Tuesday, December 29, 2015

GI Distress and Moderation

It started with a round of healthy exercise back in 2012. I was riding my bike one minute and face-down on the sidewalk the next. My dentist predicted the two teeth that were knocked out of place would need a root canal someday, and early this year, one of them did. It took three rounds of antibiotics to clear the infection.

The antibiotics left my already-touchy stomach railing against anything fatty--in other words, my normal diet. A few months later, the stress from a cross-country move where a lot was up in the air for months (my job, the purchase of one house while selling another, getting ready to sell the house, researching where to move), plus taking and then giving up my mother's dog, made 2015 the most stressful year I've ever been through. My nearly hour-long commute and going at ramming speed at work added to the stress. Then I stepped on a nail the night before I was going to pack up my stuff and leave--and I'm bad at packing. I pack up what I think is everything, look around, and see more stuff to pack. Repeat several times--with an injured foot. (ETA: I conveniently lost the antibiotics for my punctured foot after a couple of doses.)

I tend to undereat when I'm stressed out. Therefore, my diet for most of the year was moderate-calorie and rather high-carb. The original reason I went on a low-carb diet was upper GI distress. Probably, I have FODMAPS problems. I can eat a little bit of almost anything without distress, but no way can I eat the recommended six to 12 servings of grains and bushel of fruits and vegetables without bloating and acid reflux.

With little appetite and a lot of adrenaline, though, I could do the recommended high-carb moderation thing, and had to since my stomach wouldn't tolerate anything else. And I ate things like rice, egg rolls, and even a few Hostess cherry pies, which I don't normally eat. It was comfort food, and I needed comforting. (I don't recommend following my lead if a little bad food sends you on a bender or you have a condition that requires strict adherence to a diet.)

Pros and cons:

  • Acne. I had cystic acne, which I hadn't had since my early 20s. 
  • Racing, fluttering heart. 
  • Weight loss. I got down to 118; I look better at 122.
  • I got to eat two Hostess cherry pies and some egg rolls without distress.
  • No tooth decay.

It's hard to say how much was due to stress, diet, or antibiotics. What's really helped everything, though, is probiotics. I've been taking super probiotics at twice the recommended rate and everything has started getting back to normal: my skin is clearing up and my heart feels normal. Yes, I was completely wrong before about gut bugs being unimportant.

I've been eating a little bit more carbohydrate than I did before all this started, though. For years, I've gotten palpitations on very low-carb, and I don't have a need, either for weight control or my stomach, to restrict carbohydrates to an Atkins induction level. That's a good level for some people, but not for me.

There's a lot less stress and more rest in my life now, too. The move is over, my house in Colorado is sold, and in a few days I'll have my new, nicer house completely paid for. My commute is now half an hour and even though I'm working part time, the other day I woke up feeling like I'd been on a long, strange vacation and it was time to go home and go back to work. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Difference Does it Make Why it Works?

This is the question someone asked me the other day in regards to the good results I've had on low-carb. Beyond just satisfying your curiosity, having a lattice work of mental models, as Charlie Munger puts it, can save you a lot of trouble. Without mental models of (in this case) human digestion, evolution, nutrition research, journalism, medical education, and even politics, all I'd have is just something that works for acid reflux.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Something that works might only work in certain situations, could be unpredictable, could have unintended consequences, or could just be a placebo effect. Knowing how something works reduces the danger.  As Munger's partner Warren Buffett put it, "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."

Yet how often are people overconfident when they only know a thing or two? The web is full of bros who cut down on the beer and pizza, got some exercise and lost 40 pounds--and you can, too! Their moms recommend more fiber, less fat and fewer calories, which everybody knows works: it's in all their women's magazines.

Doing what everybody else isn't can be intimidating. Knowing what you're doing, having arrived at the same conclusion from different disciplines, can inform you if you're on the right track and help you stay the course. Here's where the lattice of mental models comes in: facts are connected to other facts. Those facts form the lattices of disciplines and some of the lattices are connected. To pick an example, veganism weaves an interesting lattice with claims of good health, environmental consciousness, and humane treatment of animals. And a juice fast is something that works for certain health problems. But approach the lattice from the disciplines of evolution, or ancestral diets, or digestion, or nutritional requirements, and the lattice of veganism falls apart.

Without a lattice of knowledge--knowing how a system works--all you have is a collection of facts that may be a collection of fairy tales. Like most collections, it can't do anything but be displayed. It's hard to verify unrelated facts, assuming you can remember them. You can't build on them--anything new has to be through trial and error and luck. It's a way of going through life otherwise known as stupidity. I've done it--I have a mouthful of fillings to prove it.

ETA: This could be one reason engineers are so subject to wackiness (e.g., being overrepresented in terrorist groups and fringe religions): they learn pretty much only mental models of engineering subjects, which aren't exactly metaphors for life. Requiring courses in comparative religion, epistemology, and human evolution for an engineering degree could well rid the world of a lot of terrorists.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

If you can sell potato chips...

If you can sell a bag of potato chips, why can't you sell 1000mg potassium pills?

I've finally found an answer to my cravings and heart palpitations, and unfortunately, it's potato chips. It's not that I've jumped on the safe starch bandwagon, it's just that it suits my current needs:

  • I tend to get low on salt and potassium. The chips have a lot of both, making my heart and energy level feel normal.
  • I'm too wound up about moving to be very hungry. Therefore, I can eat half a bag at a time because I'm not eating much else. I've turned into one of those people who's lost weight eating potatoes.
  • My stomach hasn't been normal since those three courses of antibiotics from my root canal. The chips feel good on my stomach if I don't eat too many.


  • Acne, gas, a bit of reflux, and probably a lack of certain nutrients. 

Potassium isn't one of those nutrients, though. An eight-ounce bag of potato chips has 3727 mg of potassium; a potassium tablet has 99. No wonder I had to pop the potassium pills like candy pre-chips. If I could just get a pill with 4000mg of potassium and chase it with something salt-encrusted, I could get all the relevant nutrients without the acne and other problems.

Potato chips are generally considered junk food, but they do have quite a lot of nutrients, and I usually get the kind cooked in coconut or avocado oil. If a person was carb-agnostic and ate potatoes, what would be wrong with eating the potatoes in the form of chips cooked in natural oils?

Be that as it may, I need to do something other than eat chips. I got a bottle of potassium pills and some probiotics, which helped immediately after my root canal; maybe I need to continue taking them to help absorb nutrients. I'd like to get back to eating normally because I feel better physically and mentally--it's just that  my normal food now sounds like something that would give me a stomach ache. I haven't even been able to look at a fish in months. That, and I have to keep the kitchen clean for potential house buyers to look at. I've been eating lots of take-out.

My plan is to have some eggs or sausage in the morning, a low-carb lunch, dinner if I feel like it, and potassium pills with all of it. Probiotics as directed, and avoid skipping the vitamins.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Paleo Diet: Eating Differently from Everyone Else is Fine!

I've been seeing more and more articles by women (it's always women) whose heads have exploded trying to figure out life without yogurt and cupcakes. Oh, the shenanigans they get up to: bathroom problems from stuffing themselves with vegetables, paleo baked goods that don't taste the same as ones from the bakery, and especially the irresistible urge to eat "normally."

The technical problems aren't hard to sort out: substitutes like baked goods will taste different because they are different, but an adjustment period of a few months will make those foods taste normal. And whatever you eat, don't stuff yourself. First, though, read a book by Loren Cordain or Mark Sisson to learn about the paleo diet before diving in.

The articles I keep reading, though, have more to do with attitude: the urge to be exactly like everybody else or the urge to be helpless. If you're in the second category, I can't, by definition, help you. If you'd rather be Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy than be Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, go for it. But wanting to be like everybody else?

It's not often mentioned, but conformity as a trend comes and goes, and it's all the rage right now. Young people have grown up with helicopter parents, Facebook, and constant contact with friends and family. This is fine if it suits you, but it promotes a great deal of conformity and makes it hard to be different, especially if you haven't known another way. And there is another way.

Just twenty years ago, independence was still a virtue. It had been for decades. Breaking away, finding yourself, and doing you own thing were what people did in the 1960s and 1970s. Young people split from the family home, questioned beliefs, and experimented with different lifestyles and religions. Parents didn't take off work to go to school plays. Boys over the age of 13 didn't need a wingman; at age 16, my ex-jerk was living on his own. As late as the 1980s and 1990s when I was a teenager and young adult, young people moved out of their parents' home in their late teens and early 20s--an older person living at home was called a 30-year-old baby. My parents didn't know what school I went to my first year of college (a lot of kids funded their own education or got scholarships). You could get in trouble for getting personal calls at work. And there was no doggie daycare. In other words, we were more independent.

Young people now can be more independent too, if they want, but it will look different. Mostly, realize that doing something different from your friends and family is fine. Keeping some privacy is fine, too--and may make it easier to do a paleo diet. Friends can and do sabotage each other. Maybe it's jealousy, maybe it's because one person's self-improvement makes them realize they need to get off their own butt and do something. Well-meaning family members who haven't done any research might bug you with their worries. In any case, be easy-going with them about your paleo diet. If your friends go out for cupcakes, just get some coffee or tea without preaching about the evils of flour and sugar. If you've had great results from going paleo, it's tempting to shout it from the rooftops, but most people don't want to hear it. By all means, talk about it with people who really seem interested, make some internet friends or join a meetup group of like-minded people, but don't bore your friends and family.

Think of doing a paleo diet as reviving a recent tradition a lot of us still practice--the tradition of doing your own thing.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Good Scare: Missing Paleo Lifestyle Factor

"Life's no fun without a good scare." The Nightmare Before Christmas

Hunter-gatherer life probably consisted of a lot of walking and standing, fairly infrequent eating, and the occasional short-lived scare. This sounds a lot like a trip to an amusement park. I just came back from Elitch's, where I did a lot of walking and standing in line and a little eating and riding the rides, where I felt like I was going to die. It left me wondering what effect it has on people when they never feel like they're in danger. It seems like it's common to feel an adrenaline rush, and then joy, when you escape a danger, real or perceived. At the 1989 World Series, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Candlestick Park and shook the stands for what seemed like minutes, as one reporter described it. The crowd let out a cheer when it was over. People pay to go to amusement parks to have a similar experience: fear, focus, relief, joy, and maybe gratitude that it's over and they're OK. The opposite--life unmixed with any of those things, briefly, is bland. It's just speculation, but maybe brief, scary experiences are important to us. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Bedtime; New Dentist

The new method of getting to bed earlier is working. Last week I had the idea to see going to bed on time as punctuality. (Punctuality is a virtue to me because I so dislike covering for an employee who often shows up very late or waiting on people who are late just because they're diddling around.) I've generally been getting to bed between 10:45 and 11:00. I had a lapse last night because I lost track of time taking pictures to enter a contest for a kitchen makeover. But I haven't been staying up until midnight. I've not only been less tired, but less hungry. I even got up early one morning and worked out. It's been wonderful not to drag bleary-eyed through the day.


I had to find an new dentist since the last one quit taking my insurance. After searching reviews on the internet, and trying to decide which ones could be trusted, I settled on a dentist off East Colfax. In Denver, the character of a neighborhood can vary from block to block. There are places within walking distance of my house that I don't walk to. But East Colfax in general is gritty and marginal. I took the 15 bus (which one magazine recommended for people looking for an adventure), got off on East Colfax, and stepped over broken pavement and under overgrown trees, wondering if I was in the right place. A block later, I was catty-cornered from new luxury apartments and across from an old office building.

The dentist's office looked clean and well-kept (and so did the dentist). They took 18 x-rays and didn't see the cavity that my old dentist said needed filled. I'd honestly forgotten about it and didn't remember it until I left. Hmmm. Maybe lower overhead lets you be more honest, or at least less enthusiastic about pushing procedures. The new dentist didn't seem to think the fillings that needed to be replaced were a big deal; one of them is going to wait until my next cleaning in November. So I can once again say I haven't developed any new cavities since starting low-carb.

This dentist suggested I brush the back of my tongue better to get rid of bacteria, brush more gently for the sake of my gums, and drink diet soda through a straw. And he agreed readily to give me an anesthetic without epinephrine, a drug that's given me heart palpitations for weeks when I've had it. It looks like I've found a winner.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bedtime as a Virtue

The habit of getting to bed on time, at 10:30, has eluded me. I know it's important to get enough sleep, but I'm never tired at 10 PM. I've been inspired to look at this a different way, though: I've begun to see going to bed on time as punctuality.

Having waited for hours--no exaggeration--on Thanksgiving dinners at relatives' houses, having waited on my ex-jerk to show up to pretty much anything, having carried a coworker who'd often get to work 20 minutes late and then spend ten minutes making her breakfast, I've had enough. I admit that I often run a few minutes late. (I'm usually on time for work, but I do take PTO or a short lunch if I'm more than a few minutes late.) But now I'm inspired to change.

The Art of Manliness site ran an article a few years ago called The Importance of Punctuality. Being on time, it says, shows integrity, dependability, builds self-confidence, and assures you're at your best.  George Washington was a stickler for punctuality, the article says, and waited for nobody. A follow-up article lists reasons why people run late. In my case, I tend to overestimate what I can get done in a certain amount of time.

Another problem is that I'm wide awake at bedtime. I've always been that way, even when I was a kid with no computer or video games, didn't watch much TV, and went to bed at the same time every night. I'd often lie awake until midnight. Nevertheless, I feel better the next day after lying awake than staying up until midnight.

Therefore, I can't rely on feeling tired as a sign to go to bed. I have to go to bed at a certain time, tired or not, because I'll feel better later. It's like other habits most sensible people have: eat good food and take your vitamins before you get sick. Save money now before you have an emergency. Maintain your car before it breaks down. Maintain your reputation before people start seeing you as a flake. Go to bed at a reasonable hour before you end up exhausted. Do these things, and life isn't likely to be a series of calamities. Emergencies will happen, but you'll be better able to take care of them.

My goal is then to start getting ready for bed at 9 and plan my evenings better. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Clueless Meddlers Part 2

Last time, I discussed clueless meddlers who misread, misunderstand and give useless advice on an individual level. This time, I'm looking at a few clueless meddlers who do it on a scale to attract media attention.

Remember The Guy from CSPI, the vegan group that got saturated fats at restaurants replaced with trans fats? Food companies may now be replacing trans fats with something worse, another lab creation, according to Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.

Here's The Guy from CSPI in action in a video from Fathead by Tom Naughton:

Another crusader against fast food, Kia Robertson, put her nine-year-old daughter up to scolding a McDonald's CEO at a shareholder meeting. It wasn't fair that big companies tricked kids into eating food that isn't good for them, said daughter Hannah, who of course wasn't being manipulated in any way and apparently felt herself smarter than the other kids. At this writing, McDonald's is still selling Happy Meals, advertising to kids, and offers a third-pound sirloin burger bacon cheeseburger that's pretty tasty. No word on how Kia Robertson's publicity stunt has affected how her daughter gets along with her classmates.

Currently, food blogger Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, makes claims about "dangerous chemicals" in food, painting them as disgusting, and has gotten food companies to eliminate them from their products. Well, maybe. Remember Julian Bakery, whose "low-carb" bread was found in a lab test to be just as carby as regular bread? The fact is,

The FDA does not have the staff or resources to police food labeling. Companies can get away with label fraud and they do. Only one company marketing fraudulent low carb foods has ever paid a penalty. That occurred in the case of the 1990s Atkins Advantage bars that were labeled as containing 3g of carbohydrate while actually containing 20g.  
But the penalty Atkins Nutritionals was forced to pay after a class action suit was settled in September of 2002, was so miniscule that it could easily be written off as a cost of doing business.(1)

If a company mismarked products in a way that could seriously harm people and got a miniscule penalty, how minor would the penalty be for including innocuous ingredients? If the ingredient really is harmful to some people, it sucks to be them because  if it's no longer on the label.

With so many people needlessly worrying about ingredients, it can suck to be someone with a genuine food intolerance among the clueless. Chemist Yvette d'Entremont writes,

I have celiac disease, and there are people with genuine life-threatening allergies. When people like me go into a restaurant, we're at the whim of a waiter who may have just served twenty fussy assholes from the Food Babe Army who think that gluten causes your spleen to turn radioactive, or whatever lie she's using to sell organic kale dipped in yak's butter this week. So when I tell a server that I can't do gluten, that waiter might roll their eyes at me because of people like Vani Hari.

A word from a commenter of d'Entremont's article:

Well done! I'm a former chef and a farmer. Since my family has grown crops my entire life, I've always had to argue with people about food safety —it's the recent trend of people declaring themselves 'allergic'' to all kinds of food stuffs. Every-time that response would come into the kitchen, i'd sigh. Because i'd guess that probably only 2% of those requests were REAL requests—the rest? Nope, idiots like this. That, yes, make people in the food service super annoyed. Our kitchen was small enough, that we could, and did, take the time to carefully meet these requests (sanitizing surfaces, new cutting boards, knives, making sure no bread crumbs were around), but a lot of times it'd follow with the server informing us that the same person who said they were gluten free, was drinking a beer. Or eating the barley. Or...you know...whatever idiots do. Of course, the worst, would be the ones who'd complain that they're very special order with no butter, gluten, onions, etc—was taking so long.

I'm afraid this makes people with real food intolerances look foolish or at least suspect, since the Food Babe's very popular site is so, well, full of shit. The top web site searches for her site come up with articles trashing her as a scientific illiterate. And she's disingenuous. The Kraft macaroni and cheese she criticized--and actually got the company to slightly change, maybe--is something you'd never, ever buy if you were gluten-free, as she advises. The absence of the offending ingredient isn't going to make any difference to Vani Hari and her followers. It just makes those of us who really do need to make special requests look like nothing but high-maintenance whiners.

A tip: if you're not celiac, if trace exposure doesn't hurt you, just say "no bread" or throw away the bun.

1. Low-Carb Problems Solved: Say Goodbye to Stalled Weight Loss, Failed Maintenance, and Poor Blood Sugar Control by Jenny Ruhl. 2015. Kindle location 423.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Clueless Meddlers

Has anyone run into this? A caring but clueless meddler sees someone with problems vaguely like their own and starts giving advice, which you know is off the mark. They're not the type of person who mentions once or twice how something worked for them, but persists even when their errors are pointed out to them.

I don't see this often with diet-related stuff, since my mother and I both do low-carb, my meetup group drinks coffee and I avoid health subjects unless others bring them up, and my coworkers are mostly CPAs familiar with HIPAA and have work of their own to worry about.

I think the last part is key: work of their own to worry about. Everybody has something they need to be doing--and ought to be doing it instead of creating problems from thin air so they can save the day.

Robert over at Living Stingy wrote about the urge to save the day a while back. I might have quoted it before, but it's worth repeating.

Before you decide to become an "activist" and fight the man and "save the day" ask yourself the following: 
1.  Does the day need saving, or are things pretty much going OK as they are.   Bear in mind that things not going exactly as you would have done it, if you were in charge is no excuse to stir up trouble....

3.  Do you have your own shit together?   Have you saved enough for retirement?  Are you about to lose your job?  Is your house clean and tidy, or a hoarder's nightmare (hoarding and "save the day" are related, remember).  Are you smoking pot or abusing other drugs?  Could the energy you put into "Saving the world" be better spent saving yourself
Just something to think about.   There are a lot of things in this world which won't go your way.   You have to pick your battles wisely....
And yes, I used to buy into this "Save the Day" nonsense, until I had an epiphany in the matter.  The day doesn't need saving, and people don't want to be saved from their own folly - and will fight you tooth and nail on this.   The best you can do is make a rational case for your viewpoint and then move on.  

And when you point out errors and it seems to go unnoticed, someone reads your blog and sees their own issues (not what is, you know, actually there), kind of like Toni and Candace on Portlandia, all you can do is move on.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Health Reporters Easily Punked by Chocolate Study

Did you read about the new study showing chocolate helps you lose weight? I'm sure regular readers here weren't taken in, but you might want to show something to your friends who keep up with health "news." The authors of that study just revealed that it was a hoax to shine a light on the sloppiness of the health media. The study was real and the authors didn't lie about anything but their credentials, they just did a poor experiment, sent out press releases and paid the impressive-sounding journal The International Archives of Medicine 600 euros to publish it.

The study really did show greater weight loss in the chocolate group than the non-chocolate group and the control group, but...

Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a “statistically significant” result. Our study included 18 different measurements—weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc.—from 15 people. (One subject was dropped.) That study design is a recipe for false positives.... With our 18 measurements, we had a 60% chance of getting some“significant” result with 0.05. (The measurements weren’t independent, so it could be even higher.) The game was stacked in our favor. It’s called p-hacking—fiddling with your experimental design and data to push p values under 0.05—and it’s a big problem. (Emphasis added.)

In other words, the weight loss results could have been luck--for instance, the women might have been on a certain place in their cycles. If the result had been lower blood sugar, some people in the control group might have been getting a cold or under stress--both things raise blood sugar. As for sleep and well-being, a thousand different things are more likely to affect those than a few bites of chocolate.

But the reporters--and even the prestigious sounding International Archives of Medicine, which purports to "rigorously review" articles--asked about none of this. Even a "fact checker" from Shape didn't ask for many details about the study. Quite a bit of nutritional science is like getting a diploma from a mail-order college in the Caribbean: answer a few questions, write a check, and you're official.  Health reporters recycle the articles until junk science becomes conventional wisdom, the same conventional wisdom you'll get from most medical professionals, because that's mostly where they (in general) learn about nutrition.

But...the chocolate is still good for you, isn't it? They selected bitter chocolate because it's a favorite of "whole food fanatics." Never mind that chocolate is highly processed--you can't even make a proper chocolate bar at home--or that the stuff they used (81% is bitter and chalky as aspirin) isn't the milky, sugary junk food the magazines and web sites showed.

For the full story, read this: http://io9.com/i-fooled-millions-into-thinking-chocolate-helps-weight-1707251800.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Apple Cider Vinegar FAIL: FODMAPs & Reflux

On the hypothesis that my mineral deficiencies are caused by low stomach acid, today I tried supplementing with vinegar. This morning, I took a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with some water at breakfast (a Quest bar and coffee) and at lunch sprinkled some red wine vinegar on my salad. The good: I didn't get hungry between meals--that's unusual for me, especially on such a light breakfast. The bad: I got acid reflux and a lot of burping, which is also unusual for me. Sinus congestion, too. Given my very low-carb breakfast, the only reason I could think of for the reflux was FODMAPs. (Quest bars have prebiotic fiber that gives some people FODMAPs problems, but not me.) Apples are one of the worst things for giving me acid reflux, and apple cider vinegar is apparently high in FODMAPs--fermentable carbohydrates that some people don't digest well. When you don't digest a carbohydrate well, it ferments in your intestines.

Fermentation requires bacteria. But I haven't been giving any care and feeding to my gut bacteria. I've been on a low-carb diet for over five years, don't use resistant starch, don't eat fermented foods except a little homemade coconut yogurt, and I'm in the middle of another round of antibiotics (the second one this year). I've shown the bugs all the charity of Ayn Rand. Yet they've gotten along well enough without any help to give me three hours' acidic misery with nothing but a little vinegar to feed them.

The lack of hunger between meals suggests that I'm digesting my food better, and hopefully, absorbing more minerals. I'm going to try again tomorrow with lime juice or red wine vinegar, which are supposed to be low-FODMAPs.

ETA: From looking at a few scholarly articles (not the alternative health hype that's all over the internet), it's unclear why vinegar is antiglycemic. It may have to do with interference with carbohydrate digestion. 

Mineral Deficiencies and Soda Cravings

As readers may know, I have to take mineral supplements. I also crave coffee and soda, which are both acid. Hmmm.

  • Iron is better absorbed with vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid).
  • Calcium is better absorbed with vinegar (acid).
  • Lemon juice (acidic) breaks down meat (which contains minerals). It does it so well you can chemically cook fish in lemon juice to make ceviche.
  • I put vinegar in the dishwasher to dissolve mineral deposits. 
  • Cola is acid (the pH is around 3-4).

Maybe my problem is due to low stomach acid. Years ago, I tried vinegar for GERD without success. Maybe it's time to try it for digestion. Why didn't I think of this before?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why Grain-Based Diet Recommendations are Finished

Is that a pork chop? This looks a lot like a low-carb diet.

Bye-bye, Ancel Keys. You were on the cover of Time once, sternly warning readers about cholesterol. Now the agencies you once guided are about to throw you under the bus for three reasons:

  1. Well-done intervention studies have shown the superiority of low-carb diets v. high-carb diets in terms of weight loss and lipids. This is the reason that sounds good. The rest of the story is that the the effects of insulin and carbohydrates on hunger and weight gain have been well-known for a long time--so long that they're described in endocrinology textbooks. Before that, weight gain from starchy diet was described in literature from the nineteenth century.
  2. The well-done intervention studies and the Internet have made it impossible for health "charities" to continue advising high-carb diets for diabetes and weight gain without fear of lawsuits. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics did enough applauding of the science and the USDA's positive reaction to it to give themselves carpal tunnel, but really, their lawyers must have told them they needed to swallow their pride, get with the times and cover their asses. Nobody stands up and applauds when they find out they've been horribly wrong.
  3. The USDA as a government agency wouldn't be subject to lawsuits from people who suffered amputation, blindness, neuropathy and kidney failure from following the advice they pushed, just irrelevance and ridicule. But now that Obamacare is in place and young, healthy people haven't exactly rushed to sign up, the costs of amputation, blindness, neuropathy and kidney failure and the medications needed to prevent them for people with the genes for diabetes will be too much to bear. Those who are very sick from diabetes--or IBS, other GI problems, heart disease, autoimmune problems, and other illnesses caused by a diet perfect for fattening livestock--not only need a lot of care, god bless them, but as a group are less able to be productive, or pay taxes, to put a sharp point on it. Pharmaceutical companies might dream of a population on medications from cradle to grave, but there must be people in the federal government up nights wondering how they're going to pay for it.

Now that groups like the AHA and ADA can't promote a grain-based diet and sugar anymore without fear of reprisal, it'll be interesting to see who they whore themselves out to next.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Palpitations Gone with Iron

Thanks to my internet friend Larcana, who alerted me to the connection between iron deficiency and palpitations, I doubled down on my iron supplements and, for good measure, washed them down with Emergen-C. It's a cold medicine with a mega-dose of vitamin C, plus B vitamins and minerals. I don't think vitamin C does anything for a cold (a friend bought the stuff and left it at my house the last time she visited), but vitamin C does help iron absorption. After doubling up on iron in the last three days, I feel back to normal. (I'd already been taking quite a bit of magnesium and potassium, so I probably had sufficient levels of those.)

How did I get so low on iron? Maybe it was too many Quest bars instead of red meat when I had odd cravings during my dental infection recently. Maybe because it's too hard to find liver at the grocery store and I haven't eaten much of it lately. Maybe the antibiotics damaged my intestines. And apparently, I'm a heavy bleeder. I just know that it was frightening and unpleasant. Between that and catching a stomach bug yesterday, if I'd felt much worse, I'd have checked myself into the hospital...where they might have put me on a beta blocker instead of tracking down and addressing the cause.

A fat, juicy burger probably would have done me more good--I felt wonderful after having one made of grass-fed angus that I just bought from a ranch in Yuma, near the Nebraska border. I don't know if it makes other people with heart problems feel that good--like they would want to start a religion where the cattle are worshipped, raised with care, and eaten with joy and thanks. But if they're suffering from a lack of iron, any ongoing advice for them to avoid red meat--and the healing it would give them, acknowledged by groups who now recognize that cholesterol and saturated fat were never bad for us--is unforgivable. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dietitians' Recommendations: Progress, but Cognitive Dissonance

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has officially acknowledged well-founded scientific findings(1).  Specifically,

  • Saturated fat is fine.
  • Cholesterol is fine.
  • Red meat has important nutrients, such as protein and iron. They call red meat an "important source of shortfall nutrients, such as iron." They add, "The Academy did not interpret that recommendation as impugning the healthfulness of red meat or its place in recommended meal patterns as a protein..."

Hooray! The fifty pounds of angus beef in my freezer has their blessing! They even called it healthful!

But wait--don't eat too much of it: "...red meat consumption [at an average of 20 ounces per week] exceeds [our] recommendations for most subgroups and...a greater share of recommended protein consumption should be met by seafood, legumes and nuts."

Let's break this down: red meat is entirely, or almost entirely, fat and protein. If protein is good, and saturated and monounsaturated fat (the two main types of fat in beef, for instance) are good, where's the problem? They don't say, so let's take a look at a few nutrients in some common types of red meat, fish, legumes and nuts.

protein (g)carbs (g)iron (%DV)calories
ground beef, 75% lean, pan fried26015277
pinto beans (cooked)93115162
*per 100-gram serving

The beef, almonds and salmon score well for protein, but pinto beans are over three-quarters carbohydrate, which (except fiber) breaks down into sugar in the body. It's hard to see how such a starchy food that's low in protein (it's only 20% protein) is considered a good protein source. Almonds are three-quarters fat and only 13% protein--hence the high calorie level. Salmon is three-quarters protein and the 75% lean ground beef is 41% protein.

If you replace 200 grams of red meat (7 ounces, or 2 medium-sized burgers) with 100 grams of almonds and 100 grams of pinto beans, you'll get 21 fewer grams of protein, 50 more grams of carbohydrate, and 205 more calories.

Since the Academy mentioned iron as a shortfall nutrient, let's look at iron levels in these foods. Everything except salmon has a good deal of iron in it, but the trouble with nuts and beans is that they contain phytate, which inhibits your absorption of various minerals including iron. In other words, much of that wonderful iron from nuts and beans will go down the toilet undigested. Iron absorption from various beans is around 1% to 2%; same for nuts. If you replace a couple of hamburgers with an equal weight of beans and nuts or even salmon, you'll be reducing significantly reducing your iron intake.

It's time official agencies acknowledged that red meat is healthy. Meantime, it means more burgers for me.

Source: (1) "Academy Comments re: the DGAC Scientific Report,"  Pepin Andrew Tuma, May 8, 2015 http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/news-center/on-the-pulse-of-public-policy/regulatory-comments/dgac-scientific-report

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Still Getting Palpitations a Month On

My apparent reaction to epinephrine from a root canal continues. I know the epinephrine is long out of my system, but I'm still having to pop magnesium and potassium pills several times a day. People who dismiss palpitations as a reaction to a very low-carb diet probably haven't been through it.

Peter at Hyperlipid called palpitations from ketogenic diets "interesting." Here's something I think is interesting: the change in my complexion. A few days ago I saw I looked like I was wearing orange makeup, which had matched my skin before. A cosmetologist selected a new shade for me.

L to R: the new foundation and the old. I haven't been this pale since the early 2000s.
I've been taking my iron pills every night (my complexion darkened when I started taking them some years ago). Maybe I'm not absorbing minerals well...

But I'm happy to say my energy levels have been stabilizing--I'm even tired at 10PM, something brand new for me--and I'm having an easy time getting up around 6.

It's been frustrating, though, trying to look up reasons for these strange reactions and finding little on low-carb sites but weight loss, weight loss, weight loss. People complaining they don't feel good are shouted down as heretics.

Monday, May 11, 2015

I'm Low Carb but Can't Fast; Need Supplements

Here are two annoying myths about low-carb diets: everybody on a LC diet can fast, and nobody will need supplements. I've been low-carb for over five years, and fairly strict: slip-ups give me acid reflux within a few days. But I can't fast and I still need supplements.

I don't mind needing three real meals a day plus snacks or taking vitamins. What's annoying is people not believing me when I say I need to do this.

"But, are you sure?" they ask. "Are you really low-carb? Did you just start? Is it just cravings? Have you stopped eating grains?" I'm sure I'm hypoglycemic: I had most of the symptoms most of my life and the blood glucose meter confirmed my falling blood sugar when I tried to fast. I quit eating wheat five years ago. I know cravings from hunger and don't have a history of binge eating. A medical test confirmed that I had iron deficiency anemia; if I don't take iron pills, I get so weak I can barely prise myself out of a chair. Without my other vitamin and mineral pills, I get constipated and I have heart palpitations, trouble swallowing, and acne. Wounds take weeks or months or longer to heal. (Lest anyone associate my diet with these problems, I had all of them before I started low-carb, and my nosebleeds from septoplasty finally healed eleven years after the surgery some months after I started a low-carb diet plus supplements.)

Dr. Atkins, who treated thousands of patients, recommended that his patients eat three solid meals a day (unless they weren't hungry for them) and take supplements. He said hypoglycemia was common. This brings me to another annoyance: business lunches. Where I work, there's usually nothing at a business lunch I can eat. "Oh," someone says, "can you eat salad?" Yes, I can eat salad. But with no protein and little fat, combined with an hour and a half at a noisy restaurant where I can't make out any conversation because everyone is talking at once, I'll be all out of nice by 2 PM. Ross Perot used to have business meetings where everybody stood. Not only should everybody stand, they should all eat stinky fish during the meeting. Everyone will be feel a little happier from the omega 3s, and yet be back to work in a few minutes.

"But," you say, "some people are allergic to fish." Are they sure? Do they just dislike it? Are they craving something else? Have they had an allergy test? Oh, OK. Those people can eat raw kale instead.

Food for $29 a Week? Yes, if you're Doing Low-Carb and Shopping the Sales

With some help from my frugal Internet friend Galina, I've figured out how to live within a $29-per-week grocery budget, which is what some people get as part of SNAP:

 caloriesprice$/100 calories
12 eggs            852  $    3.00  $             0.35
2 chickens, whole         4,280  $    8.40  $             0.20
head romaine lettuce            106  $    0.99  $             0.93
pound butter         3,240  $    5.00  $             0.15
head cabbage            218  $    1.62  $             0.74
avocado            227  $    0.88  $             0.39
can salmon            536  $    2.48  $             0.46
3 pounds pork         4,272  $    4.50  $             0.11
salad dressing         2,176  $    1.49  $             0.07
        15,907  $  28.36  $             0.18
Calories per day         2,272    

 I've seen butter for $5 a pound, whole chickens for $2 a pound, eggs for $3 or less a dozen and Galina tells me she sees pork on sale sometimes for $1.50 a pound. The rest of the prices come from store flyers and my latest shopping trip. Calories are from nutritiondata.com and the web site of Double Q Salmon.

Some people complain that low-carb is an "expensive diet." But look at the price per hundred calories--18 cents! There's plenty of satiating fat and protein and other nutrients.

Is this perfect food? No--there's seed oil in the dressing and a lot of omega-6 fats in the pork. But it's food without the antinutrients of grains and beans and the fattening, blood-sugar spiking, tooth-decaying effects of those foods.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nutritious Food on $29 a Week? Probably not Possible

Here's what $33.58 will buy--that's pretty close to the $29 a week challenge some people have taken lately in sympathy with people on the SNAP program. (The maximum amount you can get on SNAP is $194 per month according to the USDA, which comes out to $44.77 per week.)

The grass-fed angus was inexpensive ($3.90 per pound) because I buy it in bulk--and it's an odd cut (cheek meat).

There are a lot more calories here than in the rice, beans, tortillas and vegetation others have bought on the challenge. Nevertheless, what you see here amounts to only 5,397 calories, or 771 calories a day.

caloriesprice$/100 calorie
12 eggs852$3.00$0.35
4.75# beef3,629$18.53$0.51
2 cans sardines400$6.98$1.75
head cabbage218$1.62$0.74
red bell pepper37$0.88$2.38
English cucumber34$1.69$4.97

To eat such a diet for a week on 1,500 calories per day would cost $65.

You might get more calories for less money on potatoes, rice and beans, but many people on such a high-carb diet will spend a lot of time hungry and tired because it will give them roller-coaster blood sugars. Diabetics will need more medication. People with bad teeth may see them get worse. As for nutrition, grains and beans have nutrient blockers that interfere with mineral absorption. 

But note that the first letter of SNAP stands for Supplemental. It's not meant to be a person's entire food budget. What to do? Here's one idea. 

Get a job.

ETA: If you're willing to eat non-pastured meat and eggs and shop the sales, a $29-a-week low-carb diet can be done. See this.

Monday, May 4, 2015

This Just In: Yogurt Doesn't Improve Health

A recent study from Spain finds

"In comparison with people that did not eat yogurt, those who ate this dairy product regularly did not display any significant improvement in their score on the physical component of quality of life, and although there was a slight improvement mentally, this was not statistically significant," states López-García.

Most yogurt is pretty much pudding with a little bacteria. Pudding is a sugar bomb. Hard to believe the stuff doesn't improve health outcomes, isn't it?

But as usual, researchers are calling for...more research.

"For future research more specific instruments must be used which may increase the probability of finding a potential benefit of this food."

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Adventures in Adrenaline

Jim said he didn't want no more damned adventures. -The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Getting a shot of epinephrine once again made me feel tired and gave me palpitations. At least this time I knew to pop magnesium pills (good ones ending in -ate) like candy. I now carry three magnesium pills with me in case of emergency--they don't have any at hospitals.

The second part of my root canal was Wednesday. Thursday was a major deadline at work, and when a code enforcement officer called me about some overgrown weeds in my front yard, I was all out of nice. Between the mostly cold weather, a dental infection and shots of the dreaded epinephrine, I hadn't felt up to anything but going to work and being bothered by a bureaucrat over some weeds was too much.

But by Saturday, I felt well enough to weed the front yard, prune the tree there and clean the house. Today (Sunday), I found I felt better if I moved around--I spaded up part of the back yard to plant more grass, since part of the lawn died last year when I was helping take care of my parents. I weeded the back yard, fertilized the roses, ironed my clothes and went to a meetup. I also walked around the neighborhood taking photos of yards that really do look bad in case I hear from Code Enforcement again.

Part of my reaction to epinephrine might have been from a low-carb diet. Ten years ago, Michael Eades quoted a 1992 paper from the American Journal of Physiology regarding both fasting and a low-carb diet:

Plasma insulin, a potent inhibitor of lipolysis, declines; plasma epinephrine, a potent lipolytic agent, increases. In addition, adipose tissue sensitivity to insulin is decreased, whereas sensitivity of epinephrine is enhanced...

Peter over at Hyperlipid has also mentioned people getting palpitations on very low carb diets from their own adrenaline.

The first paper which had me thinking was this one.  
"Both the pre-and post-exercise levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol were enhanced." 
This is the sort of thing I file as interesting. That is, until the anecdotes trickle in about people who have gone to extreme ketogenic diets and have developed abnormal cardiac rhythms.

Anyway. It's Sunday night, and I'm off to tear up the dance floor.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fibromyalgia Sufferers: Dr. Seignalet's Book is Now in English

Some years ago, I wrote a blog post on fibromyalgia relief. I don't suffer from it myself, but hoped a friend could benefit from it. The post referenced a book by Dr. Jean Seignalet, who recommended a mostly raw, mostly paleo diet. Really--don't knock steak tartar and a salad on a hot summer day until you've tried it.

Anyway, Dr. Seignalet's book has been translated into English and it's available on Kindle for only $2.99. The description says you can prevent and reverse 100 diseases "the French way." I haven't read it, but will get it to see if I can avoid ENT infections. (If anything like the Spanish flu ever made a comeback, I'm sure it would kill me. Three dollars and a few hours seems like a reasonable investment to avoid that outcome.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Dog is Smarter than your Dietician

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

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This Root Canal: Way Better than the Last Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Defer to Experts? Experts can be Conned

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

More Fallout from my Bike Wreck

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 10, 2015

I Can't Give up my Carbs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Salmon Bisque: Paleo, and No Cauliflower

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

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

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