Naturopath Jonn Matsen says eating lots of fruits and vegetables can sometimes make you sick
Most people are aware that poor eating habits can undermine their health. But according to veteran North Vancouver naturopath Jonn Matsen, eating too well, particularly by relying too much on certain plants, can also create problems.
“To tell people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and cut out salt is eating too good,” Matsen said during a May 2 lecture at the Indigo bookstore in North Vancouver. “And it can get you just as sick or sicker than eating too bad.”
In a 90-minute presentation, given as part of Naturopathic Medicine Week (which runs from May 3–9), Matsen took the audience on an entertaining tour of the digestive system before explaining how plants high in potassium cause unintended outcomes. On this day, he got his message across with the help of a projector that showed nine illustrated “liver dwarves” named Burpy, Bloaty, Gaspy, Spacey, Achy, Itchy, Bitchy, Sluggy, and Docque.
He began with a detailed explanation of how food travels through the system. He noted that in a healthy person, two parts of the digestive system are heavily alkaline, and two other areas are characterized by high levels of acidity. Later on in the digestive process, toxins are filtered through the liver, which he described as the “hub”.
“The mouth makes alkaline digestive juices that begin digestion of carbohydrates,” Matsen said. “Then the food goes into the stomach, which makes acid—very strong acid—that begins the digestion of proteins.”
In one of his three books, The Secrets to Great Health From Your Nine Liver Dwarves (Goodwin, 1998), Matsen describes how the stomach walls have layers of muscles that “knead” food. In addition, he notes in the book, hydrochloric acid in the stomach converts another substance, pepsinogen, into pepsin, which digests protein and kills most microorganisms and parasites in food.
However, if the stomach isn’t sufficiently acidic, Matsen told the bookstore audience, proteins won’t be fully digested. In addition, he said, parasites, yeast, and bacteria will migrate into the small intestine, which is heavily alkaline. The small intestine is home to a fragile mass of enzymes that absorb nutrients, including dairy and grains. But, Matsen explained, if yeast enters this region, which stretches for three metres, it will “banish” digestive enzymes, causing numerous problems.
“Yeast are fungi,” he said. “Believe me, fungi are not fun guys.”
He added that the role of fungi is to “recycle and compost”, which means they continue breaking down new enzymes as they are replenished by the pancreas. In addition, Matsen said, fungi diminish levels of an amino acid called tryptophan. The mood-elevating hormone serotonin is made from this.
Therefore, he suggested, shortages of tryptophan induced by digestive problems can trigger depression. Matsen noted the vast sums of money spent on antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft, which enrich the pharmaceutical industry, before declaring: “They’re missing the underlying, root problem.”
At this point, Matsen returned to his original point about how eating too many fruits and vegetables can get in the way of optimal health. He explained that digested food leaves the small intestine through a narrow area called the ileocecal valve, before moving into the highly acidic large intestine. As Matsen described, this region is filled with billions of acidophilus bacteria, which kill yeast and prevent diarrhea.
Matsen maintained that in many people—and particularly in those who are health-conscious—the barrier between the small and large intestines breaks down because of a lack of calcium, permitting acidophilus bacteria to move from the large intestine into the alkaline-heavy small intestine. As a result, the pH balance changes in the small intestine, interfering with the absorption of nutrients and allowing some pathogens to thrive.
Matsen stated that low calcium levels weaken the ileocecal valve, increasing the likelihood of this occurring. He also told his audience that taking calcium supplements doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, because calcium requires the presence of vitamin D for distribution through the body. “It’s [calcium] not going to transport vitamin D into your body until activated by your kidneys,” he said.
Vitamin D is obtained naturally by exposure to sunlight—and therein lies the problem, according to Matsen. Books on nutrition encourage people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and to cut back on meat and salt. However, Matsen explained, as plants are exposed to more sunlight, their potassium levels rise. He stated that these high potassium levels are a signal to the kidneys not to transport vitamin D, preventing the absorption of calcium. Salty foods, which are often eaten in winter, have the opposite effect.
Matsen said the kidney interprets high potassium levels and the effects of a low-salt diet as an indication that the body is receiving sufficient vitamin D through sunlight. “What if you’re eating a banana here in November? The kidneys think you’re in Hawaii,” he emphasized. “They deactivate your vitamin D. Five days of low calcium and you get yeast in your small intestine.”
In The Secrets to Great Health, Matsen writes that the two most common recurring health issues he has encountered are “ileocecal valve discomfort” and “low production of digestive enzymes in the pancreas”. And for some people, eating more bananas in winter is only going to exacerbate these conditions.
Jun 20, 2010 at 2:37pm
Do you know what ND stands for? NOT A DOCTOR! What a load of crap.
Jun 21, 2010 at 6:40pm
I like how his scientific study is peer reviewed...oh wait, no it isn't.
Jun 24, 2010 at 1:07pm
i went to see dr matsen 4 years ago as i had a host of problems other doctors said oh well learn how to deal with it. after eating normal at dr matsen prescribes I've never felt better and I certainly know when i stray and eat some crap food... my body revolts almost instantly with the runs, the burps farts , skin problems etc...
the two other posters are obviously skeptics but Id good for them if they feel healthy but I can assure you the possibility to feel great isnt that hard to attain, just eat right.
terry the censor
Jul 12, 2010 at 10:59pm
Bill, "skeptic" is not a bad word. Looking into naturopathy, a skeptical position is a calm, reasonable position. I'm glad you're feeling better, but unless you are doctor, you have no idea _why_ you feel better. And, frankly, neither does Mr. Matsen. That's a big deal, Bill.
Matsen's website claims he went to a "naturopathic medical school" named Bastyr University, but that place doesn't have an MD programme, nor does it offer a PhD in naturopathy. Naturopathic "doctors" are trained by other naturopathic "doctors," not actual medical doctors. Naturopath "doctors" have to pass a board exam administered by other naturopaths, not administered by actual medical doctors. Naturopaths are rarely licensed to perform medical procedures of any kind. They conduct almost no scientifically verifiable research.
Jul 18, 2010 at 4:35pm
I think Terry (above) presents an extremely biased point of view.
Here are the two links he's talking about:
His website does NOT claim that he has a Ph.D in naturopathy or that he went to a MD program. However, he does say he went to a NATUROPATHIC medical school, which is what Bastyr University is. The university does offer a graduate program in NATUROPATHY. The reason he is DR. Matsen and not MR. Matsen is because naturopathic doctors are licensed to practice what they do in British Columbia. Call me a fool or quack believer if you want.
But see for yourself. All I am presenting is a fact check, because facts speak louder than words. And in this case, Dr. Matsen seems to be speaking only the truth.
Aug 19, 2010 at 1:51am
I've had severe hives on and off my whole life. I've struggled to cure myself since no one else could. I've spent thousands on tests and "treatments" by expert medical doctors in this field. I got sicker under each doctor's care.
What Dr. Matsen says hits the nail on the head for me. I recently diagnosed myself as needing much more exercise, air, water, sunlight, calcium, and probiotics. I've felt sicker when eating the "lots of fruits and vegetables" diet. No one I've told this to will believe me because of the "experts" opinions out there that this is always the right answer.
I'm so glad he's doing this work. Health is an individual condition and not a "one size fits all". Thank you, Dr. Matzen.
Nov 24, 2010 at 2:27pm
ND = real doctors
May 25, 2011 at 1:51am
argh. IGNORE "SKEPTICS"!!! completely insane
Jun 8, 2011 at 3:04pm
I saw Dr Matsen 5 years ago for wieght loss and the things that he taught me not only helped me lose weight and get off anti-depressants but after my son was born, I was able to lose the baby weight easily ( 75lbs) and get my hormones back into check through nutrition and natural supplements. Medical Doctors are only taught to treat the symptoms, not the cause. More than likely because there is no profit in natural remedies and the medical proffesion in North America is more of a business driven by the pharmaceutical giants than an institution put in place to save lives.
Jun 13, 2011 at 7:35pm
How many of the naturopath bashers here are MD's? Raise your hands.