Health

Discussions about health related topics

Jun 012017
 

Ever since an illness back in 1993, I’ve had issues digesting milk. Not the normal issues people talk about that require a nearby bathroom, but these horrible headaches that would last two days. Pain relievers didn’t help these headaches, and they were incapacitating.

When I realized the headaches were triggered by milk I assumed it was some form of lactose intolerance. I mentioned my symptoms to my doctors, he shrugged it off without any tests or any answers. Instead I was told wasn’t possible to get headaches from drinking milk, so it wasn’t happening, I was mistaken. I was getting the old I-don’t-know-what’s-up,-so-you-must-be-crazy trick.

Back in the 1990’s — wow that is so long ago now! — I was able to take lactose enzymes and they would help. Eventually I had to move up from standard Lactaid pills to stronger health food enzyme pills. Eventually even those stopped working. By the early 2000s I was get these headaches after eating hamburger, chicken soup, chicken skin, or other fatty foods. Once again, when I mentioned it to the doctor they shrugged and ignored me. I tried talking to a gastroenterologist, who scoped me from top and bottom and also shrugged and sent me on my way.

I stayed away from many foods, crossing my fingers whenever I risked milk, hoping lactose pills would work. I mean, come on, you gotta have your ice cream every once in a while. Interestingly, I found that I could use enzyme pills without getting sick with some companies products, but not with others. For example, Oberweis ice cream was guaranteed to take me to Pain Town, but I never had any issues with TCBY frozen yogurt.

A few years ago I saw an advertisement for something called A2 Milk. It was advertised as normal milk only from cows that naturally provided only beta-A2 casein protein. Apparently most cow herds are a mix of cows, some producing beta-A1 casein, some beta-A2 casein. Apparently the beta-A2 casein is easier to digest for many people. If you have issues with milk, but never had a test for lactose intolerance, it’s possible you just can’t digest beta-A1 casein. With great hesitation, expecting to spend days incapacitated with a horrible headache, I bought and drank dome A2 Milk without taking any enzymes. Nothing. I was fine. I tried the 0% Milk, 2% Milk, Whole Milk and no problems what so ever!

After a while I noticed my digestion was improving now that I was avoiding other milk products. I was able to eat hamburger, chicken skin, and chicken stock again without any headaches. In fact, I haven’t had any form of headache in over a year now!

I decided to wait a good year to make sure this was real and would keep working. All is good. I drink and cook with A2 Milk at home, plus I switched to Enzymedica – Digest Spectrum enzymes that break down casein when I consume other dairy, like cheese or ice cream. These enzymes also handle gluten breakdown, butI’ve also used their dairy only formula, Enzymedica – Lacto which was made just for dairy, including casein.

This new regimen has been working wonderfully. After decades of digestive issues, now no pain, just gain from eating foods I haven’t been able to consume in ages! The A2 Milk company pays me nothing for this, I just want them to expand their product offerings. How about some whipping cream, ice cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese?

Share
Feb 082016
 

I’ve had debilitating pinched nerve pain in my neck for well over 6 months each time on two different occasions. Both times this happened I was taking a medication called Uloric to lower my uric acid levels. I went off this med for a while when I has having my digestive issues and realized there was no pinched nerve pain issues during that time. As soon as I went back on the medication I started having increased pain again. I decided to take a few years and do further self-testing before deciding there was a connection. Each time I started taking Uloric the pain would kick back in. Each time I went off Uloric the pain decreased. I’ve decided the evidence is clear enough that I personally should not be taking this medication.

Perhaps this is why, after multiple scans, doctors said they were not sure why I was in so much pain? Perhaps it was not a normal pinched nerve, but peripheral neuropathy being triggered or intensified by this prescription medication? Perhaps it’s taking a mild arthritis and making it feel like a full-on pinched nerve, or increasing inflammation in what should be a mildly aggravated area? There’s apparently no way to really find out what’s up using normal medical testing, so all I can do is wonder and note there is some sort of connection.

My current uric acid levels test around 8 mg/dl. While I’d prefer around 6 mg/dl, my values are low enough that it’s unlikely to trigger a gout attack. Anything 9 or above would be a bigger worry. Taking Uloric seems to guarantee eventually being crippled by pain for most of a year. Thus, I’ve decided to stay off Uloric for now.

There is another gout medication called Allopurinol, but the two times I tried that medication I had a non-stop headache until I stopped taking  it.

I’ve also tried gout diets, drinking cherry juice, etc., but these didn’t help lower uric acid levels any further than they are now. Reduced sugar intake seems to be the most beneficial dietary change.

Share
May 212015
 

Research into gut bacteria is an interest of mine. I started occasionally reviewing the DNA of my own microbial boime over a year ago. I was curious if I’d be able to witness known research, or my own hypotheses, in action after dietary changes.

Last summer, after a simple diet change, I saw a very dramatic drop in bacteria diversity. At first I wondered if the DNA analysis was faulty, as the drop was huge, but later I read a study on emulsifiers and realized it was possible I was viewing the findings of this study.

Here’s a graph of my uBiome data.

Gut Bacteria Chart Showing Dip in Quantity and Variability During Summer

Each color represents a different category of bacteria. The dramatic dip in the middle shows the variety of bacteria in my system being dramatically reduced.

To understand why I’m interested in this topic, I should mention that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease over 20 years ago, but have been able to keep it in remission using diet. Cane sugar seems to trigger an autoimmune reaction, so I avoid it as best as I can. Beet sugar, the other common white sugar, does not trigger this reaction, and luckily I live near the heart of beet sugar production.

One item I could never find with beet sugar was ice cream. Continue reading »

Share
Apr 152015
 

Until last month, I was still having some discomfort related to my pinched nerve of the previous year. Some mild nagging neck and shoulder pain that was aggravated while lying down. At night I’d constantly wake to shift to a more comfortable position. I couldn’t sleep on my right side at all. Swimming was keeping the stabbing pain at bay, but if I didn’t swim every few days the pain would start to return. During the day I sometimes had pain if I moved into the wrong position, like reached behind me to grab something without fully turning. Nearly all of this discomfort is now gone, and it only required one hour of assistance.

Back when I was suffering from a nasty pinched nerve, I realized there were two issues that needed handling. The hospital only dealt with one, the vertebrae where the pinch originated, yet I discovered that I received more relief from muscle and fascia release than I did from spine stretching. The hospital used a machine to try and open the vertebrae, which included no muscle pressure. The hospital’s only muscle treatment was to assign the patient some light exercise to do at home. The exercises were not effective. The only thing that worked for me was hands on muscle work.

I assume muscle work is not part of standard therapy because it sounds like massage, and insurance doesn’t pay for massage. When properly done, proper muscle treatment is not what most people think of as a massage. Properly done muscle work either hurts or feels like pressure. No oils. No incense. No gentle sleep inducing touch. The greatest progress I made from the beginning to the end of my pinched nerve always came after a muscle work session. Once it was after a hospital worker broke treatment protocol, and later after I hired  someone when the hospital refused to let me see that same therapist again. I’m fully convinced I could have saved months of physical therapy, and been more productive much sooner, if insurance and the medical system had included some skilled muscle work sessions.

I described my experience with my pinched nerve treatment in a prior post. Once the stabbing pain was gone I had assumed I’d steadily recover. After a year I was still having some discomfort, as I mentioned. So I finally decided to dished out more cash for another rolphing session. The person I’d hired the previous year was on maternity leave, so I searched around and found someone that had been properly trained and had experience. Rolphing is normally done as a 10 session progressive series, but because this injury and a flood last year had impacted my income, I requested a single session that only targeted the area where I was having issues.

The session lasted one hour. At one point the therapist said the muscles over my scapula were not laying over each other correctly and he would try to correct them. He worked all through my left side: shoulder, neck, back, chest, ribs, arm. After the muscle work, some of it quite painful, he gave me some stretches to do at home and some posture tips.

I immediately found I was able to stand up straighter without discomfort I’d been having. The next time I swam my arm moved more freely, with none of the “crunching” sensation I would sometimes feel. I could now go over a week without swimming without the pain returning, though I have been keeping the swimming habit up to keep healthy. I could now also sleep on either side without waking to shift due to pain.

So, if you’re in pain, perhaps try some muscle work. The type of therapist I looked for was not a massage therapist, but a structural integration therapist, or Rolpher.

It’s been a month now and it still feels much better.

Share
Feb 082014
 

Pain takes over. It rules what you do during the day, keeps you from sleeping at night, and changes your day-to-day behavior. It tosses all your plans, replacing your to-do list with one line: “Stop the Pain!”

As you might guess from this seemingly over-the-top opening, 2013 was not one of my better years.

The first time I experienced pinched nerve pain was back in 2009. My primary doctor at the time insisted that pain pills and alternating hot and cold pads was all I needed. The pain pills did nothing to stop the pain, and there was no continuing relief from applying heat and cold. I was stuck in a chair with my arm raised over my head unable to move. I managed to do some activities on occasion by grimacing and just accepting pain as a fact of life. After suffering for a few months, out of desperation, I started seeking alternative treatment plans. These included seeing a chiropractor and various forms of traction. The pain lasted about six months total the first time. I slowly found relief after traction, and figured I had my future cure should it ever kick in again. This was not to be the case.

Back in 2009 I realized the pinched nerve started up after having joined a gym. I decided weight lifting was probably not the best form of exercise for me. Luckily, the gym moved and required everyone to rejoin. I didn’t. All was fine pinch-nerve-wise for a few years until I did a charity photo shoot for which I lugged a bunch of heavy lighting equipment to and from a hotel. It was a bad move: I’d gone from months of inactivity to heavy lifting in the middle of the winter and the pinched nerve pain was back again.

When the pinched nerve struck this second time (insert dramatic music here) two weeks into 2013, I decided I would make the medical system work for me this time. I had changed doctors since the first time. I liked the new guy. I had high hopes for a quicker recovery. Many months later I decided this obedience had been a bad idea. Under standard medical care I made little progress.

As of today I am totally pain free. I’m convinced I would not have been had I relied on standard medical treatment. Instead, I would have been begging for surgery, and based on talking to others, it was likely that surgery would have been a failure. My positive outcomes all came from listening to what the medical expert said, some chance meetings, and figuring out different therapies than what the hospital was offering. The huge leaps in progress I experienced took place when I left their protocols and followed my own intellect.

I offer this as my observations dealing with my pinched nerve, explaining what did and didn’t work for me, just in case it’s of interest to others.

Continue reading »

Share
Oct 012013
 

Milk

Last year I reported on how ingesting sugar alcohols, which are artificial sweeteners sold in stores and found in many low-glucose processed foods (the ones that end in -ol, like sorbitol, Erythritol, mannitol, xylitol, etc.), can cause health problems. Many people have intolerance issues with indigestible sugars, including myself.

At the time I noted the ability to digest lactose would fall into the same category since for many people lactose is an indigestible sugar, at least to some degree. Now that I’ve avoided all sugar alcohols this year, I appear to be experiencing this link to lactose intolerance in action. I’m back to being able to eat dairy without worrying about major headaches. Continue reading »

Share
Jan 232013
 

Such simple ingredients for such yummy pancakes.

Now, I’ve always loved myself some good pancakes. Pancakes soaked with real maple syrup, maybe a pad of melting butter. Thin pancakes. Thick pancakes. I like pancakes so much that I would tease my wife by playing the Marvin Pontiac (John Lurie) song “You Never Make Me Pancakes” and look at her with puppy dog eyes… and then go make myself some pancakes.

These days, though, I need to watch what I eat to feel my best, so I’ve taken to eating more simple, primal foods. No more big plates of carbo-grains drenched with liquid sugar. These banana pancakes are perfect. The ingredients are basic. The preparation easy. I happen to like the taste and texture. They need no added sugar, not even my favorite sweetener: maple syrup. They puff up fine without flour or leavening. I never feel rotten or sluggish after finishing a plate.

Let me also mention that I probably make them a little differently every time, yet they always come out good. So, add more or less banana to your taste, from as little as 1/2 a banana, up to two bananas. These are a great way to use up those really brown/black bananas. Add more or less nut flour to your taste, or use different nut flours, or use a few tablespoons of nut butter, or a tablespoon of coconut flour instead. Toss in some vanilla or cinnamon or chocolate chips if it’s your want. Drizzle with a tiny bit of maple syrup if you really need the fix, or cover them in sliced strawberries or bananas. Add a pinch of salt if you crave it. It’s all good.

BananaPancakes

Banana Almond Pancakes

2 Eggs
1 Ripe Banana
1/3 Cup Almond Flour

Heat a flat pan to medium.

In a bowl scramble up the eggs. Add the banana and mash it into the eggs as smooth or as chunky as you’d like. Add the almond flour and stir until blended into a batter.

Drop some butter or oil (coconut or grapeseed perhaps) into the pan. Pour in the batter to form small pancakes. I typically use about 1/4 cup each. Cook until puffed and browned. Flip to brown both sides. Eat ’em up!

 

Share
Oct 012012
 

Here’s a great recipe for those trying to reduce their carb load, yet who still want desert-like goodies to snack on. I brought the chocolate chip variation to a party the other week and they were gobbled up.

NOTE 1: Using butter or Earth Balance will give more of an old-school buttery flavor, while coconut oil will add a coconut overtone and a slightly harder texture. All three are good, just different, so use what you prefer or need for your diet. Coconut oil should always be used by those following a primal diet, but people not familiar with coconut oil may prefer the other options.

NOTE 2: There are two reasons to choose between maple syrup or agave syrup. First, there’s your taste preference. Second, and more importantly to me, there’s the glycemic-index. Agave is low-glycemic and considered better for diabetic conditions, while maple syrup has less fructose and is better for fructose malabsorption conditions. I use maple syrup.

NOTE 3: With only walnuts you’ll have a very mildly sweetened scone and the walnuts will add a nice variety in the taste and texture.  Adding Chocolate chunks/chips makes these into something more like a chocolate chip cookie. I’ll  switch between the two, sometimes using half and half depending on if I want more of a dessert or a snack. I personally find a full cup of chocolate chunks/chips way too sweet for my taste, so I rarely go over 1/2 cup if only I’m eating them.

Almond Flour Scones

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil, softened butter, or Earth Balance
1/8 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Up to 1 cup walnuts or dark chocolate chunks/chips, or a mix of both

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all ingredients except for walnuts or chocolate until smooth. Stir in walnuts or chocolate. Form 10-12 scones on cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly browned.

Almond Flour Chocolate Cookie

Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and an additional 1/8 cup of syrup to the above recipe to transform it into a chocolate cookie. The sugar load is a bit high for me, but I wanted to include this variation for those looking for a way to twist the recipe further into dessert territory.

Alternate Sweetener Substitution

I don’t tolerate many artificial sweeteners,but if you need to totally cut out all sugar you can adapt the recipe by substituting half of the butter/oil with grape seed oil and using 4 packets of any alternate sweetener like Sweet ‘n Low or Stevia instead of the syrup.

 

Share
Aug 012012
 

Due to the rise in diabetes in the USA, for decades there has been a big marketing push to get people to use zero-calorie and low-glycemic sweeteners. I previously posted about health issues I connected to a zero-calorie sweetener, and noted that I also did better on a low-carb diet. Now I’m going to explain the simple science behind why certain sweeteners, including no-cal-sweeteners and even natural low-glycemic sweeteners like agave and honey, or even just the natural sugars in wheat, apples, and onions can cause major health issues for some people.

I only learned about all of this in 2011 when a podiatrist mentioned a study that found a connection between gout and fructose. I started researching the topic, and the information I found surprised me.

It turns out that around 30% of the population of Western countries and Africa have a condition known as Fructose Malabsorption. Asia has lower numbers, but it’s still around 10%. That’s a lot of people with a condition most of us have probably never heard of. Continue reading »

Share
Jul 252012
 

Ugh. One month after discovering Truvia had been wrecking my gut, I ate over someone’s house only to be gifted with food poisoning. That night everyone except my daughter Coral became ill. Two days later I was informed that the humus we’d eaten had been tainted. For a change I was glad that Coral hadn’t eaten her vegetables.

After that mild food poisoning, half the time I ate anything I would get bad indigestion, followed by intense stomach pains, followed by everything being flushed out of my system from my stomach on down. This was happening a few times a week, and I had a lot of intense stomach pains and indigestion in-between the really bad bouts.

Everything I read said food poisoning should clear up on its own in one to four weeks. I waited. Six weeks later I was still suffering. So much for my summer plans of fun and productivity.

Continue reading »

Share