Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Making Supper Safe

by wil — Dec 5, 2011

I recently finished Making Supper Safe, Ben Hewitt’s critique of food safety/regulation/politics. I enjoyed it — it’s a topic I’m interested in and he’s got a casual, engaging style (no angry screeds).

Basically it’s a critique of the industrial food system and the largely-pro-industrial policies of the USDA/FDA. And then a look at smaller-scale, regional alternatives.

I’ve cobbled together this Hewitt food-safety summary/manifesto (which I agree with wholeheartedly):

  • As long as we choose to eat, we choose to accept a certain degree of risk.
  • I know that the risk of contracting pathogenic bacteria from my food is small but real.
  • My food is teeming with bacteria because the world is teeming with bacteria.

What I have chosen, therefore, is a style of eating that affords me as much transparency as possible. To the extent that I am able, I purchase my family’s nourishment from producers operating on a scale or with an ethos that provides a clear view of the where, how, and why of production and processing methods.

I also believe that the widespread antibacterial/antimicrobial movement is good-intentioned, but wrong-minded. I’m not talking about life-saving antibiotics, but general antibiotic overuse*, antibacterial soap/wipes, food irradiation, etc. — and the notion that you can, or would want to, get rid of all bacteria/microbes.

It’s commonly estimated that the number of bacteria in and on our bodies outnumber the number of human cells by 10 to 1. We are bacterial hosts/symbionts. We need bacteria for vitamin synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, nitrogen metabolism, fat metabolism, etc. And we regularly harbor pathogenic and/or potentially-pathogenic bacteria while maintaining overall good health.

There is a lot of evidence to support the idea that we are a victim of hyperhygenitization. The evidence is increasingly strong that when our intestinal microbiota is in a normal, healthy state, we’re more resistant to disease. In fact, one of the top predictors for salmonella poisoning is antibiotic use within the past 30 days.Justin Sonnenburg
Asst. Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford

The way I see it, you can maintain a strong and healthy gut and immune system or you can get by with a weakened gut and immune system and try to kill off the “bad” microbes (a losing battle). I’ll grant you, it’s not a scientific study, but my wife and I hardly ever get sick. As kids and into our twenties, we got sick a few times a year, we got colds, the flu, etc. and we just accepted it as normal. But nowadays we very rarely get sick, and for what it’s worth, we attribute the change to our change in diet (from a pretty conventional, standard American diet to one heavy in home-prepared, minimally-processed, organic, farm-to-market foods).

* Why we feed antibiotics to healthy animals to hasten weight-gain — thereby promoting antibiotic-resistant microbia — is beyond me. Incredibly shortsighted.

The Lipid Hypothesis Has Officially Failed

by wil — Oct 19, 2011


Microbiome bomb

by wil — Oct 1, 2011

Using broad-spectrum antibiotics against a specific strain of bacteria is like dropping a nuclear bomb on a machine gun nest.

Antibiotics = Microbiome Killer

Studies have revealed some alarming costs of taking antibiotics, which don’t discriminate between disease-causing bacteria and our natural microbiome. Graphed below is the diversity of gut bacteria from one important genus (Bacteroides) in a patient who took a weeklong course of clindamycin; different colors represent the different species. For nine months after exposure, the subject’s gut was left with nothing but one type, a clindamycin-resistant strain of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. Even two years out, the flora had not regained their former diversity.The Wired Atlas of the Human Ecosystem

Primal Update: Week 1.0

by wil — Sep 18, 2011

I finished Week One* of the Primal Challenge — woohoo! The diet’s going smoothly. I’m basically just transitioning from eating primally ~75% of the time to 100%. And fruit and kombucha have satisfied my sweet-tooth without maxing-out my carb intake.

I’ve been enjoying the exercise as well. My general movement/play for the week consisted of a game of handball and a couple of hikes with my wife. The sprints and the “Lift Heavy Things” workouts are both challenging, but fun. After just one week, I already feel a bit stronger and I’m generally feeling more energetic/exuberant.

So far, so good!

* If you’re keeping track, I decided to just go ahead and start on Saturday instead of waiting until Monday to begin.


by wil — Sep 9, 2011

My wife’s convinced me to do The Primal Blueprint 30-Day Challenge, and it starts Monday. *Gulp*

What’s The Primal Blueprint you say? It’s an exercise + diet program built around a hypothetical, pre-agricultural “caveman” named Grok. So, with Grok as your model, you eat meat, fruits, and vegetables, and avoid grains, beans/legumes, and sugar/junk food. You exercise moderately (3-5 hours a week of walking, yoga, bicycling, etc., with once-a-week sprints and twice-a-week body-weight strength training). And you get some sun, get plenty of sleep, and basically have fun.

Can we do it? I think so. I only eat beans and grains occasionally, so I don’t think it’ll be too hard (knock on wood) to drop them all-together. As for sugar, I’ll miss it, but I think I can get by (my wife already avoids beans, grains, and sugar, so she can just cruise). And the exercise? I think I’ll just need to make sure I’m keeping up with it. I still do yoga occasionally and walk pretty frequently, but I’ll need to make exercise a daily activity. I tried a “Lift Heavy Things” body-weight strength-training set on Monday and I’m still a little sore from it, but it was fun too, and I’m actually looking forward to my next set (once again, my wife’s leading the way — she already does daily yoga, walks frequently, and has been strength-training for a few weeks).

So, why are we doing it? We’d both like to boost our general fitness level, become more active generally, and maybe shed a few pounds (or at least redistribute it). And I’d like to see if going completely off grains makes me feel any different. Plus it seems like a fun challenge.

Have any of you tried the primal (or paleo) lifestyle?