Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Interview on Faith, Science, and Nutrition With Fr. Anthony Perkins of Orthoanalytika

by Chris Masterjohn, PhD

Well hello everyone! 

A few weeks ago, Fr. Anthony Perkins, an Orthodox Christian priest who's into paleo, invited me to be a guest on his podcast. I had never heard of him, but I soon saw that he'd been interviewed on "Ask Bryan" Davis's podcast show, Doc Fermento Discovers the World, where I've been interviewed before as well. I listened to the show and he sounded pretty legit so I accepted. Turns out he's a great conversation partner.

If you would like to listen to the podcast, I would recommend right-clicking right here to download it, or heading over to view the show notes and listening to it online here:


The interview deals in part with Orthodox Christianity and spirituality, but also contains a lot of straight nutrition and health. Based on past discussions here I'm guessing some of you may appreciate this and some may want to skip it. Please note that the interview doesn't begin until 23 minutes into the show, and those of you who want to listen to the interview but are averse to Sunday sermons may want to skip ahead to that point.

Here's a table of contents to make your navigation easier:
00:00 -- Intro Chat
07:10 -- Fr. Anthony runs through his homily for the Gospel reading from his church on Sunday.
23:30 -- Fr. Anthony introduces me
25:30 -- My scientific background
27:20 -- Reconciling science and faith
32:30 -- Is academia hostile to faith?
37:20 -- My personal story (vegetarianism, anarchism, discovering Price's work, rather lengthy discussion of Price's work)
55:45 -- Why is Price's work so little known?
1:05:50 -- The Earth is our mother
1:09:40 -- How much can we blame on modern diets, and does it all come down to diet?
1:15:10 -- Eating the whole animal
1:16:50 -- Whole foods, sleep, high-intensity exercise and meditative walks
1:19:00 -- Why I use cod liver oil seasonally
1:20:30 -- Magnesium
1:23:30 -- Fr. Anthony loves "Bulletproof Coffee"
1:24:30 -- Keeping health in mind during Orthodox fasting
1:36:10 -- Intermittent Fasting
1:41:20 -- Farewell!
 Read more about the author, Chris Masterjohn, PhD, here.
 

52 comments:

  1. Chris, I think this was your best podcast appearance yet! - Bryan

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    1. Very kind of you to say so, Bryan! Obviously that is entirely Chris' fault.

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  2. Would have liked to have heard the interview in its entirety but could only hear what Chris had to say. I used both Chrome and Safari and got the same result. Anyone with ideas?

    Incidentally, I'm reading Price's book and was hoping to find something about diet and older age. I read recently that Price died aged 68 of a heart attack. In light of Price's findings what can we say about a defensive diet in older age? I note too that Price found modernized foods was more detrimental to women. It seems at odds with women generally living longer than men today.

    M.

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    1. Hi M,

      I sent a note to Fr. Anthony about the volume.

      I thought Price died of typhus, so if it was a heart attack maybe it was infectious? In any case, Price placed a big emphasis on nutrition in the developmental period, so nothing follows from that indicating that nutrition is a perfect savior when introduced in old age. Moreover, 68 was a long lifespan back then. Infectious diseases have been largely wiped out for reasons that have nothing to do with nutrition, which has lengthened the lifespan. Price had to contend with the environment of his time, not just his own body.

      I don't remember what Price said about women -- I imagine they were affected more by nutrient deficiencies when exposed to the stress of pregnancy -- but I don't think that relates directly to comparing lifespan between men and women now because a) Price didn't look at lifespan and b) we don't know what the ratio between sexes was in primitive groups for comparison.

      Chris

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    2. Thanks for the head's up. I just remastered the show and am in the process of uploading it. It's not perfect, but I think it's better. Not a huge deal if folks can't hear me, though!

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    3. Just fyi, according to Wikipedia, Price was 78, not 68 when he passed away:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weston_Price#cite_ref-1

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  3. Hi Chris,

    In reference to magnesium, do you think that http://www.traceminerals.com/products/liquid-tablet-minerals/concentrace-ionic-minerals would be a good replacement method or would you suggest taking a chelate instead?

    Great interview btw!

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    Replies
    1. I use that sometimes. I really don't know what is best. Right now I'm using a topical magnesium oil.

      Chris

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  4. hey chris,

    any idea where I can find pictures of weston price in profile?

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    Replies
    1. I'd suggest going to images.google.com and searching for "weston price."

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  5. Very nice interview!
    I wonder if my symptoms might be helped by a diet like this. I have chronic anxiety, acne, hair loss, cold hands and feet in the winter, gas, constipation, eczema, dandruff, muscle pains and mites allergy. I don’t know if there is some autoimmune condition (or other) that is causing all this (maybe you have an idea) but maybe this diet could help?

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    1. Thanks! What have you been eating so far?

      Chris

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    2. A paleo diet (with rice and I've tried the autoimmune protocol and exclusion of FODMAPS with no resolution of symptoms)...

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    3. Were you eating a paleo diet when these symptoms started, or were you eating something else? If the latter, what were you eating?

      What is your carbohydrate intake like?

      Do you eat seafood, including seaweed? Do you use iodized salt? Have you ever had any parameters of thyroid function measured?

      Chris

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    4. No, I had these symptoms way before I started to ear a paleo diet. I was eating what I ate since I was a child. You could call it a mediterranean diet (I'm from Portugal) with sugar and vegetable oils. My carbohydrate intake is like 40 or 50 per cent of my calories maybe.
      I don't eat seaweed or use iodized salt. I take a iodine supplement though. My doctor had some parameters tested, yes. The only ones I find are these

      T3-triiodothyronine o.93 ng/mL 0.60-1.81

      Free T3 3.52 pg/mL 2.00-4.20

      T4-Thyroxine 6.3 mcg/dL 4.5-10.9

      free T4 1.3 ng/dL 0.8-1.8

      TSH 0.90 mcU/mL 0.40-4.40

      I tested for antibodies but I don't find those. I remember that he didn't find any of the results abnormal though

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    5. Hi Goncalo,

      Cold hands and feet is often related to thyroid, but perhaps in the winter it just means you need gloves and thicker socks. :)

      Some other of those symptoms could be thyroid, but your numbers seem normal, so unless you have a rare condition like genetic resistance to thyroid hormone, or you have chronic stress, thyroid seems an unlikely explanation.

      You could perhaps have some nutrient deficiencies. Do you eat liver?

      It really is difficult for me to say.

      Chris

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    6. Ok, that's good to know! Thanks so much for the reply!

      I can't eat liver! I really don't like it. It's very difficult for me to ingest organ meats.

      I don't know but my family has a history with gut problems and some autoimmuninty. I think my only chance is really to try self-experimentation in a more rigorous fashion. Maybe I'll start with the autoimmune protocol and then try to experience with different protocols for SIBO, FODMAP's intolerance, etc... With the best food I can, and address lifestyle too.

      What do you think? Do you have some suggestion for a software that I can use to track my symptoms?

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    7. Hi Goncalo,

      I think there is software out there but I don't have experience with it and I'm unfortunately not the best person to ask about that.

      For SIBO, I think it is worth getting tested if you can spare the money. Otherwise, you either need to spend three years on something like the GAPS diet before you have any idea if it works, or you need to take rifamaxin or go on the elemental diet. I assure you the elemental diet is far more unpleasurable than eating liver, and I doubt anyone will prescribe you rifamaxin without a diagnosis. You should get the 3-hour lactulose test. I suggest using Allison Siebecker's info on this at siboinfo.com.

      Can you tolerate cod liver oil? Do you use it? If so, what brand?

      Do you eat leafy green vegetables, eggs, or bones/ bone broths? How do you eat your eggs?

      Do you otherwise eat much in the way of fruits and vegetables?

      Chris

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  6. Hi Goncalo,
    your symptoms could be due to adrenal dysfunction. Adequate cortisol levels are necessary for thyroid hormones to enter the cell, just having sufficient levels of T3/T4 in the blood stream is not enough. The most accurate way to check is to have a 24 hour saliva test. Also you should check your RT3 (reverse T3) levels as excess RT3 can block thyroid hormone receptors again preventing thyroid hormones from being utilized. Finally, iron and ferritin should be checked as they are also important in the utilization of thyroid hormones.
    A good place to get information on this subject is http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/

    Good luck,

    Dave.

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  7. Extremely cool interview!
    I question if in case my signs or symptoms can be assisted from a eating organize like this. I have chronic anxiousness, acne, hair thinning, cold hands and feet inside the wintertime, gas, bowel problems, eczema, dandruff, muscle problems too as mites allergy.

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  9. Chris, I enjoyed this podcast and always enjoy your clear, articulate explanations. The religions which formed after the invention of agriculture all seem to be based on an pre-existing alienation from the divine that is then bridged by the practices of the religious community. Since our closest contact with the natural world is our diet (we are eating the body and blood of the natural world, after all) doesn't it make sense that the agricultural religions formed because the agricultural diets made a poor match to our nutritional requirements and created a subjective feeling of alienation from the ultimate reality? (I'm avoiding Judeo-Christian terminology in order to not exclude Buddhism.) Many of us might prefer a reintegration into the natural world rather than the creation of a new order as proposed by the religious. If a nutritional adept said "I figured out my exact nutritional requirements and my mood and physical vitality improved enormously" would this nutritional adept likely be more or less interested in religions that propose to reduce the torment of human life through religious practice? To me these issues are more fundamental than the congruence of religious and scientific epistemologies, because these body issues are not symbolic. Perhaps the truly well-fed are not alienated from the divine, and since they are not alienated, they do not seek to dominate nature because they are at home in the natural world. But the religious are really only "at home" during their religious practices. OK, I set this up so you can refute it in your usual brilliant manner that will show us the correct connection between Orthodox spirituality and nutrition!

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    1. Hi Jim,

      Ahaha, wow I really laughed at your last comment. I'm not sure if you're serious -- do you actually want me to "refute" your opinion? Thanks for the offer! (And the thoughtful comment!)

      Chris

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    2. Hi Jim,

      Sorry for taking so long to reply.

      You're theory that agricultural religions offer a reconnection to cure the nutritional mismatch caused by agriculture reminds me of Jared Diamond's theory that the Indic renunciate traditions were born out of the new level of suffering caused by agriculture, from which an escape was needed. I haven't read Diamond on this, but I read of his theory in Peter Connolly's book, "A Student's Guide to the History and Philosophy of Yoga" (p. 40).

      Personally, I don't buy into the premise of your argument, that agriculture created a nutritional mismatch. If you look at the development of agriculture in the Levant, health started declining in the late hunter-gatherer stage and continued declining with the first evidence of increased reliance on so-called neolithic foods like grains. But where you have the first unequivocal evidence of domestication of those foods, you have large improvements in health, especially for women, along with evidence of rich use of symbolism, suggesting some kind of religious renaissance. Then in pre-pottery neolithic C, the later stage, you have declines in health along with breakups of large settlements into small hamlets, suggesting resource stress and social strife. Granted, this is based on skeletal evidence, which has terrible sample size, can only tell us about certain aspects of health, and may give false signals about trends (see the "osteological paradox"), but interpreting the limited evidence in a straightforward manner yields the results I described. For further details, see the chapter on the Levant in "Ancient Health," edited by Mark Nathan Cohen.

      So, it seems to me that the development of religion in the Levant probably didn't replace the connection between humans and their food that was lost with agriculture, but probably grew alongside a reconnection that was *achieved by* agriculture, which was invented because of the resource stress and declines in health that occurred in the later stages of hunting and gathering.

      I don't know if I quite follow that the purpose of religious practice is to "reduce the torment of human life." That sounds particularly Buddhist. I think some other schools of yoga as well as Christianity would find that difficult to resonate with. Christianity, in particular, promises that "we will be glorified with him provided we also suffer with him." Martyrdom is not a very effective means of escape from suffering.

      I'm not sure I see a connection between being well fed and being connected with the divine, or between being well fed and not wishing to conquer nature. Do plastics manufacturers manufacture plastic because of nutritional deficiencies?

      Chris

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  10. Yes, I'm serious. To the thoughtful, the discrepancy between Darwin and Genesis isn't interesting; after all, in Genesis, there are two distinct creation stories spliced together and they don't exactly agree on the details, as if to say "I'm not doing history or science here!" To quote Wikipedia on a famous naturalist 'When his aunt Louisa asked him in his last weeks if he had made his peace with God, Thoreau responded: "I did not know we had ever quarreled."' Indeed, if we had put Thoreau into an MRI machine, we would have found that his soul decided on his behavior before Thoreau was conscious of what his behavior was going to be. Not a lot of room for repentance in that scenario! As a nature-estranged modern, I see myself in the dogs and cats cooped up in the house who are invariably glued to the window because, if they can't experience the Glory of God, they at least want to behold it! If my closest connection with the ecology, my diet, has suddenly become inappropriate so that I am anxious and depressed about my connection to the ultimate reality, wouldn't the Godly thing to do be to correct my nutrition rather than join a church? And why would the concept of a permanent eternal soul seem to be so inimical to nature conservancy? Maybe "refute" is the wrong word, but surely a discussion of deeper topics would be needed to relate Orthodox spirituality and nutrition than the relation of evolutionary theory to creation stories. And you are the perfect man to do it!

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    1. Hi Jim,

      I agree that there is not necessarily a conflict between evolution and Genesis. One might wonder how Cain got all the people he needed to populate his city if he was the among the first generation born to the first two people on earth, and one might perhaps suggest that the author of Genesis did not intend to give that impression. The toughest theological objection to evolution that Christians put forward is that through man's sin death came into the world, whereas Darwinism says that through death, man came into the world. However, if you look at classical expositions of the Fall, for example in Saint Athanasius the Great's "On the Incarnation" written some sixteen centuries ago when no one had a stake in this debate, he considered death to be the natural province of animals, and since he considered humans to be animals, he considered death the natural province of humans as well. But God allowed humans to participate in his immortality through unceasing contemplation of the divine. The Fall for Saint Athanasius consisted of man turning his contemplation to material things. While I wouldn't want to suggest that Athanasius believed in evolution or even that he would if he were alive today (I have no idea what he would think), I think this view is not particularly incompatible with the idea that God created humans through the successive death of other animals, as Darwinism would require.

      I'm not sure I follow how an MRI can analyze the soul, or how the soul making decisions prior to behavior somehow crowds out room needed for repentance. Repentance comes from the Greek "metanoia," which is a conjunction of the prefix "meta," meaning to change, as in metamorphosis, and "nous," which is a Platonic word meaning the organ of direct apprehension. For the Platonists, the purpose of the nous was to directly apprehend the Good. For the Church Fathers, its purpose was to directly apprehend God. For both, it would be distinct from the dianoia, which is the reason -- the data-analyzing faculty. "Nous" is often translated "mind" but clearly it doesn't mean "mind" in the way we use it, which corresponds better to dianoia. If the Fall was the turning of the nous from God to the things of the material world, then repentance is the turning of the nous from material things to God.

      I don't see why correcting nutrition and joining a church are at odds.

      I don't see why the concept of a permanent eternal soul would seem to be inimical to nature conservancy, so I guess we agree on that.

      Chris

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  11. Jesus' famous saying that "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" is usually preached as a admonition to strengthen the spirit. But might it not be more in accord with reality to humble and quiet the spirit and strengthen the flesh by providing good nutrition?

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    1. If Jesus said the flesh was the weak point, then why would that be an admonition to "strengthen the spirit"?

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    2. Also, why are humility and quietude opposed to strength?

      Chris

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  12. I'm sure I coming over as another "itsthewoo", but here goes. I recall writing an essay in college on the parallels between the teachings of Jesus and philosophical Taoism. It was quite an easy paper to write because there was so much consonance between the views. Likewise, I find great consonance between philosophical Taoism and ecological awareness. Since I grew up with Christianity, I wanted to parallel Christianity with ecological awareness, but always found great dissonance between the outlooks that I was not sophisticated-enough theologically to bridge. I was also disappointed with how few Christians seemed interested in the problem. Nutritional study goes hand-in-hand with ecological awareness because when you try to keep an exotic animal, you begin to understand how distinct evolutionary niches cause changes in heredity that render a subset of available foods unusable if the animal is to thrive. In a sense, we became exotic animals when we began to practice agriculture. Well, you see where this is going. You are an intelligent observer both of nutritional science and Orthodox spirituality, and I wanted to hear your thoughts on these issues in greater depth.

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    1. Hi Jim,

      I haven't read it, but there is an Orthodox Christian monk, Damascene, who wrote a book called "Christ: The Eternal Tao." Also, an Orthodox priest, Fr. Brendan Pelphrey, indicated to me that he had written a an essay along similar lines a very long time ago, but he couldn't find an English translation of it (I think he had originally written it in Chinese). But, you might find his work interesting. He has a new book, The Secret Seminary, which I think you would enjoy.

      Chris

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  13. PLATO GONE WIIIIIILD! The Tourists have just won an all-expense-paid trip to Heaven. They are excited because they get to meet God! But when they get there, God is busy, and they meet with that stale old cheese, Jim Jozwiak. "Why did they preserve him? He wasn't that good-looking even in his prime," says Mrs. Tourist. "I never heard of him, but maybe he has a wise saying to impart," says Mr. Tourist. "I could almost play the first half of the Goldberg Variations, and back in the day, I wrote some nice software," saith I.

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  14. Enjoyed the discussion. It struck me many years ago that Man has become removed from what I call the natural order of things (NOOT). He gets hungry, sits down at McDonalds and wolfs down a quarter pounder and becomes sated. He's so removed from the process of killing and processing the meat or growing the bun/onion, he quite likely doesn't even know where it came from. Just like filling up the gas tank.

    We have lost reverence for food. I think this may be why few people say grace at the table these days. Just a generation or two ago people killed or grew almost everything they ate. That is NOOT. Watching the life ebb from a deer, cutting his gut open and reaching deep into his warn, bloody chest cavity for a little thoracic surgery to gut him, puts you in close proximity to nature. I can empathize and appreciate the animal's sacrifice to sustain me. Every spring when I put in my garden I'm struck by the miracle of those plants coming to life. All I can do is weed the garden, the rest is someone else's doing.

    I know this is just the result of the division of labor and in economic terms is a good thing but I think killing, processing and cooking your dinner is good for you and you may gain a bit of reverence and grace as well.

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  15. This podcast is one of my favorites; I love sharing it. The comments are so enlightening, too. Thank you for helping us understand that faith and reason do not conflict and are truly branches of the same tree.

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