Friday, July 27, 2012

Progress Pictures

November 2010

April 2012

Not really a huge difference.  You can see the little toes have straightened some, and are spread further apart.  The major change that does not show up well in the photos is the lack of callous tissue.  I used to have callouses on the bottoms of my feet and the sides of my third and fourth toes which are now gone.  I have a little bit left on the big toe of my left foot, because I'm still battling a wart on the pad of my foot that affects gait.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pizza, I Love You So Much, Why Are You So Cruel To Me?

It started out simple enough, the boss wanted to reward us for our dedication to an annoying task, and offered a free pizza and wings party. Of course I went, free food and social time with co-workers is a good thing, right? Well I had a pile of wings and two small pieces of pizza (each a little bigger than a deck of cards). Then I rushed off to my lunchtime appointment. First, it was just a little tummy rumble. Not that big a deal, I just overate, right? Two hours later, I'm hungry again. (Huh? you just overate?) I rationalized that I had eaten lunch way earlier than normal and needed a snack to tide me over to supper and had another piece of leftover pizza. Two more hours go by, I'm at home and hungry again, so I grab an ice cream sandwich to tide me over to supper. Two more hours, my normal supper hour, I crash. Shakes, feeling hot, constipation... I asked hubby, "Did I used to live like this?" "You used to have a lot of pain", he responded. I managed to get supper together and recover a bit. The stomach distress continued through the night. I don't sleep very well, and in the morning I woke up with major sinus issues. (Last time I'd had such sinus issues I'd had 3 desserts the day before and overloaded on sugar, I don't think it is a co-incidence. Some people actually recommend paleo dieters eat more carbs to increase mucus production.) But pizza is just soooo tasty... Pizza is my weakness, was long before I went low-carb. I would always eat too much when pizza was available. I don't really miss pizza when I make a meatza, but when pizza is present I just can't leave it alone. I'm drugged up now, and should be able to get through the day. Before I went low carb I took these allergy pills every day and coped pretty well. Denise's Mexican Meatza: Take 2 lbs of quality ground beef (mine came from a grass fed steer). Grab taco seasoning mix and look up how much they recommend putting into one pound of beef, and mix that into the raw meat. Spread out on a stoneware baking dish (one with sides, not a pizza stone), making it a little bit thinner in the center than at the edges. When adding toppings, leave a half inch bare all around the edge, as the meat will shrink more than the toppings in cooking. Top with salsa, onions, peppers, and cheddar cheese. Meat toppings are completely optional with meatza, as you've got plenty of meat in the "crust". Bake 400 degrees for a half hour. As soon as you take the meatza out of the oven, use a turkey baster to pull out the excess juices, then let it rest 10 minutes while the cheese congeals before serving.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why I'm Not Afraid of Butter

I'd seen evidence before, but now there's a review of the science in the European Journal of Nutrition:

Wisdom of the Masses

The paleo diet folks often talk about evolution, and how humans are not able to evolve as fast as our environment changes, but I hear little about the evolution of ideas with respect to diet.

Sometimes science comes up with startling new revelations that just so happen to be what an old culture has been recommending all along.  How did this culture come up with such an obscure idea?  Well, because there's not just one culture, there's hundreds of cultures.  India alone has 212 cultures recognized by it's government.  Even within a culture there is great variation from family to family.  Each of these subcultures is an experimental vessel for ideas.  Some idea catches on in a culture, and it either helps the members of that culture succeed or not.  Nearby cultures with better ideas will out-compete the ones with poorer ideas, until the cultures with poorer ideas start to copy the successful ideas into their own culture.  Any culture with all the wrong ideas will die out.

Therefore it stands to reason, that any diet or medical practice that exists for centuries within a culture has some value to that culture.  That benefit may be something we can understand and scientifically validate, or it may simply be a part of the cultural bond between members.

Bloodletting for example is a very ancient practice.  It has fallen into disfavor due to misuse and overly wide applicaiton, but studies are starting to show that blood donation (a more controlled and sterile form of blood letting) may have positive effects on the health of some individuals.  Back in the era of lead based make-up (a cultural choice that did not last long since it had a detrimental effect on the members of that culture) regular blood letting may have reduced the impact of lead poisoning by forcing a constant renewal of the blood.

How can we apply this information to our own life choices?  We know that just because a choice is popular does not make it correct, but the longer a choice has been popular, and the more people and more generations that have held an idea, the more likely it is to be correct absent any other scientific evidence.  Ideas long held by multiple cultures make excellent candidates for further research and experimentation.

For example, in India, a large amount of yogurt is consumed by many of it's subcultures, and has been for hundreds of years.  You may wish to find out if yogurt prepared in the traditional Indian way (as some random person suggested) is good for your digestive issues.  You could easily research this idea, and find: evidence that yogurt is good for most people, yogurt is bad for most people, or there is little evidence about the health effects of yogurt.  As long as there is not strong evidence that yogurt is bad for you, this makes an excellent candidate for a self-experiment.

On the other hand, if one guy you know swears by drinking blue dye to cure bad eyesight, you might do research and not find any scientific study showing this is bad for you, but you should be suspicious of his claims since he is the only one to have this positive outcome, and no cultural wisdom backs up this idea.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but it is worthy of further research.  Popular and old ideas are not truth, but they are worthy of your interest.  In the end, even if science says that eating more broccoli prevents pimples in 95% of people, you don't know if you're part of the 95% or 5% unless you try it yourself.

Is Wheat Evil?

This morning on the radio, the health reporter gave a summary of this article from Berkeley about "Wheatophobia".  

I won't pretend to know everything about both sides of the issue, but there are some basic problems with the Standard American Diet with respect to wheat.

How many meals a week does the average person eat that contains either bread, pasta, pizza, or cereal?  Look at the canned and boxed products in your cupboard.  What percentage of them contain corn syrup, corn starch, or corn oil?  Is it really good for us to get such a huge percentage of our calories from one food?  Even just giving a little love to buckwheat, rye, and barley might be better for us than the wheat and corn-centric diet most Americans eat today.

Apples are great for you, but if you were living primarily on applesauce I'd have some concern for your health.  If it was not intuitively wrong to you, I might point out how apples contain trace amounts of arsenic, and how arsenic was bad for your health.  Now most of us have at most one or two apples a day, and this arsenic level is not a problem.  Some studies even show a little bit of poison is actually good for you, and you may also be familiar with the phrase "the dose makes the poison".  

Wheat may contain proteins that are bad for human health.  The dosage required to cause a negative response may be different between different people.

I suggest that if you don't test positive on blood and stool tests for wheat antigens, but you suspect you have a problem with wheat, (let's say you're having trouble loosing weight, lack endurance, or have persistent digestive problems,)  first identify the symptoms that you have, take a log for a month or so of your symptoms.  Try to come up with an objective scale to rate your problems including frequency and intensity.  Then, go on an at least six week elimination diet.  Get rid of all grains, including corn.  Be careful of products such as sauces and beverages which are based on grain derived vinegar or alcohol.  Some would suggest going dairy free at the same time you go grain free, but personally I love my dairy, and I became less sensitive to it after going low carb.  Some people say that it can take six months for intestinal damage to heal after wheat stops aggravating the problem, so if you see a slight or no improvement you might consider extending the experiment to six months.  Keep up your journal during this period, keep referring back to your objective standards of frequency and intensity of your problems.  At the end of this trial period, re-introduce grains and once again measure your symptoms.

If you need a little help developing a grain free diet, try following an established diet like Perfect Health Diet, GAPS Diet, or find a Weston A Price Foundation chapter near you.  The Perfect Health Diet is strictly anti-grain, while on the other end of the scale Weston A Price Foundation focuses more on fermentation and nutrient dense foods that you might be switching to in place of grains.  Each of these diet groups has a different take on what foods are good/bad for you, but if you're not confident about formulating your own grain free diet, it may be best to follow in the footsteps of hundreds of others who have tried an experimental diet before you.  (More on wisdom of masses in a future post...)

It may be easiest to go on a diet like this in mid summer and fall when there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables at your local farmer's market.  Who misses bread when you have a truly ripe tomato or a root veggie roast?

If you have a problem with grain, you should show a clear pattern of improving on the elimination diet, and backsliding when you return to your old diet.  Once this clear pattern is established, you can repeat the experiment with more variables to find a long term diet you can live with.  Are x servings a week tolerable?  Does well fermented grain (home made fully fermented sour dough) have a different effect?  Does corn give you the same issues as wheat?  As you do these experiments, you may become familiar with early warning signs of a reaction and be able to do shorter reintroduction tests, but always give your body time to fully heal on the stricter diet between experiments.

If you don't show any improvement on a six month elimination diet, then you probably have no problems with  grains.  Although it might not hurt to put a little more variety in your diet, choosing different grains and avoiding eating mostly processed products that are mostly wheat, soy, and corn.

In my case, wheat itself does not seem to be a major issue, but carbohydrates and vegetable oils in general are.  Since cutting back on these foods, I've stopped gaining weight, (lost a little bit) I can tolerate more sun/heat, and I've stopped having low blood sugar attacks except on vacation when I'm eating other people's cooking.  Vegetable oils don't cause me any real measurable problems, but they sit very heavy in my stomach, while animal fats I seem to be able to digest quickly and efficiently without packing on weight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More on Healthy Sun Exposure

My severe sunburn is mostly healed.  I spent 3 hours by the pool in my new swimsuit, with some usage of a wrap when sitting by the pool chatting, and no additional damage was done.  Before the big 3 hour stretch, I several times put on my new swimsuit and spent 5-10 minutes outside getting moderate non-damaging exposure to accustom my skin that was covered by my old swimsuit to the sun.

I think the minimalist runner mantra of "Listen To Your Body" applies to sun exposure as well.  When I burned two weeks ago, my skin felt like it was heating up and loosing it's ability to self-regulate, but I put off getting into shade because I was having fun and kept wanting to do just one more thing...  Sunday at the pool I kept my wrap handy and covered my shoulders and head at the first sign of heat in the skin, and gave it a little time to recover before getting more sun.

I've also been considering what I've already read about sunlight and melanoma risk.  Statistical studies show that people with a history of sunburn are more likely to get melanoma, but they have had trouble reproducing this in the lab rats.  What else to people with a history of sun burn do?  They avoid the sun!  Is the burn itself, or the avoidance of sunlight that does more damage?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sun Exposure

Last summer I spent more time outside than any summer since childhood.  I wore a floppy hat and a T-shirt, but no sunscreen.  I never burned once.  I attribute some of my success to avoiding vegetable oils and taking Vitamin D supplements in winter.

This year I got cocky, and went to the water park with no sunscreen or cover.  Every place normally exposed by a T-shirt was just fine.  I don't think of myself as tan, but I had just enough of a hint of color that my skin had natural defenses against the sun.  However, my pasty white shoulders got a pretty bad burn in 2 hours of exposure.  So I renewed my research a bit.  My burn may increase my chances of getting melanoma, but overall it may not be a total loss.  Regular moderate sun exposure (such as working outdoors) actually prevents internal cancer, and general overall health.

My new plan is to try to spend at least a few minutes outside each day in either my swimsuit top or my sun dress.  I don't really find sunbathing pleasurable, and I don't want a deep tan, but I need to get my pasty white shoulders a little bit of defense against longer special occasion sun exposures.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Farm On Hold

Just a quick update, the farm purchase is on hold until next year.  The local credit union in a farm area is fine with us buying a farm, but the big national PMI company does not like the idea of getting stuck with acreage, so we will be saving up a little more so as to not need PMI.

FYI for anyone else looking into this, Farm Credit requires 30% down, but may take farming education and potential farming income into account when extending credit.