"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for." William Shedd

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

All Things NOT Being Equal. . .

I'm a bit of a news junky - I often have the 'news' on the TeeVee in the background while  I'm puttering around doing housework and the like. . . In any case, I heard in passing early last week that there was a new study out showing that reducing carbohydrates (ie a low carb/high fat diet) trumped reducing fat (ie a high carb/low fat diet) in both weight loss and in improving blood lipid profiles that (supposedly) are markers for cardiovascular health.  At the time, I thought - meh, nice to know that the "establishment" is catching up with "us", us being all the people that have been practicing low carb/high fat diets for many years.  That is, I thought 'meh' until the next time this study was mentioned on the TeeVee, and then I got pissed. . .
As I passed through the room on Sunday, the news was on and I realized they were discussing the study again; interviewing a doctor, who on this station is the in-house medical expert. . . His take on this new study?  "Everything in moderation".  Yep, that was his final word regarding this study - everything in moderation. . .  Jebus wept!!!  This type of message is why I see people at my workplace struggling to lose weight on Weight Watchers, or eating a precisely measured number of jelly beans in the afternoon while taking daily medication for their diabetes, or coming back from the cafeteria with a mound of iceburg lettuce garnished with a few baby carrots and cherry tomatoes and covered in low fat dressing, and then snacking all afternoon.  And this type of thinking is why every. damn. time. there is a catered meeting at work, the breakfast menu consists of an assortment of muffins, pastries and low fat yogurt, and the lunch menu consists of sandwiches, bags of chips and an assortment of cookies (in all honesty, the rare 'high-brow' meetings do include some actual edible foods, which most of my coworkers view as a 'naughty' treat they've earned by attending these marathon meetings).    People listen to the messages coming from mainstream doctors, medical 'authorities' and nutritionists and they really try to do the 'right thing' - but the mainstream medical establishment WILL NOT admit that they let us down in recommending low fat diets for the past several decades - can they not SEE how these recommendations have worked for the general public!?!
And then I got pissed all over again when I tried to look up the study.  First, there's nary a print article to be found. . . I found one article in Men's Journal, and that was at least helpful in finding out the name of the lead researcher, Lydia Bazzano (although MJ misspelled her last name, d'oh).  Then, when I tracked down a brief article from Tulane University discussing the study, I wondered why these researchers tried to sabotage their own study. . . It started out with some promising commentary; Dr. Bazzano notes "we found those on a low-carb diet had significantly greater decreases in estimated 10-year risk for heart disease after six and 12 months than the low-fat group.”  The article then goes on to say "While the low-carb dieters got 41 percent of their calories from fat, most were healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive or canola oil. The group only got 13 percent of calories from saturated fats like butter."  Canola oil?  CANOLA OIL?!?  And a quote from Dr. Bazzano ends the article - "It’s not a license to go back to the butter, but it does show that even high-fat diets – if they are high in the right fats – can be healthy and help you lose weight". 

Hint, there is no canola plant; canola oil is typically produced by heating and crushing rape seed, then refining the resulting wax with high heat, hexane, and organic acids, followed by bleaching and deodorization.  The omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is about 2:1.  Dr. Bazzano et al. appear to have been buying in to the fear mongering surrounding saturated fats before they even started the study - one wonders what the results of the study would have been if they hadn't used freakin' highly processed vegetable oil as a primary source of dietary fat?  This is NOT how people In The Real World are typically implementing a LCHF diet!  Geez louise.
In any case, this is not really News, with a capital N. . . There have been a number of low carb/high fat vs high carb/low fat comparison trials over the years - below is a presentation by Dr. Jason Fong extensively discussing this research.  The video runs long, about an hour and 20 minutes, but it's well worth your time.  The video is Part 3 of a six part video series titled "The Aetiology of Obesity" - maybe you can fire up your favorite mobile device and listen to this, and the other five installments, as you putter around the house - it certainly would be more educational than listening to the news, am I right?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Get A Grip

So frustrating - I can grip a bar for chin-ups, or grip the handlebars of my bike for a wild and wooly rock strewn downhill with no problem (most of the time), but opening a jar of pickles or the cap on a new tube of mascara is next to impossible. . . The below strap wrench is a lifesaver for opening everything from the largest jar to the tiniest screw-on cap.   If you have arthritis in your hands (or even if you don't), you want one of these!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Get Your Google-Fu On

I've got several posts in draft, but until those are finished. . .
This week, a not uncommon scenario played out at work; one of the other programmers I work with was tasked with a request from our boss.  This task was something they had never done before, so the first thing they did was email myself and the other programmer in our group to find out if we already had a program they could use to do this. . . As it turns out, no, neither of us already had a program written to perform this task, and in fact neither of us had any experience with how to do it at all - BUT, when I ran a simple google search, pages of code snippets and support documents detailing how to code for this type of data appeared on my screen.  And it was really pretty simple; just a few lines of code and, bob's your uncle, all done.  Hmmm. 
This event got me thinking about the difference between being handed an answer and learning to find information on your own.  I learned to code in an environment where there was no one to give me code they had already written, or even anyone to tell where to find the information on how to begin - I spent a lot of time on the net searching and a lot of time writing and rewriting code until it worked.  JUST AS I DID, AND STILL DO with food, exercise, and their relationship with my autoimmune disease.  In my work life, this means that if I'm given a project that involves unfamiliar territory, and there is no one available to guide me, I'm not lost - I know where to go to find the lay of the land, and I know with a little work, I can build my own map.  In my search for better health, I can do the same.
Paleo has really exploded in the past several years - there is a LOT of information available; everything from MD's (here and here), to researchers (here and here), to fitness coaches (here and here and here (had to throw the last one in special for the ladies!)),  to former researchers turned fitness coaches (here) and many, many plain jane/joe bloggers (here, heh); they're all talking about using paleo concepts as a foundation for better health.
So get your google-fu on!  Learn to use and evaluate all the information available at your fingertips and take responsibility for finding answers that work for YOU, and then you'll never find yourself dependent on others finding the answers FOR you! 
Got the camera out a couple weekends ago to capture all the gorgeous fall color. . .
Loved the look of the leaves in the creek. 
What IS that?
Two shots of 'Put the camera down and hurry up already!'
 Parting shots.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A New Beginning

It's time to start blogging again. . .  This post has ended up being rather long - making up for lost time I guess.  When I moved to St. Louis, the new complexities of my life here took precedence over time spent at the computer.  However, over the years I've spent a lot of time searching around the paleosphere, applying these ideas in my life, discarding what doesn't work and refining what does work - and it's still an ongoing process.  I really, really wish I had a record of where I've been, what I've done, and what I've tweaked over time. . . That, and occasionally feeling like I stumbled across the golden ticket and should be sharing the wealth, is why I decided to re-open the blog.

My own story, in a nutshell (more in later posts) - I always considered myself 'athletic', moving from jogging and some weight lifting in high school and college into road biking and eventually mountain biking in the years after college.  My understanding of nutrition was crude at best and based around the food pyramid/low fat dogma; if it was low fat or no fat, it was ok to eat, protein and carbohydrates were vaguely interchangeable components of all foods and vitamins/minerals could be topped off with a 'One A Day' pill.  Following a bad car accident and back injury that curtailed my physical activity, I began gaining weight, and then began having occasional bouts of general 'malaise' and intermittent bouts of diarrhea.  About nine years ago, I began suffering from chronic joint pain and fatigue, and eventually got to the point I seldom consumed anything solid at work because about 90% of the time, I would have explosive diarrhea within twenty minutes of eating accompanied by severe abdominal cramping and belly pain (but ironically, I had gained more than 60 lbs at this point).  I also developed severe cystic acne over this time, bad enough that I tried an extended course of the drug Accutane (the cystic acne came right back after I went off the drug).  I was eventually diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diverticulosis (likely related to the chronic diarrhea/IBS); my rheumatologist at the time was not entirely convinced that I didn't have Chron's disease or ulcerative colitis, even though full upper and lower GI's didn't show any active lesions at the time.  At this stage of my life, I was no longer able to do many of the things I enjoyed doing, was struggling to make it through each work day, in bed or on the couch sleeping through the weekends, and I wondered just where my life was going to end up.  I was only in my early/mid-thirties.

After a year or so of taking NSAIDS/DMARDS/biologics to treat my disease, and finding that not only were my symptoms not improving, but that the treatment was often as sucky as the disease, I began to research 'alternative' treatments, and began my journey into the world of paleo.  Today, while not entirely symptom (or pharmaceutical) free, my state of 'sick' has improved beyond my wildest hopes and I am living a full life; working full time, and spending a lot of my free time playing hard!  An avid mountain biker and roadie in my twenties, I thought that beloved activity was lost to me forever; I started mountain biking again about three years ago!  I hike, I lift weights; I am generally able to physically do anything I want to do, without excessive planning around, or stopping my life because of, my disease.
Thumbing through my old posts, I realized again how much I've learned since the early years on this journey.  I'll admit that I deleted a number of posts as, lets be honest, they were depressing.  The blog was originally more of a place to rant and rave at the injustice of being saddled with an autoimmune disease and a shitty (pun intended) colon.  And really, there wasn't a whole lot in those posts that was useful information ;-). 
So, my intention for today is to do some housekeeping and in later posts, quoting a phrase some of you may recognize, to outline "what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now". 
I will acknowledge that, depending on where you've been spending your time, you may be suspicious of paleo.  Paleo is a bit of an umbrella term that has gotten a bad rap in certain circles.  If the only exposure you've had to this paleo thing is an article in the NYT, your image of what this is all about is probably pretty limited.  Out in 'public', I tend to simplify things by saying that I eat a whole foods diet and leave it at that.  I'm always glad to talk about these ideas and how they've transformed my life, but I've found that most people, even those with severe health issues, just aren't interested.  It's familiar/easier/safer to stay mired in the habits that got one to dis-ease to begin with. . . And for those that are skeptical that food itself can have such dramatic results in the way the body functions, next time you go to the gas station, fill up with diesel (no, don't, really! - I worked with someone who's 16 year old daughter did this accidentally with the family car - EXPENSIVE!).  Same concept; use inappropriate fuel, fuel your biochemical engine wasn't designed to run on, and the engine may fail (depending on your genetic predisposition).

So, where to start learning about these paleo concepts?  Marks Daily Apple  is an excellent place to start.  One of the things I really like about his site is how well rounded it is; it's not just about food - changing what you eat is a great (and crucial) beginning, but there are plenty other behaviors that influence health, or lack of health, as the case may be.  Mark Sisson offers the Primal Blueprint, which I think is a comprehensive collection of the essential elements that everyone should consider a foundation of good health - that goes double if your starting point is 'sick'.  Spend some time there - there is a Primal Resource Guide that is very handy in laying out a metric shit ton of information right at your finger tips.  I've also provided links to two of Mark's books.

Robb Wolf is another favorite; although you'd never know it to look at him now, he came to the paleosphere from case of the 'sick' himself.  He has some extensive information about the paleo diet in relation to diseases of autoimmunity, and Robb's book (I've provided a link) has section dedicated his specific 'Autoimmune Protocol'.  Robb has also worked with one the men that got me started down this road.  Watching this video series of Prof. Lorain Cordain's talks about multiple sclerosis and 'neolithic agents of disease' were one among many of the early light bulb moments for me over seven years ago.

 And now to move from the 'general' paleo ideas, to more specific autoimmune focused paleo concepts.  Terry Wahls is a real MD, with a real autoimmune disease - multiple sclerosis.  She found, as so many of us do, that conventional medical treatment of autoimmune disease is at best, a way to slow the progression of disease through pharmaceutical intervention and at worst, a path to continuingly progressive disease with a slew of medication induced side effects. Seven years after her diagnosis, with the best of the medical establishment's available pharmaceutical treatment, she found herself in a wheelchair, and thus began her own journey.  By researching the biochemical foundations of disease, and how specific nutrition and lifestyle behaviors can improve that biochemical landscape, she eventually developed The Wahls Protocol.  Her 2011 TEDx talk is a condensed outline of her experience, and is also powerfully motivating for anyone with an autoimmune disease, as well as any 'I want better health' average joe. 

Most of Terry Wahls work came out during a time (actually, over a period of years) when I was completely buried at work, and mountain biking or hiking every spare moment as a stress reliever; I wasn't aware of the majority of her work until recently.  Her Wahls Paleo Plus diet (there ARE less stringent levels) is very similar to the diet I've settled into over time; a ketogenic based paleo diet with a daily 16 hour fast.  And I love, love the importance she places on moving the body/exercising as much as one is capable of.  Her book (I've provided a link) is a MUST READ (did I say that loud enough?) for anyone with autoimmune disease.  It's chock full of information that is easy to understand, even if you have no background in the sciences - and her writing voice is incredibly powerful and inspiring.  Terry has a gift with words; her almost poetic turns of phrase will light a fire in you to take back control of your health!

Peter at Hyperlipid will blow your socks off with some of the heavy duty science behind nutrition research, high fat/low carbohydrate nutrition in particular.  He holds an honorary place for a series of posts that led to some my early internet searches about insulin/inflammation and eventually led to my introduction to the world of paleo.  And this post introduced me to the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) in relation to autoimmune/inflammation (more about IF in the future, I promise).

So, I've tinkered with setting up my links and composing this post for several days, and it's time to hit publish.  I'm heading out week after next for our annual family fall vacation at a cabin in the area known as the Arkansas Grand Canyon (hopefully temps will be cooler this year) and I leave you with a couple of photos from last year and a promise to post again when I get back.

Had to capture this on camera, the rolling hills and clouds and sun intermingled - beautiful!

A break in the shade; last year's vacation weather was hot and humid - Holly and Mikey NO LIKEY!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sneak Peak

I've been trying to catch up with my blog reading. . . yeah, it's going to take a while. . . Anyway, go over here to visit my favorite primal dude, Mark, and take a sneak peak his 'comprehensive diet, exercise and lifestyle book, The Primal Blueprint'. Mark's "Primal Blueprint" is the foundation for the eating and exercising habits that have had such a tremendous impact on my life over the past nine months or so. Enjoy!

(I've been looking for an excuse to use this pic for a while. . .)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More On Fasting

Peter over at Hyperlipid has an excellent post up, specifically about fasting and rheumatoid arthritis. Go. Read.