Friday, March 29, 2013

Quinoa-Nut-Raisin Bread

Ok, so here's the recipe I promised. It's GF friendly, Paleo friendly, and so darned good you'll never miss what's missing.

It took me a while to develop this recipe because my usual flour blend ratios just weren't working when it came to my quinoa flour. I don't know about the kind bought in the States or other countries, but the ones that I buy here are a bit coarser than your average wheat flour and that makes baking with it a little bit difficult. If your flour is super fine like traditional all purpose wheat flour, use a bit less as it will absorb more liquid than one that is a little bit coarse.  Also, the measurements are in metric and I'm feeling too lazy to convert. Google it! :)

This bread has a lightly sweet, nutty taste. The quinoa flour gives it a taste similar to that of graham. Hard to describe but better than any quick bread that I have ever made.

**Important to remember: This is extremely high in carbs so it is NOT diet food. It is merely a treat to be enjoyed once in a while. In order to get the net carbs per slice under 20g, you would have to cut this into 17 slices. Again, while it is packed with protein and other good things, it is not diet food.

Quinoa-Walnut-Rasin Bread

200 grams quinoa flour
140 grams potato starch
300 cc milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon powdered stevia
2 eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
110 cc Greek yogurt (unsweetened, unflavored), room temperature
2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil. plus extra for the pan
2 tablespoons baking powder--make sure it is gluten free
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
100 grams chopped walnuts
80-100 grams raisins

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter or oil a 9 x 5 bread pan. 
Mix the flour, starch, salt, stevia (if using powdered), cinnamon, and baking powder together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add to this the eggs, milk, yogurt, vanilla, and butter. Mix until no big lumps remain. Blend in the walnuts and raisins.

Bake 45 minutes - 1 hour until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and allow it to continue cooling on a rack. Cool completely before slicing as it is still cooking at this point. Cutting it too soon will cause it to dry out.

After it is completely cooled, slice and wrap tightly in cling film. It is best to just freeze the remainder as it will get moldy in a New York minute! Ok, not that fast but quickly enough.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dr. Jack Kruse and the Epi-paleo Rx

I just finished the book, Epi-paleo Rx: The Prescription for Disease Reversal and Optimal Health, ebook edition, by Dr. Jack Kruse. The paperback edition can be purchased here.

I'm not going to lie, when I first heard of Dr. Kruse about 1.5 years ago I thought he was a whack-job whose methods and practices were too radical for me and I moved on. Why? Well, he recommend 8 jazillion medical tests that, for most of us, are too expensive in terms of both time and money. It also seemed like everyone who visited his site were spazzing over all of these tests, so they were just as whacky as he. In very short order I felt as though I were not welcome in his club because I couldn't (and still can't) get these tests. Hell, I could barely afford his book, so forget about the tests. Nor could I afford all that freaking meat, and the thought of choking down 50-75g of protein and a boatload of fat every morning to do the leptin reset, within 30 minutes of waking, was just too much.

Granted, buying the book for most people is not a problem, but I don't live in the States anymore and I don't have an income like I once had--not even close--and every penny counts. The fact that I actually spent the 10 bucks from my super-precious Amazon gift card, speaks volumes about how my way of thinking with respect to Dr. Kruse has changed. Now, he has either become less radical and whacky, or I have become more so. Not sure which is the case. At any rate, after reading the first chapter (free) I was sold. I immediately bought the book.

Reading the book--in two days--convinced me that I needed to make even more changes in my already good lifestyle. Well, I think it's good. Most people will not be able to read this book in two days and get anything from it as it is very science heavy. I did so only because I devoured every available course in science while at university--especially during my undergraduate studies--and with a near-photographic memory, the science in his book was easy to digest and make sense of.  This is not an easy, fast read is the point I'm trying to make. I will actually be going over some of the fine points later.

I was amazed to discover more about leptin and how it controls every hormone in the body. On top of that, since we all know that hormones control every aspect of our body's functions, a body that doesn't utilize leptin properly will not be able to function properly. You can eat as healthy as you like but if you are leptin resistant your body will still not behave in the manner in which it is meant to behave. In other words--you will stay unhealthy, despite your best efforts. Fortunately, he lists the symptoms of leptin resistance so that those of us without access/finances for medical testing can make an educated decision as to whether or not we are, in fact, leptin resistant. Now, I have armed myself with a printed list of these tests so that when I go for one of my twice annual checkups, I can ask the doctor to run these tests for me. Thank goodness for socialized medicine with regard to that because I really could not otherwise afford it.

Now, based on some of these symptoms and others such as the fact that I once had an eating disorder, I have come to the conclusion that I am leptin resistant. So, I decided yesterday to give the leptin reset (LR) a red, hot, go. It was a no-go. I wasn't really mentally prepared nor did I have my kitchen properly stocked. The only protein sources I had in the house were eggs and some cheese. Also, as you all know, I don't normally eat breakfast. I usually don't eat until 2'ish in the afternoon when hunger first strikes, despite the fact that I awaken at 4:30 am, do the day's baking, housework, long slow runs, workout, etc... I get a lot of physical activity in (remember--laundry is done by hand, hahaha) before I consume my first bite of food. What really freaked me out was that while I was choking down all those eggs that were cooked in butter and drowning in cheese was that I was getting really hungry. Six eggs, butter, and cheese should make a person feel sickeningly full. For me, though, I just wanted to eat and eat and eat. My day was ruined. I didn't want to run because I was hungry. I didn't want to do anything because I was hungry. So, I went to the forum he has and asked what to do. I got answers right away and that just made me realize I had to stock the kitchen before I could do this.

I am going to do it, too. Starting tomorrow. Today, I will buy some homemade longanizas which have a ton of fat plus a lot of protein in a small amount and eat with it some cooked chicken breast salad made with my homemade mayonnaise. This will put me right about where I have to be in order to get my 50-75 grams of required protein, plus I don't have to actually work that first 30 minutes because I'll have everything prepared the night before. I can warm the sausages while I'm eating the chicken salad. I suppose I can do the same with tuna--might as well use some of that wonderful yellowfin I caught last week, right?

My greatest sorrow is that exercise is prohibited during this time. At least I can walk so I'll be able to enjoy watching the dogs run and play. I can also swim, so that's ok, too. I will then be able to incorporate the Cold Thermogenesis by plunging myself into the cold Pacific with its really cold Humboldt currents and reap the benefits of that. Yes, I'm going to take his advice seriously and not half-ass it. I'll also be sure to let you all know how it works out. Hell, if I could do the HCG diet strictly and faithfully, losing 95 pounds, I can do anything. I guess that's why I love the paleo diet so much--I was able to maintain my weight loss for which I worked so hard without having to suffer or sacrifice. So, if I need to do a leptin reset in order to be able to achieve the body composition I desire, plus purge me of late night carbo cravings and finally reach optimal health then that is exactly what I'll do.

This book had so much good information and a good deal of it centered around leptin and why we need to be sure that we are leptin sensitive that it is difficult for me to really zero in and focus on much else. I will say this, though. I almost fainted when I read the chapter on diabetes. It seems I was many, many years ahead of the scientific community back in my undergrad days. I was a second year student taking a pathophysiology course and I was paying extra attention to the sections on diabetes since there is so much of it in my family. The more I learned in that class, coupled with what I had already learned in other courses, I asked my professor if perhaps diabetes was a disease at all--maybe, I suggested, that it is perhaps a freakish remnant in our DNA from the days before we were homo-anythings that needed to hibernate. Well, let me tell you, I was thoroughly scolded, later in private, for going off on such a wild tangent, distracting others and taking valuable lecture time to ask a question like that when it was a well-established, scientific fact that diabetes is a disease. I very politely reminded this professor that there is no such thing as a "scientific fact" because to say that something is written in stone, scientifically, implies that there is nothing left to be learned about the thing--which flies in the face of science and scientific research, in my opinion. I still aced the course, but I never took another one with that professor no matter how much I wanted to study the subject.

Anyway, Dr. Kruse, 33 years later, suggests the same thing in his book. Mostly. His ideas are thought out, researched, and presented a lot better than my little theory back in the day and I wonder what would have happened had my thoughts and questions been given even the slightest consideration--would I have pursued biology instead of physics? So, when I read his findings and thoughts on the subject of diabetes, I became a true believer.

His discussion on heart disease, obesity, autoimmune disorders, neurological issues, and more are as thorough as anything I have ever read. I spot-checked references and couldn't find anything amiss. So, what does this mean?

It means I have officially drunk the kool-aide and have decided to get off the fence with respect to my gluten-free-mostly-paleo diet and go strictly paleo. I still stand by my beliefs in that we are all different, biochemically and genetically, and that what works for one may not work for another, but I am now thoroughly convinced that grains are just not something I need. Not now. Not ever.

Until next time... oh, I will be posting my recipe for Quinoa-nut-raisin bread soon. Despite what any of the die-hards say--I consider it perfectly paleo.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is it Paleo?

I'm not averse to people asking questions and I realize people read these blogs to educate themselves so questions are just part and parcel of the blogger's existence. Sometimes, though, you just have to use your own judgement and decide for yourself whether or not a particular food is Paleo.

As a scientist I suppose I get caught up in the semantics a little too often. First off, the real question should be is "is this food item Paleo-legal?" Hunh. I guess I don't like that either. After all, in the first case, "is it Paleo?" the problem is that nothing is truly Paleo in the sense that none of the food we eat today is the same as what existed during the time of our Paleolithic ancestors 10,000+ years ago. Secondly, there is broad disagreement among those of us in the movement as to what is, or is not, Paleo or Paleo-legal.

I guess that is why I just consider myself, well, myself. I eat what works for me and I don't eat what doesn't. How do I know? For starters, my health. I have to have twice-annual check-ups which I no longer dread because they show my health to be always improving. My weight is stable, my blood pressure is stable, my blood sugar is stable, my blood lipids are excellent, and on and on. Everything is working like it should. I am pain free and my bowels work. I can't ask for anything more.

I believe I live a good lifestyle even if it isn't, in the strictest sense, Paleo. Really, though, how many of the Paleo gurus do, though? Really. I'm going to say none. Not really. This does not mean that I don't agree with much of what some of them say. Take Mark Sisson for example. I'm about 85% in agreement with him and that is saying a lot. 85% is huge! If you can get 50% of your readers to agree with you, you are doing well, in my opinion. The areas in which we differ are really not that big, but we do differ. There are others with whom I agree very little but that has more to do with the bad science and non-sustainable advice they are peddling, rather than their basic philosophy. The worst of all the sins is the non-sustainable advice.

What do I mean by that? Well, I just read that even if you don't like organ meats (which I don't) you must eat them if you want to lose weight and get healthy--that the benefits outweigh your personal likes/dislikes. Can I call BS on this one? I have my own personal reasons for not eating OFAL--it is simply a line that I will not cross. I wouldn't care how it was prepared or how delicious it may be, I am not going to eat it. Period. I would just throw up. So, if someone tells me that I must eat liver in order to be in the club called "Paleo" well, I guess I will just have to say that I don't want to be in the club.

Whatever we do, it must be sustainable. Food is pleasurable and it should stay that way. We can eat well and healthy and still enjoy it. I am not going to go foraging for bugs and worms or rotten monkey meat just because Paleo guy might have done it. I wouldn't care how healthy. To me, it's gross. If I have to eat gross things I would be more inclined to slip back into my bad eating habits and say to hell with good health.

Then you have those that say eating/drinking dairy is not natural. That it is not good for you. Can I call BS on this too? Just because Paleo dude was intolerant doesn't mean we are. In fact, Paleo dude WAS intolerant. Evolutionary geneticists have evidence that 100% of them were lactose intolerant. However, as time went by, fewer and fewer were. Today, only about 20% of the humans are lactose intolerant. Our species survived and thrived because of this adaptation. So, while it may not have been natural thousands of years ago, it is perfectly natural now. Granted fresh, raw, dairy products are best because too much of what is on the store shelves has been irradiated to within an inch of its life, but to make a blanket statement that it is bad for us because Paleo guy didn't consume it is a load of lies.

What I really want to call BS on is those who say you cannot eat tubers like potatoes. Why on earth not? Potatoes have loads of good things in them as do most tubers. Yes, they are high in carbohydrates, but so what? It isn't as though you are going to only eat these starchy vegetables and nothing else and if you did then I'd have to say you're going to get fat and sick. However, we do need carbohydrates: more if we are very active and less if we are not.

To me, Paleo just means real food. Natural foods that are grown or raised in the manner in which they were meant to be grown or raised. This means that the chickens aren't stuffed by the tens of thousands in enclosed areas being fed fish meal and heaven only knows what else; that cows are grass fed and not grain fed; and that our fruits and vegetables aren't hosed down with chemicals such that not one single morsel goes to the birds, insects, or rabbits. They have to eat too, you know? Real food also means unpackaged and unprocessed. There are no colorings/flavorings, natural or otherwise, added to it. Nothing is removed, either. It isn't ground up, beaten, and processed until it no longer resembles or tastes like it is supposed to only to have it re-formed and re-flavored with chemical additives thrown in in order to extend the shelf life until the end of times.

Does Paleo involve grains? That is a tricky one. Most, if not all, in the community will tell you "no." I will tell you this: if a particular grain does not bother you, then for you, it is perfectly "legal." Of course, just because you don't have any outward signs that it is bothering you does not mean that it isn't. Sometimes things will only show up in lab work, or not, only after significant damage has been done. For instance, I think white rice is okee-dokee for me. Why? Because my labs are good. However, going back to my earlier statement that sometimes these things don't show up in your labs until serious damage is done, makes me a bit cautious such that I only consume small amounts on rare occasions.

If you want all the science behind why grains are most likely bad for you, especially whole grains, you really should visit Mark's Daily Apple. He explains, at length, with good science to back him up, all of the hazards associated with "healthy, whole, grains" without being hysterical, preachy, or off-putting. I actually checked every single reference he cited and though he did reference a few rat studies and a few in vitro studies, he is quick to point out those flaws followed by an explanation that human, in vivo studies were not available.

So, if you are a rebel like me, don't worry about what the rest of the so-called Paleo community says--eat what is good for you. Eat what tastes good to you and if that just happens to be organ meat or foraged bugs and worms, then go for it. If not, then leave it alone. After all, if you hate what you're eating, you won't continue to eat it and you'll end up back where you started.

Until next time!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Beyond Meat my @$$!

  If you thought the food industry couldn't get any worse, think again. Surprise! We now have Bill Gates endorsing some crap called "Beyond Meat." The slick ad for the fake meat producers tries to convince us that soon, we will not have enough meat to meet the demands faced by an increasing population. We won't have enough eggs either. That the meat/egg industry is not sustainable in the long-run.

Well, it's bad enough that these companies have tried, and succeeded, to convince everyone that their GMO's are harmless, that the beef from grain-fed cattle is good for us, and that whole grains will prolong our lives by keeping our bowels squeaky-clean; that their intentions are down-right altruistic because they are going to keep the world from starvation; and we now have a world full of fat and sick people. Children are medicated for things that didn't used to exist in children before these do-gooders and governments decided that they knew what was best for us. It's time to put our collective foot down and say "enough already!"

It is also simply not enough to say it, but to take action. This is my bit. I just want to get the word out. Let people know that these lies are no longer being believed. That the science that is being spouted is FAULTY.  We need to bombard these companies with email telling them that we know their lies and that we will spread the word about their lies. That is why I have decided to do a blog entry on a day that I normally would not. I am OUTRAGED by what I read. I am offended by what passes for science at this particular company.

Take this for example, from their scientist Michael Pollan who responded to a question from Bill Gates as to why people should replace meat in their diets: "Three principal motivators: health, because we know high consumption of red meat correlates with higher chances of certain cancers; and the environment, because we know that conventional meat production is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, as well as water and pollution; and ethics, since the animal factories that produce most of our meat and milk are brutal places where animals suffer needlessly."

First of all, that word "correlates." If you've been reading my blog you know this is one dirty word for me when it is used by scientists with the lay public. I don't know how many times I can say this (probably not enough) but I'll say it again, loud and clear: Correlation DOES NOT EQUAL Causation! What he fails to mention is that the higher instance of certain cancers could also be caused by other things. Hmmm... what other things? Could it be the way in which so much of the meat consumed by people is heavily processed until it no longer even resembles meat and then treated by chemicals to make it look, smell, and taste like meat? Could it be because that heavily processed meat is then placed on bread made from God-only-knows-what? Or could it be caused by the heavily processed side dishes that most people eat because they don't know what a fresh, non-GMO vegetable is? The point is, and I think you are getting the point, that they don't know.

The second phrase which has to do with conventional meat production... hm. Again with the BS. The fact is is that global climate change has been and always will be going on. That's what the climate does. It changes. If global warming hadn't been going on all along, we'd still be in an ice-age. The planet is just getting warmer and no matter what we do, it will continue to do so. But this is a blog about lifestyle and not global warming, so I'll stop there. If you are interested, there are still plenty of excellent scientists, with ethics, that have written numerous papers about this topic.

The only truth he spoke in his answer is about the factories. However, it needn't be that way. This sad fact is because of the consumers. People want what they want and they want it in large quantities and they want it right this second!

As far as the claims about an ever-expanding population and how we won't be able to feed everyone by 2050, well, who knows? Mother Nature has a way of taking care of things. It's called critical mass. When we reach a point that there are not enough resources to sustain the masses, the masses diminish. Of course, the way the world and the word's food production is going, I don't think we need to be worried about that. After all, we have a world full of obese and sick people who are just getting fatter and sicker because they continue to listen to their governments and so-called scientists that work for these so-called altruists-that-are-going-to-feed-the-world. We have finally succeeded in creating a generation of children that have diseases associated with old age and who have a shorter life span than we do. Congratulations! We have succeeded in doing Mother Nature's job for her. Yes, I'm being sarcastic.

Time for me to write my nasty-gram to the Beyond Meat people. Please do your part too. Go to their site. See the lies they are telling the world. Let them know you are not falling for it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Exercise: How much is enough?

Our bodies were built to move and lack of movement creates a host of problems that I'm certain many of you have become all too aware--even if you don't realize these problems are caused by lack of movement.  Notice that I say movement and not exercise. Why? Because the word exercise conjures up so many negative feelings in some people even though it should not because it is, after all, just movement.

Exercise does not have to be, nor should it be, painful. It doesn't have to be torture or drudgery. Exercise is just purposeful movement: movement of your muscles and skeleton. It can be as simple as taking your dog (or just yourself) for a nice walk after dinner or it can be as complicated as a rigorous, demanding, highly-structured routine. I personally don't recommend the latter unless you are really into that sort of thing.

Shows like the Biggest Loser do exercise a great disservice and can give it a bad name. Most viewers don't realize, or don't consciously consider, that there are physical therapists and medics all over the set taking care of the numerous injuries these contestants receive, and as a result are so motivated by the fact that these enormous people are doing so much and losing so well that they hurt themselves. Well I, for one, don't have a physical therapist or medic on hand, nor do I have the time or money to suffer injuries that require medical care. I imagine that you are more like me in that regard.

I bring this show up, specifically, because I was once addicted to it. It always motivated me and made me think: If they can do it, I can do it. So, I'd start my diet (usually the low calorie/low fat/high carb one used by the contestants) and an exercise program that consisted of no less than 4 hours/day (but usually more) of brutal, punishing exercise. My husband, a master personal trainer, strenuously objected to this. I recall that he always shook his head when he'd see these trainers having these huge, out-of-shape people doing so much high impact exercise. He'd say "they're going to hurt that guy." Sure enough, next episode you'd see that person on crutches, in a sling, or unable to participate in a challenge due to injury.

Did they ultimately get results? Yes, they did. Were the results long-lasting? In most cases, no. You should do a Google search and you'll see that the vast majority of the contestants have gained back most, if not all, of their weight. It is sad, too. I know because I did that so many times over the years that I've lost count.

I'd lose, hurt myself, give up, re-gain and start all over again. My last weight loss was successful only because I chose a Paleo (or mostly Paleo) lifestyle after I lost the weight. I'm certain that had I not adopted this lifestyle, I would have gained the weight back like so many others have, or I would have been constantly correcting, which is a pain.

So, keeping the weight off (a year now) has to do with more than just what I eat. A lot more. It is also a big component of the Paleo lifestyle and it is called movement.  The idea is simple: Move frequently and purposefully. Lifting heavy things, sprinting when you feel like it and have the energy to do it, and playing. Notice, I didn't say anything about the gym. I didn't say anything about buying special equipment. I didn't say anything about getting up at oh-dark-thirty to run 5 kilometers. If that's what you choose to do, fine, but if none of that appeals to you then you won't continue to do it, so it is pointless to start.

I don't subscribe to chronic cardio--it is simply too damaging to the body in the long run to make it a worthwhile endeavor. What do I mean by chronic cardio? To me, that means working your heart rate beyond 70% of your max heart rate for more than 30 continuous minutes on a daily, or almost daily, basis. I rarely go beyond 75% for periods of 20 minutes or less and try to stay within the 60-70% range for fat burning purposes, because while I am no longer overweight I feel that I have too much fat on my body and I want to replace it with lean muscle mass.

The inflammatory affects of chronic cardio are numerous and, in my humble opinion, dangerous over time. When you look at the elite athletes of marathons and triathlons you will usually see terribly emaciated looking people. Remember, I'm not talking about ALL of them nor am I talking about your average Joe or Jane who simply wants to do one or two of these events, but the professionals. The ones who make their livings competing in these events. To me, they are not the vision of good health. Their x-rays probably aren't either. Why do you think their careers, for the most part, are so short-lived? Injuries on top of injuries compounded with years of "just work through the pain" mentality stops them in their tracks, pun intended, when they are still relatively young. Granted, there are some that have found a way to run their marathons exceptionally well like Hal Higdon--my go-to guy for running help these days--who also does not subscribe to insane training programs or fad diets.

If you enjoy running (or think you might) or using eliptical trainers, etc., be smart about it. Yes, you should get your heart rate up into the cardiovascular workout zone--but not for long periods of time, especially if you need to burn fat and most especially if you'd like to do it for the rest of your life. Cardio sports are also notoriously hard on all of your joints so when you are experiencing joint pain--stop. Yes, you will have muscular pain, especially at first and you should work through that. You will also get the famous "stitch" in your side, at first. Work through that, too. But real pain that comes on suddenly is your body's way of saying "oops! you pulled/tore/strained a muscle/tendon/ligament" and you need to stop and treat it. The best way to avoid these types of injuries, though, is to take it slow and easy. Gradually build yourself and remember to stretch. Most injuries occur as a result of improper or no stretching.

Likewise, body builders are not necessarily fit. There is a big difference between having big muscles and being physically fit. Nor is it how most of us want to look. Seriously--does anyone find these looks attractive?

So, maybe I'm the odd one out, but I would rather have a body like this:

.... and look at a male body like this than those of the body builders:
 I suspect many of you feel the same. Of course, there will always be those that prefer the body builder type than the fit athlete type, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say you are in the minority.  The point is, if the body builders really had to move their butts, say, to avoid a predator--could they? Most fit athletes could. I have also known several body builders who are so unfit that even going up a flight of stairs would cause them to become out of breath.

And that was the perfect segue into my next point: Sprinting.

Sprinting is important to our bodies. While most of us don't have the need to outrun a predator (of the wild animal variety) we may have the need to be able to move very quickly from time-to-time. For instance, your child breaks free from you and runs into the street and a car is heading their way. Your body, if properly trained to sprint, can react without thinking and without you hurting yourself (via pulled muscle) to retrieve your child from the street.

Yes, there are times when we must be able to move very quickly and without having to give it a great deal of thought--we must simply act. The muscle fibers involved in sprint training as well as the neuro pathways for these twitch responses is very different than those used and engaged in other activities, and while they may not get used as often in the course of our daily lives is no excuse to not exercise them.

I usually run sprints at the end of my daily runs, two or three times a week. However, I do so only when I feel like I have enough energy left to do them and if my body isn't hurting. I simply go as fast as I can for as long as I can until there is nothing left in the tank.

You don't have to be a runner, though, to do sprints. Whatever form of exercise you choose to do, once in a while, do it rapidly until you are spent. Just be careful not to go faster than you safely can. Your speed will improve over time.

We also need to spend time lifting heavy things. You don't need a gym or weights to do this. Use whatever is on hand--buckets or jugs filled with water, dirt, or sand. Do some arm curls with your groceries as you are unpacking them and putting them away. Whatever. Just do it. Not just to strengthen and tone but also to help your bones and joints. Weight bearing exercise helps to build and strengthen bones and will prevent bone loss--so you can't use age as an excuse, because it is even more critical the older you become.

So, what are you waiting for? Get moving. Take walks, slow or fast. Take a jog. Lift something heavy. Sprint when you can. Do something fun like playing or dancing with your kids, your parents, or your significant other. Just get moving!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Great Balancing Act: Part II

Why all the fuss about balance? After all, who knows what 'balance' really is? To me balance is about first, achieving a state of equilibrium, and then about maintaining that state.

A state of equilibrium cannot be achieved when we are obese nor can it be achieved when we are underweight. When you see the numbers posted by medical professionals that state a particular weight or particular BMI as being correct or normal, remember this: The word 'normal' in medical terms simply means that most people fall within that particular range. There are always going to be some people for whom 'normal,' medically speaking, don't fall within those margins. Some people will just carry a little extra or a little less--I am not talking about extremes here--and if they find that no matter what that they can't lose or gain any more, then perhaps their bodies have reached a state of equilibrium with respect to their weight.

What is a state of over- or underweight, then, if it isn't a number on the scale? In my opinion these states occur when you are carrying more or less weight than what your body needs to carry. I know, that seems ambiguous and evasive, but really it's not. Do you feel good? Are you able to move about freely and without pain? Can you walk up a few flights of stairs without becoming out of breath or feeling weak? Do you sleep well? These are some of the things you need to consider when trying to figure out why those last 5 pounds won't come off or why you can't gain and maintain those 5 extra pounds.

What about diabetes or high blood pressure, you ask? Well, these are not always indicative of a state of weight. For instance, even when I was morbidly obese my blood pressure was dangerously low and I was not diabetic. However, by anyone's standards, 100 pounds over the norm is overweight. My blood pressure reached the normal range only after I lost the weight. Same with my body temperature. My body temperature was always around 97.2F until I not only lost the weight but went grain-free as well. Now, my normal temperature is 98.7F. I'm still an out-lier but not by much.

So, how do I know that I am at a good weight? Easy. I feel good. I am able to run long distances every day without tiring. I am able to sprinting and feel good. I am able to lift heavy things with ease and without pain. I can move freely without any pain. I can easily maintain my current weight. I maintain high levels of energy throughout the day. I sleep well every night and wake up refreshed and recharged. This tells me that I have reached a state of equilibrium. Not just with my weight, but with my whole body.

Ok. That's all well and good you say, but how do we get to be in a state of whole body, whole health equilibrium? This, my friends, is the final piece of the puzzle. I believe it is about reducing inflammation, and this is where a lot of what I've talked about before all comes into play and what I'm going to talk about today. Glycemic Load, Glycemic Index, and pH all play a role in the great balancing act as does exercise, rest, and stress.  How we manage these things determines how much cellular inflammation we create and that, in turn, will determine our overall state of health and well-being.

Inflammation is just part of life. It is caused by, well, pretty much everything. It is our body's way of telling us that something is amiss. Now, it can be as simple as you hitting your so-called funny bone, stubbing a toe, or eating something disagreeable. It can also be as serious as getting stabbed or suffering a concussion. All of these things fall into the acute inflammatory response which is a short-term, temporary response to injury. The definition of acute inflammation from the medical dictionary is "inflammation /in·flam·ma·tion/ (in″flah-ma´shun) a protective tissue response to injury or destruction of tissues, which serves to destroy, dilute, or wall off both the injurious agent and the injured tissues. The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain (dolor), heat (calor), redness (rubor), swelling (tumor), and loss of function (functio laesa).inflam´matory"

This is not what we are concerned with, though, because it is actually a normal and very helpful bodily function.  When we are talking about our health and the inflammation created by improper eating, exercising, etc., and the underlying physiological responses to prolonged inflammation, we are talking about chronic inflammation. This is neither normal nor helpful. In fact, it will make you suffer and it can eventually kill you.

There are many causes of acute inflammation such as a diet filled with sugar, processed foods, insufficient Omega-3 fatty acids, too much Omega-6 fatty acids, too much processed fats, not enough natural fats, too much gluten. Then you have non-diet related issues like insufficient sleep, chronic stress, not enough exercise, too much exercise, insufficient recovery time after exercise, and so on. 

Did you notice the trend in the above paragraph? Too much or too little is the theme. NO BALANCE.  In the days, weeks, and months ahead we will delve more deeply into each of these things but it is simply too much for one posting. 

Before I close this topic for the day I want to say that when I use the words 'balance' or 'equilibrium' I am not talking about moderation in all things because there are certain things that should be eliminated from our lives altogether and on those I simply cannot and will not compromise. The biggies: Processed foods and wheat. You'll see why as time goes on, but suffice to say I consider these things to be every bit as good for you as rat poison--should you have some of that in moderation?

Until next time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Great Balancing Act

It seems that at every turn new studies are published telling us why we shouldn't eat this food or drink that drink. We see alarmist articles by journalists and bloggers, many of whom have little or no scientific background, citing scientific articles they have read. It doesn't seem to matter that they don't understand the process of scientific research or the scientific method or even half of the words--they pick out what they can and then write articles that they say are based on scientific fact, give us the citation, and go on their way. No worries for them because most people don't bother checking sources--they just assume the writer read and understood his facts and they, in turn, take it for the gospel and spread the word to all of their friends, and so on and so forth.

Well, I do check. I understand what I'm reading and I understand the process and the method because I am a trained scientist. I also am not a rat, or a mouse, or a computer simulation. I am a living, breathing, middle-aged, menopausal female, human. My cells don't exist in a test tube or petri dish. My body does not respond the same way to the same things as a man's body or a child's body or a really old person's body. So, when I read a study and I see that its subjects were rats, mice, or in vitro, or in silica, I immediately decide to wait and see how the research progresses instead of spreading the word--because the "word" is not ready to be spread and if the reader of that study was a scientist he would understand that it wasn't ready to be spread either.

What I look for are in vivo studies--on humans, to cite.  Then, I look for multiple sources of the same experiments. I then check to make sure they don't use vague language like "is linked to" and the like. If the study only demonstrates a correlation between two or more things then it has proved nothing. Correlation does not equal causation. I look for studies that are double-blind, that have a large number of subjects, that has data for different age groups/genders and the like. I then look to see who paid for the study just to be as certain as possible that it wasn't a special interest group pushing their product or ideology. Once the study has passed these and other criteria, I will likely cite it.

However, this is a blog and it is about my personal experiences and those of others and not a scientific paper or a scholarly journal AND there are quite a few bloggers out there who have done their homework and with whom I mostly agree  who have cited a ton of literature--most of which is good, but not 100%--and I will direct you to them rather than reinvent the wheel.

Now, why did I bring all of that up? Well, I was supposed to do my entry last Thursday on studies but was unable to do so and it linked in with today's topic of finding balance. Specifically pH balance. That is the latest health topic that is beginning to makes its rounds on the internet and I thought I'd jump in and weigh in on it. This way, maybe, I can make you think before you drop yet another food item from your pantry and further confound or overwhelm you.

The enormous importance of the body's pH has long been known by scientists and has been proven to be something we don't want to screw with--or else we die--and your body will maintain it's pH no matter what--even to the point of sacrificing other organs or systems within the body (talk about cutting of the nose to spite the face, eh?).  If your pH wavers even slightly outside the normal range of 7.35-7.45, which is slightly alkaline, you are probably in a diseased state or are entering into a diseased state. If your pH drops below 6.8 or rises above 7.8 you're dead. As you can see, there isn't much wiggle room.
Disease occurs in the body when the pH is outside this range because the body, in its efforts to regain equilibrium will take what it needs from wherever it can. It is an extremely complicated biochemical process and I won't even try to explain it all here, but I will just give you the down and dirty basics. Our bodies contain ions such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, etc. These are both positively and negatively charged. Without them none of our electrical systems would work and we would die. When our body becomes too acidic or too alkaline, ions such as calcium are snatched from their cells and utilized to restore equilibrium to the pH, but at what cost? Once in a while--probably not much. If, however, your body is in a constant state of even slight acidity, the cost is great. Cancer cells thrive in acidic environments. Your bones will suffer from the loss of calcium or other cells' functions are disrupted because the charges within and without the cells are no longer in a state of equilibrium. These are just a few small examples, but I think you get the picture: Your body, like everything in nature, seeks a state of equilibrium. Of balance. When it is out of balance the results are devastating.

If you want to understand more about pH here is something that is written in lay terms and pretty interesting:

In a recent spate of blog posts and media articles regarding our pH levels and certain diseases came lists of foods that we should not eat because they were too acidic or too alkaline and would upset our delicate balance. In the hands of the wrong people, these lists can do more harm than good. If we followed the lists and the writers' advice there would be precious little that we could consume. In an enlightened person's hands, however, it can just be good old-fashioned useful information. We could look at these lists and determine if we are perhaps eating too much from one group and what we can add to balance things out--things over which we exercise some measure of control. Then, of course, comes the things over which we have no control such as the air we breath and a whole host of environmental factors. There is simply too much and we would lose our minds if we worried about everything. The good news is that most of what affects our pH is within the realm of our control. What we eat and drink play the largest role.

So, how can we help to keep our pH in balance? Simple. Eat a wide variety of foods. Eat plenty of greens, reds, yellows, and oranges. Eat healthy fats. Eat a variety of meats. Have a bit of cheese. A handful of nuts or berries. Stay away from processed food. You get it, right? By eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy (if you can tolerate it), seeds, nuts, and fats, you really don't have to stress this. You'll know if you're getting it "right" because you will feel good. So, take a look at those lists--but just the once. Don't memorize, study, or work yourself up over them--just be aware. You'll immediately see where your diet falls short and you'll immediately know where to make adjustments, if any.

Thanks for tuning in. This Thursday I'll bring this and a few other topics that I've covered together and show how they all fit in the context of inflammation.

Until next time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

Many people who come to a gluten free or paleo lifestyle do so because they are overweight and the lower carb eating style is attractive to them. While this is not the only reason, it has been my experience that weight loss via a low carb diet is the primary reason. Then as soon as they start they become inundated with so much information that their poor little heads start spinning.

One of the big things they see written about over and over is inflammation and its myriad causes and the devastating effects of inflammation on the body.  To me, the biggest horror of inflammation is the deadly consequence of coronary artery disease and one of the main causes of inflammation are the frequent spikes in insulin caused by the so-called heart healthy diet that we are told to eat. Eat your grains and eat plenty of them, they say.  Follow their "healthy" diet with all of their "healthy" whole grains and see how quickly you get yourself into trouble. Oh. Wait. You already did. You're there. You found out that the low-fat high-carb "healthy" diet helped to make you hungry, fat, and sick.

The next thing that happens when you start your paleo or gluten free lifestyle is you notice that not only is everyone telling you to lay off the wheat, grains, legumes, processed foods, and sugars, but they also try to tell you to stay away from this fruit/vegetable or that fruit/vegetable. This is where I have to draw the line. This is where I have to say "Maybe here is where moderation and smart eating need to come together."  We absolutely must not use absolutes when it comes to natural, whole, real, foods.

Today, I'm just going to talk about the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) and how it is possible to achieve balance in your life. Just because some other blogger or some doctor told you that the high GI foods will create all of this inflammation in your body doesn't necessarily mean you have to avoid them. While I have no "studies" to back up what I'm about to say, I have my own personal experience. Actually, I do have studies, but since I don't trust most of them--someday I'll have to get into why I don't trust them--I won't reference them. Many of the studies with respect to GI and GL come from the National Institutes of Health and the National Diabetes Foundation and if I were to cite their studies, that would make me a hypocrite. That is why I did my own experiment and found what was right for me.

You should QUESTION EVERYTHING. You should find your own way and find what is right for you. Remember--one size absolutely, positively does not fit all. What works for me may not work for you and what works for everyone else may not work for you. I've seen it time and again and the only thing I know for certain is that we are all different when it comes to what we can or cannot safely consume.

So, the definitions of GI and GL are as follows:
Glycemic Index is the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed into the blood and its effect of raising blood sugar, while the Glycemic Load is the product of the amount of the available carbohydrates and the GI in a serving of food. The GL is a more useful tool when making a determination of whether or not to eat a certain food than the GI. Why?

Well, take a look at watermelon and white bread on the GI scale. The white bread comes in lower on the GI scale than does watermelon. The reason is that the quantities used to determine their placement are not based on what an actual person would eat. So, what we can do is take a look at the formula for figuring out the GL of a food and make decisions based, partly, on that. GL's that are from 1-10 are considered low, 11-19 is medium, and 20+ is high. Typically, foods that are high on the GI scale are also high on the GL scale, but not always.

Let's take watermelon for example. Watermelon has (in a 100 gram serving) 5 usable carbohydrates. It has a GI of 72 which would make it something to eat only once in a while. However, when we calculate the GL by multiplying available (net) carbs by its GI and divide by 100, we get: 5*72/100=3.6 and that is very low. It is a perfectly acceptable food to eat and we don't have to be afraid of it.

So, as I said, the Glycemic Load is much more useful in determining the actual impact that a particular food will have on your blood sugar. To test this on myself, I borrowed a neighbor's glucose monitor that she didn't use. I tested my blood sugar in the morning for 6 days as soon as I got up. This would be a fasting blood sugar and the results ranged from 73-76. Very good. This is the low side of normal.

I then made myself eat my breakfast. The first two days were just my breakfast porridge made from ground almonds, ground walnuts, unsweetened coconut, stevia, and spices. I waited 30 minutes and then began to test my blood sugar every 15 minutes for 2 hours. The GL load for this is zero. My blood sugar reached its highest level about 1 hour after eating and only went to 81 on both days. Within another 30 minutes, it went back down to the fasting level and stayed there until the end of the 2 hour test.

On days 3 and 4, I ate fruit--mango and pineapple. Mango rates an 8 on the GL scale and pineapple (extra sweet variety) was a whopping 33. With this combination, my blood sugar peaked at 112 on day 3, and 118 on day 4.  After 1 hour my blood sugar was still in the 90's and didn't come back down to the fasting level until hour 2.

Days 5 and 6 were a combination of my breakfast porridge WITH the fruit. The highest level on either day was reached at 1 hour and was 99 and gradually decreased to normal after 1:45 minutes.

What this tells me is that when you combine the high GL foods with the low GL foods, you reduce the spikes in your blood sugar, thereby reducing the amount of insulin needed to bring the sugar back under control, and you reduce the amount of inflammation.

Granted, it was only for 6 days and it was only on myself but there you have it.  It supports what some scientists say about how it is possible to blend these types of foods to minimize the impact on your body. Of course, you would have to find out for yourself.

Anyway, instead of doing all the math and worrying about all of this, you can just use a great website: where everything is figured out for you.  It even includes how much inflammation foods cause and how to use all of the various scales and indexes that they offer. So, you don't even have to think too much.

So, that's it for today. On Thursday, I will tell you about my aversion to "studies" and the new pseudo-science that has reared its ugly head these past few decades.

Until then, have a wonderful couple of days!