Taghealth

The Science of Eating

Punch Card ComputingIn 1964 when I was a systems analyst at IBM – during that era IBM actually sold computers – my job was to program the 1401 and 1440 computers for IBM’s customers. IBM taught me how to do this. To test the programs, we used data furnished by the customers. The customers prepared “input” on IBM punch cards; each card was the size of a 1901 dollar bill. Punch card operators would enter financial information on a large punch card machine, which was a noisy contraption with a typewriter keyboard. The punch cards were gathered and then fed into the very expensive IBM computers, which tallied the data recorded on the cards. Our programs massaged the information and results were printed for the customer’s analysis and review.

Punch CardOur customers were constantly warned that their data – i.e., the input – must be accurate. There were no “correction” tapes on these cards, since the machines would punch a small hole for each character. Periodically, the data entered was wrong (typos), which meant, the computer programs would produce erroneous reports.

We used the phrase “GIGO” to remind the customer that “if your input is wrong, the results of the reports will also be wrong: garbage in, garbage out.”

That phrase might well be the cornerstone of Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s seminal books, Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat, Lose Fat. Their premise is simple: if you feed bad stuff in your body, your body will create bad results. GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out.

As a type 2 diabetic, I can attest to that maxim. If I eat food containing loads of carbohydrates, the computers in my body will digest what I ate (breads, potato chips and pies), but my system will produce lots of bad results: the carbs are turned into glucose. Whatever un-needed glucose there is, has nowhere to go, so it simply travels through my blood stream (similar to ethanol in a car engine: using ethanol may void the manufacturer’s warranty, may cause gummy parts, weaken hoses and cause sluggish valves, and impair the performance of the vehicle’s engine) .

Over time, the un-needed glucose might impair my vision, weaken the walls of my veins and arteries, cause pain in my feet (which may create gangrene and loss of toes and feet), and shrink my brain size (which could lead to dementia and other unwanted neurological conditions, such as ADHD, autoimmune diseases, brain fog, etc.). So what must I do to get the unwanted glucose out of my blood stream and into my muscles and liver? Two easy answers: (a) I simply don’t eat bread, products containing HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), sugary foods, wheat products, etc. (such a regimen limits my food choices to eating pure protein and lipids (fats)); and/or I exercise a good portion of my day (the exercise will “burn” the glucose off).

Neither of these choices works for me. I enjoy eating a variety of foods, and I don’t want to exercise all the time. So I sought alternatives, beginning with my food choices. I had to learn more about biochemistry (a topic disdained by medical students – there’s nothing easy about biochemistry), to see if the sciences of nutrition and physiology might provide answers, providing I tweaked the foods I ate.

So I searched for a book that gave easy answers, sort of a “Swiss Army Knife”, an all in one, simple to read and understand treatise on nutrition, physiology and biochemistry. After searching for that book for 11 years, I can only report it doesn’t exist. The closest one I found is a cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, which begins with a thumb nail sketch of biochemistry and nutrition. The authors explain how the food we eat is processed in our bodies, in a concise and fairly easy to understand presentation. Each type of food we eat, whether it is fat, protein, or carbohydrate, produces a different physical reaction.

So let me distill some of what I learned: foods are grouped into 3 basic categories: fats (lipids), proteins, and carbohydrates (each gram of fat contains 9 calories; each gram of protein contains 4 calories; and each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 grams). Think of calories as “energy” — since fat contains more energy potential than carbs or proteins, if I don’t use the energy (i.e., the calories) in the fat I consume, I will gain weight.

Let me define a few terms. “Carbohydrates are simply long chains of sugar molecules, as distinguished from fat (which are chains of fatty acids), and proteins (which are chains of amino acids), and DNA.” (Grain Brain by Perlmutter & Loberg).

What does this mean to me? Let me give an example. Here’s what happens when you eat a slice of pizza: as you may guess, the pizza crust is classified as a carbohydrate. When it reaches your digestive system, the crust is converted to glucose (sugar); when that happens, your liver instructs your pancreas to release insulin into your blood stream. The insulin shuffles (or pushes) glucose into cells and stores the glucose as glycogen (glycogen is stored in your liver and muscles). The liver is also the body’s chief fat-building catalyst, which converts glucose to body fat when the liver and muscles have no more room for glycogen; the fat is stored at various places in your body. (from Grain Brain by Perlmutter & Loberg).

The physiology of those of us with Type 2 diabetes doesn’t work the same as described in the paragraph above: the glucose isn’t shuffled into our cells and stored as glycogen. The glucose has to be burned off (with exercise); alternatively, we take a medication (such as metformin) which re-programs our CPU (the liver), telling the CPU not to release stored glucose back into our blood stream. If that doesn’t work, we take insulin (by injection), which forces the glucose into our liver and other fat storage tubs in our bodies (people who take insulin tend to be chubbier than others).

So where does all of this analysis leave us? Think of your body as an automobile. To start the engine, you need gasoline, which is ignited in the engine and produces power (or energy) needed to move the car. Our bodies need the same sort of energy, so we can move, think, and operate properly. Our energy reserve doesn’t come from gasoline; it comes from something called ATP, which is ignited with oxygen and electrical impulses, and gives us needed energy.

Let’s get a bit more technical. Our stored glycogen is released (by directions from our liver) whenever we need energy (which is all of the time). To produce energy from the glycogen, it must be metabolized into Acetyl CoA (think of this as gasoline which will be turned into energy, through the internal combustion engine of your car).

Metabolic ChartBy default, if you eat a lot of carbohydrates, the carbs will be converted to glucose which in turn will be metabolized into Acetyl CoA, the “gasoline” in your body. But what happens when you have been eating a low carb diet, and have used up all of your glycogen (your glucose fuel tank)? Your body is then required to tap protein and fat reserves, and turn them into Acetyl CoA (which in turn becomes part of the Krebs cycle, and ADP is converted to ATP, and vice versa, which gives “energy”, so you can scratch you head, think, digest your food, walk and run, etc.).  Here’s a neat little chart which explains how this works:

So what does this mean for me? When you shift from eating lots of carbs to eating lots of fats and proteins, the fats and proteins — which are not “long chains of sugar molecules” (as are carbs) — will nonetheless be converted into Acetyl CoA, which in turn will produce energy as needed. This process is known as Ketosis.

Ketosis is a term which describes what happens when stored fat reserves are metabolized into ketones, which are converted back into Acetyl CoA, which is fuel for your cells. If you eat plenty of carbohydrates, you will never enter into ketosis. Instead, your body will simply use all that glucose as a fuel.

Ketosis has earned a bad name, though. For one thing, your body enters a ketogenic state when it starts starving itself. But if you’re eating plenty of calories and sticking to a nutrient-dense diet, you need not fear starvation. Ketogenesis doesn’t destroy muscle tissue, but is rather the process by which stored fat is turned into ketones — a perfectly usable energy source for every major body system. Others object to ketosis because it gets confused with ketoacidosis, a dangerous state in which the body not only becomes ketogenic, but also causes the blood to become too acidic. If you’re still getting your limited carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits, you need not fear ketoacidosis.

So there you have it. If you go on a Ketogenic diet (low carb, high fat), you will lower your carb intake, which will lower your BG readings. In addition, you will not be as hungry as before, since fats take a bit longer to digest than carbs. You now have permission to use butter and coconut oil in your cooking.

I will explain a bit more about fats in the next installment. In the interim, concentrate on eating and digesting short chain and medium chain fatty acids (butter, coconut oil, salmon and other fish rich in Omega 3), because those are easily converted into energy. Some long chain fatty acids (HDA), which primarily come in capsules, are extremely healthy for your brain.

If you can’t wait until the next installment, consider reading Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enid and Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter.

DISCLAIMER: Physiologists and nutritionists and others won’t approve of my slip-shod explanation of the concepts mentioned in this article.  I don’t approve of their splitting infinities or misspelling “alright” (which is two words, all right). But I do disclaim errors in reporting how energy is technically produced. The purpose is to explain that fatty acids can be used to produce energy, and that is a good thing.

 

THE RECIPE

Salmon

SalmonThere are more varieties of salmon than I know about, but let me assume you bought a nice pink salmon filet from the New England coasts, or perhaps from Alaska. Your objective is to cook it so it turns out moist and juicy, producing a creamy taste. Here’s an easy fix for a fish rub, and can be used whether you cook the fish on a stove top or a barbecue unit: drizzle melted butter over the surface, then sprinkle dill weed and chives over the salmon, and then add a few drops of lemon juice to the filet. If you use a skillet to cook the filet, melt butter in the pan before you begin cooking (when it’s done, pour the unused butter over the surface of the meat).

Cook until done. This should be a tasty and nutritious dish.

 

 

pH BALANCE and SOME STRATEGIES FOR CANCER, DIABETES, HEART DISEASE

No one covets the thought of having cancer, or living with someone who does. If you find yourself in this situation, your hope for the future may be undermined by thoughts of death, despair, depression, and hopelessness. You may withdraw from life, and be unwilling to discuss the situation with friends, neighbors and relatives. Once you were in control of your life, but now you aren’t: you are forced to depend on medical resources, and hope against hope that a breakthrough will come.

I assume you have read my previous blogs, and know that we lived through that chapter of life. Though Fran and I knew of my son’s condition though chemotherapy, which was a vicarious awareness, we saw him deteriorate into a thin, bald, lethargic soul. None of this was good.

My ongoing questions during this season of life were, what caused it? Could it have been prevented? Could we (or JD) do anything to help cure his situation? Short answer: we were caught off guard, and did little except pray and take him to his weekly chemo sessions.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, what should you do?

There are many products and publications which can gave you hope: consider reading Suzanne Somers’ book, Knockout, and Tanya Harter Pierce’s Outsmart Your Cancer. You will learn there are physicians who have successfully treated patients for all sorts of cancers. Some cancers can be cured, and this should be welcome news.

We did not have these resources when JD contracted cancer. Obviously, we sought treatment options which did not involve radiation or chemotherapy. During this same period of time, I was trying to rid myself of diabetes. The thought of losing my eyesight, developing neuropathy in my fingers and toes (and possibly facing amputations later in life), and living with a weak cardio system, weren’t what I had bargained for. All I read suggested that it was up to me to control the situation (was I supposed to enroll in med school at age 61, to learn how to control my diabetes?). As I read interesting books on diabetes, such as Julian’s Whitaker’s Reversing Diabetes and the authors of The New Glucose Revolution, the light slowly came to me – I needed a deeper understanding of physiology and biochemistry.

As fate would have it, my son visited with a lady who had beat cancer by changing what she ate. She learned that her pH was out of balance, and once she got her system on track (which took a long time to achieve, and after that, a long time before the cancer disappeared), she discovered “the cure” for cancer.

Our problem was, we didn’t know much about pH “balance”, and we opted for a quick fix (chemotherapy). That said, let’s examine what she was advocating.

There is no standard definition for what “pH” means, but let’s use this concept: pH measures your body’s “potential for hydrogen”.

  • In chemistry “pH indicates whether a solution, fluid or compound is (a) acidic, (b) alkaline, or (c) neutral.
  • pH can be measured in our bodies by testing saliva and urine or blood (pH strips are available so you can test yourself, using saliva or urine).

If you have a heavy concentration of hydrogen in your system, you are “acid based” (which promotes development of free radicals, which in turn can turn into cancer cells).

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14; to be healthy, you should have slightly alkaline, oxygen-rich arterial blood (7.365 to 7.45 is ideal) – a reading of 7.0 is neutral.

If your body is rich in oxygen (indicating an alkaline based system), the oxygen neutralizes formation of acids which might prove to be harmful (acids do not stop the growth of free radical cells, which are the precursor to cancer; if you have a good intake of oxygen, the acids are neutralized, as are free radical cells).

Most Americans eat foods which leave us with an acid base systems, and acid is destructive. Fortunately, our bodies are chemical labs in action, so our systems combat over-acidity by taking existing calcium and protein from our bones, and possibly other places, so as to produce more alkaline. This neutralizes formation of acids, and for a season, our bodies will be in balance.

After the passage of time, if we do not keep our systems in balance,

  • we become more acid based;
  • our bone formation will be reduced and depleted;
  • and we will lose calcium in our urine (which may lead to kidney stone formation).

Our proteins will breakdown, which in turn causes our muscles to waste away. Our systems will be unable to repair cells, tissues and organs fully, and age at an accelerated pace. More free radicals will be produced, and we will be subject to increased fluid retention, and so forth. None of this is good.

So how do we reverse this situation? We have to change what we eat.

Today’s American diet is built on foods that breed acid-base systems. You must learn what foods to avoid. Consider reading The Acid Alkaline Food Guide, by Dr. Susan E. Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr., Squareone Publishers, © 2006. There is a list of about 70 pages of foods we eat, and the foods are rated as being either alkaline-forming or acid-forming. The first time I read through their list, I determined that I could not eat any food without running the risk of producing more acids in my system. To remedy this, my choices were limited: I would have to become a vegetarian, or I could eat more dark green vegetables, exercise more, and perhaps mix “green drink” powers with water (these green drinks are pretty nasty tasting; it’s easier for me to load up on kale, collard greens, and other vegetables I either like or can tolerate). So my solution was to eat more green vegetables and exercise more.

So what happens if you continue to eat processed foods, glucose producing foods (gluten rich breads, chewy pizza crusts, Krispy Kreme donuts, etc.), drink lots of Dr. Pepper and Cokes, and so forth? Your body will become an acid based system, which will cause harm in one form or another. Remember this, however: your body will do its best to rid itself of acid forming foods, through its filtering system

First, your lungs supply your body with much needed oxygen (as you breathe in), and dispel (exhale) carbon dioxide (the “burned” waste from your system – an inference might be made that aerobic exercise helps cleanse your system, because it requires lots of heavy breathing, which gives you a double dose of oxygen; in turn the COexpels the oxidized stuff you don’t need). Your job: exercise more.

Second, your kidneys filter unwanted sugars, and other waste products you don’t need (you rid your systems of sugar and other waste products through urine). Your job: drink lots of pure water, which is hopefully ionized or ozone rich. This will help keep your kidneys healthy, as well as supply your body with needed oxygen.

Third, your skin filters out other things, through perspiration (which is also produced through exercise).

Now the bad news, if you do nothing – here’s a partial list of what to expect with an acid based system:

  • Being overweight
  • Developing allergies
  • Undue fatigue
  • Mood disorder
  • Blood glucose extremes (hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, or diabetes)
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Asthma
  • Vaginal infections
  • Respiratory problems
  • Cancer

Most of us don’t like anything on the list. That said, you can control your pH balance. This doesn’t guaranty you won’t have problems, but if your pH level is in balance, you will be healthier for it.

There are quite a few books on how to “fix yourself”. Consider The pH Miracle for Diabetes, Robert O. Young, PhD, and Shelley Redford Young (or the pH Miracle, by the same authors); the Acid Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health, Christopher Vasey; or The Acid Alkaline Balance Diet, an Innovative Program for Ridding Your Body of Acidic Wastes, Felicia Drury Kliment.

pH Test Strips

Where to start: Begin by buying a few pH strips, and test yourself to see what your pH level is. When you wake up in the morning, put one of the strips on your tongue. In 30 seconds the strip will change colors, and you will then compare the color on the strip with the color chart which comes with your testing strips. If it matches the color associated with “7”, then your pH is at a satisfactory level. If your pH level is 4 or 5, your system is acid rich, and is not in balance (your level should be at 7, which is halfway between 0 and 14). Conversely, if your level is 8 or 9, your blood and body fluids have more alkaline than they should.

pH chart

As I conclude this part of the blog, let me tell you about JD’s treatment: he elected not to use the long term pH fix, which had to potential of ridding himself of cancer. Though he avoided radiology treatment, he was given 12 weeks of continual chemo treatment (described in the previous blog on the Big C), and thereafter, he slowly gained the weight he had lost. His hair grew back and is now about the same color as before, but it is curlier. He has given up caffeine (and Dr. Pepper), and watches what he eats (most of the time). He tries to eat “healthy”.

pH color match

This is a test strip I used: note the color is somewhere between 6 and 7 (not particularly good). My BG (blood glucose) reading was not very good (112) when I tested it after checking the pH balance. Too many potato chips the night before.

 

THE RECIPE

This recipe uses kale, a dark, green vegetable (which will help your system to become more alkaline). Keep in mind that kale is high in fiber content. It is also a nutrient dense green food, which is alkaline producing.

kaleTwo years ago when we bought a Big Green Egg charcoal barbecue unit (and mortgaged our house to do so; they are not cheap; and yes, this is a joke), I agreed (after 46 years of marriage) to prepare all meats on the grill (we abandoned the propane Weber grill for the Big Green Egg). When we recently switched to preparing meats using the sous vide technique (described in the blog on Sous Vide), I continued to prepare the entrée as I had done when I barbecued at night. Fran continued preparation of salads and vegetables.

KALE SALAD

2 cups grape seed oil
1 bunch curly kale
Salt
2 Tbls minced shallots
1 tsp Dijon mustard
114th cup red wine vinegar
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp honey
3/4th cup olive oil
1 bunch Tuscan kale
½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
¼ cup Pecorino Romano shavings

Cut kale into edible bite sized pieces.

Fry ½ the curly kale leaves in grape seed oil about 2 min. to make chips. Transfer to paper towel and salt. In shallow bowl, whisk shallots with next 4 ingredients. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt to taste. Mix the remaining curly kale with the Tuscan kale. Add enough dressing to coat leaves. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, toss in the kale chips, cheese and almonds.

 

 

 

The Big “C”

Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime

Find the recipe at the end of this post! Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime

I was disinterested in physiology until my youngest son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer impacting the lymphatic system. This unwelcome news came on the heels of my having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The only “happy” event in the interim was having lunch with a fellow lawyer, a Korean War vet, who was being treated by the VA for his diabetes. He suggested I explore the possibility of receiving medical attention through the VA (which ultimately meant I could buy metformin at a discount). Those of us who served in Vietnam drank water laced with Agent Orange, which causes Type II diabetes (one of the “lesser” maladies stemming from Agent Orange). That said, the year 2004 was filled with despair: cancer, diabetes, loss of control over my life and an uncertain future for my 23 year old son.

There had to be a way to reverse what had happened. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people, as they say.

The medical community gave me no hope for reversing my diabetes, except to grin and bear it with frequent trips to the doctor, to change the type of food I ate and exercise on a regular basis. For my son JD (pseudo name for purposes of this blog), the options were limited, because there was little we could do to stem the spread of his stage 2 cancer. It seemed his only recourse required me to drive him, on a weekly basis, to the cancer treatment facility, where he would receive doses of mustard gas and other chemo medications, all followed by long periods of severe nausea, constipation, cramps, fever, loss of appetite and energy and hair. The Stanford VII program in 2004 (now known as Stanford V) required 12 weeks of chemo treatments. JD’s platelets permitted him to receive all 12 doses, all administered through a drip machine, usually 1 hour per session. Each session was worse than the one before, and by week 12, he was extremely weak (his weakness and nausea required me to drive him to the cancer treatment facility). As I witnessed the transformation of an active, athletic young man wither into a thin, bald, weak and emaciated person, my mind drifted to dire results. He would not make it through the poisons of chemotherapy.

I didn’t like these changes in life styles, because I was no longer in control. I did not want to leave my future in the hands of physicians and dieticians and physical trainers and nurses. They were not trustworthy, from my vantage. I mean, how many success stories are recorded in the annals of oncologists?

Fortunately, I was hard-wired to be a curious person: my heart and soul were fed when I was able to learn as much I could about situations that affected me and my family.

So I started with JD’s situation, and began a journey to learn all I could about cancer, what caused it, how it can be treated, what we can do (if anything) to avoid it. At that time, my sister-in-law was in temporary remission from her bout with ovarian cancer (which had taken her mom’s life, as well as her grandmother’s – it would ultimately take hers a few years later). She gave us sage advice on how to combat nausea after chemo treatments (quoting Kendall: “there are a variety of anti-nausea medicines available; if the one the doctor prescribes doesn’t work, ask him to give you another”), and she encouraged JD to eat, even though food was not appetizing to him. She kidded him about what his hair would turn out to be after chemo: maybe his hair would be red and curly, or blonde and straight. Whatever it turned out to be, it would be different.

During JD’s chemo treatments, I stumbled on to a book by a Pennsylvania radiologist who fought and controlled the continued growth of his own brain cancer, Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, which was both instructional and biographical. This book was the first readable book I found on the topic of cancer, and it included the physiological aspects of cancer. Among other things, Dr. Servan-Schreiber outlined exactly what cancer was (there were dozens of types), what factors contribute to its development and growth, and information about the many varieties of cancer, each of which require different treatment.

I had never understood the term “metastases”, which he explained to be the spreading of cancer from one part of the body to another. He added drawings and illustrations to aid the reader’s ability to comprehend the ins and outs of the disease.

To overcome his own malady, he changed his lifestyle, which was similar to what was being recommended to me for diabetes: eat differently (adopt a different diet), eliminate sugar and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), and exercise on a regular basis. The physician’s  cancer (which returned after 6 years of being in remission) was controlled for 19 years, once he adopted a new lifestyle: he changed his diet, exercised, and somehow managed to reduce stress (his second bout with cancer came during divorce, something that always causes stress).

As an estate planner, I was fortunate to hear stories from clients, many of whom were dealing with diabetes, cancer, COPD, cardiovascular problems, and more. I would ask if there was a cause and effect which might have caused their own maladies, and what treatment they had (or were having), to overcome these diseases. These were valuable sessions for me and JD.

Most of my contacts were content to follow the advice of physicians, viz., take prescribed treatments pills and chemo. A few referred me to local holistic resources, which consisted of local vitamin shops owned by quirky people. The contacts who recommended holistic treatment were willing to take extra steps to control their situations, by exercise and changed diets (side note: even vegans contract cancer – so avoiding meats is not an anti-cancer guaranty). Those same persons were in the minority, since most of my friends and clients were adamant in following advice from the medical community. They were simply unwilling to try and control their situations. As a former trial lawyer, I knew first hand that physicians and nurses made mistakes, but I did not argue with whatever treatment they believed in.

So what has been the outcome for JD and me? I don’t want to bait you into visiting this blog next month, but you will have to wait until then. In the meantime, read Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, or at least the pdf summary now available on the internet.

This blog is already too long.


 

THE RECIPE

(adapted from http://www.kalynskitchen.com)

Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime

Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime plated

3-4 halibut steaks or filets

Marinade ingredients:

1/4th cup fresh lime juice
1/4th cup peanut or canola oil
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. onion powder or 2 T fresh grated onion
1 tsp. garlic puree or minced fresh garlic
1-2 tsp. ground cumin (or less, if you don’t like cumin)
zest from one small lime (at least 1 tsp. grated lime rind)
½ tsp. coarse ground black pepper
fresh cut limes for squeezing on cooked meat (optional)

Zest the lime (use a grater) in a mixing bowl. Add other marinade ingredients. Mix the ingredients (I used an electric “wand” type of mixer). Put halibut in a zip lock bag or holding container with a snap on lid, then pour the marinade into the bag or container. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Fire up your barbecue unit, and grill the fish until its done (I won’t tell you how to grill, but my technique is to place a non stick barbequing grilling mat or grilling plate over the metal barbecue grill itself (the grates); the mat will keep the fish from sticking). If you use such a mat, drizzle the left over marinade sauce onto the fish. If you don’t use a mat, then spray Pam for Grilling onto the grate, to help prevent sticking.

I use a digital thermometer for checking meat temperature (the fish should be done between 130°-145°; digital thermometers are a must for barbecue). Grilling fish never takes long, so don’t leave your station.

Serve hot. Squeeze lime juice over the fish, if you like. This is a very tasty and savory dish.

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