Archive for May, 2011

Complete introductory archives: ~250 posts

I posted a Paleo Archive post about a week ago.   The post covered a lot of important things, but it skimmed over a lot, too.  Lame.   Here, I am trying to mend those gaps.

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That original archive provided diverse reading material on why one should eat a paleo-type diet.  It was, however, even at 120 links, brief.    Missing information included dairy, exercise, metabolic regulation, sleep, and, most importantly, diseases of civilization.  Because of that, I have collected information in those gap areas and added them to the archive.  What follows here is a collection of 250 + posts on a variety of topics, hopefully with little overlap, that present a diverse and compelling case for the marriage of evolutionary science and diet.

Coming after this post, in a few days, will be another archive.  This one will be the “Advanced” archive.  Instead of being selected to convince, these posts have been selected instead to prod, question, and provide diverse perspectives.  The topics covered include: how toxic really are grains, fructose, and dairy?, how does one lose weight?, do we supplement?, what are the most important metabolic regulators?, what is a macronutrient, and what sort of ratios should we be eating?, and : what do “primitive” or non-SAD cultures teach us about human health?   It will also include some more technical discussion of phenomenon mentioned in the introductory archive.  This is an archive designed for someone invested in the nuances of paleo diets and science, and will hopefully be as comprehensive as the current zeitgeist actually is.  It will, in addition, evolve over time.

Following that archive will be one regarding the benefits, cautions and recommendations regarding specific foods.  I also foresee an archive specific to exercise, and perhaps another archive specific to paleosphere commentary re: contemporary culture, medicine, and science.  I am also contemplating success stories.  I will never do recipes, ever, because that would be aggressively redundant.  I am a counter and an organizer and a bit manic and a bit OCD, which makes a brain perfect for archiving.  I fear I may be doing this for a long time.

You will note, reading below, that many posts belong in more than one category.  Often, I just chose.  Occasionally I permitted overlap and double posted.  I also found it difficult to make divisions at all.  The categories I ended up with may not have been the wisest choices, but I did what I could.   They follow and are listed in no specific order.

Table of contents:

Exercise

Specific Diseases and Conditions

Cancer

Gut, diet, and autoimmune disease

Diabetes

Sleep

Skin and Acne

Women’s health

Testosterone and men’s health

Health limitations of a vegetarian diet

Allergies and food intolerances

Fructose and Sugar

Dairy

Grains

Inflammation, PUFA and disease

Mental health

Longevity

Weight loss

Carbs are okay

Cholesterol

Stress

Disordered eating

Vitamin D

Intermittent fasting and Calorie restriction

Grass fed versus grain fed

Fiber

China Study

Sustainability Concerns

 

Exercise

Exercise and body fat

The Menstrual cycle and exercise metabolism, Part II

The evolutionarily correct guide to running

Can endurance exercise promote cancer?

Specific Diseases and conditions

A cure for migraines?

Ketogenic diet for NBIA (Neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation)

An osteoarthritis recovery story

Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and osteoporosis reprise

Curing arthritis and depression with diet and supplementation

Red meat and strokes

Tooth decay reversal diet

Does Choline deficiency contribute to fatty liver in humans?

Cirrhosis and fructose

Cirrhosis and corn oil

Cirrhosis and fish oil

Why does inflammation cause anemia?

Anemia and exercise

Chronic obstruction pulmonary disease

Malocclusion: Disease of Civilization: Part IX

Ischemic heart attacks: Disease of Civilization

The coronary heart disease epidemic

Peripheral versus ectopic fat: implications for diabetes, your liver, and other diseases

The Vanderbilt protocol for multiple sclerosis

Cardiac disease and adiponectin

Fructose intake and kidney stones

Bowel disease part III: Healing through nutrition

Bone density assessment

Bone disease and lipids

Non-alcoholic fatty lipid disease

Coronary artery disease and vitamin D

Familial Hypercholesterolaemia

Parkinson’s disease

Rheumatoid arthritis and fasting

Rheumatoid arthritis and kidney stones

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Gall stones

GERD

Gastroparesis

Gout

Herpes

Painful joints

Varicose veins

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Acid reflux: a red flag

Fibromyalgia

Diet and recovery from chronic disease

Cancer

High cancer risk if you’re fat

Omega 3s, Angiogenesis, and Cancer, Part II

Skin texture, cancer, and polyunsaturated (omega) fat

Are high fat, high cholesterol diets linked to breast cancer?

Cancer in non-industrialized cultures

Cancer rates among the Inuit

Cancer and the immune system

Prostate cancer paradox

Cancer and ketones

Skin cancer

Colorectal cancer and cholesterol

A holistic approach to cancer

How to protect yourself against cancer with food

Sunlight and melanoma

Glucose, lactate and cancer

Glycemic load and breast cancer

Could fructose promote cancer?

Carnosine, colons, and cancer

Fruit and vegetables and cancer risk

Omega 6 speeds up cancer development

Vitamin D and cancer

How to cause a (skin) cancer epidemic

DHA and Angiogenesis: the bottom line

Body mass index and cancer deaths in various US states

Your gut, diet, and autoimmune disease:

9 Steps to perfect health part 5: HEAL YOUR GUT

Autoimmune disease and ancestral diet trials

The gut-brain-skin axis

Is your gut leaky?

Gut flora and body composition

Stress and your gut

What’s up with your gut?  Beneficial bacteria, good digestive health, and your immune system

Conquering autoimmune disease by deleting grains

How to restore digestive health

The leaky gut

The human colon in evolution series

Diabetes:

The diabetes epidemic

Why low carb for diabetes: a summary

The paleolithic diet for diabetes: clinical trial (part IV)

Why a ketogenic (low carb) diet reverses kidney damage in type I and type II diabetics

Diabetes I and II versus Diet

Diabetes and hunger

PaNu and type II diabetes

Diabetes and heart failure

Fat storage in pancreas and in insulin-sensitive tissues in development of type II diabetes

Mechanisms linking obesity to insulin resistance and type II diabetes

Lipotoxicity or tired pancreas? Abnormal fat deposition as possible precursor to type II diabetes

Diabetes update

Sleep

The big sleep

Getting better sleep

Sleep and the circadian rhythm

Poor sleep may make you and your liver fat

Frequent sleep disruption increases risk of kidney and heart disease

Is 8 uninterrupted hours flawed conventional wisdom?

17 ways to improve your sleep

Sound cues and circadian rhythms

Sleep and oxidative stress

How light affects our sleep

Sleep and the immune system

Getting over the afternoon slump

F Lux software to make your life better

Skin and acne

Loren Cordain’s dietary cure for acne (ebook purchase and reviews)

The gut-brain-skin axis

Acne relief: fish oil and the paleo diet

Acne: disease of civilization

Weston A Price on Acne

Age spots

Dry skin

Women’s health/hormones

Dietary fat and ovarian cancer

What is PCOS?

Iodine

Intermittent fasting for hypothyroidism

Meat is medicine: PCOS and female infertility

Micronutrient deficiency: an over-looked cause of hypothyroidism

Omega 6 fats supress thyroid signalling

PCOS and Low carb: is pregnancy a side effect?

How to grow a healthy baby

Maternal diet and heart development

Maternal diet effects offspring preferences

But Dad’s diet counts too

High fat diet and fertility

Gluten, thyroid, and autoimmunity

The contraceptive pill: if we don’t talk about it, it’ll all be OK?

Women’s set points

Fatty liver as a cause of PCOS?

Evolutionary disconnect and earlier puberty

MUST READ: Wise choices, healthy bodies: Diet for the prevention of women’s diseases

Natural PMS relief

Thyroid and Vitamin D Continued

Menstrual cramps

PCOS – Weston A Price

Hypothyroidism

Thyroid and iodine

Thyroid basic physiology

Estrogen

Testosterone: not so manly after all?

Testosterone, Men’s health

The testosterone report: a young man’s trial and success

Protein-driven Lust

How to naturally increase testosterone

How to build muscle

The holistic treatment of men’s diseases

Soy: playing with poison

The health limitations of a vegetarian diet:

Vegetarian nutrient deficiencies

Vegetarianism: what the science tells us

Real Health Debate: Richard Nikoley debates paleo against vegetarian advocates

Carnosine: the latest uh oh for vegans and vegetarians

Latest uh oh for vegans and vegetarians: Creatine

More truth about raw vegan diets

Butter versus Margarine

Meat, sleeping babies, vitamin B12, and why eating meat is a must for mothers

Eat meat for better reproductive health

How many vegetables per day?  Probably not as many as you think.

Vitamin K2 and MK4:  essential nutrients only found in animal fats

Fat soluble Vitamin Musings

Diets high in fish and meat linked to stronger bones

Nutrient breakdown and speculation of 30 bananas a day vegan advocate

Plants and plant compounds are not essential or magic

This link contains more than a dozen links to academic articles on the B12 risks of a vegetarian diet

Allergies and food intolerances

Food allergies and intolerances reveal the true human diet

Histamine intolerances

Food hypersensitivity: where does it start?

Beef allergies? Part II

Allergies and hay fever

What can modern toxicology tell us about food toxins and intolerances?

The baffling rise in seasonal allergies: obesity or global warming?

Fructose and sugar concerns:

Fructose and gout

Sugar: The Bitter Truth, a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig

Commentary re: Lustig’s lecture

There is no such thing as a macronutrient: why not all carbohydrates are equal

Studies suggest fructose is uniquely fattening

Fructose’s role in fatty liver disease

Fructose increases vulnerability to oxidative stress

Could fructose promote cancer?

Hepatic insulin resistance

Fructose makes bellies fat

Fructose, vitamin D, and calcium

When glucose makes a mess

A diet high in sugar can cause health damage even when a person is not overweight

Dairy

How dairy entered the human diet

Dairy and its effects on insulin secretion

Mark Sisson’s definitive guide to dairy

Devil in the milk

Dairy fat and diabetes

Casein versus gluten

Why grains are bad:

Why grains are bad, or how to keep feces out of your bloodstream, a chapter out of Robb Wolf’s book: The Paleo Solution

The argument against cereal grains

Wheat-germ agglutinin: It isn’t all about gluten

Meat versus wheat: statistics from the China Study

Gluten and gall bladders

Gluten sensitivity: why celiac is the tip of the iceberg

Celiac and fat-soluble vitamins

The dangers of wheat

Can gluten contribute to irritable bowel syndrome?

Gluten, thyroid, and autoimmunity

Gluten intolerance is a brain problem

Gluten-free January data analysis: health effects of a gluten-free trial

Why wheat is a concealed cause of many diseases Part III

Lactose intolerance: often a result of wheat derived bowel disease

The China Study: Wheat flour, rice, and cardiovascular disease

A new “China study” links wheat with weight gain

Inflammation, omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturated fats, and disease:

Allergy, asthma, and autoimmunity start the same way

PUFA and the brain

Why omega 6 fats and inflammation leads to brain deterioration and Alzheimer’s

The case against omega 6s

Omega fats and cardiovascular disease

Omega 3s, Angiogenesis, and Cancer, Part II

Omega 3 fatty acids for muscle growth: promising potential

US Omga 6 and omega 3 consumption over the last 100 years

Have seed oils caused a multigenerational obesity epidemic?

Corn oil and cancer: reality strikes again

Skin texture, cancer, and polyunsaturated (omega) fat

Mark Sisson’s Definitive guide to fats

A comprehensive list of omega 6 and omega 3 content of different foods.

Perilous and precious: understanding PUFA

Mental health:

Anxiety, bipolar, mental health and diet

Gluten: it messes with your head

Dietary protein and serotonin

Depression, anxiety, obesity

Schizophrenia and gluten

Carbs are bad news for the brain (Alzheimer’s)

Diet and violence

ADHD, mood dysregulation, and micronutrients

Food elimination diet and ADHD

ADHD and omega 3

More on wheat and serious mental illness

How to prevent spending the last ten years of your life in a diaper and wheelchair

Autism and ketogenic diets

Magnesium and the brain

Metals and the mind

Moods and the immune system

Nutrition and mental development

Why a paleo diet increases longevity:

Paleo primates live longer, live healthier

The life expectancy of hunter-gatherers

Paleo life expectancy

The role of lean muscle mass and organ reserve in aging

High animal protein diet links to increased longevity

Living healthier longer: The Lipid Hypothesis has Officially Failed: Part II

Glucose restriction increases lifespan of human cells

How insulin controls aging

Intermittent fasting prolongs life in mammals

Life extension: part II

Weight loss:

17 reasons you’re not losing weight

Get real, get motivated

The body fat setpoint: how to change it

Why we get fat: food toxins

What is the best exercise for fat loss? Part V

The Perfect Health Diet for Weight Loss

Food reward: a dominant factor in obesity, part I

Fasting insulin and weight loss

Why “heart healthy” grains make us fat

Why snacking makes us both weak and fat

Kurt Harris’s How to lose weight

Where are the fat carnivores?

The secret benefits of being lean: Leangains

How lean should one be?

Growth hormone, insulin resistance, and body fat accumulation

Stephen Guyenet’s recent thoughts on carbohydrate and reward

Carb Sane Blog

But why carbohydrates are not the devil, either:

Are carbs the enemy?

There is no such thing as a macronutrient: why not all carbohydrates are equal

Views on insulin and obesity

Dangers of zero carb diets: can there be a carbohydrate deficiency?

Hunter-gatherer macronutrient ratios: More data

Estimates of nutrients and fatty acids in East African paleolithic diets: less hunting, more gathering?

Who said paleolithic diets had high fat percentages?

Cholesterol and heart disease, or, surprise, why everything conventional wisdom told you was wrong, again:

Meta-analysis finds no evidence that saturated fat promotes heart disease

Does dietary fat increase cholesterol or promote heart disease?

Statins and the cholesterol hypothesis, part I

Can a statin neutralize the cardiovascular risk of unhealthy dietary choices?

Dirty little secrets of the fat-heart hypothesis

Coronary heart disease: possible culprits part II

The Choline Smackdown (why you should save your liver and eat cholesterol containing foods) and again here, this time emphasizing the high nutrient density of a cholesterol-rich diet

When your brain is hungry for cholesterol

The diet-heart hypothesis, oxidized LDL, part II

The China Study: Cholesterol seems to protect against cardiovascular disease

Stress

The new science of stress and stress resistance

Worms and stress

15 ways to fight stress

Cortisol, stress, excessive gluconeogenesis, and visceral fat accumulation

Cortisol response to stress is much more elevated with carbohydrate intake than with protein or fat

Disordered Eating

Proof that Orthorexia exists

Neurobiology of binge eating

Therapy versus life

Why did we evolve a taste for sweetness?

Sugar addiction

Sugar is addictive

Hyperinsulinemia and anorexia?

Food addiction: harder to kick than cocaine?

Carb junkies?

Rats binge on pure fat but escape with sanity in tact

You are how you eat

Feel deprived?  Throw a hearty fuck you at American culture

Curbing physiological drivers of binge eating with a paleo diet

Vitamin D

Everyone needs sunlight.  I’ll give you one link and let it lie.

Intra serum 25 D level variations

Vitamin D via insolation: the only route in the north

Vitamin D home testing

Alzheimer’s and vitamin D

Vitamin D and the kidney

H1N1 Vitamin D3 and innate immunity

Vitamin D and the colon

Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction

Check out Leangains, possibly the BEST IF guide

What happens to your body when you fast?

Intermittent fasting prolongs life in mammals

Health benefits to intermittent fasting

How to intermittent fast

Intermittent fasting, set point, and leptin

Top ten fasting myths debunked

Intermittent fasting and infrequent meals: two meals a day

What I eat while fasting

Who shouldn’t try fasting?

Muscle loss and short term fasting

Intermittent fasting and reduced inflammation

The China Study: Does calorie restriction increase longevity?

Calorie restriction: partial restoration, not enhancement

Calorie restricted monkeys part II

Grass-fed versus grain-fed

The practically paleo guide to conventional meat

Low omega 6 to 3 ratio: grain fed beef or industrial oils?

Wild versus grass versus grain fed ruminants

More on grass-fed bison

Grass fed dieters see improved platelets, fatty acid profiles

The differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef

Why fiber may not be all that good for you after all:

Fiber Menace

Dietary fiber and mineral availability

Colorectal cancer and fiber

The human colon and evolution, part III

The statistical debunking of the China Study:

The China Study: Fact or Fallacy?

The China Study: a thorough and diverse series of statistical analyses

Meat Versus Wheat: the China study

Sustainability concerns:

Vegetarian Myth review

Meat: A benign Extravagance review

Meat is medicine: how cows are helping revive desert ecosystems in Africa

Kurt Harris’s manifesto for diet and for life:

Paleo 2.0

 

 

 

30

05 2011

Why did we evolve a taste for sweetness?

Over the past few days, I’ve been busy working on a paleo archiving project.  I’m really excited about it.  The one post I have posted below, I think, is just the beginning, and I have about a billion tabs open on my computer, trying to organize everything.  Because this has taken up so much time, I haven’t been thinking much about disordered eating.  But it’s kind of a nice break.  Food and negativity on the mind is food and negativity on the mind, no matter which way you’re looking at it.

In any case, in my archiving I came across this post by Paul over at Perfect Health Diet.  I’m amazed that I missed it before because I read his blog religiously.  In the post, Paul asks a question I had always wondered about: “Why did we evolve a taste for sweetness?” and he provides an answer I had never thought of before.

What if, says Paul, our taste for sweetness was “hijacked” by fruit?  What if our original taste for sweetness was much more subtle?

Paul proposes here that we evolved a taste for sweetness because red meat is the sweetest of any animal.  Other hypotheses are that a) we need fruit for a variety of reasons, particularly vitamin C, b) that we need glucose and therefore evolved craving carbohydrate in general, or c) that benefit from a bit of fruit and a bit of starch in our diets, but fruits were so scarce and “tart” back then that their actual contribution to human health was negligible.  I believe that I’ve heard a refutation to this last point recently, but I can’t remember where.   Paul’s own refutation of them all is as follows:

“But what of the sweet taste? Is it really a sensor for carbohydrates? If so it does a rather poor job. The healthiest carbohydrate source – starch, which is fructose-free – hardly activates this taste, while fructose, a toxin, activates it in spades. If this taste evolved to be a carbohydrate sensor, it should have made us aversive to the carbohydrates it detects, as the bitter taste makes us avoid toxins. But sweet tastes are attractive!”

Right.  So he then discusses how red meat is the sweetest meat (read the post!  there is a lot more science going on than I am addressing), and proposes that we crave this sweetness more when we have nutrient deficiencies.  Fascinating, right?

The implication of this for binge eaters, which Paul points out in his post, is that a part of our craving for sweets may be nutritionally derived.  As such, binge eaters have a stronger than average inclination to binge because their bodies need something only available, or at least most abundantly available, in meat.  This idea relies on the theory that cravings are driven by nutrient needs.  Unfortunately, the jury is definitely out here.   Dr. Briffa thinks this occurrence is rare, and this organization and this review paper think is false. On the flip side, Pica, a condition marked by cravings for inanimate objects such as sand or dirt, is very often (but not always) hypothesized to be caused by nutrient deficiencies.  As such, it supports, in the extreme spectrum, Paul’s theory.

Since so much of the science lacks consensus in this issue, I don’t have a set opinion.  It makes sense to me, that we would crave meat if it’s the best source of nutrition.  Paul’s reasoning is solid, too. But I also know that many intelligent people, including Paul, think that we need a hundred grams or so of glucose each day.    Should that include fruit?  Who knows.

Finally,  I look to my experiences.  I know that I have rectified some nutrient deficiencies since going paleo.  My thyroid is working a bit better, my skin is nicer and my hair no longer comes out in strands as thick as a mongoose.  These changes are positively correlated with my cravings.  Those have decreased without question.  But how do I suss out the reasons?  Is it nutrient deficiencies?  A lack of blood sugar fluctuation?  The elimination from fructose in my diet, which helps stabilize leptin levels?  Or is it psychological?  Habitual?  Have I finally, after all this time, just kicked the bucket on sweets?

Yes, I think, and no.  The fact that I can binge on non-sweet foods says No.   I’ve put away entire chickens before without blinking an eye.   Many of my readers can do this, too.   As can rats.   Yet Paul again has a rebuttal lined up.  He asserts that people reach for sweets because they are denied their first, true, and most important craving: fat.  Interesting.  It’s an idea I wouldn’t  elbow people to get in the front of the line to sign up for, but I can also totally see it being the case.  If anyone was fucked by conventional nutrition, it was me.  Did you know I ate almost no fat for three years?

That said, I don’t think this fat-deprivation entirely drove my bingeing behavior.  There were a lot of factors as play, worst of which, I think, was my fructose consumption.  Yet weight loss, frustration, stress, body image, and lack of fat and protein leading to an inherently unsatisfying diet were also big components.  Meat-as-craving-for-sweetness is a fascinating theory.  It has definite potential as a component of disordered eating.  But there are millions of things going on in my body and in my brain at any given time, and I think many other disordered eaters would agree.  What comes first?  What follows?  What triggers the worst binges?  What is the most effective bingeing salve?   It’s all very complicated stuff.  In any case, we should address the physiological as soon as and as diligently as possible.  We should eat animals, stop eating fruit, and make sure we get as much fat and protein as we need.   We should consider supplementation if we’ve really been beating up our bodies.  And we should stop doing chronic cardio and do our best to sleep at night.  We can, then, at the same time, start chipping away at the psychological factors.  The hope is then that, as we move forward with both psychological and physiological healing, we can recover as smoothly and quickly as possible.

23

05 2011

What’s on the web? Pepper’s paleo archive: 120 relevant and awesome posts

How much is on the web?  Too much?

When you’re looking for advice, or for specific information, sometimes it’s really hard to find what you’re looking for.  That’s why I try–but it really is so hard–to be as comprehensive as possible with my posts and my pages.  I want to support healthy thinking and disordered eaters as well as contribute to the Paleo Zeitgeist, and, perhaps most importantly, help my friends and family and other newcomers get going with new nutrition and new diets.   This is a huge goal and a diverse set of desires, which is why it’s so impossible to be comprehensively awesome.

Because I so desperately want to provide good information to my readers, I have begun compiling an archive of relevant posts.  It’s almost impossible to google what you want to know about nutrition and find a good answer these days.  Almost always Paleo Hacks comes up for the first ten results, and then some other advice forums.   I’ve started automatically typing -”paleo hacks” into every search bar for this very reason.  It helps, some.   But still I am often stymied.  This is because what I am really looking for is the Good Stuff.  And what I hope I am giving to you, here, is exactly that.  I should have done this sooner.  I should have started years ago.  But better late than never, I am certain.

I decided to finally get started on this because I want to open up my readers  to the vast wealth of research going on out there.  Yes, it’s about cutting grains.  Yes, you should cut sugar.  Yes, you should balance your omega 3 and omega 6 consumption.  But why?  How many different ways does that impact your health?  How many different body functions and micronutrients does your nutrition impact?   How many different opinions are there?  Almost countless amounts.  What I touch on in my blog is nothing. Nothing!  It truly is.   What I even touch on in this post is nothing.  The tippiest, tippiest point of the iceberg.   Stars of the paleo movement are day in day out out there on a rowboat next to the iceberg, chipping away at science, digging through academic journals and staying up to date on the latest research, and I want to help you find and navigate them.  For a number of reasons, I am not one of these stars.  Instead, I filter through their material and sometimes read the academic stuff, and do my best to live  and eat and recommend eating habits accordingly.   If you know me personally, you will not be surprised to learn that I have read each of these blogs in their entirety (along with the rest of the blogs in my blogroll on the right) at least once.  I think they all deserve that deep of attention and analysis.  It is unfortunate that I only have a handful of posts from each blogger on here.  All the more reason, however, to follow the link and see what you can learn.

What follows is a collection of articles by various scientists, doctors, nutritionists, and paleo lifestyle-ers on a variety of health topics.    This is so far away from comprehensive it’s ridiculous.   However, I do not want to overwhelm my new readers.   Instead,  my hope is to provide what I think is both healthy blog diversity and perhaps the best investigation on each topic. Some topics I miss and some I know I don’t do justice to– such as intermittent fasting, and also, weight loss– but 120 is, I think, a good enough starting point.  I have been working on this for many days, and it’s time for me to start going to school again.

So what’s out there that I think you should be reading, and why?  What follows are some specific articles and also general recommendations.

 

For the updated archives (250+), please see this post or this page.

 

 

Gratitude

What up, friends.

I was having a discussion with a client of mine about positivity, and it struck me that I’ve never straight on discussed on my blog how I feel about positive thinking.  I think it’s… well.  It’s amazing.  Perhaps the most important thing in our lives.   For mental health, for our relationships, for our bodies, for our souls…   Gods!  It’s a huge topic, too.  “Positive thinking.”  So I’m going to focus on, like I said, the most important points.  First, gratitude.  Then, what does gratitude do to improve our mental and physical health?

First, there’s a caveat. (I feel like Prometheus.  These damn things never go away.)  Positive thinking is, while the absolute most important, also the absolute most difficult part of this whole recovery deal to wrap our heads around.  Whether it’s because of our natural wiring and drive perfect ourselves, or our consumer culture, or globalization, or stress, or what-have-you, we are really, really good at being down.  Sadness and futility are pervasive.  The English language, you know, has twice as many words for describing sad emotions as for describing happy ones.  That shouldn’t be surprising.  The real kicker of the whole deal, too, is that sadness begets sadness.  Once we start thinking negatively, more negative thoughts pull us further under, and before we know it we’re being dragged along the bottom of the ocean bumping our heads on all sorts of lava flows and abandoned ships.  I see this time and time again with my clients.  Everyone recognizes the fact that positive thinking is the pavement on the road to recovery, but no one has it easy internalizing this fact.  So take it slow.  Practice some of the ideas and activities I (and others) propose when you feel like it.  Affirm yourself as much as you can.  Love and forgive yourself as much as you can.  Try and think of how you would treat your partner, or your child, and give yourself the same leeway. Look at the things in your life that give you stress and see how you can change them.  Trust me– the world really is a bright and beautiful and lovely place.  All we’ve got to do, well, I guess is warm up to that idea over time.  Then give it a bear hug and fight as fiercely as possible to hold on to it forever.

The world is full of pain.  We all know this.  Yet while it sucks big time, why dwell on it?   Especially when it’s our own suffering?  Focusing on our own problems doesn’t do anything for anybody.  What’s more, everything in our lives could be a whole hell of a lot worse.  We could have a shit show of everything.  That would be very bad.  That would be as bad as some other people do have it.  So perhaps we should feel sympathy for them, and think about their pain and how we can ease it, instead of focusing on our own issues that really could be eons worse. Every day we wake up feeling healthy deserves a prayerful of thanks.  Remember how scary it is to be sick?  It’s amazing that we have whatever health (and existence!) that we do.  This fact is worth cherishing beyond measure.

That said, the pain that we do experience doesn’t even have to be a bad thing.  Instead, we can internalize it as an inherent part of the human experience.  Without pain we would never know true joy, so we honestly have no choice but to be grateful for sorrows.  Moreover, we, as human beings, are united by our basic humanity.   “Hearts united in pain and sorrow,” wrote Khalil Gibran, “will not be separated by joy and happiness. Bonds that are woven in sadness are stronger than the ties of joy and pleasure. Love that is washed by tears will remain eternally pure and faithful.”  Not bad, eh? We are profoundly connected to each other by our abilities to feel and to love and to bleed, and all of our struggles help us to be truly, deeply human.  In this way, our suffering makes us profoundly (and bittersweetly) beautiful creatures.  We can–and should–find gratitude in our hearts for every experience, even for this.

What else do we have to be grateful for?  How many good, or fine, or acceptable things are there in our lives?  How many beautiful things surround us on a daily basis?  One of my favorite pieces of prose I have ever read was by a female prison inmate.  In it, she discusses the simplest of pleasures, and how desperately she yearns to experience them.   The greatest aspect of all, to me, is that she talks about color.  She yearns for color.  When I read this piece, I think about the fact that no matter where I am or what I am feeling in my life, I will always have the beautiful, wonderful experience of color.

“I want to see the colors, all of them, every color ever spun into existence.  And white, true white, pristine and unblemished.  And acres of green trees, and miles of yellow-ribbon highways, and yards of Christmas lights.  And the moon.”

What a rich and lovely and vibrant thing.  This passage will never leave me, even in my saddest times.   And it will always remind me of what it means to be human, to have senses, to experience the world, and to live and love and absorb beauty.

One of the great loves of my life once said this:

“I love life. I love everything about it. Smiling, laughing, loving, crying, breathing, jumping, running, flying, standing still – arms open, head tilted towards the heavens. Everything in, around, and about my life is beautiful. I watch countless sunrises, sunsets, wind blowing in the trees, waves rolling on open water, birds flying in the endless sky and fall more in love with this world every day. I don’t understand how any person could be anything but overjoyed with life.”

And he has a point, does he not?  The things he loves are simple and universal, and they flood him daily with enormous feelings of gratitude and love.

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So what does this do for our bodies and our health?

Feeling gratitude in every moment, and looking at the positive aspects of our experiences, increases the amount of time we spend thinking positively about the world.  With more and more positive thoughts accumulating in our heads, we are de facto pushing out the negative ones.  Instead of spending our time trying to get rid of negative thoughts, which can sometimes help us achieve neutrality, we can actively use positive thinking to shove them out the door. “Sorry, self-hate! My brain is an open invitation party for lovers and optimists only.”    Even if it is only a little bit at first, the ability to think positively and gratefully about our lives grows and grows, and can become more and more the dominant mode of thought.

Like I said above, easier said than done.  But it’s true and it’s important and it’s absolutely a practical step towards well-being.   Make a list about yourself, for example, of all of the beautiful things inside and out.  Or stand in front of the mirror.  Or flex and look at your muscles.  Do whatever you need to to appreciate your own body.  Lay in your bed and breathe deeply in and out, and think about your heartbeat and your nerves and all of your fibers working together.  Even better, though, is looking for gratitude outside of yourself. Open your fridge and feel grateful for your bounty.  We live in a world of abundance, so instead of resenting it, be grateful that you have enough food and resources to meet your needs.  It’s okay if you overeat once in a while, or what-have-you.  Isn’t that better than starving for the rest of your life?  I know a lot of people who in secret admit that they have envied starving children in India because it is “effortless” to be thin.  Please don’t be one of them.  It is the most wonderful thing to be fed and warm, and we have nothing to be but grateful for it.  Our societies have hindered our ability to normally use those resources, but that’s okay.  We can get that back.  We just have to love, love, love ourselves and rise above the troubles coming at us in our lives.  We have worlds worth of things to be grateful for, and focusing on them helps us transcend the ugliness in our own lives.

Studies about gratitude have shown time and time again that it increases well-being.   Feeling grateful makes the world a generally brighter place, and we could really use that from time to time.  The thing is that it doesn’t just have to be an occasion, or an intervention, but it can be a habit.   To make that happen, we can routinely focus on our gratitude, AND, if we really want to push the envelop, we can explicitly express our gratitude.  Expressing thanks to others has shown to be hugely beneficial and stress reducing.  One slighter but no less important method is expressing thanks privately, such as writing, drawing, or singing how we feel.  I mean it.  Get it out there.  Share with your loved ones and the wider universe what you are grateful for in any situation, and your brain be much better prepared to deal with future struggles.

I write about gratitude today not only because it is the most important thing in my life but also because it is so incredibly relevant to contemporary culture.  We live in a time that compels us to think about what we can’t have, to wish we could be better, to want want want want need need need need.  Bullshit!  Contemporary culture actively works to eliminate gratitude and appreciation.  Constantly, it chips away at our “gratitude muscles.”  I don’t like this one bit.  Positive thinking is enabled by gratitude and acceptance and love, and sometimes we need reminders of that fact.  So… stop.  breathe.  look up.  look around.   Life certainly is a clusterfuck of struggles and pain sometimes, but we always exist, and we always have something beautiful in our lives, and we always have each other.  If those things aren’t enough to ease the burdens off of our shoulders, I don’t know what possibly could be.

Kevin Spacey’s character in the film American beauty says:

“It’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst…and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…”

 

 

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The history behind Paleolithic diets

The palaeolithic diet, is a eating style which is compared to the caveman diet because it only allows you to eat certain types of meat and vegetables and bans sugar and ready-made meals. Similar eating styles were presumed to be used 2.5 million years ago. The modern version permits dieters to have grass fed, pasture raised meats, fish, vegetables, roots, nuts and fruits. However, it excludes grains, legumes, refined sugars and dairy. It tries to mimic what cave people might have lived off of.

The science behind this method is that research has suggested that modern people are genetically developed to consume the diet of their ancestors. In addition, studies have shown that there has been nutritional benefits of trying the old age diet. Some people think it can help with acne because it helps improve their skin. It seems like a good idea if you want to cut down on fatty items and ready-meals, improve your quality of life, living longer which will reduce the risk of your family cashing in on the Aviva Life insurance, or which ever company you might be with. However, it is not popular with everyone, nutritional experts and the National Health Service of England have implied it is likely to be a fad diet. Critics believe it doesn’t reach certain dietary recommendations and the diet provides no benefit, but equally no harm.

The main foods of the diet are based around those which can be hunted or gathered, such as fish, eggs, nuts, fruits and seeds. By eating lean cuts of meat, including wild game and grass fed beef, proved to have higher levels of omega 3 oils. Any product which was not consumed by the cave people are not permitted, these include dairy and grains.

To wash all that down with, dieters can drink water and some teas, but are banned from alcohol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16

05 2011

PCOS and acne update

I’ve been wanting to give you an update on my PCOS for a while now, but I kept saying, “just wait until X,” or “once Y happens.”  This was stupid.  Health progresses very slowly, and I might end up waiting to write about PCOS forever if I decide to wait for everything to be perfect.

Here is my original post on PCOS.  To summarize:

PCOS is the condition of having cystic ovaries, which is caused by a hormone imbalance.   When women have too many androgen (male) sex hormones, and not enough estrogen, we do not ovulate properly.  We develop cysts on our ovaries, and often exhibit other symptoms: we might stop menstruating, become infertile, have irregular periods, or exhibit testosterone dominant characteristics such as male-pattern facial hair, loss of head hair, and acne.  Gross.  Most PCOS patients are overweight and tend towards insulin resistance.  Testosterone is high in these patients for this reason, and even conventional medicine prescribes low carbohydrate diets for remediation.  However, there exists a minority of PCOS patients who have a bit of an opposite problem: that when they lose weight, or are perfectly fit, they mysteriously struggle with the same imbalance.  I am one of these.  Doctors are having a difficult time figuring out why.

I stopped menstruating about a year and a half ago now.  I don’t want to get to the punch line too early, but I also want to let you down slowly, so know in advance: I do not have an absolute victory to share with you.  I am not menstruating yet.  But I have hope that I will begin some time soon.  (!)

When I became period-free, I had recently lost a lot of weight.  I have maintained, more or less, that body size since then.  My doctor’s hypothesis for why I have PCOS is, therefore, as follows: since estrogen is produced in fat cells, when I lost fat, my body, which had become dependent on fat cells for estrogen supply, stopped having enough estrogen to menstruate properly.  Make sense?  Sure.   But I have also tested low on thyroid, and around 40 percent of PCOS patients also have hypothyroidism.  A high percentage of hypothyroid patients, in turn, (up near 80 or 90, according to Chris Kesser) have Hashimoto’s Thyroidism, an autoimmune condition.  So it is possible that this is the underlying cause of my PCOS.  I have yet to be tested for it since I am living in Taiwan, but I intend to find out once I return state-side.

That October 2009 was when I stopped menstruating.  I was on a zero fat vegetarian diet, and had in fact been doing that for three years, though it was only in the final months of 2009 that I ever “got really serious” and lost weight.   I wonder if this had anything to do with losing my periods, but, again, I don’t know anything for certain.  In March of 2010, still around 19 percent body fat, I switched to lacto-paleo.   My ovaries remained the same.  I had no periods, no vaginal discharge–which I used to have in spades–and no sex drive. Life can be really hard sometimes.

In August of 2010, acne emerged.  And not just acne, but, like, acne. I don’t have any photos from the time period because it was too horrific to even contemplate.  At one point I had 37 active cysts around my mouth.  Yikes.  I do, however, have one photo from after I had recovered a little bit, and I’m going to post it below.  We can pretty definitively attribute this acne to the high testosterone levels, since this is where testosterone-heavy people (such as steroid abusers) always break out.  I really panicked about it being due to food allergies, however, which made my diet an absolute mess.  My new hypothesis is that certain foods exacerbate the acne, but testosterone is the underlying cause.

Ugh, gross.  At this point, I decided to give up dairy.  It didn’t really help.  I was eating a lot of vegetables (including a shit ton of goitrogenic cabbage), eggs, fish, and industrial meat.  I noticed then when I took a lot of fish oil it seemed to improve, and also that whenever I put on weight it seemed to improve.  When I lost weight again after putting it on over the holidays, my face was a fiery nightmare.  Recall that estrogen is produced in fat cells, and helps mitigate the hormone imbalance.  Putting on weight, then, was at least moderately effective.

The first time I saw any significant improvement was when I took progesterone pills for three weeks.  This also made me put on about ten pounds in that three week time period, so I stopped taking it.  It made me a little suicidal anyway.

In any case, because of this, I have always sort of used my face as a metric for my PCOS.  The general trend seems to be that with a better hormone balance in my system, my face gets better.  The state of the acne is also, I believe, related to my diet.  There are two specific ways:  1)  I notice that if I have some sugary drinks while out on a weekend, I get a small break out.  This might be why dairy was so problematic for me, too.  (I think I noticed that the worst food instigator for me was store bought blue cheese dressing: dairy and low-fat additives and omega 6 dressing: Gods, could I have been putting anything worse in my body?)  So insulin is related.  Note that insulin’s role in all of this is probably due to how strongly it stimulates testosterone production.  2) I think that my diet, despite my best efforts, was still high in omega 6s while at home.  I also think I have a lot of inflammation left over in my body from my previous lifestyle and diets, so I need to really watch my omega 3s and 6s.  That “meat” that I was consuming a lot of including high quantities of chicken.  So perhaps it was never enough to balance the salmon filets I ate a couple of times per week.  I don’t know.  In Taiwan, I have been eating a whole hell of a lot of fish, which I think definitely helps.

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Ok.  So my skin is bad and my vagina is as dry as Oscar Wilde, and I depart for Taiwan at the end of January 2011.

Within a week I see mild improvement.  Wtf?  What changed?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  There have been lots of variables at play already, and in Taiwan there are even more.  I stop eating chicken, and I eschew dairy 100 percent.  I also start eating seaweed.  I notice that this helps, I think, considerably.  This makes me wonder: is my low thyroid being fixed by iodine consumption, and is that in turn helping my PCOS?  Iodine is known to support ovarian and mammarian tissue health, so basic nutrient supplementation could be the key, I think.  When I discover this, I decide to eat seaweed daily.   I also decide to really pay attention to my omega 3s and omega 6s.  I eat as few vegetable oils as possible (though that is incredibly difficult in Taiwan), so I also eat fish twice per day.   This means that I am decently balanced, omega 3 to 6 (though I really have no idea, and I don’t take fish oil), and also that I am getting more than sufficient iodine.  More than sufficient, since seaweed and seafood are the most rich natural sources. I am also eating some pork, getting sufficient protein, avoiding sweets, and even adding some carbohydrate back into my diet.  I have yet to really test whether the carbohydrate is important, or not, probably not, but there we go.

I see my skin improve with time. It’s slow, at first.  Quite slow.  I troubleshoot and figure I need more seaweed and omega 3s.  I also stop eating sugar-free gum.  I start consistently sleeping seven hours a night.  I no longer live with my enormously stressful father.  I have put on five pounds.  I don’t know what is working, but something is.   After about six weeks in Taiwan, my vaginal discharge returns.  At this point, I’m pretty hopeful.

This is what I look like in early April:

 

From April through May, something really amazing happens.  I don’t know what.  But my skin advances like a warrior.  Every day I see it clear up.  Today, May 12, 2011, I have no acne.  Only scars.  I just sit back, and eat as carefully as possible, and watch the scars heal over time.

It’s also pretty fascinating, however, because in April I start getting violently ill once in a while.  I get incredibly nauseated and have disturbingly thorough diarrhea.  The first time this happens to me it is so severe that I am hospitalized for dehydration and shitting mucus and blood.  Yikes.  This meant that I end up eating a lot of sweet potatoes and occasionally squeezing in pork and eggs, and also carrots.  For a while I drink soy milk and even eat some granola, simply because those are the only things that feel good in my stomach (but I worry about the insulin for my face!).  This also means that, still, I am worried about my health.  Am I doing something wrong?  What is making me so ill? I don’t know.  Honest.  With my expert medical opinion, I have narrowed the causes down to: hyperthyroid activity, whether from an autoimmune condition or the vast amounts of iodine I was consuming, food poisoning, a duodenal ulcer, a parasite the hospital missed, or, my favorite candidate right now: iodine poisoning.   I think I overdosed on iodine.  Iodine can be corrosive in the stomach, and for a while I was exceeding the upper limit on iodine by a few thousand percent each day.  I didn’t know I had been eating that much.  In any case, my intestinal lining is upset and ulcerated, and this may be due to iodine consumption.  Therefore: I have dropped my seafood and seaweed consumption to about zero recently (boy I miss omega 3s), and I have been doing okay.  Skin still looks good, I feel great otherwise, my vaginal discharge is now not just present but constant, and my sex drive is back in full force. That is unfortunate, since I liked the mental clarity I had as an asexual for a year and a half, but Zeus hates me so what can I do?

This means that, I think, my periods will come back.  I have no real evidence for what is working and what isn’t.  The answer could simply be that my body needed time to adjust to the new body weight.  Or it could be as complicated as having low thyroid from iodine deficiency, or low thyroid from an autoimmune condition, recovering from inflammation, needing omega 3s and more iodine for my PCOS, living a relaxed lifestyle, eschewing dairy, getting more nutrients in my body, drinking more water, drinking less (herbal) tea, or keeping insulin low.   Another very important factor is that I’m about 5 pounds heavier than I was in September 2010.  That’s not very significant for someone who weights 200 pounds, but the difference between 110 and 115, or 115 and 120, is pretty profound.  I think it is a mix of a lot of things.  In any case, I am no longer ashamed of going out in public–of inflicting my face on people, I used to think–and I have a sex drive and I was kidding above it’s fucking (pun intended) incredible, and I may in fact regain my fertility in the near future.

When I first started getting vaginal discharge a few months ago I thought my periods would start right away. Now I know better.  Just like it took a long time for my acne to develop, cysts to show up, and menstruation to stop (perhaps that was a result of my long-term vegetarian low fat lifestyle), it is going to take a while for my body to find new balance and reap all of the benefits from increased nutrients on the paleo diet.  I need to keep moving forward slowly, and to experiment with different foods ideas, and to be as smart and safe as possible.  I think it’s going to come in time.  I don’t have a triumphant success story for you yet, but trust me, when I begin menstruating, you may in fact be the first to know.

This weekend.  A bit of foundation, hints of scars on the left side of the photo, but otherwise, well, free.  Not bad, eh?:

 

12

05 2011

Reader Insight

With the permission of a reader of mine who has become a dear friend, I am posting part of one of her emails to me.  I find it to be very stirring and very true, and I think that the words of someone wrestling with food so intelligently and bravely right now might be a good perspective to add to mine on this blog.  She discusses what makes her binge, and why, and it’s enormously touching.  Moreover, we could all really learn from her radical and brilliant self-honesty.

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I thought about WHY did I want to eat. Was it because I was hungry? Was it because I had just “allowed” myself  that day and wanted to make the most of it as a treat? Or was it because I wanted to be distracted from a thought about myself or a void inside?

Usually when I binge, Stef, I think its the last two questions.  I’m getting better at learning how to handle the second to last one- the go crazy because I already screwed it up mentality- that’s all about willpower, and realizing that the real treat and the real spoiling of myself comes from getting to that goal weight that would make me so happy. It’s the last question I think is the hardest- the types of thoughts I’m trying to escape from are ones where I am disappointed in myself, or ones where I feel lonely (like I’ll never find someone to spend the rest of my life and will live alone forever), or thoughts about how I could be better at everything, or thoughts about how little progress I’ve made- I don’t need to describe more because we both know what those self-castigating thoughts (thriggers [purposeful misspelling lol] lets call them) are and how they get us going on a binge.  And we talked about it before and I knew that, but what I think I realized this week, is when you are in that moment, when you are reaching to eat something, and IN THAT MOMENT when you realize that you are doing it because you don’t want to think whatever you are thinking, or you want to run away from that loneliness inside- it is so hard to put it down. Not because you dont realize its not going to make you better- I’ve made that realization already- i know that it’s not going to make me feel better, and i know that probably in an hour and the next day its going to make me even feel worse but IN THAT MOMENT, it’s something to do, something to distract myself with, something to fill myself with. Something to keep me from being alone with my thoughts of self loathing and loneliness. And when you do decide to put it down, and when you do decide to not eat, you are alone with those thoughts. And that’s when it becomes something you actually know- that is when you actually realize that you were eating to not be alone with those thoughts, because being alone with those thoughts suck. At least it was something to do (like people turn to alcohol or drugs, the analogies weve made before to addictive substances).  It’s not until you actually let yourself be alone with those thoughts do you really understand that you were running away from being alone with them. And I know why- because it sucks to be alone with them. But I know thats the only way to heal.  Its the harder route, but in the long run makes me happier, and in the long war against self loathing, its beginning a small battle with those thoughts- giving yourself the opportunity to sift through them, to face them, instead of eating away from them.

Did any of that make sense? I hope it did. I was trying to convey something I think that’s been very powerful for me.  Realizing that 1) not only will eating not make it go away or make it better and will actually make it worse and make me hate myself more and that 2) being alone with these thoughts is what I was running away from, is what binging was doing for me.  The thoughts of feeling like I obsess too much on whats on the outside and that my inside is not good enough, or that I will be alone forever. Or that I feel like a failure in everything. Not always, many of the times I binged because I felt I needed to make the most of this “break” — which I think is more about dealing with willpower and arming myself with the knowledge that Im not depriving myself but actually doing better.

As you can see, I’m sifting through the WHYS of my binging so I can move forward with better armor and preparation as you suggested is best.  I’m reading this book called “the act of racing in the rain”- it’s absolutely amazing. I want to copy in a paragraph for you, but it will take too long. Basically the point of the paragraph is:  “that which you manifest is before you”– I’m explaining it horribly, but the idea is that you create your own destiny by the decisions you make and the way you react to things that are outside your control- by realizing the response to these actions are in your control.  I woke up this morning (the hardest part for me is the day after a bad day , I just want to make that bad day bad too and the cycle goes on) saying “that which you manifest is before you- it is in my hands to get to my goals or not, I can decide whether I’m going to make this day something that I want rather than something that is self sabotage”- and I am pushing and pushing every time a thought of laziness, post fruit from yesterday hunger pang comes, to remember my goal to get to Sunday with my break only lasting one day. And I WILL do it Stef, I’ll be dammed, but God willing, I will get there. Because I can decided whether I will or not, and I decide to do what I know I want for myself.

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She’s brilliant, isn’t she?  And strong and courageous, and making so much progress, and really doing well.  And getting through med school at the same time.  In any case, the greatest lesson I think we can learn from her is that running is not the answer.  Food as a distraction is not the answer.  Is it momentarily numbing?  Absolutely.  But it is a band-aid, and a bit of a scary one, at that.  One of those that pulls all of your tiny hairs out when you take it off.  Don’t let food be a band-aid.  If you need one, look elsewhere.  If you don’t need one, face your demons head on, and think about how to best deal with them, and approach the problem with as much patience, love, and positivity as you can muster.  And I promise, I promise: no matter the depth of your pain or your self-illusion, recognizing food as a distraction will help you walk away from it more easily.  Hell no, it won’t be easy.  But it will be easier, and you will be able to more clear-headedly think about your problems and how to fix their place in your life.

12

05 2011