the references, but hopefully our audience is doing that and is not just kind of getting razzle dazzled by a nice video and good graphics. You can make an infographic that looks awesome, right? Like a compelling graphic showing that this compound reduces inflammation and improves gut health and all the symptoms are in the graphic, kind of like fading away. The person looks super healthy. You can make an infographic and have no evidence to support.

DrMR:

It can just be absolute smoke and mirror. So it’s really important for consumers to go to that science page. Even if they have an amazing infographic, if you land on a pub med abstract of seven rats or a Petri dish, or just a hypothesis, you can replace the infographic with a smoking turd cause that’s about as valuable as that information is.

AS:

That’s so true. Oftentimes the companies that put the most money towards marketing have the worst products. So I just want to say that. Follow the research and follow the funding.

RuscioResources:

Hi everyone. This is Dr. Ruscio. In case you need help, I wanted to quickly make you aware of what resources are available to you. If you go to drruscio.com/Resources, you will see a few links you can click through for more. Firstly, there is the clinic, which I’m immensely proud of. The fact that we deliver, cost-effective, simple, but highly efficacious, functional medicine. There’s also my book, Healthy Gut, Healthy You, which has been proven to allow those who’ve been unable to improve their health, even after seeing numerous doctors, be able to help them finally feel better. There’s also our store where there’s a number of products like our Elemental Heal line, our probiotic line, and other gut supportive and health supportive supplements. We now offer health coaching. So if you’ve read the book or listened to a podcast like this one, or are reading about a product and you need some help with how or when to use, or how to integrate with diet, we now offer health coaching to help you along your way. And then finally, if you are a clinician, there is our clinicians newsletter, the Future of Functional Medicine Review. I’m very proud to say, we’ve now had doctors who’ve read that newsletter, find challenging cases in their practices, apply what we teach in the newsletter and be able to help these patients who were otherwise considered challenging cases. Everything for these resources can be accessed through drruscio.com/Resources. Alrighty, back to the show.

Protein Bar

DrMR:

So with some of the other products, I’ve actually really liked your bars also. Do you want to tell people a little bit about those?

AS:

I do. That is another thing. I love to kind of get out there in the world and I’m always trying to travel. So I wanted another snack and what I found when I went to find like a high-quality protein bar, I was living on these things as a fitness trainer. When I actually got a little bit more knowledge under my belt about what was actually a good way to go, I found that most of them are just carbohydrate bars with a lot of soy protein and a lot of really low quality protein in my humble opinion. I wanted to just create a bar that was like balanced in terms of its macronutrients. So it wasn’t super carb-heavy, but also had high-quality protein and then nutrients to boot. Foods that actually added some value because I find a lot of gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, whatever free, everything’s free, but what are you actually putting in your body?

AS:

So we created our bars. So they had that nutrients, like, you know, they have spirulina in them, although they do not taste like it. Spinach and organic acerola cherry and all of these wonderful foods, but then also some really high-quality grass-fed and grass-finished collagen, which is like the fountain of youth and really helpful for your joints, your skin, your gut health. Really high-quality sourcing all the way through and they taste great too. We have a chocolate and we have an Apple and we also just released a pumpkin spice, which is actually our best work yet. That was for the holidays and we have a lemon and a red velvet coming out. In terms of the quality, it’s a funny story because we couldn’t get our manufacturer to keep up with our demand and also maintain the quality.

AS:

So we had to buy our own bar manufacturing facility, which was interesting for people who knew nothing about what they were doing at the time. We have our own bar manufacturing facility now. So we call all the shots and we make sure that the quality has as high as possible. I highly recommend you check them out. My friends have been doing continuous glucose monitoring and I’m really excited to report that they often tell me our bars keep their blood sugar the most stable. I know that’s variable from person to person, but the reports I’ve gotten about that have been really, really great. I’m sure it’s because they contain a lot of fiber and they’re made from whole foods and things aren’t isolated, but I’m glad to hear you like them. Cause they’re my favorite.

DrMR:

Yeah. I really liked them too. I’m looking at your ingredient label right now. Obviously there are great ingredients in here, but from our prior comment now I’m also even more assured that the none of these ingredients are proxy covers for other crappy ingredients that can just be put under this guise of a term because of corner cutting that’s going on behind the scenes.

AS:

Right. No, absolutely not. We are a very, very transparent company. Like I said, we are eating these, my five-year-old son is eating these. If we’re doing consumers wrong, we’d be doing ourselves wrong. It’s just not an option for us.

DrMR:

Yeah. think that’s another reason why it’s important that the people at the heads of these companies are actually participating in health care and being healthy themselves. I’m not trying to overly knock business people here, although maybe it sounds like I am, but if you’re a business person, Joe Schmoe, and you’re overweight and you’re unhealthy and you go to work every day and are just about making money and then going home and eating a terrible diet and living an unhealthy lifestyle. You’d give your kids anything because you don’t really understand this stuff enough and you’re not participating in it as a consumer. So your standards are pretty lax. If you care about this stuff and you’re trying to run faster, jump higher, have better mental clarity, have better mood, better skin, better digestive health. Then these things matter a lot more because you notice the difference between having healthy things in your body and unhealthy things, because you actually are healthy. When you eat unhealthy things, you actually can regress. You’re not typically bloated all the time and you’re not feeling depressed all the time. So when you eat something that’s unhealthy, you actually really feel

AS:

Absolutely. I’m one of those canaries in the coal mine. Even when I ate those other beef sticks before, that’s what caused me to look into the processing because I’d get the grass-fed beef sticks and they just didn’t make me feel good. I just wasn’t sure why. I think some of us are just a little more sensitive and that’s definitely me, but it’s been a real asset for me because of what I eventually went in to.

DrMR:

Yeah. I’ve said on the podcast before, and I’ll never forget this experience. I was having chronic bloating post-workout and it was from the protein that I was using. It was a brand from Whole Foods that had the recombinant bovine growth-hormone free and all those things on the label. I learned later they were just using some fillers in there and I wasn’t actually having a problem with whey protein. I was having a problem with all the other garbage in the whey protein. It was like six months of me sitting on the couch post-workout with these symptoms. I would go to the gym, have a shake and then read pub med abstract for about an hour. That’s that was my routine for a long, long time. I’d always feel so bloated and it just drove me nuts, but I didn’t know what to do.

DrMR:

Then when we actually had Anthony Gustin from Perfect Keto on the podcast, he broke that down for me. That was a huge eye opener for me. There are,again, things that go in the products that aren’t on the labels that can, in this case, cause bloating. For the audience, this is something that really helped me. That’s why I really care about bringing you guys good products. I was really happy to not be bloated anymore. I’m sure many of our audience would also like to be, so that was a nice thing to be able to say. Yeah, I can have whey protein. It’s just that I can’t have the whey protein that cut’s corners.

AS:

Right? No, it’s been, it’s been game changing for me as well. One thing I know, like you said, it’s not always on the label. You can’t always find everything on the label, but I think one of the most important steps you can take as a consumer is not to look at the front packaging if you’re in a retail store. That’s like the version of you or a product you’d see on a first date, it’s all the good things. You have to always look at the ingredients. Not even just like the nutrients and the carbs and the fat and the protein, the ingredients. Making sure that nothing in there is weird. Knowing that some things could be in there that are weird. Calling the company, sometimes this sounds really annoying, but sometimes it can give you that peace of mind if you have any follow-up questions.

Episode Wrap-Up

DrMR:

Yeah, It’s, it’s a great point. Hopefully this conversation is going to help consumers navigate what I’m learning more and more is a hard area to navigate, but at least people now have one more good company to consider purchasing products from. Is there anything that you want to leave people with in closing or anything else that you wanted to mention? Please tell them again, you know, about your website and where they can go and plug-in.

AS:

Goodness. The only thing I’d like to say is my company’s mission is just basically to help people understand that food is medicine. I know that you are doing a lot in that realm as well. You can have a really healthy and vibrant life and it doesn’t have to take up all of your time. Yes, I’m a whole food advocate. I don’t think we should be eating overly processed products all the time. Our products are just intended for the times when you can’t make a meal. You can go to our website, paleovalley.com and we’re giving a 15% off discount for your audience if you’d like it. We also have a sister company called Wild Pastures and it’s basically a meat delivery service where we only source from regenerative American farms. We deliver it straight to your door. So you can find me in any of those places. You can also email me directly at [email protected] If you have questions, comments, concerns. If you’re annoyed by something I said, or you’re excited about something I said. I love any and all feedback. Like I said, you consumers have a lot of power. We’re just waiting for your feedback. So anything you want to say to me I’d love to hear.

DrMR:

Yeah. It’s a great point. I’m glad you raised that point about the consumers having power because yeah, unless we give feedback, then companies are kind of just lumbering around in the dark. That feedback is helpful. I love what you’re doing also at Wild Pastures. One of the things I’m trying to be better about, and I want to call myself out here because I think if I call myself out, there’s probably plenty of people in the same boat of being better at buying local. It is sometimes so easy. I am an Amazon prime member. There’s been a handful of times when I’ve just been so busy. I’ve literally ordered all my groceries online, on Amazon and the next morning they were dropped off at my door. I love the convenience of that on the one hand. On the other hand, I feel irrefutably, and irredeemably lazy for not just driving the six minutes down to Whole Foods. I really need to go even further, which is going to the local farmer’s market and just making that part of my weekly routine.

DrMR:

One of the things that I have been doing is ordering online through some of the outfits, like Wild Pastures that will help you buy online easily, quickly, conveniently, but also will source locally. So definitely something that I’m kicking myself in the butt for now and trying to do a better job with. I would ask our audience to try to do the same because the more I learn about all this, one of the solutions to the mess that we’re in on multiple levels is just supporting local small businesses, from agriculture all the way up through supplements. So yeah, Autumn, I just really love what you’re doing and thank you again so much for taking the time.

AS:

Yeah, it’s been an absolute honor, like I said, we’re big fans of your work, so it’s quite a privilege to be here.

DrMR:

Awesome. Well thank you again and keep fighting the good fight.

AS:

Will do. You too.

Outro:

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Sponsored Resources

The Sustainable, Whole Food Advantage - paleovalley logo

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