Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hip Improvements

Been awhile since I updated on the hip.

I finally got the red tape cleared and saw a specialist.  I had x-rays and an MRI, and no real diagnosis.  My x-rays look perfect, except a blur at the top of my hip socket where it hurt which "is probably a bad x-ray".  There was a tendinosis finding on the MRI, but I believe that was secondary to the bad PT I was getting while waiting to see the doc.  There was a secondary observation of an anomaly with the cartilage in the top of the hip socket (where my pain was), but that the imaging was of the wrong type to make any conclusions.  The doc said tendinosis is kinda like bursitis (uh, no reference I can find agrees) and wrote tendinitis on my PT referral (also not the same thing).  He completely ignored the observation that wasn't in the "findings" summary.

I took my PT referral to a new PT, and boy did I get lucky.  If you're in my area, I highly recomend Kelly Monsma, DPT of Gananda-Walworth Physical Therapy.  She did a very careful evaluation of my issues, she thinks independently, she is willing to keep learning, she seems to have a grasp of why my hyper flexibility is a problem and what to do about it.  She is willing to re-evaluate and change direction when things are not working for me.

During my evaluation, the PT pulled on my leg.  It felt pretty good, so when I got home I had my husband pull on my leg.  He pulled a little harder.  There was a pop, and the next day I was walking almost normally.  I'm still in PT to rebuild strength and address the secondary issues of my loose joints.  I have to have my leg re-pulled about once a week, or every couple days if I'm wearing barn boots.  When it needs pulling, I feel kinda compressed, like the feeling of putting on a frame pack laden near your max carry weight...

The best news is that I'm back to working as much as I want to, and sitting at my desk at home as much as I want to.  No more moping on the couch watching TV.  (Ok, at least not as a habit.)

So I'm making progress on hip stability, but it's pretty clear now that my ankles are the most limiting factor in balance right now.  My right side ankle control muscles got all cramped up and caused problems with my plantar fascia.  I'm currently weaning myself off of crutches in the morning and sports tape backing up my plantar fascia during the day.  I do mostly ok once I'm warmed up and moving.

There are lots of different methods of taping feet for PF support, this one works for me:

I tried an ankle brace that just didn't fit me well.  I can't find a night brace sized for my 18" calf.  (although some are sized by shoe size and others by calf size?)  If this goes on longer I may apply my corset making and shoe making skills to custom fit ankle bracing...

Barn boots provide some ankle stability but prevent stretching further, so they're a sometimes shoe.

I've also *gasp* bought another pair of Asic Gels, my old friends that turned on me...  I was in so much pain the day I bought them, and the sales guy too busy to help, I only tried 3 pairs and didn't give other brands a fair chance to win my love.  I also stuck over the counter PF inserts inside them.  They provide a lot of support and the heel rise means I can function before being fully stretched out, but again, this is a sometimes shoe when I need rest more than stretching.  I'm still barefooting and wearing moccasins at least half time to keep things as limber as possible.

Another thing that's been useful is a big fat foam roller.  Before putting my full weight on my feet when I get up in the morning, I sit on the edge of the bed and work the foam roller under my feet, stretching the calves by elevating the toes.  I still sometimes am in too much of a hurry to get up and just grab crutches, but it's a major improvement in my crutches-free days rate.  At work I have a lacrosse ball under my desk.  I don't work my feet intensely with it, but I do prop up the ball/pad of my foot to keep things stretched out as much as possible.  I'm considering getting rollers for my desks as well...

Two steps forward, one step back, hopefully I'll at least keep on making net progress...

Monday, November 7, 2016

Aidells Teriyaki & Pineapple Chicken Meatballs

Usually chicken sausages are lower fat versions of their pork cousins, but these guys pass the all but the strictest high-fat macronutrient tests:

 (per 5 serving package)

Total Calories665
% carb calories9%
% protein calories30%
% fat Calories61%
Ketogenic ratio131%
 And quite tasty to boot!

There are a couple soy products within, but just traditional sauces (soy sauce and miso flavorings). Soy sauce does contain wheat, so this isn't a good food for celiacs, but should be low enough gluten for most gluten sensitive individuals. It is ketogenic, but not strongly enough for the treatment of epilepsy. The meatballs are browned in vegetable oil rather than an animal fat, it's unclear how much of the fat content is vegetable oil, and how much is the fattier parts of the chicken.

So, not a perfect food, but close to my 600 calories per meal target, tasty, not likely to trigger my carb overload symptoms.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Autonomous SmartDesk 2

So, when you're uncomfortable sitting, but tire easily standing, and you have a desk job, what are you to do?  Well, I'm going to give a motorized sit-to-stand desk a try.  There's a one month lead time on my order, so a review will be a bit in coming.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Forearm angle, slouching, and vertical keyboards

First of all today, let's look at some of the stability problems with sitting, take especial note around 6:30 of the arm position comments.

Now the self-experimentation phase.  Sit in lotus, half-lotus, or indian position.  Sit up straight, with your arms turned upwards as in meditation.  Relax the spine without moving your arms.  I feel a bit of tension, like part of the body is hanging off another part, but I don't slouch much.  Now sit up straight and turn palms downwards and relax.  That tension doesn't occur, and I slouch forwards more significantly.  For me there is definately something to this hand posture affecting my shoulder and spine posture.

But for those of us that are stuck at a desk typing all day, is there anything to be done?

I've enacted phase I of the better desk sitting plan, my lotus bench:

The bench is a beast because we started with scrap barn wood, mostly 2x12s for materials, and assembled in rather a hurry.  I had a romantic notion that I was going to finish it in one evening and be back at work raring to go the next day.  In reality, exhaustion set in, and I stopped before making stupid design decisions in the interest of time.  It ended up taking a week, and my hubby finished it for me as I was too out of it by then to participate much, but he set it up while I was sleeping Thursday night and I've been using it since Friday (almost three days).  I do still need a big horizontal break at midday, but it is a vast improvement over chair sitting, and I think I can do longer shifts at work if I can stand the drive to/from.  (I've been working an average of 2 hours a day last week.)

I'm now considering phase II, which would better position my arms for a relaxed and upright spine: a vertical keyboard.

There are a few commercial options for a vertical keyboard:

The Freestyle2 keyboard with Ascent accessory:

I trust the Kinesis brand because I had very good results from their "Advantage" keyboard when I was having wrist mobility issues.  I think they have a pretty clear understanding of ergonomics.  The Ascent allows for multiple keyboard angles, and multiple distances between the boards, for lots of flexibility.  The price though is tough.  $119 for the keyboard,  (with longer cord) $219 for the ascent accessory.  But I suppose $338 is not horrendous compared to the competition, and I'd gladly pay the $299 to replace my ancient Advantage if having similar issues again.

The SafeType:

The SafeType has a Cornell study backing the claims on an early prototype, showing improved wrist posture and possible reduction in injury risk, but they only compared vs a traditional keyboard, and did no long term study, so the study is of limited use in picking an ergonomic keyboard.  The rear-view mirrors look like a useful feature, but the angle and distance are fixed, allowing no customization for different shoulder widths and such.  Refurbished price $189, new is $289.75 (on sale from $305)

The Yogitype has less hand separation than the other options, but has an adjustable angle, integrated adjustable forearm support, and a unique solution to the "I can't see the keys" problem.  On the backside of the board are unlabeled keys, on the front side of the board is a light-up key legend that shows you where the keys are and which you just pressed.  The marketing is heavily aimed at people who have never learned to touch type before, which implies that it has a pretty steep learning curve for those of us that can touch type on a traditional keyboard, but this is true of most radically different ergonomic keyboards.  It took a considerable adaptation period to adjust to my Advantage board, where I took an online touch type course to re-learn the key positions.  There is a note on their website that the arrangement of keys may not be optimal for programming as it is for word processing, which could be problematic for me.  USD price, $325.81, which makes it the most pricey of the three options.  It comes from europe so shipping may be an issue, and you might want Google Translate installed before proceeding to the "select options" page which is not in English.  

I've not committed to a purchase this time, still mulling it over.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hip roller coster

So, after my recent post about the Gokhale Method, I added an exercise to my PT routine to try rotating my hips so my tailbone pointed backwards while sitting down.  It felt kinda uncomfortable in my bad hip, but good on my back.

7/19.  While in the process of sitting down in my chair at work, something gave in my hip.  There was a brief intense pain, and a lasting dull pain.  Mobility in that hip went through the roof.  I was suddenly able to be much more active than before.  The hip rotation in my exercise became the most comfortable resting position rather than an effort.  All my regular pain points moved.  My leg was straight.

I considered that I’d need to restart my PT at the beginning before I developed new compensation patterns, but was too busy getting useful things done to get serious about it right away.  Did a little bit of my most routine PT.  Noticed especially problems with my asian squat, other exercises brought up new tense areas, but still doable.

I mowed, I cleaned the house, I did laundry, and I didn't have to stop because I was tired.  It was glorious.

7/22 After a day of sitting, and a quick demo to a friend of where my new squat problem area was, started to have moderate hip pain.

7/23 Had already decided to take a day of rest as the new pain areas were getting overloaded with the sudden change, didn’t want to compensate back into the old gait.  After sitting for extended lunch with company, started having intense hip pain.  Stretching, ibuprofen, and a nap helped, but sitting still uncomfortable, and standing tiring.  Following Mobility Wod videos for emergency PT, spending a lot of time horizontal.

Planning to call a professional PT on Monday.  Scoped one out with certifications I like, connected to a gym with more certifications I like, and in-network for my insurance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Don't teach your child to be fat

A recent discussion on Facebook brought up several details in common between the childhoods of overweight people that bear mentioning to those trying to raise healthy kids.

Make time for dinner

Dinner time should be a family social occasion with food present, and let natural hunger dictate how much food is eaten during that time.  If the child can be excused to go play by wolfing down a measured portion, you're rewarding them ignoring hunger signals and cravings and forcing themselves to eat.  Schedule at least 20 minutes for dinner.  If your child doesn't have the patience to sit as long as the adults, set a time at which they will be excused, not a consumption requirement.

Don't clean your plate

If you have to, get a pet chicken or pig so the food isn't "wasted".  It is reasonable to ask a child to try a new food, but making them eat all of it isn't going to make them like it, and will teach them to try to eat without tasting.  It may be reasonable to reserve their plate in the fridge until they claim hunger two hours later.  Don't sweat unfinished food, a hungry child would have eaten it by now.

Don't leave out large volumes of food

When leaving out snacks for the kids when they get home from school, leave out measured portions, not large supplies.  If the kids have already developed mindless eating habits, it's very easy for them to just munch and munch in front of the TV or game console until you get home.  Consider if snacks are even necessary, talk to your child about how they feel after school, and if they are tired, they might try a nap rather than sugar/starch to regain energy.

Remember childhood pounds never go away

Fat cells can shrink, but never go away.  They're sitting there waiting to re-expand and fight fat loss for the rest of your life.  We don't want to be overly obsessed with thinness in growing children, they do need some fat for brain development and calories on board to support those growth spurts, but a trend of putting on excess pounds is not likely to stop without intentional intervention, changing habits and diet.  It may be easier to put on pasta every night when the child is old enough to start prepping dinner before you get home from work, but if that doesn't agree with your child's metabolism you may need to find other alternatives or upgrade your child's cooking skills.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Low calorie Avocado?

So, I was shopping, and there was a label above the avocados claiming they were a "low calorie food" which I thought was pretty odd, given that avocados are one of the highest fat foods you'll find in the produce section.  So looking into it:

40 cal or less per RACC (and per 50 g if RACC is small) (b)(2)Meals and main dishes: 120 cal or less per 100 g (b)(3)

Of course, the tricksy issue is that a RACC/"serving" is pretty ambiguous size.

An avocado has 227 calories in it, 167 calories per 100 grams, but only 50 calories "per serving".  So that means you get to eat 1/5 of a medium avocado per sitting to keep it within the official serving size.

But even with that serving size, 50 > 40, and 167>120 this is not a "low calorie food".  Read your labels, but also use your brain!

That said, avocados are a pretty good for you food.  They got fiber, they got fat, they have all the sorts of micronutrients expected from fruits and veggies.  The vegetarians like them, the low omega-6 eaters like them, the glycemic index folk like them, the alkaline diet folk like them, even the guy that thinks we should eat chlorophyll and absorb sunlight recommends them (and the avocado is probably why his followers are still alive.)  If you've got something against the avocado, you're in the minority.

So, have and avocado, but remember the calories count, it's not a free vegetable in your diet plan.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Modern furniture leads to modern posture?

I recently stumbled across the Gokhale Method.
“Most pain can be attributed to how we hold ourselves and how we move. Since we aren't born with a user’s manual, we rely on our culture to guide us.
About a century ago, our culture took a wrong turn.”
- http://gokhalemethod.com/gokhale-method
She seems to have some good points about there being evidence that people of modern western culture have a different posture than our ancestors or modern third world cultures.  I wonder though, if it is not so much our culture as our furniture.

Sit on the hardest surface you can find. Start sitting with your spine in an s curve, your shoulders relaxed and slightly forward.  Feel the discomfort of the surface, feel most of your weight on two little hip bone points.  Now shift to Gokhale’s recommended posture, roll your hips so your tail bone is sticking out behind you, and pull your shoulders straight and your spine tall.  Feel the discomfort of the surface under you.  Feel how the pressure has been relieved by being distributed over the leg instead of over one little point.

Modern furniture is made for modern posture, and reinforces modern posture.

Yet another reason to consider replacing my "ergonomic" office chair with a wooden bench, but I don't think I'll be buying the stretchsit cushion or balancing her special pillow on my head (if I want that kind of exercise, our ancestors taught young ladies to balance books up there.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ezekiel Bread

Some people go nuts for Ezekiel Bread, supposedly a perfect food whose recipe is given in the bible.  The recipe is based on Ezekiel 4:9.
"And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer, and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them."
Ohh!  Multi grain!  Ain't it wonderful!  The perfect food ordained by God!

No, not really...

Let's read the whole chapter:
Ezekiel 4:1-3, Ezekiel is instructed to construct a model of a siege against Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 4:4-8, Ezekiel is instructed to lay down in one place for over a year without moving, while facing the siege model.
Ezekiel 4:9-11, Ezekiel is given the recipe for the bread that he is to eat during this ordeal, with the amount of food and water to be strictly rationed as would occur during a time of siege.
Ezekiel 4:12-15, The baking instructions for the bread is given, to be baked over human dung.  Ezekiel begs mercy on this point, and is allowed to use cow dung instead.  (I've never seen any fans of Ezekiel bread include these instructions.)

Just in case you can't follow what's going on here, the chapter sums it up nicely for you:
"Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, behold, I will break the supply of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and they shall drink water by measure and in dismay. I will do this that they may lack bread and water, and look at one another in dismay, and rot away because of their punishment."
So there you go, Ezekiel bread was not for obtaining optimum health of the prophet during his ministry, it was a visible sign of the terrible famine and war that was coming to Jerusalem.

There are several more modern examples of "War Bread" which is made from whatever starchy scraps you have on hand to stretch the scarce flour.  Traditional ingredients include multigrain, legumes, and potatoes.  They have more crumb than white or wheat bread as they lack the gluten strands that make wheat bread so airy.


Now I don't mean to discourage you from eating multigrain over white bread, or from sprouting your grains, a variety of grains is probably more healthy for you than sticking to white flour.  These traditional war bread recipes exist because our ancestors used to have supplies of those other grains around to stretch the white flour with, so if you're not thickening soups with rye berries and eating bowls of oatmeal, a multigrain bread may be a good way to get these alternative grains into your diet.  (Assuming you tolerate carbs better than I do.)  Just please don't tell me that your multigrain bread is spiritual or a God-ordained perfect food...

Monday, June 13, 2016

Free Feldenkrais Recordings

Feldenkrais can be a very useful tool for relieving body tension and correcting bad movement patterns.  Some of my frequently used physical therapy exercies come from Feldenkrais.  The usual method promoted for Feldenkrais is to read the lesson, then have someone read you the lesson.  If you don't have the luxury of a personal reader, a recording may be beneficial.  I've not tried these out yet, but they should be free recordings you can download.

How to use feldenkrais lessons:

  • If the lesson is part of a series, start at the beginning of the series, don't jump straight to your problem area.
  • Practice each lesson until it clicks before adding the next lesson to your rotation of exercises.
  • Take it slow and easy, this is not a marathon session.  One lesson today, and lesson one again tomorrow, then maybe lesson two if you've got one down pat...
  • Only move as far as you are comfortable.  Do not over stress your body without the consultation of a medical or exercise professional.  These exercises are designed to correct movement patterns, not stretch your tendons, don't overdo it.
  • If the practitioner offering the lesson counters my advice, listen to them, not me.

The lessons:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Patients Like Me

I've noted before that health blogging, and other forms of health logging can be good diagnostic tools and treatment trackers.  Blogging is an overly public way of doing so, a step down from there and with lots of features added is the platform patientslikeme.com.  It's a more encouraging group than other online support groups I've found because it's very well grounded in data.  Yes you can get on and complain about your life and have others commiserate, but you can also make factual logs of how you feel, the treatments you've tried, symptoms, conditions, and get back data on what kinds of treatments other people have found successful.  They also have printable reports for the purpose of sharing this data with your professional health care providers.

PatientsLikeMe Data is accessible to other site members, but you can avoid identifying information in your public profile.  The medical data is what they really want openly shared for the common good.

The downside of the platform is that your data may be sold to medical companies, but in the end it will bring down the cost of developing new therapies for your condition, and encourage companies to bring to market products that will help you, so it's not a horrible trade off.  Think of it as a very detailed version of voting for new chip flavors...
"PatientsLikeMe is a for-profit company (with a not-just-for-profit attitude).  Every partnership we develop must bring us closer to aligning patient and industry interests. Our end goal is improved patient care and quality of life." - How does PatientsLikeMe make money?
If you've not started a health log yet, and are looking for an easy to use online platform, I recomend you check out patientslikeme.com.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Finding the diet that works best for you

You may know JP Sears for his satire on the more extreme elements of the holistic health movement, but he also has some real valuable advice.  How to find the diet that works best for you:

I'd add that if you have physical symptoms from your diet, tracking those as objectively as possible should also be a factor.  If you have energy but your lymph nodes are swollen, that might not be working so well for you...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Vivofit 3 and Vivofit 2

So, while waiting for the Vivofit 3 to come out, the budget got a wee bit tighter.  Suddenly the older product that's starting to see clearance sale prices is getting more of my attention, so I thought I'd do a comparison.

Garmin Vivofit 3Vivofit 2
Price$99.9969.99 (Amazon, Best Buy)
Expected ReleaseAny Day Now...Available Now
Wrist BandMolded rubber, and fashion rubber, but the tracker pops out so we might see 3rd party wristbands in the future.Same
Battery Life1 year, replaceable batterySame
Display64 x 64 pixels, 0.39" x 0.39", watch orientationSegmented LCD
Water Rating5 ATMSame
Watch functionstime, date, calendar, and audible alarmTime
Auto activity sensing"Automatic activity detection"None
Heart RateANT+ Heart Rate Strap compatibleAccessory
Phone NotificationsNoSame
Sleep TrackingYesSame
Android Phone app, BTLEYesSame

It looks like the only major advantage the 3 has over the 2 is automatic activity detection.  Automatic activity detection sounds like a really nice feature, but being new it's hard to say how accurate it will be without letting other people try it out for a bit.  I very rarely "go for a run" and if I do I can track that with my phone as easily as with the wrist strap.  "Daily Steps" is tracked outside of "Timed Activities" so I don't ever have to use that feature (and even if I do it just means I need to press a button...)

I'm still postponing a decision until the budget clears, but if these clearance deals are still available then I think I'll consider it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

I Don't Want To Gain The Whole World and Lose My Soul

I've had this post written in draft mode for three years.  Three years...  I'm not completely there yet, but today I signed the paperwork to at least go from full time employment to 24 hour a week employment, a step in the right direction.

"Lose My Soul" by Toby Mac

Life is not about how much money I make, or what my job title is.  It's about my relationships with my God and my neighbors.  I may not have the exact same challenges as the Toby Mac, but we all face that problem of letting what we do consume who we are. 

Many will question my drastic life change to become a small farmer.  I will be giving up a lot of cash, security, normal work environment, and physically non-demanding work, and trade it for a dirty, heavy-lifting job that might not pay well every year, and may even eat my savings some years.  But I'll have my soul, I'll have my health, and maybe I'll have a larger family to share that with.

The alternative to making change is to stay where I am.  Climb that corporate ladder, live for my work, earn lots of cash and buy lots of toys I don't have much time to play with.  I'd spend most of the rest of my life in a chair, continue to suffer from fibromyalgia, and die at an early age of heart attack.  I'd raise no children, I'd leave no legacy.
Father God, I am clay in your hands
Help me to stay that way through all life’s demands
‘Cause they chip and they nag and they pull at me
And every little thing I make up my mind to be
I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul
Tell me what’s your title
America has no more stars now we call them idols
You sit idle
While we teach prosperity
The first thing to prosper should be inside of me

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beverages and the Micro Biome?


"After 3 weeks of tannin diets the proportion of tannin-resistant bacteria increased significantly (P < 0.05) from 0.3% ± 5.5% to 25.3% ± 8.3% with a 0.7% tannin diet and to 47.2% ± 5.1% with a 2% tannin diet. The proportion of tannin-resistant bacteria returned to preexposure levels in the absence of dietary tannins."
"tannins selected for Enterobacteriaceae and Bacteroides species. ... there was a corresponding decrease in the gram-positive Clostridium leptum group and other groups."
So we've covered before that a happy biome may require a consistent fiber amount, and a consistent amount of FODMAPs, but we may also want to watch our tannins consistency.  Tannins are found in all sorts of plant foods, but our biggest sources are generally our beverages, especially coffee, tea, and wine, but also in many fruit juices.

Bacteriodes are often included in probiotics.  Advanced Orthomolecular Research Probiotic 3 includes a different Clostridium species, but Clostridium leptum is associated with inflammatory bowel disease.  Enterobacteriaceae are a mixed bag of friendly and non-friendly bacterium.

I don't think there's any evidence yet that the tannin-resistant bacteria are better or worse for you, but if you're happy with your microbiome you might consider the consistency of your favorite brew as a part of your health maintenance plan.  If you're not happy with your microbiome, a shift up or down in tannins might be considered.  At the very least a temporary shift and return to normal may shake things up a bit and give your new probiotic a competitive advantage over the natives.

Now, back to my cup of tea...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Time to pay the piper, err... Dentist

A) I am sensitive to strong tastes.  Never liked toothpaste, but got into a much better tooth cleaning routine when a dentist told me it was ok to brush with just water.  But brushing without toothpaste means I'm missing out on the protective benefits of fluoride.
B) I've been cheating a lot on my diet lately, hence the weight gain.  I've been rationalizing small amounts of sugar at a time because they don't spike my blood sugar too much, throat doesn't swell so I'm ok, right?  Except small amounts of sugar at a time are not usually followed by brushing my teeth or eating more reasonable food alongside.

So six months ago I was having some dental pain and went in for my overdue cleaning and exam.  Having lived in pain most of my life, I tend to understate my pain condition, and apparently my complaint was so mild it never made it into my chart.  Exam showed some gum issues that could explain some mouth pain.  More regular cleanings were proscribed.  No x-rays were taken on that visit.  I apparently should have asked for x-rays or complained more about the pain.

Last week I went for my 6 month cleaning, and this time we got the x-rays.  It's not my imagination, there is a gaping hole in one tooth where I have pain, and there are six other cavities.  Seven cavities.  Seven.  Worst exam result ever.  I have a series of appointments to deal with the cavities, might even have one tooth pulled, and we're to discuss fluoride treatment going forward.

So I've got to go cold turkey on soda, candy, and cough drops.

Today I have an appointment to try to save that rear molar, but I may try to talk to the dentist about working on some other tooth today and just having the rear molar pulled.  The matching tooth above is already gone, my mouth is seriously overcrowded with teeth overlapping in the front of the jaw.  I won't even consider getting my teeth straightened (again) until I get a tooth on each side of the lower jaw removed.

Not looking forward to it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Garmin Vivofit 3 vs. Fitbit Alta

Two up and coming devices that have caught my eye, head to head. I've not gotten my hands on either of these, this comparison is based on the product websites and other people's reviews.

Garmin Vivofit 3Fitbit Alta
Expected ReleaseApril 2016March 2016
Company reputationGarmin has a long history in the GPS and run tracking industry. My experience with the Garmin Forerunner 255 was not very user friendly, but I have friends that are loyal Garmin fans, so I think it just might be a steeper learning curve than some other devices. Has a strong following among serious runners. Fitbit was one of the first network aware pedometer devices, and has a strong following in the weight loss and "trying to get fit" sectors.
Wrist BandMolded rubber, and fashion rubber, but the tracker pops out so we might see 3rd party wristbands in the future.A variety of OEM wristband solutions, including rubber, fashion rubber, metal, or leather.
Battery Life1 year, replaceable battery5 days
Display64 x 64 pixels, 0.39" x 0.39", watch orientationOLED tap display, looks bigger than the Vivofit, but some previews show the display oriented 90 degrees to watch orientation.
Water Rating5 ATMsweat, rain, and splash proof
Watch functionstime, date, calendar, and audible alarmtime, silent alarms
Auto activity sensing"Automatic activity detection"SmartTrack
Heart RateANT+ Heart Rate Strap compatiblen/a
Phone NotificationsNoYes
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Android Phone app, BTLEYesYes

Thursday, March 3, 2016

HRM/Activity Monitor Testing

So, the credit card is paid off, time to give the Lumoid Home Try-On a spin.  I did some research on products I thought might meet my activity monitor needs, and rented them for two weeks.  Some of the items I'm renting are premium, so I paid $54 total, not the advertised $30.  It will say on each product page what the rental fee is.  You can get up to five items at a time.

I have several goals in this try-on.  My wrists are sensitive, some watches are really uncomfortable and I can't wear them, so no point in buying one without getting to try it on for a while.  Two, I've not seen any software descriptions that do what I need, so I want to explore the features available and see what they can do for me.  The #1 thing I want out of this is an alarm that tells me when my heart rate is too high while doing farm chores.  I've several times gone at a task with too much vigor for too long and had a resulting flare-up in my fibromyalgia.  I could wear my HRM strap, but I don't always plan on going out and doing something difficult, so something I wear all the time as a daily habit would be better.

Lumoid Rental Experience

  • Each of the watches came in a little mesh pouch with accompanying accessories and instructions.  
  • The outer box was large because I also rented a smart scale...
  • Nothing came charged, make charging all the devices your first priority when your box arrives.
  • Follow the written directions, some of the devices are picky about how they pair, and premature bluetooth pairing may mess up the setup process.  I had to factory reset one watch partway through the process because of this.
  • Be careful to stay organized and keep the right accessory bits together with the correct instructions.

Fitbit Charge HR

Package contains: a USB charger and a wireless sync dongle.

Charger: Charging cable fits perpendicular into the underside of the watch.  Simple.

Wrist strap: The strap is really short.  This is apparently my own fault, Lumoid offers two sizes and small is the default size.  I should have chosen large.  Fitbit also offers an XL option if you get yours elsewhere.  The directions say to wear the band 2-3 finger widths above the wrist bone, and loose enough to move and not make marks on the skin, take that into account when using the size chart.

Other: Turning this device off is such a song and dance I just didn't bother when putting it back in the box.  It continues it's green flicker at me...

Fitbit App 

Didn't give the software a fair shake because of my problems wearing the device.  I'd give it a second chance if I did another rental of a larger size.

The Fitbit app also kinda works with the Fitbit scale, but mostly the scale talks directly to my online Fitbit account over my home wifi.  The phone app is aware of the device's existence and lets me change a couple settings, but not view my results.

Moto 360 2nd Gen

Package contains: A/C charger with stand.

Charger:  An elegant stand with wireless charging.  Simply drop the watch into the stand.  Easiest charger to use of the set.  Charging cable is a standard micro USB in case you have some power bank you want to use other than the included half amp AC charger, but the instructions of course recommend you use the included charger.

Wrist Strap: Leather.  Very adjustable.  Comfortable when worn above the wrist bone.


  • Apparently "Power Off" doesn't mean power off when it's in the dock...  
  • When doing chores the band slipped down and the watch stopped taking HR readings.  Since this is the main thing I wanted out of a wrist based HR monitor, that's just not going to cut it.

Overall:  This is a really cool toy, elegant packaging around the technology.  I'd love to own one, but I'm too cheap to spend $300 on a toy that doesn't provide the HR tracking I want.  There are plenty of more economical activity tracking options that don't have the HR feature.  After it failed the chores test I put this back in the rental box, not because of the problems with it, but because I didn't want to get addicted in the two weeks I get to keep it.  I might be tempted to try it again in summer when barn coats are not a factor in watches staying put.  If I did buy one, I might end up writing my own custom app for it.

Motorola Connect (phone app)

Adjust watch faces, docking mode font color, access related apps, find last reported watch location.  Not sure there's much to do here, but it's supposedly connecting to my Moto online account and recording...  something...

Moto Body (phone app)

Integrates with a lot of other activity tracking services, Fitbit, Strava, MapyMy, Under Armor Record, and Google Fit.

The "Heart Activity" function just shows minutes of activity, not actual heart rate zones.  The app also tracks steps, calorie burn, and running time/distance.

Moto Body (watch app)

Provides Last HR reading, detailed screen shows heart rate, zones, and daily accumulated activity.  Auto-disables to save power, so you can't keep this up while exercising.

Also shows steps and calories burned.

Garmin Forerunner 225

Package contains: USB charger.

Charger:  a bit awkward, it clips on to the watch and has to go a specific way.

Watch Band: Wide rubber band, dual holes.  Reasonably comfortable, not as nice as the leather ones. Removable, but doesn't take standard watch band replacements.

Other: Not user friendly at all.  Had to page through the manual to turn on bluetooth pairing and get up and running with the app.  Never got as far as setting up an HR alarm.  Huge.  Even if it does the job I need it to do, it's not a daily wear appliance.  Husband says: "They put a watch band on that dinner plate."
No HR stats in the app.  Does sync to watch and do some settings updates.  Doesn't even help the watch set the time.
Package contains: a micro USB cable, charging cradle, and AC adapter.

Charger: the watch snaps very easily into the cradle.  The charging cable that comes with it seems too tight.

Watch Band: Fancy leather with a "leather deployment clasp".  (No I didn't know that term either, I had to look it up to bring it to you.)  As fancy as it was though, I couldn't get the watch firmly anchored to my wrist without leaving a mark.  The shape of the clasp does not match the shape of my wrist.

Other:  The one control button is recessed on the back of the watch.  You have to take it off to perform operations with that button.  Thankfully that is rarely needed once setup is complete.

The HRM functionality is pretty poor.  In order for it to engage you have to hold the watch face down against your arm with the other hand.  I may as well use my cheap $5 obsolete fingertip HR sensor watch.

The bluetooth was flaky, when I went searching for help, the official site was out of date, but other sites where people were troubleshooting pairing issues abounded.

The face was much bulkier than the Moto 360, but less so than the Garmin.

Overall: I suppose one can't expect the quality of the Moto 360 at half the cost.  It looks decent, runs the standard Android Wear functionality fine.  HR feature isn't worthwhile though.

ZenWatch Manager (phone app)

The interface is very busy.  Watch app must be activated and given permissions for sync to occur.  Has lots of alternative watch faces

Among the suggested apps is UP by Jawbone.  Jawbone does support Android Wear, but I didn't want to create an account so I didn't finish setting up the app.

ASUS ZenWatch Wellness (phone app)

Well, it's pretty...  But the UI could use some work.  Some settings changes didn't show up on the main settings page until I left it and came back.

Comes with idle alert, a feature lacking in Moto Body.

ASUS ZenWatch Wellness (watch app)
Has no exit feature, you just have to let it time out.  Shows step and calorie burning data for the day.

ZenWatch Remote Camera

Not applicable to fitness tracking.

ZenWatch Music

Not applicable to fitness tracking.

Fitbit Aria Smart Scale

Package contains: Just the scale, replaceable batteries installed and full charge.

The wifi setup was a bit of a pain, but eventually I got it working.  See a video on what "tap" means for starters...  I couldn't manage to get the setup completed from my phone, worked fine from a windows tablet.  You have to have a wifi device with a web browser to set up the scale.

Not much to say here, it measures weight and body fat percentage, it uploads the data to Fitbit.com.  No fancy app, no complex features.  It does the job.  I might buy this one, especially if I decide to go with a Fitbit activity tracker.  The competing device I'd originally asked for and was out of stock was the Withings Smart Body Analyzer Scale.

Generic Android Wear Software

I had to factory reset the Moto 360 when I accidentally bluetooth paired it before going through the Android Wear setup.  Start with the app and follow the on-screen instructions.

Settings lets you change the notifications that show up on the watch, mute the phone when connected to the watch, turn off new feature tips, and adjust privacy settings.

On the main screen you can find additional watch app suggestions, configure "actions", and change the watch face.

None of the fitness related features or model specific features are accessible in this app.

Lots of my existing apps paired up with the phone after getting Android Wear set up, causing a lot of install notifications on the watch.  The items that you do want to use on the watch probably have to ask for permissions to start working.  If you want to uninstall them you can do so by denying permissions and then requesting an uninstall at the next prompt.  I don't know how you would uninstall something you've already used.

Changing the watch face in Android Wear or Motorola Connect is near instantaneously reflected on the phone.  None of the default watch faces show heart rate.

Google Fit (phone)

None of the favorite activities I can pick resembles farm work.  We'll stick to walk/run/bike...

You have to manually turn on body sensor permissions in Google Fit.

Shows me inactive calories burned, but no HR reading.

Google Fit (watch)

Workout based.  HR only updates when tapped.  App auto closes

Google Fit Activity (watch)

Select an activity (walking, biking, situps...)  tracks GPS.  No HR monitoring other than as used in calorie burning calculations.


I really like the Moto 360 as a watch, but can't justify the $300 price tag on it's health tracking features.  I can get a bluetooth step tracker for $20...  

The scale was a pain to set up, but easy to use.  If already using a Fitbit activity tracker, it would be nice to have the additional data automatically uploaded to the same place.  Reading about the technology in general, bioimpedance isn't a terribly accurate measure of body fat, I might be better off returning to the old belt hole watching method.

As far as activity trackers goes, I think I'll be looking next at devices under $100 and forget about the HR requirement.  Even Fitbit has offerings in that range.  I've not decided yet if I'm going to do another trial of these cheaper trackers.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

"Nitrate Free"

So a newbie at The Salt Cured Pig was excited about a "nitrate free" jerky product she had found. The community quickly set her straight, but was still lacking numerical data, so I went and found some.

Unfortunately the USDA Nutrient Database does not track Nitrates/Nitrites, so we had to look to other sources.

The content of nitrates and nitrites in fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs

lettuce, frozen spinach, fennel, radishes, parsley: >1000 mg of KNO3/kg
lettuce: 3500 mg/kg
carrots, celery, leeks and frozen French bean: 24 - 800 mg KNO3/kg
strawberries 58.7 mg KNO3/kg
fruit-vegetable juice: 355.30 to 584.53 mg KNO3/kg

The exact numbers were highly variable between samples, often with an order of magnitude difference. The soil conditions, fertilizer, maturity of the plant, etc. affect the levels.

Meanwhile, cured meats are federally limited to 200 ppm of nitrite (same as mg/kg in this context)

So when you turn down that bacon in favor of a "healthier" salad, you're likely consuming seventeen times as much nitrogenous compounds.

Now there is an issue that we're talking nitrates and nitrites, but nitrates do convert to nitrite both in storage and in the body. "Nitrate free" cured meats work by converting the natural nitrates in celery juice or other sources into nitrate, and the same can occur in your own body.

Meanwhile, the nitrite in those cured meats makes them resistant to breakdown by bacteria and resistant to contamination by the deadly botulism toxin, making your meat safer as well as more flavorful.

Yes, excessive Nitrites and Nitrates are toxic, yes, under some conditions they can turn into carcinogenic compounds in your body, but they are a normal part of natural food.  They have a very long standing history as a food additive, much longer than most of the additives in your average can/box from the store.  The amounts included in cured meats are nothing to worry about.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Prebiotics: Putting the cart before the horse

Some people recommend that when fixing your internal microbiome, you need to eat specific foods to feed your wee beasties.  But in a healthy gut, bacterial profiles change over time depending on diet.  If I specifically cultivate microbes that eat food x, that might not help me eat food y.  Diet consistency matters after introduction of the correct strains more than which particular foods I eat.  The human diet is vastly diverse, and for the most part we get along at least well enough to reproduce and have a culture on all of them.  I've not yet seen evidence that eating prebiotics leads to better health outcomes, although it's very obvious that replacing pathogenic bacteria with symbiants produces drastic health benefits.

If we're focusing on prebiotics which help us grow probiotics that help us digest prebiotics, are we getting the cart before the horse?  Better to cultivate bacteria that love the diet we already eat (or want to eat).  Maybe take a consistent quarter of roll each day if you're taking probiotics to improve your wheat tolerance, slowly increasing intake as the microbes take hold?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Probiotics to Try

Most probiotics contain multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, they advertise some 30 strains per pill, but they are pretty much all the same species.  I found a few brands with unusual strains that might work where others failed:

Someone gave me a lead on the first two of that set, I found AOR when doing a broader search for soil based probiotics.  I found this other post that also found that to be a conclusive list:  http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread102994.html

Friday, January 22, 2016

Internet healthcare 4tw! Sometimes... - On the ups and downs of medical discussion groups

My dog was drastically sick, I made a vet appointment but got in the internet right away and started a change to his feeding regimen based on likely diagnosis and what had worked for others and would not be a problem for my dog.  He was already feeling better the next day when we could get into the vet.  My husband said "Internet healthcare 4tw".  (Although this is an ongoing battle and we're still making adjustments with the help of our vet.)

In my research, I joined a discussion group.  Discussion groups have been very helpful to me in the past, although one must tread carefully when taking advice from random people on the internet.  (Don't ever take my advice, take my information and my experiences and go research what I said for yourself.)  One person can make or break your experience in a discussion group.  There are a lot of different types to look out for:

The good folk in discussion groups:

  • The encourager - This person lets you know you're not alone.  They let you know that there is hope.  They check up on you that you're following your program.  They let you vent when you need to vent and shut you down when you need to get a grip.  They may not solve any problems, but they equip you to stay engaged and take advantage of resources that do help.  This is a role you can fulfill even as a newbie in the group.  You can say "I'm sorry for your loss" or "that happened to me too" or "it sounds like you had a rough week, what's your plan for dealing with this next week?"
  • The Guru - The guru has been around a long time, they've seen fads come and go, they've seen different solutions work for different people, and they're willing to discuss all those potential solutions.  Maybe they're a professional that likes the additional challenge of unique cases he finds in the group, or maybe they are an overcomer who has been where you are now.   Hope this person takes an interest in your story, but don't monopolize their time, as many people need their advice.  Common advice from the guru will circulate and you will end up getting it from other members as well.  Aspire to become the Guru
  • The Nerd - This person may not be very knowledgable yet, but they are very well read in general and they'll eat up every bit of literature they can, maybe even run some calculations for you.  This person is useful for coming up with new ideas, but their ideas may not be well tested enough to try before more long standing solutions the guru offers.  This is usually me.  Butting into conversations I know nothing about, providing reference links that explain what the guru or his follower said in more detail.
  • The sharer - this person may not know a whole lot, but they're willing to add to the group knowledge with what did and did not work in their situation.  An overabundance of sharers with no guru or nerd to wade through the data can be counterproductive, but in moderation they can help you find new solutions or avoid common pitfalls.  I try to include this in my group participation.  Sharers can turn into salesmen.
The neutral folk:
  • The fellow sufferer - These groups stagnate and die without problems to solve, so the sufferer is a necessary member although not a direct contributor.  
  • The Guru follower - Useful for offloading some work from the guru, and pointing out the guru or the nerd when the sufferer has a difficult issue, but often prone to parrot old advice without knowing why it is so or when it is not actually so this time.
  • The true believer - Has an unusual viewpoint and persists in espousing it at every opportunity.  They should not be totally ignored, sometimes they are right, or they at least have stumbled upon something that works for completely different reasons than they believe it does.  To be avoided when crossed with the salesman or the dictator.
The ugly:
  • The salesman - This person is on the group to promote a product or idea, and they don't really care if it is the best idea for you.  The salesman doesn't care what all your protocol entails as long as it includes their product/idea.  To be avoided at all costs when their solution is not supported by the majority of the group and doesn't stand up to a skeptical research binge. 
  • The dictator - This person has a one true protocol for sucess, and they want you to ignore all doctor's advice and all common sense, and all independant research, and listen to them, even though you just met them and you have no references to back up what they say.  Some gurus turn into dictators, the protocol may work but it's still a bad idea to shove it down the sufferer's throat, and the dictator is more resistant to new information and new solutions that may work even better, can't handle special cases that can't follow the protocol, and runs off people that still want to work with a professional that follows a different protocol.
  • The iron mod - Sometimes the moderator is an ally of the bad guy or the true believer, and enforces compliance among the membership.  A good mod may censor heated conflict or salesmen, but the iron mod suppresses reasonable discussion of alternative ideas.
  • The guilt tripper - This person wants to make everything your fault.  They feel superior when you look stupid.  If you don't have the resources to follow the best case protocol, there is no second best option for you and you're just not trying hard enough.  Every time you have a snag they pounce on your mistakes rather than help you stop making them...  Occasionally a useful person with bad bedside manner looks like a guilt tripper, so you might give them some leeway until you get to know them.
Some of these ugly personalities are really hurting themselves.  They are trying to convince themselves that what they are doing is correct for them, and then obviously what is right for them is also right for you, and you not taking their advice is an attack on what they are doing...  Although they are hurting, vocal sympathy is not always helpful in dealing with them, they may lash out if you strike close to that raw nerve.

Besides the people involved, the size and format of the forum matter.  The ideal forum is small enough that everyone gets to know each other, and every thread is seen by some of the good folk before it gets squashed down the list.  This can be done by keeping total membership small, or by having a format that breaks things up into subtopics where different gurus hang out...

So I do encourage you to participate in discussion forums, I wish you luck in finding mentors in cozy environments like I did in Minimalist Runner and Ancestral Running, and avoiding dictators in huge crowds like I encountered at Canine Megaesophagus support group.  

Above all, and always, stay skeptical.  Use the group as a place to get/share research ideas, as a place to ask/answer questions, as a place to commiserate, but don't mistake group consensus for absolute truth, or the viewpoint of someone across the world as more important than your own eyes on the situation...

I don't know at this point if I'm sticking with the Canine Megaesophagus group, I'll at least be abandoning my thread where the dictator is subscribed.  (I usually like to keep as much as is reasonable in on thread so the nerds can get a coherent full story without having to search all my threads, but if she is bothered enough by me to call in a moderator, and won't unsubscribe to the thread, I have to leave the thread to leave her.)

If I get comments on this post I'll share more of my research on Megaesophagus in dogs, but I've mostly kept my dog health stuff off this blog.