Monday, April 27, 2015

Jacek's Wheat Belly Transformation: What Happened to the Comments?

Over at the Wheat Belly blog, Dr. Davis posted a "before and after" set of pictures of "Jacek" from Poland, who claimed to have lost 20kg (44 pounds). A few readers commented that things didn't look right: the lighting, clothing and facial expression were all very different in what looked like a photo studio setting, where these could have easily been kept about the same. And Jacek really didn't look that much lighter.



I added my opinion as a former professional photographer: the camera angle, lighting and setting looked professionally done, that the lighting in the "before" photo was coming from both sides, emphasizing texture (like wrinkles), lighting both sides of the face, making it look wider. Side lighting typically isn't used in portraits for these reasons. Jacek was wearing frumpy clothes and had stubble and gray hair in the before photo, things known to make people look ten years older. In the "after" photo, he was clean shaven (head and face), had a normal expression and wore well-fitting clothes. The lighting came more from the front and cast a shadow under his jaw (minimizing any appearance of a double chin) and the side of his face (making his face look thinner). Jacek's neck (width and tone) look the same, whereas most WB before-and-after photos show people with much thinner necks.

Note also that it looks like he's wearing the same belt, but the length of it that's sticking out from the buckle is about the same in both pictures (you can see the shadow of the belt on the jeans in the after photo).

In other words, the photographer knew what he or she was doing, and in my opinion, it was a stunt. A few other readers said they didn't see any great transformation, either. All our comments are gone now.

We have a saying where I work: when in doubt, don't. I generally like Dr. Davis's work and think he has the best interests of his readers in mind. But enough doubt has been cast on this "transformation" of Jacek that the post--not the comments--should have been taken down.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Dog is Smarter than your Dietician

Dieticians might recommend plenty of healthy whole grains and low-fat products (maybe even "good fats" from plants if they're progressive), but my dog, Molly, knows better. Like me, she follows a low-carb diet of mostly meat, eggs and fibrous vegetables, along with vitamins. At her vet visit this weekend, she was down three pounds (though still a little chubby) and had clean, healthy teeth. The vet said she sees a lot of slimy teeth--but not on Molly. Molly's wisdom:


  • Vegetables are fine for a snack, but meat and eggs are best for a meal.
  • Food is supposed to be enjoyed!
  • Brush your teeth and avoid sweet and starchy foods. I'm looking at you, paleo bro.
  • Have a weekly treat. 
  • Get some exercise, but don't strain yourself. Get off the treadmill when you're tired of it.
  • Sleep when you're tired.
  • The right vitamins will make you feel good.
  • Ignore yappy little dogs. 
  • Eat real food, mostly animals, but not too much.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Root Canal: Way Better than the Last Time

Five years ago, I started this blog with the purpose of helping myself and others relieve pain. I've come to relieve my pain so well that I don't always know when I'm sick.

I had an abscessed tooth then and I had another one a few days ago. I was in the worst pain of my life back then; this time, I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. (An important difference: the nerve in the tooth was dead this time. The tooth was knocked out of place in an accident a few years ago, and my dentist said it would probably need a root canal someday.) Still, all I had this time were signs here and there that something was wrong.

After seeing my oral surgeon last Friday when my face was swollen (one of those odd signs), he referred me to an endodontist (a dentist specializing in root canals) and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I said no thanks to pain medicine--nothing against it if you need it, but I didn't. The antibiotics perked me up so much that I did a lot of yard work I'd been putting off.

Monday, I thought I was going in for a consultation, but they gave me a root canal then and there. The endodontist gave me two shots. While I was waiting for them to take effect, I got up to get a magazine and sat back down in the wrong room. The assistant pointed me to the right room, propped open my mouth with a block, and put a rubber dam around the tooth to keep bacteria off the tooth and junk out of my mouth. They put shaded safety glasses on me, but I could see what they were doing reflected in some kind of a scope. It wasn't as interesting as getting a dental implant--just drill and fill. And sterilize--they got bleach in my mouth and I didn't know how to tell them my mouth was burning with what tasted like pesticide. They assumed I just needed to swallow saliva and told me to hold still. (The dentist apologized several times afterward.) They gave me some mouthwash, told me to take ibuprofin every few hours, ran my credit card for a ghastly amount of money, and said they'd see me in two weeks for a permanent filling.

I woke up the next day feeling like I'd been up for days. My face felt like it had a big fake silicon boob stuck to it, it was so swollen. No real pain--that's the odd thing now, just signs like these here and there that something is wrong. The dentist didn't give me an after-care sheet, so it wasn't until after doing a flurry of paperwork that couldn't wait (I work at a CPA firm, and all my colleagues were helping the tax secretaries), around 4 PM I Googled "root canal swelling" and found out I'd better call the dentist's office back. They called in a prescription for industrial-strength antibiotics.

My face went from southern hair puffy to Wheat-Belly-before-face to almost normal now. I'm getting my normal appetite back (I was craving Quest bars and nacho cheese), and playing Fold.it again.

I've just been reading that in some circles, root canals are controversial--Dr. Mercola warns against them based on research by Weston A. Price. I generally agree with Price on poor diet and lack of vitamins causing tooth decay--my own experience bears this out. It could be that in his day (the early 20th century), root canals were often badly done and got infected. But (again, just my experience), I had one other root canal done--by a general dentist in a chain office, no less--and it's never given me a problem. It was certainly easier than having a dental implant--wait, Mercola doesn't like those, either. He'd have you wear a flipper or a bridge that's "somewhat fragile." But I haven't had any problems with my implant, either. I certainly wouldn't get a salvageable tooth pulled on Mercola's advice. But I will keeping taking vitamins D and K, avoiding starchy, sugary food, and eating mostly meat, fish and vegetables with butter.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Defer to Experts? Experts can be Conned

"Rational ignorance," says Wikipedia, "occurs when the cost of educating oneself on an issue exceeds the potential benefit that the knowledge would provide." Rational ignorance is not letting experts do your thinking for you because they're smart and you'd rather fiddle around on Facebook than educate yourself. That's intellectual laziness. Laziness isn't always a bad thing, but let's see where it can lead.

For one Ph.D. in physics at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, it lead to an embarrassing moment. He saw someone do a telekinesis trick, and, convinced it was real, called James Randi, a professional magician and skeptic. For several years, Randi has offered a $1 million reward for anyone who can perform paranormal phenomena under controlled conditions. Watch him do (and explain) the telekinesis trick that fooled a Ph.D. in physics:


It's not just one physics Ph.D. who could be fooled. As a former engineer, I met colleagues who believed in all sorts of wacky shit. (I was one of them.) It wasn't just the engineers I knew--engineers are overrepresented in Islamic terrorist groups, even when cultural demographics are accounted for. And remember when columnist Marilyn vos Savant solved an odds problem, a bunch of math professors wrote to her to tell her she was all wet--and then retracted their criticism?

Likewise, the world of nutrition "research" is full of conjuring tricks: rodent research applied to humans (rodents' metabolisms are different from that of humans), trials that are too short to allow for adaptation to a low-carb diet, low-carb diets of over 100g per day of carbohydrate, low-carb diets that don't include extra electrolytes, diets full of crap food (like rat chow or industrial seed oils), and statistical shenanigans like relative risk v. absolute risk and mining data for correlations whether they make sense or not. From what I've read while studying nutrition for the past five years, few doctors in clinical practice seem aware of any of this. They get their information on nutrition from the media, or perhaps reading headlines in medical journals without looking at the details. Even looking at the details doesn't necessarily help: one has to know the laws of physics (or in this case, endocrinology and evolution) and think about whether the research results make any sense. 

Fraud is often found in science, especially in what is termed, ‘fringe science’. There are several reasons why scientists should be aware of the fact that they, too, can be deceived, both by subjects in experiments and by themselves. The will to believe is strong even among ‘hard-headed’ academics, and is often the factor that causes them to publish results that do not stand up to subsequent examination and/or attempts to replicate. In some cases, scientists would be well advised to consult with such experts as conjurors, when skilled frauds are in a position to mislead them. -James Randi

As Joel Greenblatt advises readers about looking for an investment advisor, rule 1 is don't trust anybody over 30. Rule 2 is don't trust anybody 30 or under. Meaning, you have to do your own research and your own thinking. Some sources of information from people who have no dog in the nutritional fight: books on evolution by Richard Leakey, Brian Fagan, Alan Walker and Pat Shipman; books on endocrinology. If you want to experiment with a low-carb diet, advice from people with clinical experience helps. So much current dietary advice that doesn't work has become common sense, and it especially doesn't work in connection with low-carb diets. Read The Art & Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, The New Atkins for a New You, Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution, It Starts with Food, the Protein Power blog, and/or the Wheat Belly blog. They can help you with implementing and troubleshooting your diet.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

More Fallout from my Bike Wreck

There's a lot of talk now about how factors besides genes and current diet affect health and weight: the health of your mother when you were a fetus, your diet as a child, stress, and environment. Another is wear and tear.

A few years ago when I fell off my bike and broke a tooth and knocked two others out of place, my dentist said that the two knocked out of place would likely need a root canal someday because of the injury. It could be two weeks, it could be two years, he said. Now, nearly three years later, the canine that was injured is abscessed. 

Between being lethargic (doing nothing but watching Netflix when I got home), wearing my winter coat when everyone else was in shirtsleeves, and having an odd appetite (I've been living mostly on Quest bars this past month), I should have known I was sick. But I have a high threshold of pain. Finally, my face swelled up Friday morning and I made an appointment with my oral surgeon--the one who did my dental implant and gum graft. I didn't know what was wrong, but I saw him because the swelling was in the area of the implant and because I have a lot more confidence in dentists than in doctors. An x-ray showed bone loss around the root of the canine, meaning it's infected. 

Starting a course of antibiotics has perked me up so much that I've been moving large rose bushes today and feeling pretty good. Oddly, I'm in pain only at night, when my TMJ flares up. I'm wondering if TMJ is partly caused by swollen gums. It could be that low-carb diets help aches and pains in general because inflammation and water retention go down, meaning everything is less swollen and less sensitive. 

In any case, diet helps--the teeth where I had a slight cavity a few months ago are feeling better. But diet isn't everything.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I Can't Give up my Carbs!

If you're having trouble feeling well on a low-carb diet, read a book like The New Atkins for a New You or The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living to do some troubleshooting. Eat some fat and salt, avoid polyunsaturated fat, and take a magnesium pill in the meantime.

If you're having trouble finding low-carb food, stock your home with it, take it with you for lunch, and don't leave the house hungry unless you know for a fact that there's low carb food where you're going.

If you don't know how to prepare low-carb food, get a recipe book by Dana Carpender.

But if it's just too yummy or if everybody else is eating it or you deserve a treat or it reminds you of happier times or all the experts still don't agree...

You can make all the excuses you want, but you're the one who decided how to live your life. -Mugen, Samurai Champloo

There's something sexy about defiant people who face reality with courage and skill instead of delusions and excuses. And who says there's nothing good on TV? Image from images4.fanpop.com.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Salmon Bisque: Paleo, and No Cauliflower

Cauliflower is the usual low-carb substitute for starchy foods, but celery stands in surprisingly well for potato in soup.

1/2 can coconut milk (~1 cup)
1 carton chicken stock (1 quart)
1 packet gelatin
15 oz canned salmon
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t ginger
1 carrot, sliced into coins
4 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 t basil
1 t curry powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Pour the coconut milk and stock into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. While that's happening, pour the gelatin onto the liquid, let sit for a minute, then stir in. Add salmon, ginger, carrots, and celery and simmer. Stir in curry, ginger, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree in batches and add lemon juice.