Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Adversity & Epic Wins

For our powers can never inspire in us implicit faith in ourselves except when many difficulties have confronted us on this side and on that, and have occasionally even come to close quarters with us. -Moral Epistles, Seneca, Epistle XIII.

What a year this has been: a sinus infection resistant to antibiotics, an allergic reaction to Benzonatate, my father's stroke, a migraine headache and ensuing ambulance ride, a fractured arm, broken tooth, two teeth knocked out of place, excruciating TMJ pain, oral surgery, and the real bane of my existence, adult acne.

Yet it's been a good year. With the help of fellow bloggers, researchers, doctors, and writers, I've discovered and created solutions and blogged about them so that they might help other people.

SWAMP (sinuses with a mucus problem). My brainchild for curing sinus infections with a huge dose of vitamin D, salt and mucus thinner. Based on integrated pest management (a method used in gardening and agriculture), the idea is make your sinuses less hospitable to bacterial overgrowth. My parents, a few coworkers and I have cured our sinus infections with this. A plus-one to Dr. Michael Eades of the Protein Power blog and Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council, without whom SWAMP wouldn't exist.

Getting my father off statins. After my father had a stroke, a doctor at the nursing home where he recuperated scared him into taking statins, even though my father had pain on them before, the number needed to treat to prevent stroke and heart attack is large, they haven't been shown to do any good for men over 65 (Dad is in his 80s) and the benefit they do confer may come from actions other than lowering cholesterol (e.g., reducing inflammation). After Dad rallied himself and came home, I discovered the statins among his pills and gave him some of Dr. Briffa's information on statins. Within days, he started feeling and functioning better. Thanks go to Tom Naughton of the Fat Head blog, Dr. Michael Eades of the Protein Power blog, Dr. William Davis of the Heart Scan blog, Dr. John Briffa of his eponymous blog, and Dr. Malcom Kendrick, author of The Great Cholesterol Con.

Discovering the horrors of carrageenan. I'm not buggo on food additives. If a food has additives, it's probably full of flour, sugar, chemically extracted oils and other baddies that are worse for most people than, say, food coloring. But carrageenan is used to induce inflammation in laboratory animals. It's a poster child for foods that don't belong in anything labeled "organic." I found this out after a police officer found me, throwing up by the side of the road and suffering from a migraine headache, and sent me back to my parents' house in an ambulance. Carrageenan is added to cream, almond milk, and sausage, things a lot of us think of as real food. Credit goes to The Amateur Food Detective, researcher J. Tobacman, and the paramedic who jogged my memory of what I'd been eating.

My soft low-carb food recipes. After a bike accident left me unable to chew, I created these since there were virtually none out there (unless you're into protein shakes). If you haven't tried one, do so--they're really tasty. My favorite is lemon ice cream A plus-one to Jennifer McLagan, author of The Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal. I lived on a variation of her recipe for sanguinaccio the first two days after my accident. Another plus-one to Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, and Nick Stellino, author of the cookbook Mediterranean Flavors, without whom the low-carb lemon ice cream wouldn't exist.

Recalling the tension-spasm-pain cycle. Over 20 years ago, a neurosurgeon explained to me that tension can lead to spasms, which can lead to pain, which can lead to more spasms, and so on. Break the cycle at any point, and you can relieve the pain. Remembering this and applying it to an excruciating episode of TMJ (via frequent doses of ibuprofin) after oral surgery led to relief.

Milk gives me acne. Every time I start putting half-and-half in my coffee or eating cheese, I have to break out the concealer. A shout out to paleontologist Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Answer, and Dr. Briffa for explaining how to clear up my skin.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

An Antidote for Hedonism

It's funny how a holiday season of giving thanks, religious rites and the start of a new year has turned into a festival of avarice, gluttony and drunkenness. An antidote: Stoicism.

Hear me out. Briefly, Stoicism is a middle way about material things, between being ascetic and finicky. Alcohol, fine foods, trendy gadgets and fancy furnishings can be enjoyed, but they aren't held dear. If you're hung over, if your pants don't fit, if you can't pay off the credit card bill, you've gone overboard, even if everyone else is doing it.

Stoics don't care much about what everyone else is doing. It's out of their control, so they don't worry about it. They don't worry over the past, either. If you overindulged over the holidays, they'd tell you to forget about it and get back on track. If there are things you simply can't eat, drink or buy, stop thinking about them. And internalize your goals. Instead of saying that you'd like to lose 20 pounds, your goal would be to eat a simple diet that would lead to good health, and that you could live with. (Epictetus, a Greek Stoic philosopher, ate more bread than meat. But as a rationalist, if he knew then what we know now, I think he'd change his stance.)

The philosophy has a lot to do with avoiding certain things. It doesn't sound like much until you consider what shape the hedonists are in after the holidays: many of them have too much middle and too little money. They go on an austerity program for, oh, a few months or weeks. Considering the reality of hedonic adaptation (your new stuff just raises your standards for more new stuff), they'll soon start running up a new tab. Stoics, OTOH, have no need to whip themselves into shape, since the bills are paid and they haven't gained any weight.

Where's the fun in keeping such an even keel? It's occurred to me that a person who has saved a little bit of money, and has no reservations about being in a swimsuit in public, could enjoy a vacation at the beach. That's what I'm planning to do for my birthday next February. Good times aren't the exclusive property of hedonists.

If you want to find out how stoic you are, I've made a quiz. Good luck!

How Stoic are You?
1) Do you ever imagine that your life could be a lot worse than it is?
How could my life get any worse?
No, I'm a positive thinker.
Only when I'm having a bad day.
Yes, it makes me appreciate what I have.
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For further reading:  
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Seneca Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales (link goes to text) 

Epictetus Discourses and Enchiridion (link goes to online book)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

XXX Chocolate Ice Cream (Low Carb, Non-dairy)

With no added sugar and a complex flavor, and taking only a few minutes to make, this is better than any $10 gut bomb from a restaurant. Not for most kids or anyone else whose taste hasn't outgrown Rice Krispies treats.

1 egg
1 can (~2 cups) coconut milk
1/4 cup Splenda
3 T baking cocoa
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1/2 t coffee extract

In a medium bowl, beat the egg. In a separate small bowl, blend the baking cocoa with 1/4 c of coconut milk until smooth. (Stir the coconut milk well first if it's separated.) Add the coconut milk-baking cocoa mixture to the egg. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, Splenda, and flavorings. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions. (In my electric Cuisinart ice cream maker, it takes 10 to 15 minutes.)

Homemade ice cream gets very hard when frozen. For leftovers, remove from the freezer and let sit half an hour before serving.

Fat fast info: 1/4 batch has 202 calories; 87% from fat.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Natural Selection, Diet and Health

I've been on a reading jag about evolution: The Greatest Show on Earth  by Richard Dawkins and Why Evolution is True  by Jerry A. Coyne. I also threw in Dawkins' 1991 Christmas Lectures titled "Growing up in the Universe."  (Link goes to online videos.) A few things worth knowing (among many others):

Evolution hasn't made our bodies perfect. The earliest life was bacteria, and all life forms have changed by tiny increments ever since. There was no going back to the drawing board and starting a new, more logical design. For instance, our maxillary sinuses draining at the top is a trait we inherited from ancestors who walked on all fours (their sinuses drain at the front).(1) Both books have an entire chapter on parts that have evolved badly. Good fuel helps a lot, but it won't fix a bad design.

Natural selection can occur rapidly. We're all familiar with bacteria evolving resistance to antibiotics. But natural (or artificial) selection has been observed over periods of years or decades in changes in elephants, birds, insects and other animals. Perhaps for the Kitavans, Japanese or Inuit (isolated populations), some natural selection has occurred also. Take someone who has health problems on a starchy diet. How many descendents would he or she leave on a Pacific island where the fare was mostly fruit and root vegetables? Much is made of the healthy, rice-eating Japanese, but it's rarely mentioned that Japan went through a 1,200-year period of enforced pescatarianism.(2)

It's well known that dogs descended from wolves--but how? There's an idea that wolves scavenged humans' garbage dumps and those that were less afraid of humans self-selected into gradual domestication. (Dimitri Belyaev, a Russian scientist, domesticated foxes to the point that they acted like dogs using the same principles.) (3) The point here is that humans wasted meat--enough meat to attract and feed packs of wolves and dogs. Just because lean game animals have a certain percentage of fat doesn't mean that was the percentage of fat in the human diet.

Gills evolved into thyroid and parathyroid glands.(4) Someone else will have to figure out the implications.

1. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, p. 370. Simon & Schuster, 2009.
2. VB4-Japan. The Cambridge World History of Food. Accessed December 14, 2012
3. Dawkins, p. 73-74.
4. Dawkins, p. 360.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Little Meals aren't always Possible

Let me tell you about the assault trial I was involved in.

Last Friday, I showed up for jury duty around 8 AM. Since the court was having some technical difficulties, we had to wait an hour just to get started hearing instructions from the judge. By the time the lawyers got a satisfactory jury put together, it was noon.

The trial commenced after lunch at 1:30. From then until 8 PM, with a few short breaks, we listened to witnesses, arguments, lots of objections, and instructions from the court. We deliberated for about ten minutes and found the defendant not guilty on both charges. We agreed that the evidence just wasn't there (we were surprised the case even got to court), and that the three feuding neighbors deserved each other.

On a day like that, needing frequent little meals would have been a major inconvenience. Our breaks weren't long enough for us to go out for a snack, unless it was to a vending machine. There wasn't anyplace to store food that needed refrigeration. A person could have taken some snacks, but I don't think any of us foresaw being there until 8 PM. Likewise, people in certain occupations face simple matters that turn into long slogs that they can't just take a snack break from: surgeons, fire fighters, police officers, soldiers, parents, and probably dozens of others.

It was fortunate that I when I go out to eat, I get as many calories as I can for my money--probably not what the food fascists intended when they said they wanted calorie counts on McDonald's menus. I got the 790-calorie cheddar-bacon-onion burger and threw away the bun for lunch and had a package of almonds around 6 or 7.

If you're new to low-carb, I threw away the bun for a few reasons, but the important reason here was keeping my blood sugar level stable. Carbohydrates (especially refined ones, like those in a bun) can make your blood sugar spike and then fall an hour or two later, which can make you hungry and/or tired. Limit the carbs, get your energy from fat, eat adequate protein, and you won't need frequent little meals.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Body-for-Life v. Low-Carb: Pictures

Ten years ago today (yes, the day before Thanksgiving), I started Body-for-Life. BFL involves eating several small meals per day that balance protein and carbohydrate and minimizes dietary fat. Daily workouts involve intense weightlifting or cardio. One day a week is a free day, where you don't exercise and eat whatever you want. Initially, I lost weight, gained muscle and felt great. Eventually, though, I gained back the weight and developed cavities and upper GI problems. The cardio workouts left me exhausted. Free day foods found their way into the other days. I developed GERD, an esophageal ulcer, chronic sinus congestion and a constantly upset stomach. I've written about the logical fallacies of BFL here, here and here. If only I'd read the book with a more critical eye back then, I 'd have saved myself most, if not all, of the misery.

The endpapers of the Body-for-Life book are before and after photos taken 12 weeks apart. Let me share some photos here.

Five years into BFL. Yes, I'd gained weight.
Eight months into a wheat-free, low-carb diet with weekly exercise. Photo taken two years after the above photo.

Two and a half years into a wheat-free, low-carb diet. I hadn't exercised in months due to injuries from an accident.

For those who end up here looking for info on BFL, here's the executive summary: low-carb beats BFL in every way, shape and form. I don't have any problem with free day foods creeping into other days because there isn't any free day: I limit carbs every day, and don't eat certain foods, ever. It's actually easier to be good all the time. My last dental appointment showed no tooth decay, despite my limited ability to clean my teeth for a few months because of an accident.

BTW, high-fat meals are a great antidote for pain: not only do I have no post-workout pain, but I never opened my Vicoden after my accident (I fractured my arm and hit my face on the pavement in a bike accident) or surgery (a broken tooth was removed and an implant put in). By the end of my time on BFL, OTOH, my knees and left shoulder frequently hurt.

Want to try a low-carb Thanksgiving? Here's what I'm making: chicken pot pie with cheddar herb almond crust and crustless squash pie. If you're having a more traditional Thanksgiving, have more turkey (with mayonnaise if you like it), more non-starchy veg like olives, salad and green beans, coffee or tea (with cream if you like) but without sugar for dessert, and less of the potatoes, yams, rolls, stuffing, pie and alcohol. Do this, and you can probably leave the naps, weight gain and stomach pain for everyone who's on a free day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Stupor: It's Not the Turkey OR the Fat

An article on the Mental Floss magazine website blamed the stupor people usually feel after a Thanksgiving meal on (what else besides turkey?) the fat--229 grams of it in an "average Thanksgiving meal," according to the article.

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor: Fats — That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.
 My response:

Say what? First of all, even if you ate all the skin from half a turkey plus a whole stick of butter, that would be only 190 g of fat. (source: Thanksgiving is mostly a carbohydrate fest: potatoes, yams, desserts and most snack foods are mainly sugar and starch. Second, I'd like to see the evidence that a high-fat meal "reduces blood flow to the rest of the body" any more than a high-carb or high-protein meal. When I started a low-carb, high fat diet a few years ago, one of the first things I noticed was how much *less* sleep I needed, and I've heard many others say the same thing. I'll be enjoying a low-carb Thanksgiving without any calorie counting, weight gain or Tums.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Magic Jewelry Makes you Smarter and Bolder!

Peace, love, positive energy. "'s like a second skin. I don't leave the house without protection and guidance," goes a current radio ad.

The voice actress isn't talking about carrying a map and some condoms. Does the peace, love and positive energy bit mean, for instance, helping homeless youth, or raising awareness about foster care, or fighting city hall? No, all those things are hard. The annoying radio ad is about Alex and Ani jewelry: "positive energy products that adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit."

I love jewelry. What I don't love is the message that wearing jewelry will make you smarter, positive or more courageous. It's a no-effort solution, and like almost all no-effort solutions, it's bunkum. It's the twenty-first century, and yet a big business can be built on a bunch of BS.

Want to empower your spirit--for real? Even where magic really does exist, people (like Harry Potter) need courage and way to get it:

Harry Potter's Five Steps [to Courage]

(1) Prepare for the challenge.
(2) Surround yourself with support.
(3) Engage in positive self-talk.
(4) Focus on what's at stake.
(5) Take appropriate action.(1)

Want to enlighten your mind? Good--there's no substitute for knowledge. Knowing truth from falsehood is hard, but it helps to keep in mind that the burden of proof is on the one making the assertion, and that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Learn about logical fallacies, admit it when you're wrong, gather reliable information, do some N=1 tests on yourself, and probably, you can stop spinning your wheels. At the least, you can stop wasting your time on things that don't work.

As for positive energy, eat some meat or eggs from a pasture-raised animal. The energy is in the form of calories (they're units of energy), and an animal raised with care in its natural environment is a positive thing. It's as close to a no-effort solution as you can get.

1. Harry Potter's Five Steps to Courage by Tom Morris. Huffington Post, April 20, 2009.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Process This!

At lunch today a couple of coworkers mentioned how icky they found meat. What a nice topic of conversation! If we hadn't been at the table, I'd have mentioned that plants process poop.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who Put Lead in my Weights?

A few weeks ago, I was wondering, smugly, how many people at the airport wheeling their bags along were paying for gym memberships. Everyone--to a person--had wheeled luggage except me: as long as my old suitcase holds out, I won't buy another one. And I wasn't willing to pay $40 to check my luggage cart. Three months after my accident, my fractured arm was well enough to carry a week's worth of clothes and toiletries, and so it was pressed into service. After all, I'd pushed, sawed and hammered my fence back into place and planted 15 or 20 plants a few weeks before without a problem.

With this in mind, I didn't think my first workout in three months would be too hard. And for my legs and abs (which weren't injured in my bike wreck in late July), it wasn't. At first, the upper body workout wasn't hard--I got through three and a half Slow Burn pushups without undue hardship. But the weights felt twice as heavy as they used to. Did a five-pound weight really used to feel like nothing? Did I really once consider getting some 30-pound free weights? Despite wielding a shovel and a suitcase, I lost muscle tone. I needed a gym membership, or a home workout.

Most readers probably know the physical benefits of strength training. Personally, I simply like being strong. I don't like asking others to do the heavy lifting. I do like having a body that can move something heavy out of the way and dance for hours without getting tired. Everyday activity isn't enough to get it in prime shape.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wheat Farmer's Dilemma

A coworker asked me today if I was familiar with a book called "Bread Belly" or somesuch. "Wheat Belly? Yes," I said, "I'm very familiar with it."

Her husband bought the book after a friend of his raved about it, having lost 65 pounds on Dr. Davis's wheat-free, low-carb way of eating. The friend is a wheat farmer.

"What's he going to do, knowing that wheat is so bad?"

"I suppose he'll be like a diabetic sugar farmer, who can't have sugar even though other people can have it, or he could grow corn or soybeans."

If the wheat-free wheat farmer continues his food education, he'll learn that growing any of these things isn't any great service to his countrymen. Will he do something better with his farm? Or will he be like cigarette executives who don't smoke or entertainers who don't let their kids listen to their work?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Taubes, Denver Dentist: Big Sugar Bought Influence

Sweetened tea is good for you? Handouts for dental patients that don't mention restricting sugar? Controlling diabetes by eating less fat? None of these recommendations from the Center for Disease Control, Prevention's National Diabetes Education Program and a health guru & author made any sense to Denver dentist Cristen Kearns Couzens. But instead of drinking the Kool-Aid, she researched how nonsense became policy.

After quitting her job to do her research full time, Couzens uncovered evidence documenting specious industry-sponsored studies and boards staffed with members friendly to (that is, paid by) the sugar industry. Last year, she contacted Gary Taubes at a lecture in Denver, and the two have written an article for Mother Jones magazine.

Need some humor? Check out vintage ads touting sugar as a weight loss tool.
Slideshow: "Enjoy an Ice Cream Cone Shortly before Lunch"

Articles in Morther Jones magazine:
Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies
How a Former Dentist Drilled the Sugar Industry
A Timeline of Sugar Spin
Document Drive: What's Inside the Sugar Industry's Filing Cabinets?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Low Carb in Lincoln Park and Indy

I've recently been on vacation. Some wonderful things from my trip:

I bought a pound of hot Italian sausage from Royer Farms, Indiana, purchased at the Broad Ripple Farmers Market in Indianapolis. Tasty, tender and pasture raised, but hot? Not even mild by Denver standards.

I'm enjoying the Canterbury tea made of black tea, mango and flowers from a store called Tea Pots 4 U, who blends it for the Canterbury Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. (Call the store if you want to order it.)

Near Tea Pots 4 U in Indianapolis

Lincoln Park, Chicago. Possibly North Cleveland Avenue.
My best friend and I took the Megabus to Chicago and stayed in Lincoln Park. Back in Indianapolis, I downloaded from a book from the Denver Public Library to my Kindle called City Walks: Chicago by Christina Henry deTessan. We walked the Lincoln Park Architecture tour in the rain. I got cold and wet with no coat, and her feet hurt, but the beauty of the area made it worth it. I've heard that movies set in Chicago often used to be filmed in Denver since the cities look so much alike at street level. That's true in some places (like the photo below with the red flowers--it looks like Gaylord or an avenue just east of Broadway and north of Evans), but I've never seen Queen Anne architecture here, like the photo of the house.

Lincoln Park. Possibly West Roslyn Place.

Lincoln Park. Possibly North Cleveland Avenue.
Even though half the restaurants we saw in Chicago were pizza and pasta places, which I can't tolerate because of the wheat, we found a lot of great places to eat. We got out of the rain and had lunch at Sultan's Market. I ordered lamb without a pita, and they didn't give me any funny looks or a pile of lettuce. The meat was tender and juicy, and there was plenty of it.

Monday night, some of the places I wanted to eat were closed. We ended up at Miss Asia and shared the restaurant with one Indian family. (The Bears were playing.) I ordered the bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef) with radishes, seaweed and kimchi (fermented vegetables). They brought out so much beef that I wasn't hungry the next morning. The dish was so good that I'm trying to imitate it at home, including the seaweed and kimchi. I haven't found any radishes yet. But I won't try the moshi again. Moshi is ice cream with a coating made of rice. It was as if I'd found a wet piece of an old soccer ball and tried to eat it. If we hadn't been in a restaurant, I'd have spit it out, the texture was so disgusting.

Probably the best meal we had was wine, cheese, tomatoes, and duck at the DOC Wine Bar in Lincoln Park. Why don't I go to wine bars more often? They're quiet, the staff is knowledgeable, and the food is fantastic. Avoid the bread, and it's great low-carb fare.

On our way back to the Megabus stop, we ended up at Athena Restaurant in Greektown. I tried the charbroiled octopus since I'd never had octopus. When the waiter brought out a creamy soup, I asked if it had wheat in it. Yes, it did, and so did the other soup. He pushed it towards Kim and said, "Maybe your friend would like to have it." (Later, the waiter took a group photo of some 60-ish men at the next table and someone asked her if she'd like a copy.) The octopus turned out to be a plateful of tasty, tender tentacles that tasted like sea scallops--they weren't tough or chewy at all. Even though it was an appetizer, it was the size of a full meal.

A few places I didn't eat: The Protein Bar near Greek Town. Every offering had more carbs than I eat in a day. The Meatloaf Bakery in Lincoln Park. The cupcake-shaped meatloaves are cute, but they use bread as a filler. A homeless guy by Lake Michigan offered me a beer. I passed.

Lake Michigan at Lincoln Park. I could have had a beer here.
 Meantime, my neighbor misunderstood my instructions to feed my dog and fed her twice as much as she should have eaten. She must have had a happy vacation as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. -Archimedes

By conventional wisdom, I should be a fat, lazy slob. I eat at McDonald's, play a lot of video games and watch violent cartoons when I get home. I haven't exercised in months, not since my accident in late July. I have my reasons for these things, but they're not important here. What's important is that these things haven't turned me into anything. I'm still slim and trim (though I've lost some muscle tone), still thinking critically, and my coworkers and creditors can still depend on me. Today I even downloaded a book on salt--400 pages written by an engineer in 1898.* It's unlikely to be light reading.

My point is the difference between what matters and what doesn't. The endless worries about fat and salt and dietary cholesterol don't matter. Chronic cardio--exercise that's supposed to make you lose weight--doesn't matter (unless you like doing it). What you watch or listen to doesn't matter, unless it depresses you or you believe in it uncritically. What matters is understanding a problem, understanding the potential solutions, and from there, understanding a whole set of problems and solving them in a stroke.

Low carb solved several problems for me: acid reflux, 20 extra pounds, cavities, and occasional depression. I don't worry about the naysayers because I understand, in a basic way, how the body uses fuel and the tricks of junk science studies. When someone says, "There are studies on both sides showing different things" or "Everybody is different," they're right up to a point, but really, they're unwilling or unable to evaluate the evidence and make a decision.

Recommended reading: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes is a good introduction to the science behind low-carb; The Art and Science of Low Carb Living should appeal to those with advanced medical knowledge.

*Books in the public domain--even those out of print--can be downloaded from Google books for free and copied to a Kindle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dentists, Where Are You?

The past few months have seen me spending a lot of time in dentists' offices. A few observations: most of the dentists and their employees are fairly svelte--at least, more so than the medical staff at a hospital or nursing home. The dentists also advise against eating sugars and starches, knowing what they do to teeth. Why aren't there more dentists in the low-carb internet community? Heaven knows we need all the allies we can get--and help won't come from most dieticians, nurses, "health organizations" (not when they take money from junk food and pharmaceutical companies), medical journals, government, or MDs (not even endocrinologists). To wit:

"In January 2012, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition informed [blogger] Steve [Cooksey] that he could not give readers personal advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics." Institute for Justice

"Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice?" "Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science," The Atlantic

"The onslaught of bad research is making me burn out." -Jenny Ruhl, Diabetes Update Blog, on rodent studies applied to human diabetics

While seeing my oral surgeon today to get my stitches out, the subject of coconuts came up: coconut oil is an antibiotic and mild analgesic--and he recalled my high threshold of pain. He agreed with the idea of limiting carbohydrates. (I gave him a few tips--mostly to find a book with a plan he could live with, since low fat, low salt and low calorie don't work with low carb.) He also seemed interested in coconut oil being a mild analgesic and antibiotic, diet for relieving pain, and wheat being an appetite stimulant. It felt very strange for this sort of information to go from me to a surgeon--one of the top rated in Denver, no less--until I remembered that none of this is part of a traditional medical education. Yes, he's a mainstream medical practitioner, not a doctor of funk or whatnot.

Just a few years ago, whenever I told people I limited carbs, they looked at me like I had two heads. That this conversation went as well as it did is a sign that the low-fat, healthy-whole-grains machine is being dismantled.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

TMJ and a Cold: Getting Out of Reverse

Between severe episodes of TMJ, an oncoming cold and a mountain of work, I was tired and miserable this time last night. Thank goodness I didn't use any common sense, but, as Tom Naughton would put it, used my functioning brain.

Fifty thousand IU of vitamin D last night strangled the cold in its cradle by mid-morning today. A few doses of Umcka Cold Care probably helped.

My TMJ is back under control. On the assumption that my roaming TMJ pain was from a tension, pain and spasm cycle spiraling out of control, I started taking ibuprofin every few hours. Some extra magnesium might have helped, too. It's needed for proper muscle function, and you can burn through more than usual when you're under a lot of stress. Vitamin D is a natural anti-imflammatory, so it might have helped as well. The TMJ pain started Saturday night after I missed lunch, missed a dose of ibuprofin and worked at the office for a few hours after the heat shut off. I don't do well skipping meals even under the best circumstances, and back in 2007, I noticed that the cold made my TMJ worse. I think the combination of things led to the TMJ episodes.


You'd never know I had oral surgery a week ago. That's from the mouth of my dentist, who gave me my semiannual cleaning and checkup today. He added that my surgeon hit the bull's eye placing the implant--in a small space, no loss. I'm free of cavities and decay, too--even though my teeth were really dingy from my not being able to clean them very well because of my fractured arm, tooth injuries and braces. And from getting into the bad habit not brushing carefully. The antiseptic mouthwash stained my teeth grey, too--my teeth look like they've gone downhill, even though they're fine.

For the TMJ pain, my dentist suggested warm wet towels, avoiding gum, massage, and splint therapy. I told him I'd been through it all, and diet was finally the thing that got it out of reverse.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Turn for the Worse

The past two days have seen a return of my TMJ problems, as severe as I had in 2007 after a car wreck. I've been trying all sorts of things to help, but the only thing so far that puts a dent in the pain is ibuprofin. The odd thing is, the site of the dental implant is tender, but feels fine. The teeth that were tender from being in braces feel fine. The agonizing pain wanders around my jaw joint, lower jaw, ear and sinus passages on my right side. It feels like a needle without anesthetic, except when the pain isn't there. I'm wondering if it could be someting a neurosurgeon described to me many years ago: tension leads to pain, which leads to spasms, which leads to tension, and so on. If that's the case, the best thing would be to take the ibuprofin at the first sign of a twinge of pain.

I also feel like I'm getting a cold. Per the SWAMP protocol, I took 50,000 IU of vitamin D a few hours ago and already feel better.

I took a chance having surgery so close to a big deadline at work (October 15). I had to work today, and can't call in sick tomorrow.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Having Oral Surgery & a Dental Implant: What it was Like

The short answer: like a moderate headache; it hasn't been nearly as bad as, say, a sprained ankle or wrist. Having my braces restrung was more painful than the surgery.

Now for the long answer.

My surgeon started with two shots, neither of which bothered me. (Full disclosure: I have a high threshold of pain and no aversion to needles. The surgeon remarked that most people find the second shot painful.) For the next 45 minutes or so, I sat there with my mouth open while he worked on me, feeling nothing. I saw him using a socket wrench on me (I've turned enough of them to know one), then saw him pulling thread. Finally, he showed me an x-ray of the titanium screw in my upper jaw. He explained that he didn't like the original position of my eye tooth, so he put the screw where there was more bone. Extracting a tooth and putting in an implant in one sitting was pushing the envelope, as he put it, but in the worst case, he'd extract it, let my mouth heal, and try again.

Next, it was on to the orthodontist to get a temporary tooth attached to my braces. The anesthetic was wearing off and my mouth was tender. Getting my braces restrung was the worst part of my day. But once it was done, I didn't feel any worse than before.

Back at home, I remembered a post from the Hyperlipid blog that fellow blogger Tess led me to. Recalling that a study found high-fat meals are analgesic, I had some ground beef (80% lean), guacamole and low carb hot chocolate, and felt well enough to need nothing but ibuprofin. That's all I've had, a couple of times a day, for pain. Of course, I've also been taking the antibiotics and using the mouthwash the surgeon prescribed.

In addition, I've been taking 360 mcg of vitamin K2, 10,000 IU of vitamin D3, 200 mg of magnesium glycinate, and a few other supplements peculiar to my needs. Vitamins K2 and D3 are especially important for dental health; both of these and magnesium are important for bone health. I've also been using the cavity healing diet from a few years ago. Unexpectedly, it made my teeth and gums less sensitive and relieved my TMJ shortly after I started it. I went from being sensitive to heat, cold and acid to, well, not flinching during a shot in my gums. The cavity healing diet includes organ meat, muscle meat with the fat, eggs, fatty fish, non-starchy veg, and dairy as condiments (if desired), but no grains, no sweet fruit, and nothing very starchy or sugary. Basically, it's a high-nutrient, low-carb, high-fat, mostly paleo diet. The organ meat and fatty fish are required at least weekly: they're high nutrient food.

Bottom line, if the only thing stopping you from having a dental implant is the fear of pain, perhaps you think it's more painful than it really is. You could also talk to an oral surgeon about getting some stronger pain killers, and go on the cavity healing diet for a few weeks before and after the surgery.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What's Worse than Going to the Dentist?

My surgery is tomorrow. I'm not looking forward to it, but at least I'm not seeing Dr. Stephen Stein tomorrow (not to be confused with the other Dr. Stein, whose mischief included turning a colleague into a zombie). A coworker told me today she was one of his patients. From CBS4 in Denver,
There are now six former patients of a dentist accused of reusing needles who have tested positive for either hepatitis or HIV.
It’s not known whether they contracted the diseases from Dr. Stephen Stein’s office. Stein has since surrendered his license as an oral surgeon.
About 8,000 of Stein’s patients were sent letters asking them to get tested. The health department says it’s impossible to definitively tell if the infected patients got sick from Stein.
I figured I'd better check out my oral surgeon. The Colorado government site to check out dentists is down for maintenance. But according to, my oral surgeon doesn't have a history of malpractice or disciplinary action.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This Just In: Kids Hate Diet Lunches

The Geneva Convention prohibits the killing of our taste buds. -Hawkeye Pierce, M*A*S*H

School lunches have never been known for being appetizing, but under the new Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, they're so bad that students are organizing protests.

Some critics of the protests say that an 850-calorie limit should be enough, and if the kids don't like it, they should bring their own lunches.

First, the calories. They're poor quality sugar and starch that's like Chinese food without the flavor and texture: it leaves you hungry an hour later--or a minute later for some kids. Google school lunch images: it's a beige sea of bread, breading and potatoes. The new guidelines call for more fruits and vegetables--which the kids have to put on their trays--but (1) fruit is mostly sugar, (2) it's hard to eat certain fruits and veg if you wear braces, (3) fruit and veg aren't filling, and (4) the fruit and veg are going in the trash anyway. Those whole grains that the guidelines call for are basically starch with the antinutrients that most grains have. My own experience eating a carb-heavy diet was that I was hungry enough to eat the wallpaper every few hours.

Next, Just Say No. School lunches are taxpayer supported and they're supposed to be a service. Kids and parents have every right to complain if they aren't satisfactory. And some schools--probably illegally--don't allow students to bring their own lunches or dictate what kids can bring. This could force the issue to the tipping point. Speaking of which, I'm reminded of this scene from M*A*S*H*.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Plans for my Dental Implant

Newly planted yellow sundrops line the path to my door. Photo from

My fractured arm continues to heal. Tonight, I set out 15 plants in my front yard, then stopped only because it was dark. Tomorrow night, I'll plant five clumps of tall grass in place of the large spruce my neighbors cut down. I'm hoping the grass will shade and cool the wild roses and golden currants to the north of them.

Friday, I met with my oral surgeon. As soon as I can get a temporary tooth made, he'll extract the broken tooth and (if possible) implant the titanium screw where the root is now. Down time should be about two days. The temporary tooth will be attached to my braces. It'll take four months to heal, and then my dentist will put in the permanent tooth.

My insurance doesn't cover braces for anyone over age 19, nor does it cover tooth implants. (The alternative to an implant is bridge work, which destroys the two surrounding teeth.) They might make an exception for my braces through my medical insurance since I have them because of an accident. In all fairness, my dental insurance is very cheap--monthly premiums cost less than a day's parking in my building. But I wish major medical insurance (where they only cover, well, major medical expenses and not routine mainenance) were still an option. It was inexpensive and a good deal for someone who didn't need regular medical care, but wanted financial protection in case of a serious condition.

The good news in this is that I'll probably be out of braces sooner than my orthodontist originally thought, and that I won't likely have to have braces on my lower teeth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Good Teeth: A Confounding Variable in Veg Eaters?

Since injuring my teeth, I haven't been eating as much vegetable food as I used to. (I'd already given up fruit, since it's one of the worst things for giving me acid reflux.) Why? I have a hard time chewing them--just like my mother, who has several bad teeth and a partial. Bad teeth are a sign of bad health and are associated with diabetes and low socioeconomic status. And they make it hard to chew certain foods.

Sure, you can go to the trouble and expense of juicing, but people who do that are outliers who are probably doing several good things for their health. And V-8 is a bit like oatmeal for most people: the only reason they consume it is because they think it's good for them. For most people with bad teeth, it's just easier to eat tuna casserole and mashed potatoes or a hamburger and fries.

Someone who's being funny might look at my case and say, "Aha! She became tired and weak and had several medical appointments around the time she stopped eating leafy greens." Absurd, yes, but no more so than many other associations that researchers confuse with causation.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Getting Back to Normal

If I haven't posted much lately, it's because I've been resuming a normal life after a month spent getting well and getting by. I've weeded the yard, filed all my papers and amended my state tax return. I took my computer in for repairs and having lost all my data, reloaded my music and found a free home accounting program ( to replace Microsoft Money. My lindy partners have given my right arm some exercise (dance partners in lindy use one another's weight), my favorite stock screener brought up a promising company to research (Global Payments Network), and came out with a streptococcus puzzle and a "quick frozen" puzzle that have kept me busy.

My best effort at the new quick frozen puzzle folding proteins. I'm sheerbliss at #17, and my team is Go Science.
 Something that seemed to help push me back into feeling well was resuming my GNC Hair, Skin & Nails vitamins. I always felt good taking those, but got nervous about taking more vitamins than I should. I've also been diligent about taking an iron pill every night. My eye tooth (the one that was broken) has stopped bleeding when I clean it and the other teeth aren't overly tender or loose anymore. My arm is straight (but has a ways to go to match its double-jointed mate), and I'm back to eating solid food. My house is starting to feel like my home again instead of a haphazardly filled storage unit. It's good to get back to normal.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Banishing Stress

As much as people complain about stress, they go out of their way to create it. They over-schedule, overspend, under-sleep, and under-nourish themselves. I'm still working on getting enough sleep, but I've found some ways to reduce other sources of stress.

Poor diet will affect your mood. Contrary to what's written by a lot of self-help authors, your mood isn't just a matter of attitude. Your brain is mostly made of fat and cholesterol and requires various nutrients to run properly. It needs glucose, but the glucose needs to be in your bloodstream, not your stomach in the form of carbohydrates. (Your liver can make glucose out of protein.) Drs. Phinney and Volek describe how low-calorie, high-carb diets can affect the brain in The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living. (The short answer: depending on how much you exercise, you can mentally and physically hit the wall.)

If for example you decide to eat 1200 kcal per day, composed of 25% protein (75 grams), 25% fat, and 50% carbohydrate, your daily carb intake totals just 600 calories. That's more than enough to keep your liver from making ketones, but it's just barely enough to feed your brain. But, you say, your liver can also make glucose from some of the protein via gluconeogenesis, which is correct, but that totals less than 50 grams (200 kcal) per day....But what happens if you decide to jog 5 miles in 50 minutes (which consumes 100 kcal per mile). Typically in this setting, people start to feel lousy (see "bonking" below)....[Upon bonking, or hitting the wall, I]f at this point you do not immediately stop and eat, the bottom falls out of performance capacity and you feel profoundly depressed.
If you're at work or puttering around the house, the same thing happens, but in slow motion. Even disciplined people lose their grip due to poor diet. During Ancel Key's starvation experiment at the University of Minnesota in the 1940s, two men--pacifists who grew up in the historic peace churches--got into a fist fight over a piece of macaroni. Another subject, perhaps accidentally, perhaps not, chopped off a few of his fingers. "Starvation" in the experiment was a calorie and macronutrient balance typical of some of today's popular diet plans. For further reading, check out The Great Starvation Experiment by Todd Tucker and my post on the bookThe Diet Cure by Julia Ross (Jimmy Moore podcast here) and my post Lousy Mood? It Could be the Food.

Turn away from a problem for awhile. An article about high-intensity training remarked that the American way of solving problems was to work harder and longer. Sometimes that's what needed, especially if you already know what needs to happen and it's a matter of doing it. But it doesn't lead to insight. How many times have you had to leave a problem for a number of days, and on going back to it, a solution came to you? Or you saw the problem wasn't worth worrying about in the first place?

Set up an emergency fund. Having bills you can't pay is a tremendous source of stress. If you don't have an emergency fund, create one at your bank and set up small automatic transfers to it every month or every payday. (A human at your bank will do this for you if you ask.) I'm sure this is one reason I haven't had too much stress from my accident a month ago: now that the bills are coming in, there are funds to pay them.

Find ways to spend less. Even things that tend to be expensive can be brought under control. Over the weekend, my niece got married in a simple but beautiful ceremony. The wedding was at the house of a family friend, and everyone had cake and punch afterward. (Two friends on mine were married in a similar fashion last year.) They're just as married as if they'd put on a production worthy of Broadway, both couples had a happy wedding day, and they didn't start their marriages under a strain of extra debt. (I've heard of couples whose wedding debt outlasted the marriage.) And, dare I say it, someone who gets cold feet can think about the upcoming marriage instead of the huge outlay of money for wedding expenses (the sunk cost fallacy).

Ignore what's supposed to work, and do what really works for you. Girly relaxation stuff isn't chocolate for my soul. If a candle-lit bubble bath de-stresses you, that's terrific. But to me, sitting in a hard tub full of water that's getting colder by the minute, knowing I'll have to scrub the tub and put away a bunch of candles later isn't relaxing. (Nor is worrying about the towels catching fire.) I also detest romantic comedies that don't make any sense (that is, pretty much all of them) and crying gives me a sinus headache. Dancing is my stress reliever of choice. And if I had a fireplace, I'd chop my own wood. Video games are underrated, at least by the fill-every-minute-with-useful-or-enriching-activity nerds. In practice, throwing yourself into something is an effective de-stressor, and might even save your life. A video game developer who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury created a game called Super Better when she started feeling like she had no reason to live.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Remarkable Lack of Pain

Falling off a bike, falling on your face, fracturing and spraining an arm, breaking a tooth and knocking two others loose sounds terribly painful. I certainly looked bad afterward: a lot of strangers in stores, on the bus and even on the street saw my black and blue face and arm in a sling and asked me what happened. At the urgent care center; I rated my pain a 4 out of 10 as long as I held my arm still. But 4 out of 10 isn't horrible pain. The bottle of Vicodin I got that day is still in the bag, unopened.

My arm wasn't that badly injured--not as bad as my cousin's when she tripped over her dachshund and broke both of her wrists. And my jaw, despite landing on it and still having a bump on my chin, wasn't fractured or broken.

Could be I'm a tough old bird--I'm descended from bull riders, homesteaders and blacksmiths. But I think diet has helped. I know that changing my diet to low-carb, taking vitamin D and later adopting the cavity healing diet made my teeth look and feel better. I used to suffer from TMJ and my teeth weren't exactly movie-star white, despite frequent brushing and flossing.

Rinsing with coconut oil as an anti-bacterial made my gums feel better when they were cut and bruised. This study(1) showed coconut oil made poor little rats inflamed with our old friend carrageenan feel better. It's unclear whether the rats ate the coconut oil or had it applied to their affected areas. I've also eaten at least half a can of coconut milk a day since my accident. Lots of red meat, liver and eggs, too--enough to give a typical dietician a coronary. Not many vegetables though. V-8 is delicious but carby, and I can't chew leafy greens. A few weeks ago I was eating almost twice what I normally do and ended up down to my junior high school weight, which shouldn't surprise experienced low carbers and calories-in-calories-out rejectors. I'm up to my normal weight again, and my appetite has gone down to normal.

My braces are straightening out my teeth, but they're keeping them a little loose and tender. In a stroke of luck last night, I got out the cinnamon oil I bought while I was at Aveda getting my hair washed, and saw it contained clove oil. It really does work for gum pain. (The Aveda oil is for external use only, so use your own judgment.)

The coconut oil and clove oil are mild pain relievers, and I have nothing against taking something stronger if you need it. (I needed ibuprofin for days after the tetanus shot, the most painful part of all of this.) 


1. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharmaceutical Biology, February 2010, Vol. 48, No. 2 , Pages 151-157 S. Intahphuak, P. Khonsung, A. Panthong 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How I'm Doing: Good News

Tuesday I was back at the orthopedic doctor's office looking at x-rays of my arm. You know how a typical bone is slender in the middle, then comes up to a head? The head on my radius (lower arm bone) looks like a mushroom. It got smooshed in the accident--yes, the doctor agreed it was smooshed. "If you're going to have a fracture," he said, "that's the kind to have." It's better than the bone being cracked through its head, which sometimes happens.

Mine was fractured because I'm double-jointed: instead of my elbow bending in the right way when I fell, it bent the other direction.

"When will my arm straighten out?"

"Hopefully never. Come back in a month if it isn't feeling better."

The doctor also looked at my shoulder, hand and wrist, which still hurt from time to time, but that was about it. I've regained most of the use of my arm: I can unlock a door, open my purse and take the lid off the deodorant without help from my foot, but I still move the mouse around with my left hand at work.


Today found me back at the orthodontist's office. Drum roll, please: my teeth fit together again. The canine doesn't knock against the tooth below it anymore. As soon as all my teeth are firmly in place, I'll celebrate with a bacon cheeseburger.


Speaking of food, the Cuisinart food processor (and food processor/blender combo) are on sale for $69.99 at Macy's.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Soft Real Food

Pumpkin pie in August? Chareva's butternut squash crustless pie? Is it a meaty cheese or cheesy meat dish? Peanut butter bars? Nope--though all of those are great, save the last one. It's marrow and mushroom custard from The Odd Bits by Jennifer McLagan.

Even if you don't require soft food, it's well worth making. I get marrow bones cut about 2" long and steam them for 15 minutes, then extract the marrow with a filleting knife. Boil the bones for a few hours for broth for another dish; save the marrow for custard or making croutons. (Roll them in almond flour and fry them in fat.)

McLagan recommends having a sharp-tasting salad with the custard; I had a bit of V-8, a few bowls of lemon ice cream, some nut butter and dark chocolate.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Truth in Advertising: Breakfast

Want to be like cardiobunny Mom and bounce around like it's 1989? Have some healthy whole grain waffles. Gotta carb up so you can work out, and you gotta work out so you can burn off those carbs! Since all those lovely whole grains and complex carbohydrates break down into sugar, the kids will soon be bouncing off the walls, too.

Want to relax and act like a normal person? Eat some sausage instead.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Recovery: How It's Going

Best conversation yet:

Cashier: How did you get hurt?
Me: I fell off my bike.
Cashier: Are you going to ride a bike again?
Me: Nope.
Cashier: So you didn't lose your common sense.

That was Sunday. It's Friday, and strangers have stopped asking what happened to me since I'm a lot less black and blue now. I'm washing my own hair, putting on makeup and getting through a day at work without exhaustion. I don't do much at home besides cooking and dishes, and out-eating a teenage boy. Two eggs or a quarter pound of beef is a snack; either one used to be a meal. Rebuilding flesh and replenishing blood (I bled for a day when I fell) must take a lot of nutrients. I'm not wearing the extra calories--I've lost weight.

The braces are working. My front teeth are straighter than they've been since I was a kid, and I can chew a little bit, very carefully. Since the tooth that broke was narrower than an implant, I'll have to have my top teeth re-aligned to make room for an implant, and the bottom teeth re-aligned to match the top. It's going to take 18 months. Once I'm able to chew again in a few weeks, I'll celebrate with a Carl's Jr. low carb bacon cheeseburger.

Meantime, the braces are giving me a dry mouth at night. Drinking a lot of water right before bed doesn't help you get a good night's sleep. An Oramoist dry mouth patch worked well, but the texture and stickiness of it were disgusting. I've been using the old trick of rinsing with sesame oil before bed.

The wound on my ankle that the nurse didn't clean (my sock hid it) needs Neosporin and zinc oxide to heal. Coconut oil is great, but it only kills lipid-coated bacteria.

I've found the mental energy to focus on something beyond InStyle magazine. I'm reading the delightful book The Meat Fix, which Tom Naughton recently reviewed. There's a lot of bathroom humor (maybe it's not that far above a fashion magazine), but the author suffered from IBS. My own problems on a so-called "good diet" were farther north, but I can relate. I was in a lot more pain then than I've been with my accident. It isn't giving much away by saying the author solved his problems by dumping his vegan diet in general and soy in particular. (I was never vegan or vegetarian--I just stopped eating wheat and so many carbs, and poof! my stomach felt better.)

If there's a bright spot in this, I haven't been in much pain. The worst parts have been the tetanus shot, which made my arm hurt for days, and getting braces put on while my gums were still bruised. (Would you believe that braces and cuts inside your upper lip are a bad combination? Obvious, but I'd never thought about it before. Some wax for the brackets helped.) Maybe I have a high threshold of pain; maybe I somehow avoided hitting any nerves, so to speak; maybe it's something I eat or take.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Soft Low Carb Food Recipes

A diet of soft food doesn't mean you have to live on protein shakes or broth. Over the past week and a half, I've been making real food, mostly paleo, that I can eat with my dental injuries--and that I can make with an arm injured, and that doesn't get stuck in my braces. These three recipes, along with others on this blog I've labeled "soft food," are my best results.

A suggestion: get a food processor strong enough to puree meat. The Cuisinart 9-cup food processor does the job, and I can put it together with one hand. A battery-powered can opener that sits on top of the can as it works is indispensable if you can't open cans and have few plug-ins. For opening jars, run hot water over the lid for a minute, hold the jar between your heels, and twist. For portable dishwashers--let's just say it can be done.

Clam Chowder

2 strips of bacon
2 cans (~3 to 4 cups) clams, with juice
2 cups stock
2 cups clam juice
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into 1" pieces
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can (~2 cups) coconut milk

In a soup pot, fry the bacon. When done, add clam juice and stock until boiling, then add clams with juice, cauliflower, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Puree in batches in a food processor and return to the pot. Stir in coconut milk, heat, and serve.

Hamburger soup

1/2 pound hamburger
1 cup V-8 vegetable juice
salt and pepper
Guacamole dip (homemade, Yucatan or other brand made with just avocado and spices)
Finely grated cheese

Separate hamburger into small bits and brown over medium heat. Add V-8 and heat until bubbling. Puree in a food processor. Top with guacamole, salsa and cheese if desired.

Breakfast Eggnog

3 eggs
1/2 can (~1.5 cups) full-fat coconut milk
Dash of cinnamon and allspice
Dash of salt
1 big squirt of liquid stevia

Put all ingredients in a blender and puree.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


A gift from my neighbor. I'd cite the source if I knew it.
ETA 10/9/2012: Using a Google image search, I see that this photo is from the collection of Robert Flynn Johnson, a collector of old, anonymous photographs.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Low Carb Liquid/Soft Food Diet of Real Food

Never again do I want to hear how hard it is to do an elimination diet. If you think you have a natural right to happy and content and eat whatever you want without consequence, of course it will be hard. If you see life as a series of challenges to be met, and see that every food has consequences, it will be easier. And in fact, I find eliminating certain foods easier than eating them in moderation.

My recent bike accident has left me unable to chew and with limited use of my right arm. (I'm right handed.) I can't eat wheat or carrageenan, can't tolerate more than a little dairy, and can't tolerate a high-carb diet. That leaves me with a low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diet of soft foods. So far, it's been a minor challenge. No, that's not an understatement, and no, I haven't had any protein shakes. I'm snooty as a Frenchman about food.

To live on a soft LCHF diet of real food, you'll need a food processor with a motor powerful enough to puree meat. At the moment, the Cuisinart 8-cup food processor (what I use) is $99 at Macy's. Pricy, but you should get many years' use out of it. (It also makes nut butter; slices, shreds, juliennes and chops vegetables; shreds hard cheese; and makes pesto--in seconds.)

Even with one hand, there was nothing hard about making pate or chocolate ice cream. If you're worried about getting enough nutrients, liver is Mother Nature's multivitamin. This pate doesn't have a strong liver taste. Need I say the chocolate ice cream is wonderful?

Making Liver Pate

My food processor's maiden dish was pate. In went a whole slice of cooked beef liver. It turned into puree in a few seconds. In went five slices of done but lightly cooked bacon (one at a time), then half a cup of mushrooms cooked in the bacon grease, a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise, a little salt and herbes de Provence, and I had pate. Some people like to add sauteed onions to their pate.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Yes, chocolate ice cream can be LC, real food. Shake up a can of coconut milk (the full-fat kind) and pour about 1/4 cup of it in a medium mixing bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of baking cocoa and stir until it's smooth. Add the rest of the coconut milk and stir in a teaspoon of cinnamon, a few shakes of salt, (ETA: a beaten egg), and a big squirt of liquid stevia half a cup of Splenda. Put it in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coconut Oil for Road Rash from Hazardous Exercise

My bike accident a few days ago left me with bad road rash. To help keep it from getting infected, I've been applying coconut oil to my scrapes and rinsing my mouth with it. In my last post, I linked to a couple of papers about coconut oil's ability to kill certain bacteria, and in some cases, its superiority over traditional antibiotics. So far, I don't have any infection.

What has surprised me is how fast my scrapes are healing. I don't have a photo of myself from four days ago, but the pink spot on my chin was a bad scrape, so red the nurse called it a cherry. She put two bandages on it. Here's how it looks today:

This isn't Photoshopped--there's just a rosy pink spot of intact skin and no scar. Same story with my knee. Look very closely above my kneecap and you can see the thin brown outline of where a large bandage was.

I didn't bother applying coconut oil to a scrape on my foot. It was small, so I figured it would be fine on its own. After a few days, though, I started putting coconut oil on it, too. (In fairness, the nurse didn't clean this one since it was hidden by my sock.)

I've been using unrefined coconut oil, applied twice a day.

This misadventure has got me thinking about the cult of exercise. How many injuries come from "healthy" exercise like biking, running, and other sports? When I worked at the Air Force Academy, where cadets are required to play a sport, around 10% of them at any time were in a cast. The receptionist at the orthopedic doctor's office said they saw bike injuries all the time; my best friend mentioned she flipped over on her bike last week; my dentist's wife broke her thumb the same way. Listen in on a few random conversations at the salon or the break room and you'll hear someone saying they got injured in an exercise class. Look at any running magazine and you'll see an article on injuries.

If you're really good on a bike or need it for transportation, I wouldn't discourage you from riding one. Same if you enjoy a sport so much you're willing to suffer the inevitable injuries. But I'd like to see an end to the idea of somewhat hazardous recreation passing for being part of a healthy lifestyle. Various studies have shown that huffing and puffing doesn't do much for weight loss (see Dr. Briffa's blog). For weight loss, diet is where it's at. Next time someone goes on about healthy exercise like biking, feel free to send them this photo.

Injury from falling off a bike. Not shown: a broken tooth, two displaced teeth, braces, and a fractured arm.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bike Accident

Monday morning found me in the dentist's chair for the fourth time this year. "You look like one of those Tour de France guys," said Dr. Michelangelo. It wasn't a compliment on my cycling ability.

The day before, I was riding my bike and went to enter the driveway of the grocery store. The next thing I knew, my face hit the pavement. I'm still wearing cement in a few of my teeth. A little girl and her father asked me if I was OK. We talked for a moment, and the little girl said, "Just walk your bike home. I fall down on my bike all the time, and that's what I do." I took her advice.

I have a minor radial fracture in my arm and a fractured tooth. The arm should heal in a few weeks. Meantime, friends and neighbors are opening cans, bringing me things I need, and offering to water the yard. Strangers helped me pull a movie out of the Redbox machine and open a bottle of children's Alleve. A cosmetology student washed my hair, which wasn't damaged in the accident. I've been applying coconut oil to my scrapes and rinsing my mouth with it to prevent infection. (See this and this.) The thing that has hurt most has actually been the tetanus shot.
Even an explosion couldn't damage Mello's awesome hair.(1)
I was worried that the orthopedic doctor was going to take a dozen x-rays, run a lot of tests, and prescribe extensive surgery. When I saw him today, he shook my fingers, and having already looked at the x-ray I brought from the urgent care center, said, "You fave a minor radial fracture. It should heal quickly. Come back and see me in two weeks." He explained a little more and got rid of my splint, but that was about it.

My teeth are the bigger problem. The fractured one can't be salvaged, but the other two beside it that were knocked loose just need to heal and have some orthodontic work. The displacement of the canine keeps me from being able to chew, so I've been eating sanguinacchio and bone marrow tomato soup. (Imagine an angry chef wielding a big knife--that was like me chopping vegetables.) I find I prefer the sanguinacchio as a warm pudding, without the xanthan gum. On the menu: LC, non-dairy, alcohol-free eggnog, pate, and egg drop soup from the Chinese restaurant nearby.

More bike riding is not on the menu. My father didn't offer any advice, but he said I was lucky. I could have had a head or neck injury, or lost a bunch of teeth. The joy of tooling around on a bike isn't worth it. What's surprising is that almost everyone thinks I ought to get back on. Avoiding a death trap that I don't need to be on seems like common sense to me, but maybe Judge Judy can explain the idea better than I can.

When I was four years old, I was enrolled at Miss Noddidge's Dancing School....I participated in all the exercises and classes. I studied ballet, tap, and acrobatics--and I didn't exactly fly through the air with the greatest of ease. After one fairly  severe injury--caused by a failed double back flip--I was excused from dancing classes until I could bring a note from the doctor. My parents were smart enough to realize that maybe dance and acrobatics weren't for me. So I was allowed gracefully to withdraw--until then the most graceful thing I'd ever done--from Miss Noddidge's Dancing School. Until I could walk again, anyway.
Failure doesn't build character. Success builds character. Whoever said, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" warped the minds of several generations of parents. People think that their children learn important lessons from failure. I believe a child can learn more in a moment of success than can ever be learned in a month of failures.(2)

I'll stick to walking and driving. I don't need another humbling experience of being unable to bike down the street without a disaster.


1. Picture:
2. Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever by Judge Judy Scheindlin. Harper Collins, 1999.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fun with Proteins

Sometime soon, I'm going to post on the germ-fighting properties of coconut oil. (In a nutshell, your body converts the oil into a microbe killing machine--as long as the microbes are lipid coated. If you have staph or H. pylori, among other things, it could help. Cold sufferers, you're on your own.) It might even help HIV. FWIW, it helped my recent ear ache.

Meantime, I've been taking another approach to help medical science: a video game called Computers aren't very good at determining how proteins are folded. Some humans are good at spatial problems, but most of us don't know much about molecular biology and aren't inclined to read a book on the subject. So a group at the University of Washington created

I'm a bit puffed up about placing 8th out of 298 players in my first competition, and being first and third in two others in progress.

Want to try it? Go to and download the game (for free), go through the beginner's tutorial, and start playing.