Metabolic Typing

From 1965 through 1973, I owned a couple of natural foods stores, New Age Natural Foods, one in San Francisco, the other in Palo Alto. It brought me into contact with thousands of nutrition-oriented people, many of whom shared their experiences with me, and some of whom asked my advice. The advice I gave was based on my own experiments, my reading, and/or the experiences passed on to me from other customers. And one observation from all of this stands out to this day far more emphatically than any other:

The old cliché goes: One man’s meat is another man’s poison; a newer version of it goes: Different strokes for different folks.

Year after year there are diet books on the bestseller lists. But not the same books-a steady stream of new ones arrive to replace the old ones. And so we have the familiar phrase: FAD DIETS. After watching this process over time, you may have arrived at the conclusion that no diet really works. But that’s the wrong conclusion. The right conclusion is that no diet works for everyone. In my role as a natural foods merchant, I arrived at that conclusion because it was just plain unavoidable. Then, however, the next logical question begged for an answer: HOW DO I FIND WHICH DIET IS RIGHT FOR ME?

In the early seventies, I came across the work of Dr. William Donald Kelley, a dentist from Texas. Dr. Kelley was the originator of a very radical and very successful alternative method of treating cancer. I was so impressed by the effectiveness of his approach that I wrote a book about it, Metabolic Ecology (a later version of the book was titled Dr. Kelley’s Answer to Cancer-a takeoff of Dr. Kelley’s own book, One Answer to Cancer, which told the story of his own recovery from pancreatic cancer after being told he had only a few months left to live).

I mention Dr. Kelley because what I personally found even more interesting than his work with cancer was his work with metabolic typing-more interesting because I didn’t have cancer, but I did have a very strong interest in answering the question: How do I find out which diet is right for me? Dr. Kelley addressed the question via a protocol based on the equilibrium of the autonomic nervous system.

Your autonomic nervous system is the one that controls all your body’s involuntary functions-heart, lungs, digestion, assimilation, etc. Your autonomic nervous system has two branches, SYMPATHETIC, which tends to speed you up, and PARASYMPATHETIC, which tends to slow you down. You can see, therefore, that your autonomic nervous system has a major influence on your metabolism. Dr. Kelley learned to identify ten metabolic types based on which branch-sympathetic or parasympathetic-was dominant, or whether they were in relative equilibrium. Speaking generally, the ten types clustered in three groups. The differences within the clusters mainly pertained to metabolic efficiency-two people might both be sympathetic dominant, but one’s metabolism might be more efficient than the other.

Further, Dr. Kelly learned what kinds of foods were right for the various metabolic types. This is what I found so intriguing, so much so that I wrote a chapter about it in my book, The Complete Book of Natural Foods (published in 1975, now long out of print, in case you were wondering). One half of a couple might be a highly efficient sympathetic-dominant type, getting along incredibly well on lots of raw fruits and vegetables, while his or her partner might be an inefficient parasympathetic-dominant type, suffering all kinds of health problems while trying to eat that same “healthy” diet, really in need of meat and mostly cooked foods, which would be a disaster for the other half.

Like a lot of pioneers in alternative health circles, Dr. Kelley’s work wasn’t accepted in the medical mainstream and never emerged from obscurity. However, his former research assistant, Bill Wolcott, has worked for over twenty years on perfecting the science of metabolic typing. He founded and is the director of Healthexcel, an organization that provides metabolic typing to individuals, as well as training and certifying professionals to provide the service.

The autonomic nervous systems is still a component of metabolic typing under Bill Wolcott’s guidance. But the foundation of the science is now far broader and much deeper. In today’s version, nine Fundamental Homeostatic Controls (“FHCs” in metabolic typing parlance) are utilized, as follows:

  • Autonomic: sympathetic, balanced, parasympathetic
  • Oxidative: fast, mixed, slow
  • Catabolic/Anabolic: catabolic, anabolic
  • Electrolyte/Fluid: excess, deficiency
  • Acid/Alkaline: 3 types of acidosis, 3 types of alkalosis
  • Prostaglandin: PG1, PG2, PG3
  • Endocrine: pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, gonad
  • Blood Type: A, B, AB, O
  • Constitutional: vata, pitta, kapha

Did I lose you? Don’t worry—there’s a book that will come to your rescue. That’s really where I’m going with this-introducing you to Bill Wolcott’s book, The Metabolic Typing Diet, published by Doubleday in 2000.

What, after what I said above, I’m recommending a diet book? Yes, I’m definitely recommending it. But in this case don’t be fooled by the word “diet”. Book titles are chosen by publishers, not authors, and publishers know that diet books sell. If you buy this one, however, it’s likely to be the last “diet” book you’ll ever buy. You won’t need diet books any more because this book is a tool to identify you metabolically and teach you how to eat accordingly. If you’ve never read a diet book before, definitely make this the first.

You probably know someone who has tried the system promoted in a diet book and had it succeed. Maybe you’ve even had that experience yourself. How does that equate? “. . . mass-market diets do produce success, but only for some people-those for whom a given diet happens to be physiologically appropriate.” (The Metabolic Typing Diet)

You can, in other words, luck out. But, “. . . the inability to duplicate favorable outcomes in a consistent fashion is the secret frustration and primary professional challenge of virtually all health professionals currently engaged in clinical nutrition. It’s the problem clinicians don’t like to talk about, even among themselves.” (The Metabolic Typing Diet)

Simply put, the reason for their failure is that, almost without exception, nutrition experts stick with one form or another of a one-size-fits-all approach-vegetarian, vegan, fruitarian, raw food, macrobiotic, high protein, high carbohydrate, low fat, cave man, 40-30-30, etc., etc. “But without individuality as the guiding principle of nutritional science, all our advanced research and impressive data and scientific expertise don’t really translate into effective clinical solutions, at least not on a meaningful scale. If they did, Americans wouldn’t be the fattest and unhealthiest people in the world.” (The Metabolic Typing Diet)

But The Metabolic Typing Diet doesn’t directly address either obesity or ill health. Rather, it’s a health-building technology. It’s designed to build health from the energetic level up through the cellular, glandular, and systemic levels, paying little or no attention to symptoms. Thus, it’s a genuine paradigm shift away from the allopathic model, whether you’re looking at conventional or alternative health practitioners, which are both based on the allopathic model. (Either way, you are asked about all your symptoms. Then the conventional practitioner prescribes the latest wowie-zowie drug, whereas the alternative practitioner recommends vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea . . . or whatever. Basically, it’s the same approach-treat the symptoms, harshly, with side effects, or gently, without them.)

The heart of the book is a self-test you take to find out whether you’re a PROTEIN type, a MIXED type, or a CARBO type. Then you’ll learn which foods and food combinations resonate with your unique body chemistry. “Any given food or nutrient can have virtually opposite biochemical effects on different metabolic types.” (The Metabolic Typing Diet)

The book will go on to introduce you to powerful tools that will enable you to modify your diet as needed to offset metabolic changes triggered by illness, stress, aging, or other factors that may come your way.

Potentially, many compelling benefits await you between the covers of The Metabolic Typing Diet; you could:

  • Achieve and maintain your ideal weight
  • Lose weight without deprivation or struggle
  • Free yourself from food cravings
  • Enjoy sustained high energy and endurance
  • Bolster your immune system
  • Conquer indigestion, fatigue, and allergies
  • Overcome depression, anxiety, and mood swings
  • Prevent and reverse chronic illness

The last two chapters-”Key Considerations Beyond Diet” and “Indispensable Tips for Savvy Consumers”-are a treasure trove of health resources, worth many times the price of the book.

When historians speak about nutrition in the 20th century, one of their comments, spoken in incredulous tones, will be, “That was an era in which it was commonly believed that there could be one diet that would be good for everyone, regardless of their metabolic type.” By the middle of this century, that will really seem quite quaint.

Empower yourself, get yourself out on the leading edge. Nothing less than your unique body chemistry should be the foundation of your diet. The Metabolic Typing Diet will take you there, and it will be remembered as one of the pillars of 21st century nutrition.

You can get the book online through (I’m not an affiliate-I gain nothing materially from your purchase of the book. My reward is your empowerment.) You can also do some research at these two websites:

Your reading of this book may lead you to have experiences you’d like to share with others. If so, email me, I might be able to channel it through or a future electronic book.