Innate Wisdom Podcast

Season 1 | Episode 3

The Bioenergetics & Metabolism of Fertility, Pregnancy & Postpartum with Dr. Ray Peat

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What It's About:

On this episode of the Innate Wisdom Podcast, I’m honored to welcome Dr. Ray Peat. Dr. Peat is a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Oregon, with an emphasis in physiology. He has taught at several schools including his alma mater, Urbana College, Montana State University, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Universidad Veracruzana, the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico, and Blake College. His work has particularly revolved around the work of Progesterone, Thyroid hormone, and others, and the notion that energy and structure are interdependent, at every level. His approach focuses on how our environment influences development, regenerative processes, and an evolutionary perspective by combining biophysics, biochemistry, and physiology. And he shines a light on how we can use energy-protective materials to not only reduce aging, but to thrive.

Listen to hear more about:

- How to support fertility & egg quality
- The connection between body fat & fertility
- Pregnancy loss & miscarriage
- Placental antibodies
- Trying to conceive into older age
- DHA & infant brain development
- Low-carb diets for pregnancy
- Pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, cholestasis, anemia, placenta previa, etc.
- Supporting breast milk production
- Navigating infant intolerance to breast milk
- Essential oils and estrogen
- And more!



[00:00:00] Loren Sofia: Thank you so much for coming on Dr. Pete. It's such an honor to be here with you today. I am such a student of your work and I consider you such a big mentor of mine. So first of all, thank you so much for coming on to the Innate Wisdom Podcast. 

[00:00:13] Dr. Ray Peat: You're welcome. 

[00:00:15] Loren Sofia: Wonderful. So, I would love to start off with your story.

Would you be able to tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you on the path that you're on today? 

[00:00:26] Dr. Ray Peat: At a young age, I was interested in science, reading encyclopedias, and then seeing what the current doctors were doing and what current scientific ideas were. I decided to study humanities. Language, literature, painting, instead of science, because to a teenager, it was obvious in 1950 that facts had almost nothing to do with so-called science.

The textbooks were just ridiculously saying false things, and when it became impossible for them to continue, they would just, without saying they had never been wrong, they would just change the story and that turns out to be the rule. Anything you look at that has been, kind of insanely wrong in medicine, for example, they go right onto the next thing, not acknowledging that all the authorities had been saying crazy things.

So it was obvious that studying literature and language, you had a much greater contact with the real world objective. Knowledge exists in areas like painting, music, literature, philosophy, people try to be explicit in what they're saying and the distortion comes in when the cannon of literature that's taught and respected, when that is chosen and taught in universities, it's generally to suit the ruling class ideas. So if you look at the literature itself and what people were doing at a certain time, that's as objective as any study could be. By 1960s, I was seeing so many of the ideas in science were dangerous, were killing people by the million and should be easy to correct misunderstandings, and that was when I decided to go back to graduate school, outside the humanities and to, uh, major in biology, biochemistry, and biophysics. And so I went and enrolled at the University of Oregon Biology Department in 1968 and intended to study nerve biology or brain biology, but they were profoundly dogmatic in their view of how their brain works.

So I looked around the whole department and found that the only subject area of the department that was really not dogmatic was reproductive physiology, and I decided to change from brain biology to reproductive physiology, and the group at that time was concentrating on the effects of aging on female fertility and what the changes are.

And so my dissertation was on the oxidative metabolic changes that occur in the female uterus. I worked with hamster uterus and how that changes under the influence of aging, and that involves reading almost the entire history of the steroid research and its effects on fertility and reproduction, and so I read starting with the very earliest papers identifying the effects of estrogen and how estrogen affects physiology. And it happened that many, many chemicals, thousands of chemicals have an estrogenic effect. And even though the uterus makes only a very small amount of estrogen and all of the other tissues of the body actually make more estrogen than the uterus does.

After the chemical identity of estrogen was established, it turned out that the real female hormone was progesterone produced massively by the ovary and no other tissues produce anywhere near that amount of progesterone. All the brain, skin, and adrenal glands do produce some. The difference between estrogen and progesterone made it clear that progesterone was the thing that kept women fertile and feminine, but the estrogen industry found that it was very expensive to make progesterone. Large amounts of it needed to be used therapeutically, where estrogen could be produced at almost no cost for synthetic estrogen. You could distill the soot of a Kerosene lamp for a candle, for example, and get dozens of estrogen compounds out of it.

So it turned out so cheap to manufacture and they could claim that it was a female hormone, although it is also a male hormone. And that created a huge industry of promoting estrogen as a youth hormone and fertility hormone, and since I had to read the history of steroid effects, I found that everything, they claimed hundreds of different conditions that they claimed estrogen cured or prevented were actually caused by estrogen. 

And so I was confirmed in my perception that science was absolutely insane or absolutely crooked. In this case, it was powered by the billions of dollars they could make by selling a toxic product that was very cheap to manufacture. I spent years reading the history of the steroids, and so that gave me an understanding of how crooked some areas of science became under the influence of money.

If you could make money by selling a toxin claiming it was a beneficial medicine that ruled, overcame everything scientific. Over the years since then, I have seen that exactly, the same thing happens for a hundred years. For example, actual science showed that asbestos was a major cause of cancer, but the government and the corporations for all of those years, up until the end of the 20th century, kept people producing and using this intense carcinogen the same with anything that is extremely profitable. Addictive tobacco, for example, it took 150 years to acknowledge that it's more toxic than any other kind of smoke and addictive as well because of the nicotine, but that any smoke is powerfully carcinogenic. 

The food industry follows the same rules in the 1950s, things that had been considered toxic in foods. The polyunsaturated fatty acids, botanical gums used as thickeners, things that were in the late 1940s. Clearly established as toxins that should not be in foods. The industry created a phony science and got people to eat foods. Basically constructed out of things like polyunsaturated, fatty acid, emulsifiers, and the gums as stabilizers.

Thousands of products in the grocery stores are built around cheap substitutes for food, which happen to be very toxic. And that perception of the distortions and corruption of science has turned up in every part of the contemporary civilization and health, understanding of health and biology. 

[00:09:42] Loren Sofia: Yes, I agree.

And I think more people are becoming aware of this connection. These industries were created with not so much our best interest in mind. But that said, I do think you've made huge waves in bringing to light the objective truths and your perspective is always so fascinating and always just makes so much biological sense.

So it's super, super interesting and I'm grateful for the work that you do, and it's always fun to hear where people started out as well. So thank you for sharing that. I'd like to dive into the bioenergetics of pregnancy now. I mentioned before that I am primarily a functional nutritionist in the preconception and pregnancy space, so the prenatal space, and it's one of my primary focuses, and I would love to hear from you what you would advise somebody trying to conceive, and what they can do to support their fertility, egg quality, and the proper growth and development of their baby. I know that's a pretty loaded question, but just at a high level, would love to hear your perspective. 

[00:10:53] Dr. Ray Peat: There was good scientific information available from the 1930s on the things that promote fertility very simply, and an understanding of all of the things that decreased fertility. In the 1940s, thyroid hormone was recognized as the basic most important fertility drug. And in doing my nutrition classes in several of the classes in a row where we talked about fertility. And so there would be, usually in the class of 30, there would be three or four people who had been trying to get pregnant for as much as 10 years.

Unable to, And I would go over dietary things, but I would mention the fact that in the 1940s, uh, thyroid hormone was considered the fertility hormone, and in each of these classes, the people who had been trying to get pregnant became pregnant. Just during a 10 week class when they changed their diet and began supplementing a thyroid hormone as needed. In the 1930s, Dr. Shoot and his two sons recognized that Vitamin E in animal studies, Vitamin E would cause animals to conceive at a high percentage, and he found that estrogen had the opposite effect. My thesis professor did some studies of the same thing a few years after Shoot did, and my professor showed that with normal animals, if you add just a tiny bit of estrogen to their system while they're pregnant, they will deliver earlier if you increase the exposure to estrogen gradually in proportion the pregnancy got shorter, and at a certain point the fertilized embryo would abort. So it would either prevent implantation or shorten gestation time or actually cause abortion.

That was in the 1940s, so it's the background of the birth control pills, but the culture was such that they didn't want to try to sell an abortion pill, so it took about 15 years to develop an ideology in which they could call estrogen an anti-conceptive pill, but it was already perfectly established as an abortion inducer sooner or later, depending on the lower or higher level exposure, and other studies showed that progesterone and Vitamin E worked for fertility by opposing estrogen, uh, progesterone alone knocks out the receptor, so-called that allows estrogen to be active. So if you don't have a receptor, estrogen is mostly harmless, but the Shoots, followed by others, showed that the estrogen has that effect, but they believe that part of that was that the polyunsaturated fats have an estrogen-like effect, and the Vitamin E is preventing the activation of the polyunsaturated fats reducing their estrogen activity. 

But following the Shoots’ work, Vitamin E was known as the “fertility vitamin”, and its action was understood, be partly that increased the activity of the estrogen and decreased activity of polyunsaturated fats.

But through the intervention of industry, Vitamin E was reduced to having only an antioxidant activity. No anti-estrogen effect was allowed to be discussed in the relation to Vitamin E and uh, progesterone effect was not publicly discussable because its main action was by opposing estrogen. And so if you show that opposing estrogen by avoiding polyunsaturated fats and supplementing progesterone, that would cut into the market to sell estrogen. 

[00:16:01] Loren Sofia: So what I'm hearing is that Vitamin E was suppressed from my research as well. It really seems like vitamin E has been suppressed, but it's been suppressed because it's so powerful and potent and would pretty much take away from the financial gain of the estrogen industry, and that's kind of what I'm hearing as well.

Is part of this, right? 

[00:16:25] Dr. Ray Peat: Yeah. And thyroid by increasing progesterone, decreasing estrogen and act as an antioxidant, thyroid works along with those other things, so all by itself, supplementing thyroid can make a night and day difference, but thyroid is extremely cheap. I used to get a thousand grains or a thousand tablets of armor thyroid, which might be one grain or five grains per tablet or even a quarter grain, I would get a bottle of a thousand of those for $8, and now it would cost more likely up to $2,000 if you bought it by the pill.

And the same with the synthetic equivalent, Farmer's Irate, a bottle of a thousand tablets usually sold for around $8.

[00:17:30] Loren Sofia: Wow, that's incredible. Well, you know that saying it's not profitable to have healthy people or fertile people. 

[00:17:37] Dr. Ray Peat: So yeah, there's really a huge war against thyroid. Broda Barnes wrote some books about his studies in the 1930s showing that besides promoting fertility, supplementing thyroid prevented heart attacks, reduced the cancer incidents, naturally prevented cretinism, and reduced infectious diseases. So chronic infections, brain malformation, heart attacks, and cancer could all be remedies by wide use of thyroid hormone, and his books are still very worth studying. 

[00:18:20] Loren Sofia: Oh yes, absolutely.

I have two of his books, Hypothyroidism, The Unsuspecting Illness and Hope for Hypoglycemia. They're both really great books, so I would love to speak a little bit about body fat and fertility as well. You've talked about thyroid, progesterone, vitamin E. These are all really important things for fertility, reducing estrogen, and so I've also heard you speak about body fat percentage in fertility as it relates to fertility and how somewhere around 30% might be ideally supportive for a woman trying to conceive. Can you touch a little bit on this?

[00:18:58] Dr. Ray Peat: The hormones produced in fat tissue are very widely active. I haven't studied them in detail for a long time, but fat is an essential source of good health hormones, including fertility, and part of the effect is that it does produce estrogen and to prepare the uterus, to receive the fertile egg and later be developed under the influence of progesterone, it does have to be under the influence of estrogen for at least a matter of hours. Around the time of implantation and just empirically it's known that, for example, a fat kid will go into puberty around the age of eight or nine when they reach the fat proportion and body weight of an average 12 or 13 year old, which would be a more normal time for starting puberty, and in areas that coconut eating areas, for example, that had a much lower polyunsaturated fat intake, they wouldn't start puberty until an average age of 17. And in animal studies, it's the polyunsaturated fats that are most directly involved with triggering puberty. So if you restrict PUFA intake, you'll postpone puberty, and it works the same way with excess estrogen.

You can postpone infertility by limiting the PUFA intake because steadily during life from birth at which the body should be almost completely free of polyunsaturated fats in many different species, you can sample the tissues of a newborn, including its brain, and find that there are mead acids, uh, polyunsaturated fat made by our own bodies, which indicates that you haven't been exposed to environmental polyunsaturates, like the N minus three and N minus six. The mead acids are N minus nine, and they are anti-inflammatory and anti-estrogen. But starting at birth, all kinds of animals are exposed to at least a small amount of PUFA, sometimes a huge amount, and in proportion to the exposure, to PUFA in the diet and the accumulation of PUFA of the N minus three, N minus six types in the tissues, the metabolic rate decreases. So their mirror images, uh, PUFA concentration and biological oxidative energy production. The metabolic rate of a two or three year old kid is something like double that of an older person, and if you graph it, there's a rapid decrease in the metabolic rate during the first 20 years of life. At that point, it's much lower at the age of 20 and then steadily drops off into old age and uh, menopause represents very largely a deadly level of accumulated polyunsaturated fats. 

[00:23:01] Loren Sofia: That's so fascinating. So what you're saying is separate from body fat percentage, the types of fat that we intake and are accumulating are probably more important than even the percentage of body fat.

[00:23:16] Dr. Ray Peat: Yeah. As far as the health of the baby goes. In the 1950s already people were seeing, looking at the brain development of dogs or rats, for example, if they injected estrogen in the mother, they would see that, especially the cortex of the brain, but the whole brain in general would stop drawing as long as there was too much estrogen and adding progesterone, the brain would maintain its proper course of development and adding fat in the late stage of development of the embryo has the same effect of keeping the brain growing. So estrogen's action to stop brain growth is largely through its ability to stop the use of glucose being oxidized and to shift energy production. Fatty assets and overall it means you're not using oxygen as fast.

And so it's part of the aging process in which oxidative metabolism slows down with aging as PUFA and estrogen accumulate. 

[00:24:44] Loren Sofia: So the polyunsaturated fatty acids are really working against the metabolism and similar to estrogen in that. Is stopping sort of the oxidative metabolism and the creation of energy in the more preferable phase.

[00:25:01] Dr. Ray Peat: Estrogen shifts towards the oxidation of fatty acids rather than glucose. But that means that the oxidative process as a whole is decreased and it leads to, by slowing the ability to burn energy in general, it increases the shift towards accumulating polyunsaturated fats. So it helps the body to store up more and more of the toxic fat.

And that accounts largely for the fall off of thyroid and progesterones starting around the age 35 or 40. And during those years, the estrogen keeps being produced by the fat and muscles and other tissues. 

[00:25:55] Loren Sofia: That's super, super helpful. For those listening to that aren't aware of the N minus three and N minus six that Dr. Peat was talking about, he's referring to omega three and omega six fatty acids. Just a little FYI there. So I'd love to talk a little bit about, because we're talking about prenatal support and we really can't talk about prenatal support without pregnancy loss, and you've touched a little bit on this in terms of estrogen impacting success of a pregnancy. And I've studied your work, Dr. Catherine Dalton's work and others’, and there's definitely seeming to be a connection between progesterone and a healthy pregnancy for sure. And you've mentioned a lot of that earlier, but I'm wondering if you could elaborate a little bit around your thoughts, specifically around pregnancy loss.

[00:26:49] Dr. Ray Peat: Catherine Dalton was probably the first person to draw attention to the effects of progesterone on human brain development. People had been seeing it in rats and dogs that the more progesterone and sugar you give them, the better their brain is. But Catherine Dalton saw that in her patients, most of whom had suffered from premenstrual syndrome, uh, tendency to miscarry and have premature babies that were subnormal in intelligence. When she treated the pregnant women with different amounts of progesterone ranging up to more than a thousand milligrams per pregnancy. Uh, 1,500 and more was the highest group spread out during the pregnancy. It prevented miscarriage, premature delivery, and it turned out when she looked at the fate of the babies over the years, their older siblings had about a 90 IQ average. The progesterone babies seemed to have around 130 average IQ and had outstanding academic success, even though they were working class, a high percentage of 'em got into the English universities and they had good independent characters. 

[00:28:23] Loren Sofia: That is extremely fascinating. I do remember reading about this in her book, but that just goes to show you how important progesterone is and the sort of rippling effects that it can have, not just in terms of pregnancy success, but also the health and development and even intelligence of your future child, which is totally fascinating.

I'd love to talk about chromosomal abnormalities. Pregnancy loss typically gets attributed to chromosomal abnormalities. Dr. Robert Thompson has talked about the power of nutrition in mitigating these abnormalities, but it's still estimated that about 50% of pregnancy losses that happen in the first trimester are due to chromosomal abnormalities, and I'm wondering if you have any thoughts around this in particular. Progesterone is definitely super important, but I'd love to hear from you on the aspect of chromosomal abnormalities. 

[00:29:25] Dr. Ray Peat: I ran across an article, I think it was Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, published I think in the mid 1960s that looked at women who had been exposed before getting pregnant for just as much as one month before impregnation to progesterone, looking at the percentage of defects in their offspring, where the normal woman not exposed prenatally to progesterone, would have three or four recognizable, somewhat minor, usually birth defects, the progesterone exposed babies had something close to zero defects, and how that is explained, there are several biological connections to that.

Magnesium is an important stabilizer of the chromosomes and anything that stresses the organism seriously is going to lower the magnesium and other stabilizing factors and create what they call genomic instability. So all kinds of changes in the chromosomes turn up creating defects or increasing the risk of cancer. In the 1930s, Leon L Strong, the person who was famous for developing the mice that they have used for cancer research, he developed a supposedly genetic strain, extremely susceptible to breast cancer. A hundred percent of the growing mice would eventually develop multiple breast cancers that would kill them, and he found that this was strongly associated with estrogen and that estrogen destabilized their chromosomes and just by supplementing them with liver or liver extract, he could stop the genetic instability showing that it wasn't controlled inevitably by the genes, but that something like malnutrition was letting the estrogen develop to produce the instability of the chromosomes leading to genetic defects and cancer. And thyroid hormone, one of its central actions is to allow the cell to retain magnesium has a generally stabilizing factor, so it will stop all kinds of inflammatory degenerative processes. Among which genetic instability is an important thing that's stopped by progesterone and magnesium. And progesterone works with thyroid to guarantee thyroid secretion and effect while, estrogen blocks, thyroid secretion and effect.

[00:32:42] Loren Sofia: Yes. Thank you for that. That's super helpful. I think that it can always be difficult to talk about this specific topic too, but I think that from the work that I've studied as well, your work and the work around hormonal imprinting, nutritional imprinting, etcetera, there's this imprinting that takes place and that itself can Create sort of epigenetic processes and epigenetic cascades that don't necessarily occur because of your inherited genes, but the environment in utero or the environment pre-pregnancy as well. And so there's a lot to be said about having good progesterone levels, having good thyroid levels, having good mineral levels prior to conception, because that can influence a lot. Would you agree? 

[00:33:33] Dr. Ray Peat: Oh, right. And that is recognized in a backhanded way by the medical establishment to practically force doctors not to prescribe progesterone and a thyroid. I know personally several doctors who continued to prescribe, uh, thyroid as appropriate according to all of the biological signs and symptoms who lost their licenses permanently. And all of the thyroid organizations have been pressured to tell doctors not to prescribe a full balanced thyroid preparation, including T3. It recognizes that thyroid alone can cure so many ultra profitable diseases that the industry is determined and very effective in limiting the use of thyroid in medicine. 

[00:34:38] Loren Sofia: Mm-hmm. 

Yeah, and we see a lot of that happening as well, currently with the events today. A lot of parallels there. I would love to. Ask you, are there any other drivers of pregnancy loss that you would say stand out to you? For example, I have a growing number of women reaching out to me about antibodies that are attacking their placenta, so it's preventing them from carrying through a successful pregnancy, and by default, I get more of these questions, but I've been noticing that as a question that's been coming up more frequently, which is very interesting, so I'd love to get your perspective there too. If you have any ideas. 

[00:35:19] Dr. Ray Peat: The antibody system has been misconstrued by the medical world as only either an anti-infection agent or as a deranged attacking your own good tissues, but in the case, when you follow deeply enough, the autoimmune antibodies are generally just part of a system that is already damaged and deteriorating.

The body is trained to remove the damaged, inflamed tissue and the antibodies are generally serving a protective function, helping to prepare the damaged cells for phagocytosis. And so I think the appropriate way to go about handling the anti-pregnancy antibodies is to find out what's going wrong with the pregnant tissue.

And anything that puts a tissue under stress, like with a piece of cartilage, they have implanted un-damaged cartilage in rabbits and find that there are no antibodies produced. But if you simply twist the cartilage as you would in an accident or something, then that slight damage to the cartilage causes the rabbit to produce antibodies to it, and it's the injured tissue that leads to the antibody reaction, not the other way around. The antibodies don't just come out of nowhere to attack you with things like chronic hypoglycemia or chronic progesterone and thyroid deficiency. Promote the autoimmune diseases and by correcting those simple things I've known women with clear diagnoses of lupus orthosis, for example, and their kidney problems, arthritis, other symptoms of lupus, disappear when they correct their blood glucose, progesterone, and thyroid. That's a very simple process. Again, treating rheumatoid arthritis and lupus is great business. But it needn't be, It could be just a very economical thing to correct by improving the health of the person.

And the reason females are something like 10 times more likely to have autoimmune diseases than men is the effective estrogen. You can create an autoimmune reaction. Just by exposing them to too much estrogen, so there's no mystery about it. 

[00:38:22] Loren Sofia: Yes. And that might be surprising to some people, but I think instead of zooming into these issues, if I was dealing with this issue, I'd be very concerned, of course, but zooming out and seeing the bigger pictures so that you don't miss the forest for the trees.

And so I think coming back to what Dr. Peat’s saying is good metabolic health, thyroid, progesterone, really supporting the body metabolism is going to be more supportive to you than running down and chasing the rabbit hole of the antibodies being created against X, Y, Z organ. 

[00:39:03] Dr. Ray Peat: And Broda Barnes, known for using body temperature to diagnose hypothyroidism, and it does the same for pregnancy.

The progesterone surge in body temperature when the luteal phase starts. That doesn't happen if you have too much estrogen and too little thyroid, and so maintaining a good, normal, not average, but an ideal normal body temperature is part of being fertile. 

[00:39:40] Loren Sofia: Absolutely. I would agree with that. That's something that I teach my students as well.

Can we talk a little bit about age? There's this notion very ingrained into our society that older women will have nothing but fertility issues. And unhealthy pregnancies. And unhealthy babies. And I would love to hear your perspective on this as well, because I think that you could shed a lot of light on this.

[00:40:03] Dr. Ray Peat: In animal studies, it's clear that the more babies an animal has, the better it is for its own health and the quality of the baby’s. Like, uh, very few women nowadays will have eight or 10 babies, but when they do the same experiment in rabbits or other animals, for example, they see that the more babies the animal has during its lifetime, the younger its tissues are at the end of its life, and that each pregnancy leads to a higher ratio of progesterone to estrogen.

In studies of body weight and brain weight, according to order of reverse, in humans, there was a study in Hungarian women showing that those who had up to eight babies had the longest lifespan over eight, there was a shortening effect on their lifespan and in the animal studies it was very similar. And also the early studies of human parity number and brain weight around the eighth pregnancy for a woman had the biggest babies with the biggest brains.

And after about the eighth pregnancy, the resources were depleted apparently, so that after that their brain size decrease, and that's clearly the effect of the ratio between progesterone and estrogen. More estrogen decreases the fertility, but it also decreases the quality of the offspring. A smaller brain, bigger body proportion to the brain and in several countries, you can see that happening just in the last 30 or 40 years, brains are getting smaller relative to the overall body size. 

[00:42:09] Loren Sofia: Wow, that's very fascinating. Especially that eight baby mark. Um, I think this is actually a really great segue to my next question, which is in the prenatal space. DHA is touted as one of the most beneficial nutrients, especially for a baby's brain and is supposedly associated with higher developmental test results. 

[00:42:32] Dr. Ray Peat: Yeah, I don't believe a lot of those studies, uh, French study set out to prove that supplementing DHA, I think it was one of the very long chain, very unsaturated fats, they argued that since it accumulates in the brain, The older your brain is, the more DHEA you find in it. Actually, you could say that the stupider and lower metabolizing the brain is the more DHEA you find in it because it accumulates with aging. But this experimenter believes that since it was a brain, associated fat, even though normally almost completely absent from the healthy baby.

They decided that adding, supplementing pregnant women with this highly unsaturated fat was going to make the brain smarter, and so they conditioned the fetus to sounds and could demonstrate that the fetus was learning at a certain rate to respond to the sounds. But when they looked at the effects, it exactly matched the previous animal experiments.

The baby's body weight at delivery was decreased by adding the DHA and that tends to involve a smaller brain and studies in dogs and rats showed that feeding the pregnant animal highly unsaturated fat caused smaller brains than normal with reduced ability to learn. 

[00:44:18] Loren Sofia: That's so fascinating, and I think I've read in one of your papers as well that the results of the developmental tests where children are supposedly doing better is actually a result of excitability from the estrogenic like properties of the dDHAha, not necessarily a mark of intelligence. 

[00:44:40] Dr. Ray Peat: Yeah, the same with the retinal sensitivity that was used as an argument for putting it into baby formula. It doesn't really measure intelligent function of the retina, just excitability.

[00:44:55] Loren Sofia: Wow, that's very fascinating. I'd love to switch gears and talk a little bit about low carb pregnancies. So this seems to be even more of a trend pushed by prominent prenatal dieticians lately. And carbohydrates are a hugely important macronutrient, in my opinion, especially for supporting brain function and lowering stress in both mom and baby.

Can you remark on your thoughts around these trends? 

[00:45:23] Dr. Ray Peat: Salmon Hoff's studies in chicken were, they were paralleled in different animals, but his experiments made it very clear that looking at the brain size of a normal chicken before it hatches at just two or three days before it hatches, the egg has been totally depleted of glucose and exactly at that time development of the brain stops. So he developed the eggs up to that time and then made a little hole and injected some glucose and let them develop the normal length of time. The ones that got the glucose supplement when the brain had stopped growing, had bigger brains than chickens had ever had, and were more intelligent.

Same thing in rats. You can produce rats with bigger brains than rats ever had before, and greater intelligence and learning ability. 

[00:46:31] Loren Sofia: That is so fascinating. I hadn't heard of that experiment, but that just goes to show you how connected the metabolic function is to brain development and our ability to utilize glucose, our need for glucose. The intake of glucose is also really connected to that as well. 

[00:46:52] Dr. Ray Peat: Yeah, a low carbohydrate diet must be just about the worst thing for baby development. When you're deprived of carbohydrate, your stress hormones such as cortisol, turn protein tissue to sugar. You absolutely have a need for glucose to stay alive. And so the body goes into a stress state, degrading existing tissues, turning them into fuel, and so naturally a stressed fetus is not going to be able to develop completely because it has this catabolic bias to it. 

[00:47:35] Loren Sofia: That makes so much sense. Dr. Peat, I've been noticing more and more women experiencing complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, which is something that my mother experienced with two pregnancies.

I'm a preeclampsia baby, colon stasis, anemia, placenta previa. All of these complications seem to be on the rise. Do you have any information or thoughts on what drives these complications in general, or if you wanna speak to a specific one? 

[00:48:07] Dr. Ray Peat: Specifically, cholestasis of pregnancy is very tightly tied to estrogen excess, and that goes with deficiency of thyroid and progesterone.

[00:48:20] Loren Sofia: That makes a lot of sense because the liver is really under quite a bit of stress in the digestive system and high estrogen is going to very much slow things down from that perspective, from a detoxification perspective too. So that's very interesting. Thanks for sharing that. So, shifting to the postpartum phase, I've noticed a lot of women struggling with breast milk production.

What would you say, or what might you say these women could do to support feeding their little one when trying to, when maybe struggling with breast milk production?

[00:48:54] Dr. Ray Peat: Having enough carbohydrate in the diet is very important. I've known several women who had stopped forming milk. If they added a quart or more of orange juice to their diet, it would start right back up. 

[00:49:13] Loren Sofia: Yes, you need liquids to support liquid production, but also lots of nutrients and carbohydrates. For sure. That's a great suggestion. And milk too, I find. Do you find that milk is very supportive as well?

[00:49:25] Dr. Ray Peat: Oh yeah. Every breastfeeding woman should keep drinking. I think at least two quarts of milk and or about a quart of orange or grape juice. Both are good anti-inflammatory supports for lactation. 

[00:49:44] Loren Sofia: That's great. And if you're listening to this and are like, “How am I going to get this amount of liquids in my diet?”, just use a straw. You would be surprised how much more you can drink with a straw. . . So one more question too. I've noticed that there's a huge rise in women struggling with babies that are intolerant to their mother's consumption of dairy. They have gut and digestive issues, skin issues like eczema and cradle cap as well. Do you know maybe the cause of these issues and maybe have any recommendations or remedies for them? 

[00:50:20] Dr. Ray Peat: Allergies, The allergen material has passed very freely from the mother's de digestive system into her milk, and certain foods will cause the baby to have constipation or even bloody diarrhea a day or two after she eats them. And, uh, lots of milk, raw milk, for example, sometimes has unexpected varieties of bacteria that can be toxic or pro-inflammatory. And if they graze on the wrong pasture, they can ingest weeds in other plants that are highly allergenic, uh, making a milk an allergen rather than an anti-inflammatory agent. So you have to be sure that you're eating the right thing, including choosing a milk that has a very good taste, no odd odors or off taste, which just sampling different brands in the supermarket. I find that a lot of them, the cows have obviously been eating something they shouldn't. That gives it a bad. 

[00:51:38] Loren Sofia: That's definitely a great tip. I think that's very true of dairy in general. You have to experiment with various different kinds of dairy, various different kinds of milks, and what the animal eats also really matters as well. So that could be something to ask your farmer about or just continue experimenting with at the supermarket. 

So Dr. Peat, I have one last question and this is not necessarily related to prenatal or postpartum nutrition or health, but this is a question that I get so often and I'm hoping you can provide some insight. But I would love your perspective on essential oils. This is a really popular healing tool used in the alternative health space, and there seems to be different schools of thought, so I'd love to get your thoughts specifically on that. 

[00:52:33] Dr. Ray Peat: Each essential oil has its unique property, so I don’t know of any generalization that is helpful. It's very easy to ingest a toxic amount of an essential oil. The, uh, fact that they have a very strong perfume means that you can get biological responses just from, uh, smell. But if you put them on your body, you can easily get a burn. Or if you ingest them, they can seriously cause inflammation of your stomach or bowels.

[00:53:14] Loren Sofia: Yes, I've definitely heard stories of internal burns and external burns, but yeah, maybe I'll come back to you with more specific questions at some point. I think the concern is around the estrogen of essential oils, but I know that each different essential oil has different components, like you said, elicits different responses and so I was actually recently reading about sandalwood and I forget the actual scientific name for it, but it had an anti-aromatization property to it, which I found fascinating. So just some food for thought, I guess in the future. 

[00:53:56] Dr. Ray Peat: Yeah, things that make you feel good very often, it's the feeling good that will turn down your aromatase because anxiety and stress are enough to activate aromatase the stress hormones, turn it on because it is a stress hormone self estrogen that is. 

[00:54:21] Loren Sofia: Gotcha. Yeah, that's very helpful. Well, thank you so much Dr. Peat. This was an incredible conversation. I'm so honored you took the time to share your wisdom here. Can you tell people where can they find you and where can they support your work?

[00:54:34] Dr. Ray Peat: My website is and that has a lot of articles on it. There eventually will be a hundred or so added more recent articles and to subscribe to the newsletter or to get digital copies of the books, the address for email is raypeatsnewsletter with an “s”, [email protected]

[00:55:07] Loren Sofia: Thank you so much, and yes, I can vouch for these. I'm a newsletter subscriber and your books are amazing. I reference them very, very, very often. So thank you so much, Dr. Peat. And if you could provide one piece of advice that our listeners can take action on today, just as a sendoff, if there's anything you wanna leave the listeners with, what would that be?

[00:55:31] Dr. Ray Peat: To get in the habit of really paying attention to what’s happening in your body as you do different things. People have learned to follow authority and not pay enough attention to how their body is momentarily responding to what they do and experience. 

[00:55:53] Loren Sofia: I think that's really great advice and something that I completely agree with and it's definitely very healing as well.

If you can tap into that. So, Thanks again, Dr. Pete. I really appreciate everything that you do, and I look forward to talking to you again soon. 

[00:56:09] Dr. Ray Peat: Okay. Thank you. Take care.