Friday, December 30, 2011

Avoid Breaking Bones on the Dance Floor

You're out on New Year's Eve dancing the night away in your glamorous new dress and stiletto heels. You feel something soft under your foot, and a woman behind you shrieks: you stepped on her foot with that stiletto heel. She gets your name and address before heading to the doctor. Two months later, a bill for her $3,000 emergency room visit arrives in your mailbox. You argue over the phone, and a year later, a judge yells at you for five minutes before handing down a judgment for the plaintiff's pain, suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.

Don't let this happen to you! If for no other reason than the spirit of good will towards men, leave the stiletto heels at home when you go dancing. They really can break a bone if you step on someone. Flats, wedgies and cuban heels, in my experience, cause a bruise at worst. The way you dance can help, too. A common newbie mistake is to take high, wide steps. Drag your feet just a little, and the worst you'll do is bump into someone else's foot. Your dancing will look better, too.

Notice how these dancers' feet stay very close to the floor. The lady sometimes lifts her foot, but brings it down straight under her body. Do as they do, and you'll make the dance floor a little safer for everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why You Should Give Up Cardio Workouts

A friend and I got into a discussion today about the benefits of exercise. She believes you have to exercise to stay thin and have muscle tone. I partly agree with her.

A few years ago, I was eating what most doctors and nutritionists would call a healthy diet: lean meat, cottage cheese, lots of "good carbs," low-fat. I exercised hard six days a week. And I was gaining weight! That weight wasn't muscle, either--unless gaining muscle makes it hard to button your pants.

I stopped eating wheat and started slowly losing weight. Then I went on a low-carb diet--about 50 grams of carb a day--and the fat fell off. I ditched the six-workouts-a-week plan because I didn't need it to stay thin.

I'm not alone. Cookbook author Dana Carpender wrote that she gained weight on a low fat diet while taking an aerobics class.(1) Dr. John Briffa often writes about clinical studies showing that aerobic or cardio exercise isn't effective for losing weight (see this, this, this, this, this, and this). And in nine years in Denver's lindy hop scene (lindy is a dance for the energetic--click for video), I've seen some pros, teachers and serious amateurs gain weight in their 30s. I haven't yet seen anyone start out heavy and end up thin. When I hurt my neck several months ago, I stopped exercising until it healed, and didn't gain a single pound.

I'm not against exercise. But the purpose of exercise should be to make you strong and improve your physique. Guys, do you really want to be huffing and puffing with a dance partner or while you walk your date up a few flights of stairs to her apartment? Don't sneer: the reason my friends don't date older men is because older men can't keep up with them. (Without weight-bearing exercise, people lose muscle as they age.) And what self-respecting paleo girl wants to ask her out-of-shape neighbors to help her rearrange her furniture because she can't move her couch by herself? These problems don't apply just to heavy people. I've seen thin people lacking strength and energy.

If we're being honest, I think we all know that no diet is going to give you good muscle tone. I do Slow Burn once a week--it's a weight lifting workout that's quick, and easy on your joints. In the summer, I garden, too. Pulling weeds, digging holes, dragging a hose around, and lopping off and bundling up dead stems are no dainty activities. And of course, there's dancing. Have you ever seen a dancer with a flat butt? That's another benefit of giving up cardio and other long exercise sessions for brief strength workouts: you'll have more time and energy to do the things you love.

(1) How I Gave Up my Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds by Dana Carpender.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Skin Repair

I've had problem skin most of my life. Even at age 42, I still get breakouts. This time, though, instead of getting random skin care products, I thought about what was wrong and what I needed. I experimented a bit, and even after just a few days, my skin is looking a lot better. Here's my take on dry, flaky winter skin and what to do about it. Your skin gets dry, maybe because you don't drink as much water in the winter, or maybe because you sweat less. (There are enzymes in sweat; perhaps they break down dead skin.) Your skin gets flaky, and if you're prone to acne, your pores get clogged and you break out. Meantime, your fingers can get so hard and dry that they crack and split.


Cleanse. Obvious, but we all need to find a good cleanser. Different people swear by cold cream, coconut oil, or olive oil, but those are all too heavy for me. I've started using Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser. The salicylic acid comes from willow bark.

Exfoliate. The dry skin has to go, either mechanically (by scraping it off) or chemically (letting a substance do the work for you, aka the easy way). Being protein, dead skin can be broken down with enzymes. Raw pineapple and raw papaya are rich sources of enzymes, or you can get a bottled enzyme mask such as Alba Botanicals papaya enzyme mask. For me, it's done a better job of exfoliation with less skin irritation than scrubs. It's a cool gel you leave on for five minutes and rinse off.

Dry up breakouts. Use Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask after you exfoliate, then put a dab of it on blemishes and leave overnight.
Moisturize. If you haven't found a good moisturizer, perhaps a subscription to receive beauty samples is up your alley. and are a couple out there; I haven't tried any of these services. I use a moisturizer from Burt's Bees that's a medium weight. What I don't want is something with vitamins C or E: they're antioxidants, and acne bacteria need to be oxidized to prevent breakouts.

Heal cracked skin. The best thing I've found is Carmex. Apply frequently.


Sufficient fat in your diet. Vitamin A is great for your skin--and as a fat soluble vitamin, it's far better absorbed with dietary fat. Good sources are liver and cod liver oil.

Drink plenty of water and get some exercise. Heaven knows I hate cliches, but they do apply here. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Food, Dance and How to Lose Weight

Merry Christmas! It's the second anniversary of Pain, Pain, Go Away! Thanks to fellow bloggers, researchers and authors, this Christmas I'm feeling a mile better than I was two years ago. (See my posts on root canals if you're interested.) I hope all my readers are well, too.

My polite responses were put to the test when my mother gave me a box of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas. This, from the woman with a serious case of diabetes, who complains about Dad always pushing high-carb food at her.

Me: "Um, I really shouldn't be eating these."
Mom: "But I've always gotten you those for Christmas."

I left them at a party later that night. No, I didn't have any.

Everybody danced at the party, and I was anxious to see the teenagers' hip hop moves since I've decided to learn the dance. The teenagers did the Charleston, suzie Qs, and a bunch of other 90-year-old African dance moves I already know. Maybe that will make it easier to learn this by Laurieann Gibson:

I bought one of Gibson's instructional DVDs and a solo salsa DVD for myself for Christmas. Looking around for DVDs, a lot of them were billed as "cardio dance." If you're new to the low-carb world, forget about losing weight or keeping it off with cardio, dance, or any other exercise. Unless you're going to spend hours every day dancing, you won't burn enough calories to make a difference. Just lay off the sweets, sodas, fruit and fruit juice, potatoes, pasta, bread and other sugary and starchy foods, and that will probably be enough to see weight loss. Take dance lessons or get a gym membership because you love it. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canine "Cavity" Update: No More Bones for the Dog

Readers may recall that my dog, Molly, has a cavity that I've been monitoring and trying to heal with a low-carb lacto-paleo diet a la Weston A. Price and Drs. Mellanby. The tooth recently started looking worse, so I took Molly to see a new vet (one closer to home).

Dr. Poundstone reminded me of some of the CPAs I work with: pleasant, professional and down-to-earth. She said that she saw very few dogs with true cavities, and most of those were from grainy tooth-cleaning "bones" made in China. The "bones" are so acid that it's like giving your dog a Coke--and the results are the same: cavities.

Without an x-ray, she couldn't be sure, but the vet believed that Molly had some flaws in her enamel instead of a cavity. She said that chewing on bones (actual bones, not fake ones) could cause this, making some grooves in the tooth, which is exactly what Molly developed. Dogs' teeth have only 1 millimeter of enamel, compared to 4 millimeters on humans, she added. Dr. Poundstone recommended rawhide instead. Molly also has some calculus buildup and minor gingivitis.

I was impressed that the vet said Molly's mostly paleo diet of real food was fine. (I have a scale and a spreadsheet for Molly to make sure I don't overfeed her.) She said Molly was overweight (however, she's lost five pounds), and I said that if I feed Molly less than 700 calories a day, she eats her own poop. The vet recommended green beans as something filling but low-calorie. An underactive thyroid can make a dog overweight, but the vet doubted that was Molly's problem because she also had such a thick, shiny coat.

The Plan: no more bones for Molly. She's scheduled for a dental cleaning, and Dr. Poundstone believes that the tooth can be smoothed out and filled in.

Last Minute Christmas Gifts II

A few gift ideas for your low-carb or paleo loved ones:

A pressure cooker. In an age of little time and less patience, it's unclear how this time-saver fell out of favor. It'll cook a three-pound roast in under an hour--perfect for a meat lover who doesn't want to wait hours for dinner.

A gift card to a coffee shop or grill. Yes, a lot of gift cards go unused. Make sure the person you're shopping for lives or works near the coffee shop or grill and would actually go there: don't get a Starbucks gift card for someone who hates corporations, no matter how much you might disagree.

French Cooking in Ten Minutes or Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life (1930) by Edouard de Pomaine. "First of all," writes Dr. Pomaine, "let me tell you that this is a beautiful book." How French is that? Not all the recipes are low-carb, but they're mostly meat and vegetables and the rest should be easily de-carbed. My favorite recipe so far is Liver American Style, or what Americans would call "chicken fried liver." (I use coconut flour and ground almonds in place of wheat flour and bread crumbs.)

A bottle of wine. My best friend and I loved Red Bicyclette syrah; California pinot and Washington reislings are wonderful as well. La Crema, Robert Mondavi, and Bex are some more I recommend. There are hundreds of great $10 wines out there--don't worry much about the price. And don't worry about notes and hints; many people can't detect them. A naked wine is one aged in a metal barrel, and a screw cap doesn't necessarily indicate an inferior wine: a small portion of corked bottles of wine go bad. The screw cap, for some vintners, is a quality control measure.

Books, magazines, book store gift cards, or a Kindle. As a group, low-carbers seem to be voracious readers and libertarians. Just make sure of their tastes before you give them a subscription to Reason or something by Thomas Sowell. It's a bit like giving lingerie: make sure it really is for the other person's enjoyment.

For further last-minute gifts:
Books recommended by Dr. Michael Eades:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Guide to Politely Turning Down Food

Denver must be one of the most polite places. Strangers flocked to help me when I fainted on the street, I've never been bothered when walking downtown or in fifty-cent parking lots late at night, and on the rare occasion someone bothers me on the bus, the driver or another passenger puts the creep in his place. (It's the suburbs of Denver where people get shot.)

Pressuring people to eat things they don't want to eat isn't done here. (Colorado also has the lowest rate of obesity in the US. Coincidence?) Here are some things I say to politely refuse high-carb food. If a phrase doesn't work on the first try, just keep repeating it.

Q. Would you like a cookie?
A. No, thanks.

Q. Are you sure you won't have one?
A. It looks delicious, but I'll pass, thanks.

Q. It's low fat/honey sweetened/all natural/etc.
A. Thank you, but most sweets just don't agree with me.

Q. Are you on a diet? (Note: I've only heard of people asking this, so I'm improvising an answer.)
A. I'm sorry, but I don't discuss that.

Q. One won't hurt you, will it? (This is rarely said around here.)
A. I'm sure you don't want to hear about my gastrointestinal problems.

At this point, it's hard to imagine someone continuing to insist you take their cookie. If they do, take it, thank them, go somewhere out of their sight and throw it away.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Meditation for Heartburn?

A recent message on the elevator TV in the building where I work said that meditation could relieve mild heartburn. A better message would have been that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I can see how relief from stress (which may or may not result from meditation) could relieve heartburn: if tensing the stomach muscles pushes acid into the esophagus, relaxing them will keep the stomach acid where it belongs.  Problem: people are often in situations where they can't meditate. The larger issue is that if something about your lifestyle requires a lot of maintenance such as meditation, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate the lifestyle.

An easy way to prevent heartburn is with a low-carb diet. Try it for a few days and see for yourself. Limit foods like bread, cereal, pastries, cookies, juice, noodles, cake, sweets, potatoes, rice, fruit, and other high-carb food, and see if your symptoms subside.

Next post: how to politely turn down holiday food.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Dog's Indulgence: Expensive Cookies

Would you feed cookies to your dog? What if the cookies were bone-shaped? Absurd? Read the ingredients in a Pedigree Jumbone:

Rice Flour, Glycerin, Sugar, Cellulose Powder, Wheat Flour, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Caseinate, Natural Poultry Flavor, Dried Meat By-product, Potassium Sorbate (a Preservative), Vitamins (Choline Chloride, D-calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Folic Acid, Dl-alpha Tocopherol Acetate [source of Vitamin E]), Minerals (Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate).
The fact that the treats are mostly flour and sugar is bad enough. But glycerine is an ingredient in soap, cellulose is indigestible by dogs, sodium tripolyphosphate is an ingredient in detergent, and calcium carbonate is an ingredient in cement.

But wait--it's not just junk food for dogs, it's expensive junk food for dogs. On Amazon, these flour/sugar/fake food treats cost--wait for it--$6.19 per pound.

My mother might indulge my dog with these, but that's what grandmothers are for. At home, my dog eats real bones, eggs, meat and vegetables, all with vitamins already in them and all for a lot less than $6 a pound.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Indulgence: A New Stove

Some people would call me "green": I tend to repair things instead of throwing them away, and I avoid buying disposable junk in the first place. My house is furnished in mid-90s estate sale, along with some antiques and good quality furniture I bought new in the 80s. I generally dry my clothes on a clothesline. (Really, I'm just cheap and lazy. Drying the clothes outside saves wear and tear on the clothes and the dryer, fixing the dishwasher and coffee maker was much cheaper and easier than running out to buy new ones, and so on.)

So I hesitated to replace my range, even though the burners didn't self-ignite anymore and the oven had stopped working. I looked up how to fix ranges on the Internet, but without an owner's manual, without diagnostic tools more sophisticated than my ohm meter, and without easy access to the stove's working parts, I didn't know what was wrong with it. (Contrary to popular belief, an engineering degree isn't much help when you need to repair something. Probably, people who are good at fixing things are more likely to get a degree in engineering than, say, French literature.) A repairman probably would have charged upwards of $200--and I'd have still had a range going on 30 years old. I decided to spend a few dollars more and replace it.

In its place is a gently used gas stove that I'm very pleased with. Its maiden meal was broiled pork chops and red bell peppers--pork chops too thick to have broiled properly in my old range. (The new range's broiler is at the top of the oven instead of the bottom: you can cook the food farther from the flame so that it doesn't burn on the outside and stay raw on the inside. And you don't have to get on your hands and knees.) The chops turned out tender and juicy and evenly cooked. The old range was hotter at the back of the broiler than the front. Since the oven stopped working months ago, I almost forgot how much I love broiled meat until I smelled those pork chops.

The AGEs (advanced glycation products) from cooking at a high temperature (around 500 degrees F) might concern some people, but I'll continue broiling my meat for two reasons. First, I love the taste. Second, haven't humans been cooking like this for a long time? Without pots and pans, wouldn't our paleolithic ancestors have skewered some meat on a sharp stick and held it over a flame?

If you're like me and willing to shave 30 seconds off your life to indulge in broiled meat, here's my recipe for broiled pork chops and red bell peppers.

1 pound pork chops, 1" thick
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1" strips
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
olive oil

Mix balsamic vinegar, garlic and anise seed. Place pork chops in a dish and sprinkle with the vinegar mix, turning them over to coat them. Cover and let marinade for at least 30 minutes. Turn on broiler. Place pork chops on a broiler pan, along with the peppers. The rack should be 5-1/2" to 6" from the flame. (If you don't have that much space, butterfly the chops before marinading them.) Brush the peppers with olive oil. When broiler is hot, cook the chops and peppers for five minutes on each side. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This is me without the B

I mentioned a few days ago I'd stopped taking my new multivitamins with megadoses of vitamin B. I haven't resumed taking the GNC Hair, Skin & Nails vitamins, which also have vitamin B but in a moderate amount. Based on a few incidents, I believe that added vitamin B was making me lethargic and depressed. I don't believe added vitamin B has those effects on most people, but I may be sensitive to it.

I don't know if the change in my vitamin regimen had anything to do with it, but today I got up at 3:30 a.m. (couldn't sleep), washed the clothes, washed the curtains, cleaned the refrigerator, finished painting the living room and entry (a project I started in April and resumed yesterday), cleaned, repaired and painted the heat registers, dropped off a bunch of items at Goodwill, did the grocery shopping, skipped dinner, and watched a movie at my parents' house. (Except for the painting, that's typically what I might get done in a week, outside my job.) It's 10:47 p.m., and only my eyes are tired. The rest of me could go dancing.

I wasn't fueled by a Thanksgiving leftover carbohydrate bender. Breakfast was sausage and a poached egg with decaf coffee and cream; lunch was prosciutto, half an avocado, olives, mushrooms, cheese, and low-carb ice cream; and I snacked on about two-thirds of a high-cocoa chocolate bar, and a spoon of almond butter before going to my parents' house, where I had some pork rinds with cream cheese and a few chocolates. If nothing else, it refutes the old "gotta have carbs for energy" chestnut. Funny how all those carbs at a typical Thanksgiving dinner don't make anyone energetic. It must be all those tryptophans from eating two slices of turkey.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unifying Theory of Holiday Dinners

You've probably attended a family holiday dinner like this: the dinner is served a few hours late, the adults are slumped in front of the TV, and the kids run around the house screaming. What can account for these different behaviors?

It could be what I've heard called sugar hangover, and when I say sugar, I mean carbohydrates in general. Consider a typical Thanksgiving Day: breakfast is some combination of cereal, juice, toast, jam, fruit, waffles, granola bars, pastries, yogurt, smoothies, and so on. It's all high carb food. Four hours later, everyone's blood sugar has crashed. For most adults, this means feeling tired and hungry. They won't snack because they don't want to ruin their appetite for dinner. For kids, though, some research has shown that they get a big adrenaline rush when their blood sugar crashes. Adrenaline is the fight-or-flight hormone--the one that sends them screaming around the house while their parents are too tired to send them outside to play.

As for the dinner being late, putting on a big dinner takes prep work, timing, planning, and skill, and it's a project that most people do once a year at most. Getting the dinner on the table on time when you're focused, energetic and organized isn't easy; doing it when you're tired and foggy headed from falling blood sugar is a tall order.

How to have a happier Thanksgiving: do as much prep work as possible the day before. On the big day, have a light breakfast of eggs, cheese, or a slice of ham--just enough so you're not hungry. Find something to occupy the kids or send them outside to play. At dinner, take a little more meat, olives and green beans, and a little less potato, stuffing and cranberries. Have a sliver of pie and some coffee or chai tea with heavy cream, or skip the pie altogether. Your mood, stomach, and waistline will be the better for it.

"Health: New Data on Sugar and Child Behavior," by Jane E. Brody, New York Times, May 10, 1990.

"Study Sees a Sugar-Adrenaline Link in Children," by Jane E. Brody, New York Times, March 15, 1995.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vitamin B Run Amok; Vitamin D on Target

Although it's been some time since I got over my sinus infection (after three rounds of antibiotics, the last of which ended a month ago), I haven't felt quite right: lethargic, unmotivated, and painfully bored. As I took my new multi-vitamin pill Friday morning, I thought, "It's just like that time I had those drinks with the B vitamins." (See Feb. 13 comment in linked post.) Indeed, the vitamin pill label showed B vitamins in amounts 25 to 33 times the recommended daily allowances. This was for three tablets, and was taking only one, but that's still way over the top. Even a 100-gram serving of liver has B vitamins in the low single milligrams, or less, not the 50-gram doses of B-1, B-2 and B-6 and the 200 microgram dose of B-12 per three tablets of the vitamin. The bottle recommends taking three to six pills daily. Of course, I stopped taking the vitamins, and today I felt peppy enough to try a new hairdo, buy some clothes and take my dog to the dog park.

This may be another reason I feel better not eating wheat: wheat flour is enriched with B vitamins. Not in the amounts contained in the vitamins, but still several times the amount in a piece of meat, I see from looking around on Apparently, I get all I need from eating meat. Last week, I had a wonderful balsamic vinegar glazed lamb dish at a restaurant, and I've gotten a few new cookbooks. One is called The Odd Bits by Jennifer McLagan; the other is French Cooking in Ten Minutes by Edouard de Pomaine. Both gave me great new ways of cooking cuts of meat I was tepid about. More on that in a future post.

I've had good results with some other vitamins: my vitamin D level is now 52, just within the ideal range of 50-80. Using some information from the Heart Scan blog, I took 3,000 IUs per day. I also used less sunscreen this summer (I have to use some to keep from burning).

Just to be clear, your results may vary with different vitamin dosages. I seem to have an odd sensitivity to B vitamins in anything but very moderate amounts. Some people require B supplements.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fodmaps Diet: Why Not DIY?

The Wall Street Journal has, for once, run a useful health article: "When Everyday Foods are Hard to Digest" by Melinda Beck, November 8, 2011. The article says what some of us have known for awhile: certain carbohydrates can cause digestive problems for some people.

Now, a small but growing contingent of specialists is focusing on food intolerances as a possible culprit—and a new dietary approach, called the low-Fodmaps diet, is gaining attention around the world.
The theory is that many people with IBS have trouble absorbing certain carbohydrates in their small intestines. Large molecules of those foods travel to the colon, where they are attacked by bacteria and ferment, creating the telltale IBS symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea.
A long list of foods—including dairy products, some fruits and vegetables, wheat, rye, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners—can potentially create such problems in susceptible people. Collectively, they're known as Fodmaps, an acronym that for stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

I didn't have IBS, but I did have GERD so bad that it gave me an esophageal ulcer. Apples and wheat in particular--two foods on the article's eliminate list--were among the worst for giving me gas and bloating. An illustration in the article is a handy guide for which foods to eliminate and what to replace them with. But don't try this on your own!

For now, he [Dr. William Chey, director of the Gastrointestinal Physiology Laboratory at the University of Michigan Health System] and other experts say that because so many foods have Fodmap components and that reintroducing them can be tricky, IBS sufferers shouldn't try the diet on their own. But a growing number of dieticians are being trained in it— has started a registry—and academic medical centers are starting to offer it, too.

I know most of the public hasn't gone to medical school, but how tricky can it be to eliminate foods on a list for awhile and then slowly add them to see if they cause a problem? Given that it can take months to get an appointment with a gastroenterologist, people suffering from digestive problems might cure themselves while they're waiting.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sybil: Multiple Personality, Hoax, or Vitamin Deficiency?

After [Dr. Connie Wilbur's] presentation a Q & A followed, and someone asked how [recovered multiple personality disorder patient] Sybil was doing. Connie's answer was brief, almost throwaway. Sybil had lived for a long time without much energy, she said, because in addition to everything else that was wrong with her, she had suffered for years from a disease called pernicious anemia.

Another audience member followed with an unrelated question, and that was the end of pernicious anemia and Sybil. No one stopped to think about the bombshell Connie had just revealed. -from the book Sybil Exposed(1)

My, how times have changed. In days of old, people who acted strangely enough were said to be possessed and put through bizarre and dangerous rituals to cure them.

Wait, we're still living in that era. Change "possessed" to "multiple personality disorder" (or "dissociative identity disorder" as it's called now) and you have the story of Sybil, a woman whose 16 separate personalities were brought on by child abuse, which shattered her life. Psychiatrist Connie Wilbur treated her for 11 years, integrated the personalities, and Sybil, free of her demons, got on with her life. So say the book Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber and a TV movie of the same title.

A new book called Sybil Exposed claims the story is mostly fiction. Author Debbie Nathan cites interviews of Sybil's friends and family by freelance investigators who uncovered Sybil's identity, records that have recently been unsealed, and a letter written by Sybil herself recanting the accusations of abuse and her other personalities.

How did a nice but troubled church-going girl get caught up in this? Possibly, Sybil's doctor was interested in multiple personality disorder and wanted to make a name for herself. Perhaps neither was aware that some "confessions" made under "truth serum" (sodium pentothal) and barbituates, which the doctor liberally prescribed, are fantasies. Perhaps she was unaware that "recovered memories" (now largely discredited) are often false as well. Add loneliness, ambition and financial need of Sybil, Dr. Wilbur and Ms. Schreiber, and Sybil, Inc. became the result, says Ms. Nathan.

Nevertheless, Sybil was troubled enough to seek a psychiatrist. She was extremely thin, depressed, withdrawn, and walked into walls. As a child, she was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, which we now know is a lack of vitamin B-12. Injections of hog liver helped her. The National Institute of Health says,

The body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells. To provide vitamin B12 to your blood cells, you need to eat enough foods containing vitamin B12, such as meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products...typical symptoms of B-12 deficiency include...fatigue...loss of appetite...confusion or change in mental status...problems concentrating...depression [and] loss of balance...(2) 

Pernicious anemia can be caused by an inability to process vitamin B-12, but Sybil's case may have had another cause: she was brought up as a Seventh Day Adventist, a religion that prescribes a vegetarian diet. Sybil was devout. Sybil Exposed describes the fake meat made by Sybil's mother, who suffered some of the symptoms of pernicious anemia as well.

Following the recipes in Adventist cookbooks, she kneaded dough from wheat flour, then washed and washed it until the starch was rinsed out, leaving a wad of glutinous plant protein. She mixed the gluten with ground peanuts and tomato sauce, pressed it into tin cans, baked it, and sliced it into rounds of substitute meat.(3)
No meat, poultry, shellfish, or even egg or dairy (or B-12) in any of that.(4)

Some are taking away from Sybil Exposed the message that multiple personality disorder, or dissociative personality disorder, aren't real. I don't know if they are or not. What I take away are two things.

  • Many of Sybil's original problems were related to diet. (This applies to a lot of emotional problems. See my post Lousy Mood? It Could be the Food.) 
  • Don't depend on a guru.  Remember that even a well-meaning doctor might have motives that aren't obvious: Sybil and her doctor became far too close, even by the professional standards of the day. Look to various sources for information, and see if your n=1 experiments are working for you. Stop and think about whether what you're hearing has the ring of truth.

1. Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan, 2011, p. 218.
2. "Pernicious Anemia." Accessed November 2, 2011.
3. Sybil Exposed, p. 11.
4. entries for wheat flour, peanuts and tomato sauce. Accessed November 2, 2011.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What to Do with All those Pumpkins?

Waste not, want not. -English proverb

"I don't like pumpkin pie, but this is delicious. What is it?" Various people commenting on pie made with fresh pumpkin

Pumpkins and other squash are used so much for decoration that people seem to forget they're edible. The flesh and seeds are a little on the carby side, but the seeds are full of minerals and pumpkin flesh is full of beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.

If pumpkin doesn't sound appetizing, you're not alone: I never considered eating it until I was in my 30s. My mother makes a gooey, sugary concoction that desecrates acorn squash and we threw out jack-o-lanterns on November 1 when I was a kid. Pumpkin pie was made from canned goop. Forget all that. These are savory recipes I think you'll love, and they don't take much hands-on time.

How to Roast a Pumpkin
If you think you don't like pumpkin, maybe it's because you've never had anything but the canned goop. Here's how to roast a fresh pumpkin.

Stab the pumpkin a few times with a steak knife. Place it on a cookie sheet and roast it at 350F for 60 to 90 minutes, until it feels a little spongy. Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Cut it in half, scrape out and save the seeds, and scrape the flesh from the skin. Discard the skin and mash the flesh. Refrigerate or freeze.

Pumpkin-Sausage Soup
Even though pumpkin tends to be used in sweets, it isn't sweet on its own. This is a meaty, savory soup.

1/4 pound sausage
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 c chicken stock
1/4 t pepper
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dried parsley
1/2 t thyme
1-1/2 c roasted pumpkin
2 T butter
2 T coconut flour
1/2 c cream

In a large pot, fry the sausage over medium heat. When done, add the garlic, then the chicken stock, pumpkin and spices. Bring to a boil. Transfer to another pot. In the first pot, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Stir in flour, scraping the sausage from the bottom of the pot. Add the soup and stir in the cream.

Fried Pumpkin Seeds
This tastes similar to popcorn or roasted nuts. Soaking the seeds helps eliminate the anti-nutrients.

2 c water
1 T salt
1 T vinegar
Seeds from one pumpkin
2 T butter

Dissolve the salt in the water and add vinegar and seeds. Soak overnight. Rinse, melt the butter in a pot on medium heat and add the seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, for an hour to an hour and a half. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stomach Ache? Fight Fire with Fire

People seem intrigued by quirky, counterintuitive ways of eating. Here's mine: spicy food for an upset stomach.

The horse pill sized antibiotics I've been taking for my sinus infection are giving me a stomach ache of equal  proportion. The cookies and brownies my employer set out today for recruits looked tempting, but I know from bitter experience that starchy, sugary food doesn't absorb stomach acid. Back when I was on Body for Life, a few years into the program, my stomach was constantly upset. Probiotics and herbal medicines didn't help: I ended up on prescription acid blockers. Once I stopped eating six servings of carbohydrates a day, the stomach problems evaporated--as long as I followed a few rules.

1. No wheat.
2. No fruit.
3. Limited carbohydrates--around 50g per day (net).

A few months ago, I watched a friend of mine eat a breakfast of juice, yogurt and fruit (in other words, a breakfast of sugar), get a stomach ache, eat some more sugar, and get another upset stomach. Yes, I gave her a solution of baking soda and tried to tell her what her problem was. But no, food that tasted good couldn't possibly have been the cause of problems, according to her. She didn't put it that way, but that's what it amounted to.

I'm still following my rules, but what to do for a special situation like this? The probiotics are helpful; so are tablets with DGL (a form of treated licorice). And for whatever reason, hot, spicy food hits the spot. As with anything quirky, your mileage may vary--a lot. It might not be a good idea if you have an ulcer; it's definitely not a good idea if you have acid reflux. Salty broth may be better in your case. In any event, avoid the sugar and starch: their healing power is an illusion.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Safe Starches? Whatever

Doris Day, on a movie plot suggested by Tony Randall: "You mean, I leave Rock Hudson for you? Forget it!"

From left: Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Tony Randall.

Have you heard about the Perfect Health Diet? It's the one where you eat a pound of safe glue starches a day--foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and some others I've never seen in a grocery store, even though I do my shopping at a few different grocery stores in a city of two million people (Denver). You also eat one-half to one pound of meat a day. There's more to it, but that's the general plot: a mostly paleolithic diet with a boatload of starch.

Some people are reacting as if someone came up with the chocolate diet. I don't see what all the fuss is about. The diet cuts out or cuts way down on most neolithic foods because they have irritants and antinutrients, but we already knew that. It encourages eating natural fats, organ meats and fibrous vegetables because they're nutritious, but we already knew that, too. 

In practice, if you're already on a low carb diet, the Perfect Health Diet replaces some of your bacon cheeseburgers with rice. The Jaminets, the authors of the diet, report that some people felt a lot better with more starch in their diets. Perhaps they just needed a potassium/magnesium pill instead of a bunch of sugar, which is what starch breaks into in your digestive tract. If there are any other nutrients in rice or root vegetables that I can't get from a salad, I'm afraid I don't know what they are.

I've had extremely good results on a low-carb diet: GERD gone, shoulder pain gone, bloating gone, four-hour naps gone, dental plaque gone, over 20 pounds of fat gone, midafternoon slump gone, and so on. I don't see a reason to dump Rock Hudson for Tony Randall.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Sinus Infection that Just Won't Die

Yesterday I was at a restaurant when I ran into one of my dance partners and promised to see him at the dance that night. Three hours later, I was lying in bed, sick, too tired to move, the furnace turned up to 75 degrees, regretting my promise. Even after two rounds of antibiotics, my sinus infection never really left.

At my mother's urging, I saw the doctor today. In idle conversation, my doctor described modular robots during our visit: tiny robots that regroup on their own if they're broken apart. Sounds like an apt metaphor for this sinus infection that has held on for two months through two rounds of antibiotics.

The next step: amox-clav, an antibiotic with penicillin (amox) and an extra ingredient (clav) to knock down the infection's resistance to penicillin.

As I've said before, proper diet is great for promoting good health, and I believe cutting out the megadoses of zinc has helped me. But if it's true that a lot of paleo people died of trauma and infection, then even they'd have needed some help in this spot.

Update: It's Wednesday, October 12, and although I'm still coughing, I have more get-up-and-go than I've had in a quite a while. It's a lot easier to get up in the morning, and I'm flying through my work.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Denmark's Solution in Need of a Problem

Have you heard that Denmark has slapped a tax on foods that are a causing a public health crisis of obesity, heart disease and diabetes? Well, not exactly a crisis--Denmark enjoys low rates of these conditions. Maybe the Danes just like to nip problems in the bud. The foods are those that contain more than 2.3% saturated fat--foods like butter and bacon, "foods you think of when you think of Denmark," according to this BBC video. In other words, traditional Danish foods, which seems to have made Danes a pretty healthy group, according to this World Health Organization table.

I have in my possession a package of one of those menaces that are suddenly making a few Danes fat and sick:

Just one ounce (think of a skimpy grilled cheese sandwich) has 6g of protein, 15% of the RDA of calcium and 8% of vitamin A. For those of us who don't run well on carbohydrates (read: sugar), it has no carbs, 10g of fat and 6g of saturated fat. For those of us whose livers don't make much cholesterol (mine's 140), it has 35 mg of the stuff. Some of my ancestors were from the German province of Schleswig-Holstein, which borders Denmark, so this is ancestral food for me. And the Danish people. (By the way, my saturated fat fest made me drop over 20 pounds and get rid of a gaggle of health problems.)

They're importing our dumb ideas about dietary fat, and exporting havarti dill cheese. I'm thinking I'm on the good end of this deal.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

This Just In: Real Butter is Better than Margarine

Overheard: a couple of 20-something accountants in the break room talking about margarine:

"I just put 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter' on my toast because it's heart-healthy. Any oil that's made of vegetables has to be good for you."

"'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter'? I can believe it's not butter."

Young people making fun of fake food: this is progress. I may bring in some Organic Valley or Kerrygold butter to help end this margarine scourge at the office.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cavity Healing Diet Six-Month Update

Back in mid-March, my last dentist told me I needed a bunch of fillings. I declined to get them, embarking on a cavity-healing diet instead. Today, I saw a new dentist--the one my best friend saw when she lived here in Colorado. Since he never gave her a filling, I assume he's not a drill-and-fill eager beaver.

The 16 x-rays he took (yes, sixteen) didn't show decay on the teeth the last dentist wanted to fill. He also said I had a good jaw and more than enough room for all my wisdom teeth--something he said he rarely sees. As he went about cleaning my teeth as if my mouth were the Sistene Chapel, he remarked that my teeth didn't seem sensitive to cold despite some roots showing. Yes, I've observed that too: my teeth are no longer sensitive to temperature or vinaigrette, as they once were. And my TMJ problems and nighttime tooth grinding unexpectedly disappeared since I started the cavity healing diet. So even though Dr. Michelangelo (not his real name) insisted that cavities don't heal, my teeth and gums feel remarkably better than they did. My teeth look a lot better than they did, too--they were a lot whiter even before the cleaning.

He did find two tiny cavities between my front teeth and the teeth next to them: they showed up as two tiny dark fuzzy spots between the teeth. I put off having them filled, wanting to see how they look in six months. Thanks to Dr. Michelangelo, I now know enough about reading x-rays to see the results for myself.

Since vitamin D is important to cavity healing, I've ordered another mail order test from ZRT Laboratories to check my level.

I've checked my dog's cavity lately, and I really can't tell if it's made any progress.

If you'd like to see photos of good teeth on primitive diets v. bad teeth on modern diets, see Nutrition and Physical Degradation by Weston Price, DDS. You can read it online here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Paleo/Low Carb Calamari Rings

If you love onion rings but you're avoiding wheat or watching carbs, give this a try. It's my own creation. They're a little softer and chewier than onion rings, but still tasty. I wouldn't recommend them otherwise.

2 cleaned calamari tubes, cut into rings
2 T coconut flour with a pinch of thyme, oregano, salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c almond flour
1/4 c olive or coconut oil
Lemon wedge

Heat the oil on medium high heat. Dredge the calamari in the coconut flour, then the egg, then the almond flour. Using tongs and oven mitts for safety, fry for a few minutes, turning frequently, until they look done. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Edited to add: It looks like onions, gram for gram, have only a tiny bit more carb than calamari, so using onions shouldn't add add much more carbohydrate. (You could try small mushrooms, too, for *very* little carb.) It's the almond flour vs. bread crumbs and coconut flour vs. wheat flour where you'll really cut down on the carbs.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Food Reward: My Thoughts and Experiences

The latest debate in nutrition is food reward vs. low carb. The argument goes something like this: low carb works in practice, but Gary Taubes et al have the science of it wrong. A cause of obesity is getting a reward from eating certain foods, and overeating them. At least, that's how I understand it. And I find it puzzling.

Do people hit their mid-30s and suddenly start finding food more rewarding? That's when most people start putting on weight. 

How is it that the French and Swiss, whose diets are well known for their wonderful taste, are thinner than Midwestern Americans, whose food is as bland as the Kansas prairie? And if food reward isn't about palatability, how do you know it's rewarding--because the subjects ate more of it? If they ate more of it because it's rewarding, then the argument is a tautology. Maybe I don't understand this part.

It seems that most of the "high-reward foods" are the ones that spike blood sugar--even in people without a metabolic problem. Falling blood sugar two hours later can make you hungry, tired or both. I see this all the time, even in young, thin people. Another thing: if you want more high-reward food like cookies or chips, all you have to do is grab another handful or put 75 cents in a vending machine. If you want another helping of so-called lower reward food, you'll probably have to spend some time and effort making it or more than 75 cents buying it. Eating real food and whacking out the junk carbs prevents mindless snacking. It also provides more nutrients--remember the part in Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes about obesity being a disease of malnutrition?

When I do find that something tastes good and eat past the point of being full, I usually have a few more bites. (Far more often, I get full and put away leftovers.) Since being on a low-carb diet, even when I'm hungry, I can usually put off eating for a few hours without discomfort. But back when I ate a high-carb diet, I was ravenous every few hours. 

Finally, a tasty diet is easier to stick to. I've had enough canned tuna, cottage cheese and boneless, skinless chicken breasts--foods I ate when I was putting on weight--to last me the rest of my life. And if I started packing away the potatoes and pasta again, no matter how bland, I'm pretty sure I'd pack on a few pounds as well.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why You Can't Cure a Sugar Problem with Starch

The Low-Methamphetamine Lifestyle

From Breaking Bad, a TV show about two men who cook meth:

Jesse: "I've been thinking lately that I'd lay off of [the meth] for awhile, 'cause lately it's been making me paranoid, so, for, like, healthwise I'd just lay off." I guess we all have to start somewhere on our quest for a healthy lifestyle.

Curing your Sugar Problem with Sugar?

If you've been trying to solve a sugar problem by eating starch, "complex carbohydrates," or "healthy whole grains" and failing, it isn't your fault. Did the doctors who recommend this sleep through high school chemistry and get their MDs from a correspondence school in the Bahamas? Watch these two videos and you'll know more about carbohydrates than they do.

In this video (sorry, embedding has been disabled) what the teacher is talking about is that starches (or complex carbohydrates) are long chains of sugars.  Or as Dana Carpender puts it, complex carbohydrates are sugar molecules holding hands. "Saccharide" is another word for carbohydrate, and anything that ends in "ose" (e.g., glucose, lactose, sucrose) is a sugar. 

Next, Drs. Mary Dan and Michael Eades talk about starchy diets being about the same as sugary diets. Skip to 1:48 for the sugar/starch portion of the interview to find out why.

With the above in mind, see if you can spot what's wrong with the Sugar Busters! food pyramid and the pediatrician's recommendations. (Click picture for larger image.)

Just to be clear, Sugar Busters! is a program to "cut sugar to trim fat," not a pro-sugar organization.

Next, we have an article by a pediatrician called "The Relationship between Sugar and Behavior in Children."

An interesting article appears in the February 1995 edition of the Journal of Pediatrics. In contrast with other research teams, William Tamborlane, M.D., et al, of Yale University report a more pronounced response to a glucose load in children than in adults. It is commonly acknowledged that as blood glucose levels fall, there is a compensatory release of adrenaline. When the blood glucose level falls below normal, the resulting situation is called hypoglycemia. Signs and symptoms that accompany this include shakiness, sweating, and altered thinking and behavior. Tamborlane and his colleagues demonstrated that this adrenaline release occurs at higher glucose levels in children than it does in adults. In children it occurs at a blood sugar level that would not be considered hypoglycemic. The peak of this adrenaline surge comes about four hours after eating. The authors reason that the problem is not sugar, per se, but highly refined sugars and carbohydrates, which enter the bloodstream quickly and produce more rapid fluctuations in blood glucose levels.

In other words, the kids were fed a sugary meal, their blood sugar spiked, and then dropped like a rock. Then they got an adrenaline rush. The solution? A bit like curing a whiskey addiction with beer:

Giving your child a breakfast which contains fiber (oatmeal, shredded wheat, berries, bananas, whole-grain pancakes, etc.) instead of loads of refined sugar should keep adrenaline levels more constant and make the school day a more wondrous and productive experience. Packing her/his lunch box with delicious fiber-containing treats (whole-grain breads, peaches, grapes, a myriad of other fresh fruits, etc.) may turn afternoons at home into a delight.
Yes, oatmeal, shredded wheat, bananas, pancakes, bread, peaches, grapes and other fruits contain some fiber, but they're mostly starch and sugar and they can spike your blood sugar--in some cases, as much as refined sugar does. Would that these doctors had as much common sense as Jesse, the flunky-butt meth cooker: if something is bad for you, then you need to, you know, lay off it, for, like, your health.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Mystery, A Warning, and a Solution

If this were a short story, it would be full of foreshadowing. But like a good mystery, it's hard to connect the dots until the end. If you can't, don't worry--I'll tie it together at the end.

  • I follow a mostly lacto-paleo diet and live pretty cleanly. But I've had a sinus infection for a month, and it's survived one and a half rounds of antibiotics. 
  • I normally eat liver once a week, but haven't had the stomach for it lately. (Even when I'm well, I'm not a liver lover.)
  • A few months ago, I started buying those big, dark chocolate bars--the 70% cocoa ones--and eating one per weekend. (I know what I said last night about hating sweets. It seems to be fruity sweets that I hate; maybe they remind me of medicine.)
  • I started dreading my breakfast smoothie of butter, hot water, pumpkin pie spice and vitamins, even though I like the taste. I sometimes skipped it on the weekend. The vitamins included large doses of zinc and magnesium, a middling dose of potassium, and some GNC Hair, Skin & Nail vitamins. 
  • A few weeks ago, I started watching the video "Mello's Chocolate Party" about 10 times a day. (No link--the naughty bits aren't suitable for a family web site.) I even ordered a CD with the song "Chocolate (Choco Choco)."
  • The other night, I ate all the nuts I'd had around the house for months. Yesterday I raided the cashew jar at work.

Patterns: Large doses of zinc and magnesium. Cravings for the chocolate and nuts, aversions to fruity sugar and the vitamin drink. (Butter and spices still appealed to me, though.) No big change regarding liver, except that I didn't eat it as much. And a persistent infection. Get it? Neither did I. So I went to Dr. Michael Eades's Protein Power blog, searched for "infection" and got my answer, which I should have done a month ago.

Dr. Eades read about a young doctor, Lisa Pastel, whose patient developed a severe, seemingly intractable infection.

In going over the patient’s list of supplements [the patient's] doctor noted that along with his multivitamin that patient was taking extra vitamin A and zinc. In fact, he had been taking 10 times the recommended amount of vitamin A and 15 times the recommended amount of zinc. His doctor read up on these supplements and learned that excess zinc could cause all the problems that her patient was suffering, not because of the excess zinc itself, but because of the copper deficiency the excess zinc causes.

The doctor suspended the vitamin regimen and within days, the patient's white blood cell count was normal. (As you know, white blood cells fight infections.)

Dr. Eades cautions low-carbers:

We modern humans typically eat the muscle meats of animals. We eat steak and ham and chicken and lamb chops and pork chops....All the organ meats, especially liver, are rich sources of copper. Other foods our ancient ancestors would have eaten–seeds, nuts, and shellfish–are also rich sources. If you eat a lot of these as part of your ‘modern’ low-carb diet, you probably get plenty of copper. If you stick mainly with the muscle meats and low-carb fruits and veggies, you’ll be getting a lot of zinc, but may be walking the low-copper tightrope.

What to do?

One bright spot is that dark chocolate and cocoa are rich sources of copper, so if you can make your chocolate-coated nuts and/or your hot chocolate low-carb, you’re in business.

Chocolate-coated nuts for my health: hooray! I also ordered some sweetbreads (thymus glands, high in copper and vitamin C) from my butcher and had homemade hot cocoa for dinner. (1/2 c water, 1/2 c cream, heated in a pan, add 1T cocoa and 1t Splenda, stir and serve.) It tasted good on this cold, rainy night. I think I'll have it tomorrow for breakfast, too. Sans vitamins, except for D. I've been taking a large dose of zinc for a long time, seemingly without ill effect. Perhaps this means I'm no longer deficient in zinc.

"Low Carb Diets and Copper" by Michael Eades, MD. November 13, 2006.

"The Healing Problem" by Lisa Sanders, MD. New York Times. November 12, 2006.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Infantilization of our Taste Buds

There's a lot I like about my employer, but its contributions to America's declining health ought to be scuttled. An email arrived at work calling for dessert and holiday treat recipes for the company magazine's December issue. I replied that I'd like to submit instructions for an appetizer tray sans sugary treats. "There are folks who need to limit their sugar intake, as well as those of us who'd rather avoid the stomach aches, blood sugar crashes and holiday weight gain." The marketing director liked the idea and wants to get approval for it. Today, a recipe for pate; tomorrow, how to properly roast a turkey. Someday, mince meat pie might involve meat again.

Why not submit a recipe for a low-carb dessert instead of pushing for savory appetizers? Maybe my sinus infection has changed my taste for the better. Between the sweet Umcka tablets for congestion, the elderberry syrup, and honey for my throat, I'd almost rather put up with my symptoms than gag down one more spoonful of sugar. And while I know there are mature, responsible people who love sweets (my father for one), for whatever reason, starchy, sugary treats suddenly strike me as food for slumber parties and Halloween, not dinner for a grown-up lady. I don't want to think about sweets long enough to copy a  recipe for one.

Besides, is there anything holiday-like about sweets and treats anymore? At work, there are two bowls of candy at the front desk. There's a cupboard full of pretzels, crackers, chips and sweets, popsicles in the freezer, a soda fountain, birthday cake every month, enough bananas to feed a barn full of bonobos and apples enough for a herd of appaloosas. And I hear that American schools feed their students junk food all day long. Is there any hour of any day anymore that isn't time for sweets? A tray of pate, sashimi, olives, dip, deviled eggs, vegetables and artisanal cheeses would be a treat of real food and a break from a steady diet of flour and sugar.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Bug is Back

I was *this close* to being over my sinus infection. I was well enough to spend an afternoon at a fair and go out dancing. The next day, though, when the antibiotics were out of my system, my energy left and my cough came back.

Again: good diet does not conquer all; we can't heal ourselves against every bug. Consider how many Native Americans died of diseases when Europeans reached North America. Consider how much faster bacteria and viruses mutate than we do. This is a clever bug I have: it's held on through a course of antibiotics, yet it isn't strong enough to kill its host. Why me? Long ago, a scan showed I have only seven sinuses: they have to do the work of eight. And I've had some unhappiness at work. All my sinus infections have come when I was especially stressed at work or school.

What to do? My nurse suggested giving myself a chance to heal using nasal washes. I already tried that. As much as I believe a good diet helps make you healthy, my observation was that good diet and clean living weren't enough in this case. Ignoring this would have been more Mary Baker Eddy than Mary Dan Eades--more faith healing than science. It's back to the antibiotics, and I'm about 90% well. My stomach, though, normally as tough as cast iron, didn't feel good this time. Probiotics helped. If this round of antibiotics doesn't help, I'll be back for more--unless I get a bright idea.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Knockout! Right in the Bread Basket

Lennox Lewis is gonna win that fight. Nobody's gonna get in the ring with Mike Tyson unless they know they can knock him out. -Bud Miller, my father

It was the most hyped boxing match of 2002: Mike Tyson, the boxer who once bit off an opponent's ear in the ring, finagled a boxing license in Tennessee and took on Lennox Lewis. My father called that fight: Mr. Lewis looked serene when he knocked out Mr. Tyson in the eighth round. Mr. Lewis knew both himself and his opponent, something that hardly anyone interested in the fight seemed to consider.

And so it's been lately with contenders who spout the healthy whole grains/eat less move more/low fat dogma on the internet in forums that allow responses. The priests of nutrition don't seem to anticipate a bunch of Lennox Lewises, who know every move of their game, climbing into the ring and pounding them.

Apparently, the nutritional priests don't talk to each other or pay attention to each other's work, either. Awhile back, there was the Hope Warshaw rout, to name one instance of dumb "expert" advice drawing a virtual angry and intellectually muscular mob. That should have been a clue to the people at the blog Six Servings by the Grain Foods Foundation. They were quietly publishing junk science and marketing fluff when they decided to take on cardiologist William Davis, MD, author of Wheat Belly:  Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find your Path Back to Health. The post called a wheat-free diet a "fad" and said that cutting out "one specific food" is "dangerous." They called Dietary Guidelines for Americans the "gold standard of scientifically sound nutrition advice."

At this writing, there are 94 responses to the post, citing the post's logical fallicies, Dr. Davis's success in helping patients, facts about wheat's lack of nutrients, clinical studies showing wheat's disease-causing properties, wheat's ability to send blood sugar over the moon, the common-sense observation that you can get nutrients from better foods, and people's own success on a wheat-free diet. Somebody mentioned the fact that there's no scientific basis for the USDA guidelines; others brought up anthropological evidence that humans were healthier before they started eating grains. Round one goes to Dr. Davis and his fellow travelers.

Gluttons for punishment, the Six Servings people made a follow-up post, mostly appealing to various authorities and experts. They didn't accept Dr. Davis's challenge to a public debate. Do I need to mention they got shellacked by the wheat-free commenters? Even though the Six Servings people don't seem convinced of anything but wheat's goodness (what did you expect?) I give round two to Davis et al. The victory here isn't in getting industry flacks to admit they're wrong, but in thinking clearly for ourselves and winning back our health.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A High Principle Diet

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

I spent a pleasant afternoon last Labor Day weekend at a fair canoodling with someone I'd just met. It ended awkwardly when I wouldn't go to his house, and he didn't offer any other suggestions. I don't go home with people I've just met, period, no exceptions. It's a first principle of mine.

This, and a post by Dr. Richard Feinman about portion control really meaning self control made me think about sticking to a healthy diet.  "Most people know not to eat too much," Dr. Feinman says in the comments. "The question is how?" Tactics like eating a small portion and waiting to see if you're hungry for more, filling up on good food before going to a party, and taking healthy snacks with you all help. So does getting moral support from other low-carbers. But there will be times when you're hungry, surrounded by carbs, and without snacks or a nagging spouse. Or worse, you'll have a spouse who encourages you to indulge, as my father does with my diabetic mother. These are times when your own fat, protein and principles have to sustain you.

A first principle you can have is that you won't eat things that make you feel lousy. Why did you start a low-carb diet in the first place? I did so to get rid of acid reflux. Eventually, I found out that wheat makes me congested, too much carb makes my joints hurt and makes me gain weight, and certain carbs make me so bloated that I look pregnant. Like many diabetics, my mother feels nervous and shaky when her blood sugar is high. Thinking about what will happen to us in 20 minutes makes it easier for us to avoid eating too many carbs.

Another first principle you can have is to weigh nutritional advice on the merits of whether it makes sense from an evolutionary or ancestral standpoint or on the basis of your own experience. Much nutritional "wisdom" is nothing more than platitudes that have been repeated so many times that most don't question them. Why do we need copious amounts of fruits and vegetables, when just a few hundred years ago these were available only seasonally in most places? Why do we need grains when we got along without them for millions of years? Does a leafy green salad really fill you up? What I like about this is that you don't need a formal scientific education or background in statistics to do this--it's just using some common sense. It keeps you from being buffeted by waves of dumb advice.

Letting hope triumph over experience should violate first principles. Can you stop at one brownie? I can't, so I don't start with the first one--or I buy one, put it in my bag and leave. Has eating light--only to leave room for dessert or a midnight snack--ever worked out for you? I end up eating bad food if I go dancing without  dinner first, so I have a low-carb snack first even if I'm not hungry.

We live in such ridiculous times that "first principles" sounds like something from another century. Note that some of this violates the idea of moderation. It especially violates the idea of flexibility, for the better. The tendency to put flexibility over first principles is why the guy from the weekend bet that I'd cave in if he held out. It's why some of my friends have ended up with men who never got around to paying their bills or filing for a divorce; these relationships would have been non-starters had first principles been first. And it's what the purveyors of poor advice and worse food are counting on to keep us eating junk.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Sinus Infection has Lost its Bite

A wooden stake won't kill a vampire. Flamethrower, would kill a vampire. Or we can lose our head. I mean, literally. Other than that we heal. -Mick St. John from the TV show Moonlight

How would you feel if an illness that had previously left you cold, tired and slogging through the day for months, could suddenly be 95% beaten in 17 days? Like you'd gained superpowers?

I came down with a sinus infection August 16, and aside from a little coughing, I'm well again. Let me tell you about other sinus infections I've had. I spent a week in the hospital with one when I was nine. I spent a whole summer dragging myself around classes and work in a thick sweater in my early 20s in a nasty bout with staphylococcus aureus. Another sinus infection struck again in 2001, a few years after the septoplasty surgery I had was supposed to have prevented them.

What's different about this one? Vampire Mick St. John (see quote above) told a blind friend from his past that he'd stayed well through diet (he skipped the part about being a vampire). I credit the same thing for my good health and ability to heal: no wheat, low-carb, and vitamin and mineral supplements. Gluten-free grainy goodies are an occasional indulgence; my diet is mostly meat, eggs, and fibrous vegetables, a little cream, cheese and sour cream, and a little chocolate. (I leave dietary blood as the exclusive property of vampires and the Masai.) Wheat in particular gives me nasal congestion--the thick, sticky kind that won't move. With this sinus infection, I was coughing but not congested: the mucus was running, not sitting around making a bog for bacteria to thrive. With no congestion, I was rarely in pain; I took only two doses of aspirin. I also took a five-day course of azithromycin (an antibiotic), Umcka Cold Care, and black elderberry syrup, which helped my throat.

Again and again on my low-carb, high-fat, high nutrient diet, I've healed: GERD gone, allergies alleviated, a cold gone in three days, a neck injury that righted itself, and shoulder pain shrugged off. Most of these things had persisted for years pre-diet change. A good diet may not make you live forever, but it may help you heal like a vampire.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Did Everything Right and Still Got Sick

Something has happened to me that, judging by comments on certain blogs, isn't supposed to happen to those of us who follow a low carb, high fat, high nutrient diet. I got sick--so sick that I've missed three days of work in two weeks and finally saw a nurse today. Diagnosis: sinus infection.

This doesn't mean I don't think my dietary changes haven't helped. I've had many sinus infections in my life and this one doesn't feel nearly as bad as the others: I don't feel congested and I'm not in pain, I've just been tired and coughing for a week and a half. I feel like I have a stubborn cold. Previous sinus infections left me feeling tired for months; I'll follow up on how this one goes.

I credit the lack of congestion to dropping wheat. Just a few weeks ago on Dr. Davis's Heart Scan Blog, I remarked that I'd had no seasonal allergies this year. (A few others echoed the comment.) And as the nurse talked to me, I wondered how many middle-aged patients she saw who took no medications, or women patients who were in the neighborhood of 116 pounds. Without my changes to diet, I wouldn't fall in either category.

Be that as it may, I think it's being honest to acknowledge that good diet and lifestyle doesn't mean you'll never get sick, and being sick doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. Paleo people got sick, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead: A Review

Do you like come-from-behind-to-snatch-victory movies? Do you like road trip movies? Buddy movies? Documentaries? If you do, you may like Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, a movie in which financial entrepreneur Joe Cross seeks to lose weight and cure a rare skin disease through a two-month juice fast.

Do you enjoy testing your critical thinking and debunking pseudo-science? If you do, this movie will give you plenty to chew on.

My criticism isn't of Joe Cross or his friend Phil Staples--I admire their strength of will and Cross's compassion for Staples, who was just an acquaintance when he called Cross for help from halfway around the world. Nor am I critical of their break with nutritional orthodoxy or the short-term results they achieved: they both lost 90 pounds or more, their hives disappeared, their energy increased, and their blood pressure and cholesterol improved. They either reduced or quit medications (including prescription prednisone for their hives--that's the steroid they needed). That's impressive. What I have a problem with is the lack of information, lack of fact checking, and pseudo-science.

Early in the movie, Cross tells us there are two kinds of food: micronutrient (fruit, vegetables, seeds, beans and nuts) and macronutrient (everything else; the camera points at meat). He and Dr. Joel Fuhrman explain that micronutrients are found primarily in plant foods.

It's unclear why they make such a distinction. The three macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrate. Most fruits, vegetables and seeds are mainly carbohydrate, beans are carbohydrate and protein, and nuts are mix of all three. Meat is mostly protein and fat; there's a little carbohydrate in some meats. In other words, all foods are some combination of the macronutrients. Likewise, pretty much all foods (especially unrefined foods) have micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. The movie gives the impression that meat doesn't have micronutrients. In a scene that was unintentionally ironic, Cross chats up some guys at a diner. One of them is eating liver (one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there) while Cross is having his vegetable juice, and Cross talks to them about healthy eating. Since spinach and apples seemed to be main ingredients in the juice recipe, take a quick look at the micronutrients in them versus the micronutrients in liver:

Nutrients in one slice of beef liver
Nutrients in one cup of apple
Nutrients in one cup of spinach(1)

I'm assuming what I consider reasonable amounts of food, and that the whole apples and spinach were used--none of this information is stated in the movie. But plug in pretty much any combination of fruit and veg, and the liver will still blow it away in nutrients.

Two important points regarding nutrients are those that are essential (meaning we need them but our bodies can't produce them) and nutrients' bioavailability (our bodies' ability to extract the nutrients from the food). In a review of Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (Cross's dietary advisor), researcher Chris Masterjohn of the Weston A. Price Foundation writes,

Fuhrman’s calculations of nutrient density suffer from three fatal flaws: first, he excludes from these calculations many nutrients known to be essential to the body while doubling the score of other putative nutrients whose physiological functions are uncertain; second, he fails to account for variations in the bioavailability of nutrients between foods; third, he groups all nutrients present in a food into a single score as if they were interchangeable, rather than acknowledging that different types of foods provide different types of nutrients.


Nutrients are often much more bioavailable from animal foods than they are from plant foods, a fact that Fuhrman’s ranking system does not take into account. The absorption of zinc, for example, is inhibited by phytate and a number of other plant chemicals, while it is stimulated by animal proteins. Absorption of zinc can be five times higher from animal foods than from high-phytate plant foods.9 Calcium is very bioavailable from some plant foods such as kale, broccoli and bok choy,10 but very little is absorbed from foods high in oxalate such as spinach.11 The absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and their precursors such as vitamin K and carotenes can be less than five percent in the absence of fat and still less than twenty percent with added fat.12,13 Pigments such as lutein are twice as available from egg yolks as they are from green vegetables such as spinach.14 As much as 80 percent of vitamin B6 in plant foods may be bound up with other substances that make it unavailable for absorption and use;15 even the portion that is available must be converted into its active form in the liver in a reaction that taxes the supply of vitamin B2.2 Fuhrman’s nutrient density chart would look very different if he adjusted a food’s score according to the bioavailability of the nutrients within it.(2)

Also, grains (which weren't part of the juice fast but are seeds--one of those "micronutrient foods") have nutrient blockers(3).

In another unintentionally ironic moment, we see ads for antacids as Dr. Furhman is speaking. Readers may know that I used to have GERD so bad that it gave me an esophageal ulcer. The two worst things for making my GERD flare up were wheat and fruit. Anecdotally, carbohydrates cause acid reflux and a low-carb diet--not a sugar and fiber diet (yes, fruit is full of sugar)--cures it. Dr. Robert Atkins, who treated thousands of patients, advised heartburn sufferers reading Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution, "Go on [the Atkins Diet] immediately. Nothing clears up on this diet more predictably than does heartburn."(4) On the theoretical front, Norm Robillard, a microbiologist, developed a theory of heartburn, carbohydrates and gut bacteria that he wrote up in the book Heartburn Cured.

What's also annoying is terms such as "reboot" and "detox" being thrown around without any definition. They aren't talking about computers or drug overdoses, of course, just some good but unexplained things happening to the human body.

Worse is putting the blame for obesity and other diseases (although not in so many words) on meat. This doesn't make sense from an evolutionary point of view. Lierre Kieth, a 20-year vegan turned omnivore, writes in The Vegetarian Myth,

Stone tools have laid beside the bones of long-extinct animals, buried in the silence of time, for 2.6 million years....We come from a long line of hunters: 150,000 generations(5) tell me what to blame [for coronary heart disease]: the saturated fats we've always eaten--for four million years--or the industrially manufactured oils that until recently were used in paint.(6)

Keith also presents as evidence that humans are natural meat eaters other anthropological finds, studies good and bad, field research, the expensive tissue hypothesis, and her own wrecked health on a vegan diet. Were the buffalo-eating Plains Indians of Colorado and the hunter-gatherer Aborigines of Cross's homeland fat, sick and nearly dead before or after they started eating flour and sugar?

If the movie is against refined or processed foods, as it states a few times, then there should be nothing wrong with meat. Unless you're knocking back hot dogs or somesuch, meat is merely cooked, not chemically extracted like the seed oils Keith refers to. Meat, as we've seen, is full of micronutrients, which Fuhrman and Cross say are important.

Nevertheless, even if the diet is on shaky scientific grounds, Cross and Staples (and a woman who got relief from migraines on a shorter fast) got some outstanding results. How? Nutritionist Julianne Taylor suggests some reasons some people do well (at least in the short term) on a raw vegan diet.

  • Elimination of dairy, grains, legumes, chemically extracted vegetable oils, alcohol and caffeine. "These health improvements are also similar to those that people rave about when they switch to a conventional paleo diet," she adds. (Add some meat to the juice fast, assuming you're using whole foods, and you'd have a version of a paleo diet.)

  • Some nutrient intakes are improved.

  • Protein restriction leading to autophagy, where "junk human proteins," bacteria and viruses are digested.(7)
Anecdotally, others mention getting a sugar high from the natural sugars in juice, and Dr. Michael Eades believes that intermittent fasting reduces inflammation.(8) But again, the movie doesn't make it clear whether this was an intermittent fast (i.e., going around 12 hours or more without eating or drinking) or if the juice was taken frequently. The movie does make it clear, however, that a long juice fast should be done under a doctor's care--and on that, I'm in complete agreement. They were honest enough to show people saying they tried the fast and didn't do well: headaches, bad mood, and terrible hunger. Indeed, every day, someone finds my post on my miserable fast on this humble blog by searching for fasting and bingeing. It's one of my most popular posts.

Diet wasn't the only thing that changed for Cross and Staples. Both tapered off of Prednisone, whose side effects include increased appetite and weight gain.(9) Additionally, Cross was head of an investment firm he started and Staples was a truck driver: both had high-stress jobs. They left those jobs for two months during their respective juice fasts. (Staples quit driving truck altogether.) Could the relief from stress, and probably extra rest, have had something to do with their autoimmune skin disorder clearing up?

Or was it the elimination of wheat? Or meat? Or refined oils? Or added sugars? We may never know.

1. Information from, August 16, 2011.
2. Chris Masterjohn's Review of Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. February 14, 2008.
3. "Vitamin and Mineral Absorption: Stop Shooting yourself in the Foot" by Lori Miller. September 8, 2010.
4. Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution by Robert Atkins MD. 1972. P. 284.
5. The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. 2009. P. 140.
6. Ibid, p. 186.
7. "Health Problems on Low Fat Raw Vegan and Vegan Diets" by Julianne Taylor. March 16, 2011.
8. Inflammation and Intermittent Fasting by Michael R. Eades, M.D. August 13, 2007.
9. "Predisone Official FDA Information," Accessed August 19, 2011.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Solid Science!

Dr. Richard Feinman remarks in a recent post that saturated fat is now called "solid fat (the USDA thinks that 'saturated' is too big a word for the average American) and the American Heart Association and other health agencies are still down on solid fat."

I guess that means I can safely eat coconut oil this time of year, since it's sitting in an 80-degree house and has taken on a liquid state. If I need to put away any leftovers fried in coconut oil, I'll be sure to reheat them first.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good Health on a Budget

Low-carb and paleo/primal diets have a reputation for being expensive: meat and cheese (especially if you buy pastured, grass-fed animal products) are more expensive than bread, beans and potatoes. But as I posted last year, it doesn't always work out that way in real life. (Last year, I calculated that because of my low-carb diet, I was spending a few dollars more on groceries, but cut my medical spending to zero. I haven't recalculated my food bill this year, but I've spent nothing on doctors or prescriptions in eighteen months. And I'm still using minimal skin care products--yet my skin looks and feels the best it ever has.)

If your diet is causing health problems such as acid reflux, tooth decay, diabetes or hypoglycemia, stomach upset, low mood (in some cases), or weight gain, you have to consider doctor visits, dentist visits, counseling, bigger clothes, medicines and time lost from work as part of the cost of your diet. Do some figuring, and you might find that a cheap diet is a false economy.

Still, the money has to come from somewhere to pay for good quality food. Here are some ways to pull money out of the air.

  • Stop spending on junk food. By the pound, chips, cookies and sodas are much more expensive than real food like meat, eggs and vegetables. And that's before you consider what they do to your teeth, waistline, appetite and blood sugar.
  • Cook from scratch. It's cheaper, you'll leave out unhealthy ingredients, and you'll avoid mindless snacking if you have to prepare your food. The idea that fast food is cheaper than nutritious, home-cooked meals is bunk: I can make a quarter-pound burger with lettuce, tomato and mustard for a fraction of the cost of a Big Mac--so can anyone.
  • Buy low-cost cuts of meat. Liver in particular is inexpensive and highly nutritious. Remember, dietary fat is your substitute for sugar and starch. If you're adventurous, ask your butcher for other organ meats and marrow bones. If you aren't, buy fatty hamburger, chicken thighs, pork roasts, and canned fish on sale.
  • Avoid wheat--among other things, it's an appetite stimulant. Why else do you think it's in every pre-packaged food out there?
  • Forage for edible weeds. Just make sure they haven't been sprayed with anything but water.
  • See if your problems can be remedied with vitamins. Google Scholar and blood tests helped me figure out some of these issues for myself.
  • Revisit your need for medications or treatments. Within a few days of going low-carb, my GERD and need for acid blockers went away. Eventually, so did my neck and shoulder pain and need for a chiropractor. And I can't remember the last time I took Sudafed or Pepto-Bismol--this, from someone who used to have weekly allergy shots and constant stomach problems. In some cases, diabetics must reduce or quit their medications on a low-carb diet. Of course, use your judgment and continue your medicine or treatments if needed--the goal here is good health.
  • If you're in the U.S., consider ordering prescriptions from Canada.
  • Remember that lack of health insurance isn't the same as lack of health care. If you're a cash patient, just tell your health care provider--you might get a discount since they don't have to fool around with paperwork and insurance companies.
  • If you're thinking about Vibrams, ballet slippers and unisex jazz shoes are a fraction of the price, accomplish the same thing, and don't scream for attention.
  • Some inexpensive exercise options: dancing (avoid the studios!), weightlifting at home, walking and sprinting.

Other money saving ideas from readers are welcome.