Friday, April 29, 2016

Two Weeks of Being Bad . . .

 . . . about the only thing I'm not going to do is have a beer.

Starting Sunday, May 1, I'm going to go on a two-week "diet" . . . which won't really be a diet, because I'm just going to continue eating what I've been eating for about six months now.

The difference from my normal routine will be that I'll document every bite and every gulp. Yup, I'm going to be writing down every single thing I eat and drink for two weeks.

But on Sunday, the first things I'm going to do are: document. I'm going to weigh myself. I'm going to measure myself. I'm going to photograph myself.

And then I'm going to document everything . . . my moods, my sleep habits, my exercise habits . . . everything.

And at the end of the two weeks—for convenience' sake, it will end on Saturday, May 16—sixteen days of Normalcy. Nick's Typical Diet. Nick's Typical Moods. Nick's erm . . . Gastrointestinal Happiness, or lack of it—I'm going to "take a sample" and send it to these guys.

And on Sunday, the 17th, I will begin Phase II, The Great Purge . . .

Full report at 11.

Where Fools Rush In

 I   t's been a while since I actually did any research on the Spinternet about anything medical, in depth.

But what the past week or so has taught me is that you have to be ultra-vigilant if you don't want to get ripped off.

In an area such as this—some new and only partially-understood area of medicine/health care—the travelling medicine shows with their poultices, potions and Dr. Luther's Magick Elixirs rolled up long before the genuine, degree-owning medical practitioners did.

Spotting them can be very, very hard but there are usually couple of things you can do to avoid falling into their con traps.

And the bona-fide medical outfits don't make it easy, frequently using research papers that spout impenetrable medical or scientific jargon that "normal" people don't have a chance of interpreting.

So how do you know who's legit and who probably isn't?

A couple of guidelines:

Beware of any websites called themselves "dr" or "doctor" anything. No self-respecting researcher or physician or chemistry expert would ever put up a website with "doctor" in its name; so anything like "drwilson.com" or "drdavidwilliams.com" or "drperlmutter.com" are 100% (not 98 or even 99%, but ONE HUNDRED PERCENT) guaranteed to be scams, either filled with homeopathic nonsense or pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo (real doctors rarely see the need to emphasize their "doctor-dom" in their web titles).

A real doctor has nothing to sell, because he or she didn't go through 12 years of gruelling school just to hop on the Internet and start selling a personal line of bullshit.

And some of these "doctors" aren't even doctors at all, except in their own minds—I will remind you that chiropractors are nothing to do with the real medical profession and are about as qualified to treat people as astrologers, despite the "doctor" in the name (I can be a doctor too, simply by calling myself one. Just ask Dr. John).

If you don't have "M.D." after your name, guess what: you probably aren't a medical doctor.

Furthermore, here are some of the buzzwords you need to be watching for when doing any research about the human biome (note that these are the same buzzwords that homeopaths and naturopaths and scammers use):

Big Pharma
healing
biomedical
holistic/wholistic
wellness
integrative/integrated
complementary
alternative
natural
(insert word)-boosting
quantum

and the following should be red flags if appearing on any website about this topic (including but not limited to):

organic, toxic, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, GMO-free, good fats, grass-fed, hormone-free, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxify, alkalizing, vitamin-rich, epigenetic, herbal, anti-aging, metabolic, oxygenated, synergistic, traditional, , energy boosting, no HFCS, paleo, raw, superfood, eco-friendly, macronutrient, additive-free, magnesium, iodine, cellular damage.

So why do so many people fall for this crap and not trust legitimate sites that aren't selling miracle cures?

Well, in many cases it's the fault of the scientists themselves. You'll have to wade through paragraphs of obscure or technical documentation that non-scientist can't hope to understand—and genuine researchers have few reasons to simplify this stuff for public consumption—it's not what they do.

So just to recap: if you run across entire websites whose content is the microbiome, they're more than likely selling something. Furthermore, a lot of these places will mix believable science facts with authentic-sounding mumbo-jumbo, like this guy does.

And of course, when you come across sites that have fifty banner ads running down every page, you know the site is probably not worth spending much time on.

If you want an example of a great, trustworthy website about all things medical, look no further than Science-based Medicine.

A few verifiable quacks (I'll try to add as I come across them):

Dr. Oz (one of the most egregious of all the quacks)
Andrew Weil

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More Boring Notes (But Vital!)

Still in research mode. Received the probiotics, have put them in the refrigerator.

Counting down . . . I'm thinking to officially start Phase I next Sunday. It will be the first of May; an auspicious-sounding date which in reality is a day like any other.

But since Phase I means basically going about business as usual, it won't be too great a stretch.

The main difference between that day and any other day will be that I will be meticulously logging my intake of all substances. The aim is to know exactly what I've been doing to myself. This phase will last precisely two weeks.

You're welcome to join me!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Why Are You Doing This?

 A  h, the question that to so many unfortunate mafia goons is their last one.

Why am I doing this, going through this insane amount of effort and trouble? It seems ludicrous to have to do this just to change your diet.

Change my diet?

My dear fellow, I'll tell you exactly why I am doing this and why it is nothing to do with "changing a diet"—after all, this is not Dr. Phil here.

I am resetting my immune system.

Get that sentence into your craw and have it stick there. Do you think I would do all this because I wanted to lose some weight? To quote a recent street thug, you outta yer fuckin' mind.

Your immune system, as has been discovered in countless studies, is to a large extent governed by your "second brain," which has been proven to be the teeming trillions in your gut.

This system creates many of the neurotransmitters that affect your daily life: serotonin, for one, and also signals your brain when you're full (what, did you think that "just happened?" No. It's your "second brain" informing your "first brain.") The gut biome, to a large degree, also governs your global immune response.

That's right; it's been proven to trigger inflammation, and inflammation, as you should know by now, by following this project, can cause an insane amount of maladies, from obesity to arthritis to skin disorders (I know!) to stomach woes.

That is why I am doing this—to improve my overall immune response and create a healthy environment in which my immune system does not continually attack the wrong targets and cause inflammation.

Got it?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Apocalypse Soon

 S  till reading, reading and waiting, waiting.

The more I read the more complicated it gets. Good. Because it is complicated. If it were simple, I would be suspicious.

I have to go back to what bacteria are—and how to kill them.

I was walking to the store and looking around me. I saw the grass, the trees, the road, the buildings, the people, and I suddenly saw it all with new eyes. As if I had new bacteria-seeing sensors—you know, like that chemical luminol, that can see blood traces even after they've been cleaned.

And I imagined a green blanket over the entire scene—a blanket of just bacteria, trillions upon trillions of them, occupying every conceivable space . . . dying by the trillion, expanding by the trillion in one colossal, pulsating mass . . . seething and glowing around living things, sparse and feeble on inanimate surfaces, like the walls of buildings.

Then, I come home and look at my cat, Kai, and imagine a glowing, furry mass of quadrillions of Bacterioides, Firmicutes and Prevotella, all patiently swarming and doing their fuzzy little bacterial jobs.

Our tiny overlords. All living and loving in perfect harmony.
Kai, through my new eyes. He leaves a glowing trail everywhere he goes . . .

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Notes

 I  'm making notes as I go through the mountains of links and bottomless wealth of information about my quest.

This will be random and informal.

1. Inflammation = KEY FACTOR in all sorts of mystery afflictions. Where does it come from and why?
2. ALL sugars must have a natural base: fruits etc. NO ADDED SUGARS. That regrettably means no more ice cream, no more whipped cream. Dark chocolate is okay, but in very small quantities (aforementioned increase in good bacteria noted with dark chocolate ingestion. Flavonoids, too!)
3. Oligosaccharides = good
4. What the FODMAP??? Says #3 is BAD
5. Look into Bifidobacteria (lactobacillus?)
6. Read this! Possibly Motherlode #2 (very informative)
7. Which leads to this

04/23/16

1. Great to see that a multitude of microbiologist are on the job. This whole field is going to revolutionize humanity. It's like the discovery that there were things like bacteria and viruses in the first place, leading to vaccines and other discoveries that hugely, hugely improved humanity's lifespans.

Like the discovery that mosquitoes were the things that transmitted the diseases, and not just the "mal air" around swamps and jungles. This is just as groundbreaking! You will see.

...With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
O million-murdering Death."—Sir Ronald Ross, upon his discovery that mosquitoes carried the malaria parasite
2. Don't worry, I haven't yet considered using worms to help me change my gut biome. But some of you might. Go in the back yard and start digging.
3. Two names you will encounter over and over again in this field of study: Bacteroides (or Bacteroidetes, as it's confusingly sometimes called) and Firmicutes (which one is a good guy and which is a bad guy? Not too hard to guess!)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Repent, Reset, Renew

 O  kay, the building blocks are coming in one by one.

I ordered that test kit from uBiome. Now I've ordered some heavy-duty probiotics that I plan to use in Phase II (Phase I, you will recall, is the two-week "cleaning of the slate" that I plan to reset my gut biome to as close to neutral as I can).

So the blocks are coming in for assembly as I do the research—no point in conducting this grand experiment if I skimp on any portion of it or hurry through any critical phases.

Nope. It's going to be as close to a real-world small-scale clinical trial as I can manage with my Resources of One.

Feel free to follow my path exactly—I'm not doing anything that is unreasonable or unaffordable for any normal person alive that I know. Or just follow it loosely—there isn't any real need to buy test kits or probiotic supplements; you simply have to follow the general principles, ie. Repent, Reset, and Renew.

I figure once I get the test kit, I will proceed thusly:

Phase I: Two Weeks

Two weeks doing what I always do. Eating what I always eat. Drinking what I always drink. Introducing no new influences, removing no old ones. Proceeding, in other words, as normally as I possibly can: A Day in the Life Of Nick x 14.

At the end of this phase, I will take the first lab sample and send it in. This will be the control phase: What Nick's Gut Normally Looks Like. Of course, all intake, mood changes, unusual occurrences will be rigorously documented (as through this entire experiment) so that we will have a good idea of what life was like before the whole Upset.

Phase II: Two Weeks

The Grand Remove. Eliminate all but the most essential. All extra sugars, and I mean ALL extra sugars. No more sugar in my coffee, not even a half a teaspoon. No sweets at all. No carbohydrates that take the form of glucose—that means no starches (potatoes, rice, pretty much all wheat in any form, basically anything that says "Carbohydrates" on the label). No drinks except black coffee, black tea, and water.

No processed fats, no meats of any kind, no fish, no dairy, no processed anything—that means, nothing that was produced in a modern factory.

That pretty much eliminates most things that are available to eat these days. Most, but not all.

Of course, I don't want to die of malnutrition. Certain vegetables, meaning those that don't contain large amounts of sugars (carrots) or carbs (potatoes)—will be on the table. I will have to do the research. Perhaps some legumes or nuts will also be allowed—again, we will have to see.

Things to spice things up, such as lemons and lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, basil—these will all be allowed. My background as a cook should prove useful here—how do you doll up a glass of water? (Hint: fresh mint and lemons are involved).

This will be the most miserable phase, but it's one that has to be done—no shortcuts. Ruthlessness and sacrifice will be the watchwords here I am my only reliable guinea pig, so fucking up on this portion is completely verboten.

Phase III: Two Weeks

The Grand Reintroduction. This is still up in the air, but it will involve cautiously introducing elements—such as the probiotic supplement—one at a time, and slowly. Each new reintroduction—dairy, starches, meats, carbs—will have their own carefully documented windows and exist in isolation. In other words, I won't start eating whole wheat pitas one day and three days later add chicken. It will be either-or at first. I just want to see what this does to my general digestive process. Gas? Bloating? Diarrhea? Constipation? All will be revealed!

After all, it will be the bugs down below who are reorganizing—not me. It is they who will be picking leaders, removing troublemakers, restoring equilibrium. I expect the most troublesome portion of the experiment to occur now.

At the end of this period, Test 2 will be undertaken, sample sent in to the lab.

Phase IV: To Be Determined, but longer than two weeks

Consolidation of the new plan. Figuring out what is reasonably doable in terms of continuing. No point in creating some messy, complicated diet that requires much fussing and fiddling to implement. The new diet must be easy to create every single day, easy to shop for, not unduly expensive, with no hard-to-find ingredients, and emergency substitutions—read, "Day Off"—be considered. These will be days in which you can't fall back on your diet—eating at a restaurant, at a friend's, or other occasion in which following your diet is impossible. Included here is the "occasional" lapse, as in, that square of cake you've been craving, that once--in-a-blue-moon steak and scalloped potatoes, that hamburger.

After all, a deprived system is a rebellious system.

At the end of this phase will be the final test, Test 3, which should—if all has gone according to plan—indicate that you are on track to be as healthy as you will ever find it possible to be.

So there you have it.

The countdown has begun, if only in my mind. The day the test arrive is the day Phase I begins.

Repent!

Reset!

Renew!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bad Guys & Good Guys

 I   don't want to be messing with my systemic health without doing some research.

I don't just buy it from Dr. Oz that Echinacea chases away sleeping sickness—I want to know what causes sleeping sickness first. Then I'll make up my mind on how to treat it.

So we must look at what bacteria really are before we figure out exactly how to change them from being our overlords to being our minions.

So this post will become a clearing house for information on the various aspects of bacteria and how they concern us. I'm not interested in things like extremophiles—unless they happen to be living in my stomach, which actually is not a remote possibility.

Biome On The Range

Splash of seawater, magnified 25 times
W  e are all gods of biomechanics.

But our nanobuddy overlords have been around four billion years more than than we have . . . that's a four followed by nine zeros. 4,000,000,000.

If the lifespan of the earth were reduced to 24 hours, bacteria sprang into existence at around 3 a.m.—last night. Homo sapiens, however, has been around since around six seconds ago; the Industrial revolution commenced before the light from the window crossed the room to your eye.

If our human world were reduced to the size of a bacterium's and the bacterium was floating around in the middle of your stomach, the distance from the bacterium to the surface of your skin would be about the distance from here to the moon.

One calculation has it that if bacteria were all dried up and weighed—that's all the water-weight removed—they would weigh 550 billion tons.

This comes to about 128 Mount Everests. And that's if all the bacteria were reduced to dust and crushed into the density of granite. . .

And how prolific are these little guys? Well, if the conditions are right—temperature, availability of nutrients—one bacterium can generate 2,097,152 bacteria in just seven hours. That, folks, is over two million kids—and that's just one bacterium. Just imagine all the kids having their own kids, all at the same time . . .

That means that that piece of chicken breast that you left on the kitchen counter—yes, that one—suddenly became Club Med for bacteria around when its surface became around 15°C/59F.

A square centimeter that contained 10 million campylobacter at 1°C just multiplied by fifteen in about ten minutes.