Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Great Learning of 2016: Part 2: Do I, Or Don't I?

  Y   ou come to a point in your life—you'll know it when it happens—where you basically have a decision to make. Do I want to live to be 90? Or do I just want to resign myself to just let Nature takes its course, get the usual diseases like heart problems or diabetes or COPD or, gods forbid, The Big C?

It's basically at that point where you either change your ways, or you don't. There really are only the two choices, but you have to make them now; you can't wait until those diseases have actually gotten you in a stranglehold, because there will be a point where nothing you belatedly do matters any more—it won't work because it's too late.

The hospital bed is too late.

Look at us. We're actually the first generation of human beings who've lived most of our lives with the Western Diet: in 1940 there were no McDonald's, there was no Swanson Frozen Dinners—hell, there were hardly any freezers!

In 1963 there were no M&Ms or Lay's BBQ potato chips or Häagen-Dazs Country Road or Denny's Double Bacon 'n' Beef or Maison India or salads in a bag. There was no instant ramen, for fuck's sake.

There were no discussions about obesity in America or hypoglycaemia except by obscure physicians running obscure clinical trials for soon-to-be multinational beverage corporations.

Sugar was good. Smoking was better. Mad Men was real; have three martinis at lunch and watch Richard Burton slur his words hilariously on the Jack Paar Show.

We—you me, and pretty much everyone who was born before 1980—have been guinea pigs in the greatest diet experiment in the history of human civilization, and the results are just coming in.

They're not good.

The chemicals that preserve, enhance, brighten, stiffen, soften and fatten have now been in the dietary food chain for nigh-on half a century. These are chemicals that our gut microbes have never encountered, have no strategies to deal with and are basically completely defenseless against.

But there's more: exotic mixtures of bizarre concoctions of sugars and starches, like Krispy Kreme or Eskimo Pie that are held together with emulsifiers, flavor enhancers and coloring agents.

We've been raised to think so many different ways about food: fat is bad. Fat is good. Eat your pasta. Pasta kills. Sugar's bad, sugar isn't bad, it's calories that are bad.

We swallow all this bullshit whole and choose Diet Coke instead or regular Coke, thinking somehow that that's healthy.

Think about that for a second: there are actually people who drink Diet Coke instead of regular Coke and they think they're being healthy.

Human beings were never designed to drink ANY Coke and it's only in the last half century that Coca-Cola has become the most recognized two words in the planet after "OK."

Coca-Cola is the most recognized two words on the planet after OK.

I know, I know: so the fuck what?

Well, consider your microbiome.

Consider the utter confusion that reigns inside your digestive system, day in, day out, as you feed it with bizarre food after bizarre food, shovelling in sugars and lard and chemicals that completely overwhelm any semblance of a healthy ecosystem—just like clear-cutting your digestive tract and planting vast fields of corn and palm oil trees, then burning down the rest of it to build condos and amusement parks.

You know deep inside yourself that all this is not going to end well.

Okay okay, you get it, you get it, but what are you gonna do about it?

You're at a crossroads.

Like I told you, you have the decision: do I want to live till I'm 90, or do I just say Fuck it, I'll take my chances and keep eating and drinking the stuff I've always eaten and always loved.

It's up to you. Are you going to put that bullet in the gun and spin the chamber, or are you going to put the gun away in a place no one will ever find it and forget it ever existed?

I just received an email from a good friend who's been following this project. Here's what he says:

Je remarque que dans les dernières semaines, tu as énormément travaillé sur ton corps et ça semble donner d'excellents résultats, et que ta santé s'améliore. Tu devrais penser t'ouvrir une école de santé, avec participants "sérieux" seulement !  

J'ai toujours trouvé bizarre que les gens, en général, n'hésitent pas à dépenser de grosses sommes et beaucoup de temps pour s'occuper de leur voiture. Mais quand c'est pour leur corps et santé, ils sont hésitants à prendre du temps et à dépenser... Ça n'a pas de sens !

Thanks for that, Mario.

NEXT TIME: Getting Your Shit Together

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Great Learning of 2016: Part I

  T   his past thirty days has taught me a lot—I told you from the outset that I was doing this so you didn't have to—so now you can just pass Go and go straight to the Gold.
So what is my advice to you? What are the conclusions that I have come to after cogitating 200% every single day of the past thirty days—recording, I'll remind you, every single relevant thing that happened to my body: what I ate, when I ate it, what I drank. My blood sugar levels, sometimes six times a day, how I napped and how I slept.

I made charts of every single day; I will post them on this blog in due course, in addition to the test results from uBiome and my blood tests.

If you have the logical mind and the discerning eye, you might be able to make sense of the patterns on my charts, especially the hours that I slept and the duration of the sleep, because I regard the quality of sleep to be the defining marker of your overall health. (After all, if your sleep is fucked up, *you* are liable to be fucked up. It is, after all, a third of your healthy lifetime, and, I think, a kind of dark matter to your life: unseen, unappreciated, but absolutely crucial to existence.)

I didn't record my exercise, but that's because it should be such an innate part of your lifestyle, like sleep, that you should somehow work it into your daily existence and *leave it there.* Don't think of it as a drag that your "diet doctor" is admonishing you to do; think of it as . . . well, all that in a minute.

So here goes. Here is the Wisdom that I will impart from the "Great Learning of 2016."

Be Smart.

EDUCATE YOURSELF. The Internet is the biggest library every created. At your fingertips is almost every speck of human knowledge ever accumulated. Want to know what Louis XIV ate for breakfast? No problem. (Beef madrilène with gold leaf spangles?!)

Avoid obviously spurious websites. There are a LOT of people out there spouting nonsense that almost sounds credible. These people work hard to spread their dangerous gibberish-ideas that are often based on conspiracy theories and other typical lunatic-fringe hysteria.

You will learn to spot these places; usually, but not always, they will be flogging some book or "system" that will be based on science, but then will veer wildly into nonsense territory, the better to differentiate themselves from the other charlatans who infest the cybersphere like Emerald Ash Borers.

Avoid obvious pseudo-science hucksters who call themselves anything like "Chiropractor" "Reflexologist" "Integrative medicine doctor""homeopath/naturopath/insert fraudulent pseudo-science here" and just *use your common sense.* How do you spot them? *They usually want your money in some manner.*

It's not hard, d'oh: USE YOUR BRAIN!!! It's not rocket science.

A great place to start that tries its best to expose these quacks and the bizarre and sometimes dangerous theories they espouse is right here. Type your keyword in the search box and get ready to see the chicanery massacred.

DON'T FEEL PERSECUTED. This is not something someone is forcing you to do because you've been a naughty, idiot loser who's been stuffing your face all your life with complete and utter junk, even if you ARE a naughty, idiot loser who's been stuffing your face all your life with complete and utter junk.

For an analogy, just think of your car. You love your car, right? You want your car to run the best it can; it may be old, but it works, and you want it to work really well. You don't want to put the lowest-priced-lowest-grade Chinese oil into its engine so it sputters and coughs clouds of Beijing smoke.

You don't want to ignore that clattering sound until it finally quits and you have to have it towed to a mechanic who tells you it's blown its fraximillik and will now cost you your paycheck-and-a-half.

*You wouldn't do that to your car, so why would you do it to yourself?*

YOU ARE LOVING THE BIOME. You don't seriously think that there is some magic life process going on in the background that enables you to eat, sleep and, err, use the toilet in a comfortable, pain-free and happy manner, do you?

*This is not magic.*

There are very real, very living creatures inside your gut that are *totally dependent* upon you to feed them right so they can do the essential jobs that evolution has spent millions of years crafting in order to enable walking, talking, two-legged biological machines of the highest order of superiority in the entire observable universe that we know of.

Be mindful of everything that you put into yourself; there are consequences. You may not pay much attention to that bag of M&Ms but believe me, your gut bacteria are paying attention.

In all likelihood, entire genomes of bacteria that are specifically attracted to all the sugar and chemicals inside those M&Ms are racing to the scene, like Crips and Bloods and Mexican drug cartels, to wipe out all the normal bacteria who are there, patiently trying to clean you up and make you efficient, these bad guys wreaking havoc as they usually do, not caring whom they kill and what the consequences will be to the Biome.

That's what these vermin do; it's their jobs. And you're enabling them.

Next time you get the urge to stuff your face with that Costco hot dog and french fries, just imagine the consequences to all your little friends, and by extension, to yourself. That one hot dog may not seem like a big deal—you work hard, you're on the go, you need food, you deserve it—but that one hot dog turns into ten hot dogs and all the garbage accumulates, poisoning every working organ in your body with the utter shit, the dregs of leavings from the slaughterhouse floor that is cursorily inspected by bored meat inspectors and handled by unhappy carcass slingers. THAT'S what that hot dog is. You just don't want to admit it.

EVERY TIME you choose the junk option instead of the easily obtainable, healthy option, you're poisoning your little friends who are trying to take care of you. Trust me, they don't want to be fed that shit. So what do they do? They just GIVE UP AND DIE. The bad guys move in.

Cluster of fucking carrots
DRESS IT UP. Who the fuck wants to chew on a fucking carrot stick? I sure don't. Yet that's what all these advice sites basically tell you to do. "For a noontime snack how about a nice healthy serving of carrots sticks with a fat-free yogurt dip!" Fuck you.

They put a nice happy photograph of a cluster of carrots in a Martha Stewart bowl. Hey! It's not legumes de conteneur en porcelaine fusée à la Chine. It's a cluster of fucking carrots!

And we're supposed to space out our meals to five times a day, chopping little carrots sticks or celery sticks, only to have to eat them with some bland Dr. Weil-approved fat-free-gluten-free-fair-trade-probiotic yogurt that just happens to be available to order on his website?! Recurring subscription for a monthly $39.95!



I knew that I would never be able to survive on a regimen like that. So I changed it. You like shrimp? You can buy them, already cooked, at the grocery store, or you can sauté a batch one lazy day and put them in the refrigerator for snacks. They're very healthy, contrary to the fallacious claims by health mavens in the 80s that they had too much cholesterol.

I just made my noontime and 6 o'clock snack a few shrimp, cold and dipped in a homemade soy-ginger-garlic sauce (recipe on request).

It was delicious, super-fast, pretty healthy (beats chips and a fucking Coke; if I see you drinking one of those, I'll never speak to you again) and it fills you up nicely. If you're extra-hungry, just add extra shrimp.

MORE IDEAS and conclusions coming up in The Great Learning of 2016: Part II

That's Crazy

  T  he young blonde Asian woman behind the counter at the health food store flashed me a smile as I set my glass bottle of 2% goat's milk and an empty from last week down in front of her.

I was feeling expansive. "Who did your hair? Stevie Wonder? Looks 'Wonder-ful,'" I babbled chirpily. She giggled.

"I get two bucks back on this empty, right?" I asked, reaching into my pocket for my cash.

"Yes, I give you two dollars for the bottle after."

She rang me up. "That'll be $6.34," she smiled, and I looked at the bill in my hand: $5.

"Uh, but I get two dollars, right?" I said, not understanding.

"Two dollars back, yes, after!" she said happily.

I gave up and pulled out my credit card. "Credit?" I said, blinking my eyes rapidly in a nonsensical gesture of joy.

"Sure!" she said, and I rang in my card.

She pulled out the receipt, opened the drawer and gave me a two-dollar coin.

I looked at the coin and looked at the five dollar bill in my hand.

I put my credit card back in my pocket.

"Hey, thanks!" I said, in genuine pleasure. I now had $7 in my pocket to blow; off to Dollorama!

This could be a parable for what is wrong with this world; in which a functioning human being is so confused that she can't put one step mentally ahead of another step unless it makes sense to her oddly ordered mind, which does not jibe with the real-life workings of the observable universe and its billion trillion galaxies.

It somehow made more sense to her to force me to use my credit card, just because that magic two-dollar deposit had to come after the whole transaction; gods forbid the eternal rhythm of the Register Gods be disturbed.

So this is my new life? I thought, ponderously. Goat's milk and sprouts for dinner?

I thought about this on the way home. Is this what the goal of this whole thing was all about—to change my diet so radically that I need access to a health food store just for my basic dietetic necessities?

That's crazy, I thought.

But then I thought, what's crazy? Is chowing down on a mouthful of Lecithin, artificial flavor, emulsifier, corn syrup, sugar, palm oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, artificial flavour (2) smart? (Snickers bar)

How about Lactose, Sodium Diacetate, Maltodextrin, Salt, Malic Acid, Sodium Citrate and Sunflower Oil? (Lay's potato chips)

Or Sugar, milkfat, salt, artificial flavour, cornstarch, dextrin, artificial colouring (Blue 1 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2) gum acacia, lactose (M&Ms)

This could be someone's lunchtime snack regimen. There are actually people who eat this, day in, day out, for years, decades, every single day.

How about you? Do you eat this? Why not just hang out in a chemistry lab all day and munch on the pickings?

What's crazy?

Yes, it's an extra effort to go to the health food store, and frankly, quite silly to think that goat's milk is any better for me than cow's milk (it's not).

But it makes me feel good about myself; it makes my bacteria feel good about ME.

I imagine that down there they're thanking their lucky stars that they've found a human who managed to turn the page from the Western Diet to something sane, something they could actually live on, instead of constantly swimming in a chemical and grease-gob-filled swill of crap that their owner somehow confused with food.

That's crazy. Right?

In my next post, I'll tell you what this thirty days of discovery and deprivation has taught me; and I can tell you, it's not crazy.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Miracles

  I  don't have much to say.

But what I say is important. I want to you to listen carefully: miracles can happen. Except they can only happen according to Einstein: Energy equals mass times the speed of light. I know that's a bit hard to understand, but in the real world, it means that to achieve something, you have to put in a lot of effort.

Sometimes, a lot of effort.



Oscar Peterson wasn't a genius pianist because he was born a genius, and uh, just sat down at the piano and, well, watch the video.

The fact is that he put thousands of hours in  at the keyboard before he played a note in public. That usually means eight hours a day for months—probably years.

For anyone to get good at anything, they have to put in huge amounts of effort. Just like the Atlas rocket engine expended enough energy to get Apollo 11 into space—a HUGE amount of energy just for that tiny three-man capsule—we have to expend mental and physical energy to achieve good things.

And sometimes, results take a long time to see.

And many, many many times, we're just too impatient and we give up in disgust because nothing seems to be happening.

It's why people give up their diets, for one.

Today, I looked again at my hands.

You don't know how insidious psoriasis can be. If you're cursed enough to have it—even a mild version, in my case—it can run your life; govern everything you do.

I hated doing anything in the kitchen that involved water, because I was wearing so many bandaids on my right hand. And the water would soak into them and galvanize the sores beneath them. It would hurt.

So I often refused to help Brigitte, say, chopping vegetables or filling the dishwasher.

Small things, maybe, but it still controls your life. And I HATE anything controlling my life.

So I looked at my hand today, and I noticed—again—that my psoriasis has gone. I mean, gone. It's like I had taken some miracle drug; I just keep looking at my hand in total disbelief because for the past five years or so, every time I looked at my hand I either had every finger bandaged or red, angry and about to be bandaged.

Day in, day out, for five years. And that was after a five-year remission (before that remission, when I was living in Japan, it was even worse).

And in less than one month, because I have switched my diet—to tell you the truth I have no idea what part of switching my diet did this—my psoriasis has gone completely into remission.

To me, folks, this is nothing short of a miracle.

For the past five years, let me tell you, I've tried everything. Every cream. Dovonex. Protopic. Maximum Strength Hydrocortisone. I've tried UV lamps. Occlusion with rubber gloves. Sunlight.

Nothing worked.

Until now.

The psoriasis is almost gone.
To me, folks, and pardon me if I keep repeating it, this is a fucking miracle (not just a regular goddamn miracle). I'm usually a skeptic about any naturopsycopathic homeo-integrated-gluten-free nonsense about diet, but this is undeniable; it's right in front of my face and on my hand.

I can't deny it.

But my point is, I went through a huge effort for this. It didn't happen overnight. I did things that for me, are just plain odd.

I pretty much gave up sugar, wheat, dairy and fat for seven days.  (Look at me exaggerating. Seven days goes by in a flash!)

But what I got for that seven days of "deprivation"—really, just an extreme effort on my part not to yield to numerous temptations—was complete remission of a years-long disease that controlled and altered my life.

Seven days of effort for a huge reward.

Just imagine what otter autoimmune disorders this could help. Obesity? Migraines? Fatigue? Insomnia?

(Did I mention that I'm sleeping every night in solid blocks of five to six hours? Another miracle.)

I can't explain what happened, but I also can't deny it.

I've reintroduced sugar, in the form of honey, and dairy in the form of goat's milk and kefir, but no more ice cream . . . no more whipped cream . . . no more cheese . . . (no more pizzas!)

But you know what? It's okay. I can do it. I will do it.

I'm sorry; I should be talking about The Biome.

But today, I can only talk about The Miracle.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Transformed

Thinner?
  "S  alut, Jean!" I said cheerily to the chubby middle-aged Mediterranean man standing in front of my building's elevators.

He was the delivery guy from the pharmacy; he knew me well because I always give him a $2 tip.

His grey beard twitched as he looked at me blankly.

"C'est moi, Jean! Huit-cent-sept!"

His expression began to change somewhat comically as a look of recognition slowly crept across his rumpled features, and I stifled an urge to laugh.

"Monsieur Nicolas?" he stammered, confused. His moustache trembled on his upper lip like a grey caterpillar.

"Jean! It's me! The guy in 807!"

"Mais—mais, vous avez jeunissé!"

I wasn't sure about the French, but I thought he'd said "You've gotten younger!"

And the strange comment wasn't the first time that day; I had just returned from my visit to the hospital, where I had gone into Brigitte's room to find that one of her old friends had come to visit.

"You lost weight"" said Rachel, not even bothering to say hello.

Well, I'm not too sure about getting younger and losing weight. The scale says that I lost around ten pounds over the week or so that I "deprived" myself of wheat, dairy, sugar and meat, but other than having an unfamiliar surge of energy, I look in the mirror and just see same old me . . . but obviously they don't.

Besides, can such a transformation take place within only a few days?

Well, let's see.

Last Sunday, if you recall, was the start of Phase III: The Renewal, or whatever you want to call my process of hitting my microbiome with everything I've got, after pretty much depriving it of everything for a week in Phase II.

I wake up every morning with a coffee and eucalyptus honey—I read somewhere that contrary to what I once thought honey is a lot different to the Biome than sugar, because it actually contains dozens of compounds that white sugar does not, and these compounds are apparently beneficial to the gut bacteria.

I add a dash of organic goat's milk, because, well, no antibiotics.

My "breakfast" is 50 billion bacteria, about 20 different vitamins and minerals, and then a chaser of kefir bolstered with a scoop of Prebiotin and baobab powder. And then . . . well, let "Monsieur Nicolas" tell it:

The result of all this, on Day Five of my "Renew" phase, in which I carefully try to build up the bacterial populations in my gut microbiome while watching carefully my intake of dairy, wheat, glucose, carbohydrates and fats, is that I'm sleeping up to six undisturbed hours per night, I'm walking to and from the hospital every day with a spring in my step and no fatigue whatsoever, and I'm still raring to go in the evenings.

That figures to probably a 150% boost of energy levels, much, much better sleep every night, a calm, untroubled stomach and digestive system, and all around, so far this week, a smashing success!

I am, of course, documenting all this on charts, which I will post as soon as they're completed.

This phase will continue for a week from next Sunday to make two weeks altogether, at which point I will take samples and send them in to uBiome, and then sit back and assess assess assess!

See you in ten pounds.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

You Carry Oats

  E   ukaryotes.

A eukaryote is any organism whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles enclosed within membranes.

We are made of eukaryotes. Bacteria are eukaryotes. Therefore, we're bacteria.

It's easy to reach that conclusion, which isn't quite correct (I got a ciliae cut at the Shear Path-o-gen salon last week) but to tell the truth,  these past three weeks have made me see the world around me in a completely new way.

For example, I've come to the conclusion that bacteria are our friends. They're working their flagella off  to make us healthy. But they're not just sitting around in tiny kaffeeklatsches toasting each other with helminths and lime, they're out on the beat, watching out for rogue groups of thug-teria who want to make us sick.

We're walking war zones—it's always World War III for our Enterococcus, Prevotella and Firmicutes.

And disturbingly, some of them can change sides.

But what I discovered most was a sense of just how prevalent they are; now, when I'm standing in the kitchen, I don't just see a kitchen counter, I see a kitchen counter covered, with every square millimeter, with bacteria. Trillions of them.

But that thought doesn't scare me—it reassures me. Because most—I'd say 99.9%—mean us no harm at all; they're just going about their daily business.

And a lot are not just our best friends, they're our essential best friends—like I said, they're going to war everywhere on out behalf.

So when I look at a carrot that I'm about to scrub as clean as I can get it, I say, no. Let's just wash it off and let the little guys who were making it home—most of them our firm allies—just stay there and take the ride down my gullet to join their firm and cute pals.

And when I look around me these days, i don't just see scenery—trees and grass and furniture and food—I see a living carpet of out little friends, going to work on our behalf to keep us healthy, happy, and typing these words, because that's what they're making me do.

But enough about them (I just fired their propaganda minister with a swipe of Purell); here is what I just received in the E-mailome:

UBIOME
We just received your sample.
Hello,
Thank you so much for being part of uBiome. We have received your samples for kit id 573056491, and they are now safely awaiting processing in our lab.
In the meantime, you might like to have a look around our blog (ubiomeblog.com). Also, we’d love to have you join our fun and insightful microbiome discussions on TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+, and follow us onInstagram and Pinterest too.
Once your sample is ready, we will tell you what's in there and how you compare to our other community members.
Thanks!
Jennifer and the uBiome Team
support@ubiome.com

Oh, what fun!

Meanwhile, on Day Three of Phase III—the Reset, I'm finding that I have more energy, and sleeping very well, but most of all, take a look at this:

Psoriasis on my right hand, Day One of Phase I, May 1st, 2016
Psoriasis on my right hand today, three weeks and two days later: May 24th, 2016
Now, I don't honestly know what's going on; whether it's my eliminating totally for a week and now reducing dairy, sugar, meat and wheat to a bare minimum, or whether it's walking to the hospital every day, but MY PSORIASIS IS IN REMISSION FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THREE YEARS.

There is the proof; you can't deny the photographs.

You carry oats, indeed!

Details and full report at 11.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Survey Says . . !

  R   emember that goofy game show Family Feud with that British guy who used to be on Hogan's Heroes? You don't? Lucky you! You still have time to repent, reset and renew!

Results from Day One: Phase III:

Not much. On the scale, I lost nine pounds in one week. I went from 160.7 lbs. To 151.0 lbs.

That's more than one pound a day. I don't know quite what to make of it, but Brigitte says it's unhealthy. "You look sick!" she said. "I don't like you when you lose weight!"

Well, as you all know, I'm not in this to lose weight; it's obviously what The Biome wants, for whatever reasons best left to them, now that a new regime is in town.

Here is roughly how my day went (remember, this is the day that I quit quitting sugar, dairy and wheat, while downing 50-billion-strong bacteria pills and strong foods for all of them):

I MADE MY COFFEE with a teaspoon of unpasteurized eucalyptus honey and a couple of tablespoons of fresh goat's milk from a glass bottle. It was unexpectedly delicious.

My biome cheered.

For my midmorning snack, I piled two shrimp into a tiny bowl and heaped some self-invented ginger-soy-habanero dressing on it. I chased it with chilled San Pellegrino water garnished with lemon and strawberries. But before all that, I ingested 50 billion bacteria in a probiotic pill.

My biome cheered.

I then downed all the vitamins for the day, and then mixed up in a small vessel a half-scoop of Prebiotin powder with a couple of tablespoons of fresh Kefir. It was oddly sugarsour, but not unpleasant. I could feel the bacteria squirming on my tongue as they happily vanished down the Magic Slide to their chums in the Biome.

My biome cheered! There were hearty back—err, flagellumslaps all round as they welcomed their strange-looking but happy countrymen into the fold. I can almost see them all, having an immense celebration at the beginning of Phase III! Let's hope they let the viruses, parasites and helminths in to the dance hall. ("Ciliae stamps, please, gentlemen! No crowding, there's good fellows.")

And then I sat back and waited.

Nothing. Nothing happened; my stomach did not explode. My stomach did . . . nothing.

Perhaps everyone is so stunned by their abrupt change in fortune that they've temporarily declared a National Holiday, in imitation of tomorrow's Victoria Day here in Canadica.

But not so fast; this afternoon I went down to the hospital with a thermos of goat's milk latte for Brigitte to sample. "It really smells like goat's milk!" she said, curling her lip. Frankly, I can't smell anything, and the coffee, which I ended up drinking by myself, was spectacular.

But still nothing from the Biome . . . a deafening silence, despite the sudden injection of lactose.

I walked back on a perfect day and stopped off at the Arab grill place to buy some brochettes of chicken for my dinner tonight: whole wheat pita with chicken, red pepper, red onion, garlic, cole slaw cabbage, cilantro and Spring Mix lettuce.

That should give them something to shout about!

Say Hello Nicely To Our Tiny Overlords

  F   rom a recent diary entry:

There really is something going on with those bastardteria and the gut biome . . . NO hunter-gatherers have even HEARD of an auto-immune disease, let alone had one. It's all diet, diet diet and feeding that ravenous horde of symbionts that own US—we don't own THEM.

Some scientists have compared animals like us as actually being living hives, sharing our living space—no, being PART of the same living space, as fucking microbes. They ARE us, they outnumber our human cells TEN TO FUCKING ONE. We're not even human, we're MOSTLY MICROBIAL.

And god help you if they ever get pissed off.

Two people whom I love are in dire straits as I type, and I put the blame squarely on the microbiome because they're both suffering from serious, disabling auto-immune diseases.

The microbiome goes silently about its business but I compare them to a vast symphony orchestra who plays tunes with the instruments you give them. And curse you if you give them old, broken instruments . . . the result is not going to be nice to hear. If they somehow had a Union, its head would be a very angry Jimmy Hoffa. (J. Hoffanensia?)

Hark to the words of this guy, who wrote an entire book about some other little folk in whose goings-on we should be veriverrrryy interested—parasites.

It's very hard explaining to the masses why this whole microbiome thing has exploded onto the world—even I had no idea until recently—but I'll try to explain it in simple terms, which is the way I came to understand it:

Up until fairly recently, we could only examine bacteria in any detail when we could make cultures of them in the lab. This limited us immensely, since the vast majority—something like 99%—are not able to be cultured outside the environment in which they operate normally; i.e. the gut).

But scientists have been given an amazing tool—DNA sequencing—which enables them to bypass cultivation and go directly to seeing all the DNA information about these bacteria. The sequencing involved requires a lot of computing power, but recently that has become much less expensive, so more people can afford to study bacteria, so more bacteria have become studied, and so on and so on.

So basically, technology has opened this vast door from behind which had hidden all these incredible, invisible secrets that are only just now revealing themselves. It's kind of like a blind man gradually beginning to be able to see colours. ("Oh, so THIS is the red everyone's been talking about!" ["This is what's causing us to all get sick!" in the case of the microbiome])

It's what enables humble old me to get my gut contents analyzed by some lab for $99. It's what enabled me, a couple of years ago, to get my DNA sequenced (and that of my son and my mother).

It's fascinating and sobering what technology can do today—but also very scary to realize that it is perhaps not we at all who are controlling our own destinies, and that we should really take a hard look at how our presence here on earth is actually part of a vast cooperative effort on many more lifeforms that have been around for billions of years longer than us, that they are actually the ones piloting our ship, not us, by a long shot, and that we're going to have to be very, very mindful of that fact if we want to coexist with them peacefully and not come to grief.

I am fiercely at work trying, in this late stage in life, to get to know these overlords and try to make peace with them before they decide that they've had enough of me and my blundering ways and start to wander off to occupy a more obliging and cooperative host.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Grand Reboot of 2016: Phase III

  J   ust gotta say that I am humbled by all this, but also out of my depth. Still, the general swimming pool is not deep, and as I continue to wrap my mind around all theses multiple concepts, things will be easier to follow.

One thing I'm hearing peripherally is alarming; I had started this project with an aim to simply reset my gut bacteria, replace it with a much healthier one, and then basically continue with a sane and healthier diet, to the best of my ability.

I was naïve.

I certainly was not contemplating giving up all dairy or all wheat; that is inconceivable and so ridiculously radical that I can't do it. I won't do it.

Yet on many sides I'm assaulted with the "gluten causes inflammation" and "lactose causes bacterial overgrowth" blah blah blah. Trouble is, it's not Dr. Oz or Oprah saying these things; it's the National Institute for Health and a positive cruise ship full of respected medical researchers at the highest possible levels—now involving the US government itself—so it's not a case of "Yeah, well you can take that with several boulders of salt. Dr. Phil, bless his pointed little vacuum chamber of a head, is not a real doctor."

So these are real doctors speaking in dispassionate, medical terms, discussing things like how drinking milk causes the bacteria in your gut to go nuts and degrade the intestinal walls blah blah blah and allow "endotoxins" into your bloodstream which provokes your body's immune response.

THIS is the relevant information, and also the information that makes the most sense and explains just what these mysterious, baffling "modern" diseases like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and yeah, even that so-called-vegan housewives' mystery affliction, fibromyalgia (which most doctors dismiss as "all in the mind") are.

Yeah, well, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also "all in the  mind," and you know why? Because the doctors just have no other explanation for it. Yet it undeniably exists! Thousands, if not millions of people suffer sometimes life-long conditions in which they're too tired to do anything.

Well, of course the doctors aren't going to go there, because as yet there is no pill for "Persistent musculoskeletal insufficiency with idiopathic modalities."

But back to my new worry: am I going to completely stop all sugar, wheat and dairy? Because this is what all the scientific evidence is telling me to do. And if I were some robotic reactionary, yeah, well, that is what I might be inclined to do.

But let's be sensible for a minute here; I personally am not suffering from a grave, debilitating condition like persistent and disabling fatigue that affects my daily life blah blah blah. I am not overweight.

I have completely non-serious afflictions like insomnia and mild psoriasis, with some peripheral neuropathy, tinnitus and sore joints. You might file that under the rubric "Getting Old" and you'd be right.

But is a vain attempt to turn back the clock worth dispensing of milk and sugar in my morning joe, eating vegetables wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of whole wheat pitas, or forgoing all "unhealthy" foodstuffs?

Well, of course not.

Because as a rule, my personality is yes, to overdo things (like alcohol) but also to call a spade a spade and know when I've reached the end of a particular line. But it is NOT my character to leap so far into some completely new way of thinking or behaving that I leave my brain behind.

Let me put it this way: of course, one could radicalize one's diet by completely eliminating all these so-called "inflammation-causing vectors" but the result would be that you would inevitably give up in despair and return in short order to your old bad habits.

So what is the solution? Well, for one thing, taking away all these supposedly unhealthy purveyors of sickness might alleviate all that ails you, but you'd be one miserable, colourless, boring son of a bitch at the end of it and in the long term would not be sustainable.

But what about curbing those biota-shredding bad guys to manageable levels and compensating with biota-building good guys, like massive amounts of plant fiber (that the bacteria love to feed on) ?

Not about to give it up
One approach like this would have your daily diet pretty much conforming to very low levels of wheat, dairy and sugar, BUT not discounting the occasional—read, once or twice a month—splurge with the steaks, pommes-de-terre dauphinois, melting-Madagascar-dark-chocolate-extravaganza washed down with a Cointreau-spiked café espagnole.

In other words, moderation, people, moderation.

I love my filet mignon and double bacon cheeseburger just as much as the next guy; I really do. But in my real life, I don't eat those once a week. I might eat them once or even twice, every six months (if you indulge any more than that, it's more probably a psychiatrist you need, not a dietician) but basically, just carrying on as I generally have been is a good idea.

It's what you consume day in, day out that is the big issue, not the occasional insane splurge. If you eat at fast food restaurants one or more times a week, you need to sit down and reexamine your life; you really do, because that just isn't necessary, and furthermore, it doesn't make sense.

I've gone on too long here; tomorrow will be the beginning of Phase III—The Rebuilding, in which I start all the prebiotics and probiotics, basically reconstructing my gut biota with all the stuff they love, increasing their diversity and making their lives very, very happy.

I will not accomplish this by throwing sugar at them, but instead, fiber, fiber and more fiber; not necessarily in powders, pills and potions, but in actual foods proven to be high in fiber (as yet to be determined).

Also, feed them with probiotic foods, such as kimchi and yogurt. With tons of fruits and vegetables and nuts and legumes (whatever those are).

I'll try to establish a sane, workable and tasty diet that I know I'll be able to continue without too much fussing day in, day out, without feeling deprived or hungry.

I'll continue to consume lactose, sucrose and gluten—in moderation. But to those I'll add phytochemicals, aquifers and frexnims, with maybe some Essence of Quoxitongan Fringling berries thrown in for good measure.

I can't wait for tomorrow.

Friday, May 20, 2016

From The Bushman's Mouth

  T   his guy Jeff Leach is the person who got me started on this whole project with his Human Food Project. This is a video presentation he made a couple of years ago that explains what he's doing to research this new field of microcosm and human gut health.

Just like the seminal video by Robert Lustig, the pedestrian who turned the world on its head with his video "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" this video lays it all on the line about the human microbiome.

It's very amateurishly produced, but I urge you to just start it and then go about your business and listen to his talk; it's what he says that's important, not his hard-to-see presentation materials.

Listen carefully to the whole thing and you might, as I did, have a revelation.

Here's the link.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's Alive!

In case you thought the things in your gut just sat around and smoked: this is for you. And let me remind you: these guys outnumber your cells ten to one.


More News You Don't Need

  I   think the best thing for me to do to foster a healthy gut biota is to munch on tree branches all day.

Through my endless trolling I come across evidence that emulsifiers—those processed food additives that make things like ice cream creamy—really fuck up the microbiota.

And, as usual, I tend to only pay attention to information from accredited science journals, not some Web MD's book-promotion site, so I'm looking at this carefully.

It would explain a lot of things.

It's not the ice cream per se that's so harmful to your health by making you obese and unhappy, but the emulsifiers added to it, is what these studies seem to be showing.

I went immediately to see what the ingredients in my favourite ice cream—the "healthiest" that I could find on the market (no added sugar!) and immediately saw that it was positively packed full of artificial additives such as polysorbate-80 (an ingredient that I remember seeing on just about every product I've ever bought!) and various other emulsifier culprits.

Take a look (red highlights mine):

Ingredients:
Nonfat Milk, No Sugar Added Dessert Base (Maltitol, Maltodextrin, Polydextrose, Whey Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch, Guar Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, Tara Gum, Cellulose Gum, Polysorbate 80, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Sucralose), Caramel Ribbon (Maltitol Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Cream, Glycerin, Whey, Salt, Pectin, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Disodium Phosphate, Carrageenan), Cream

I remind you that this is an ice cream that I have had to search high and low for, for the simple factor of "no added sugar," which is a non-ingredient that simply does not exist in 99% of commercial ice cream (I've looked in large grocery stores here in Montreal but also in California)—in other words, 99% of commercial ice cream has added sugar, and probably lots of it, in addition to all these emulsifiers that I just discovered in my favourite brand.

And I can't get my ice cream just anywhere—I have to actually go to a Baskin Robbins outlet for it.

You read scary shit like this:

They found less diversity in the microbial species than in healthy mice, and found evidence that the microbes had migrated closer the cells lining the gut. Gewirtz and his colleagues suspect that the emulsifiers can break down the heavy mucus that lines the mammalian gut and prevents bacteria from coming into contact with gut cells. If this happens, the bacteria cause inflammation in the gut, which can also lead to changes in metabolism.

Or this:

Emulsifiers are now added to bread, chocolate, ice cream, margarine, processed meat, and more. But why? Add oil to water and the two liquids will never mix. At least not until an emulsifier is added. Emulsifiers are molecules with one water-loving (hydrophilic) and one oil-loving (hydrophobic) end. They make it possible for water and oil to become finely dispersed in each other, creating a stable, homogenous, smooth emulsion.

The study results show that, in a mouse model, two common emulsifiers — caboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate-80 (P80) — not only change the composition of the gut microbiota, they also make the gut more porous. The altered microbiota has enhanced capacity to digest and infiltrate the dense mucus layer that lines the intestine — bacteria reach immune cells, thus inducing activation of inflammatory pathways and the development of severe inflammation.

Such changes in bacteria trigger chronic colitis in mice genetically prone to this disorder, due to abnormal immune systems. In contrast, in mice with normal immune systems, emulsifiers induce low-grade or mild intestinal inflammation and metabolic syndrome, characterized by increased levels of food consumption, obesity, hyperglycemia and insulin resistance.

I'm finally beginning to understand just how the famed "Western Diet" is making people obese and screwing up their gut bacteria—and this is just one discovery in a long litany of alarming discoveries, all, I'd like to remind you, that don't come from the tree-hugging fringe of naturopsychopathic Diet Gurus, but from scientific studies actually conducted by actual scientists.

I want some chocolate sprinkles on my frozen emulsifiers!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Progress

  W   hat can I say?

Barely 48 hours in and things have already started changing—drastically.

I'll remind you that this time last week I was drinking my coffee with a heaped teaspoon of sugar, half-and-half cream and a hefty dollop of home-made whipped cream (it was delicious, as you can imagine!)

Lunch, such as it was, was some Indian snacks—you know the kind; the stuff always called "Bombay Mix" or "Hot Spice"in your more progressive ethnic supermarket—and a tall glass of Extra Spicy Clamato (11g glucose/250ml, untold amounts of sodium, FD&C Red, Yellow and Day-glo Orange) and for the rest of the day, "fuzzy" sparkling water, the occasional blended black tea (1/2 tsp. sugar, cream) and occasionally, another coffee.

For evening snacks it was a repeat of "lunch."

For dinner, it was some sort of whole-wheat pita with chicken and various vegetables and salad-type ingredients, or whole-wheat pasta with home-made tomato sauce, or home-made pizza made with the same whole-wheat pita.

Hey, that diet wasn't so bad, right?

Hold your horses. I saved the best for the last.

I started off with good intentions—Baskin-Robbins no-sugar-added ice cream (only purchaseable from a Baskin-Robbins store) with chopped strawberries and apples, chopped nuts and a whole heaping of home-made whipped cream—but over the months started adding Opéra cake from Brigitte's favourite patisserie, and, predictably, more and more of that killer whipped cream.

So that was the State of the Diet—no extracurricular snacks whatsoever, EVER (no potato chips, no popcorn, no "vegetable chips",  no nothing.)

But even with daily metformin, my blood sugars were going up as far as 11-12 mmol/L (216.0 mg/dL) and sometimes I was feeling a bit bilious upon waking, not to mention exploding psoriasis and odd mood swings—things I thought would have disappeared with my "low" sugar intake (compared to my no-holds-barred drinking self from a year ago).

Well, I stopped taking metformin on Saturday, the last day of Phase One (my "normal" diet) but in the last 24 hours my blood sugar has never been over 7.5 and has now sunk to a regular 5~ reading—something I never saw even with my reduced sugar intake + metformin.

And—fingers crossed—even just 48 hours in, the psoriasis on my hands and face seems to be . . . holding its breath. As if it's just waiting to see if a storm has passed before it renews its onslaught, or is packing its bags to get out of town.

Remember, I'm no granola-crunching, sprout-nibbling, PETA-loving vegan tree hugger, but based on the evidence of only 48 hours with this new "restricted" diet I think I'm seeing things that mean my microbiome is already partying in the streets.

Monday, May 16, 2016

This Is Not A Russian Diet

" I   don't have to go on a diet. I have some vitamins . . . what are these . . . Body . . . umm . . . E-A-S-E . . . what does that spell?"

Thus spake my Russian pal Dmitry today when he called to see how my little project was doing. I had to gently remind him that it wasn't really a diet that I was attempting, but he wouldn't listen. Why would anyone do this if not to lose weight?

"Khorosho, chuvak, khorosho, " I told him (Chill, dude, chill).

This phase, I told my Kremlin kreplach, was simply to clear my microbiome as much as possible by deleting as many potential troublemakers—sugars, starches, unnecessary fats, processed anything—partly to see how far I'm willing to go with regards to deprivation, but mostly to find out what benefits, if any, manifest themselves because of it, and documenting the whole thing closely with blood and other tests to visually get a picture of what's going on in there.

But Dmitry only views voluntary deprivation as "diet"—and that's what I'm getting from most people.

For the record, on Day 1 of Phase 1 I weighed 159.7 lbs. On Day 7, I weighed 157.3 lbs. But on Day One of Phase 2 (the reset phase) I weighed 160.4 lbs; I had lost and gained two or three pounds in two weeks, which is pretty standard for me.

So basically this phase (started on Sunday) is to try in my non-professional, non-guided way to reduce as many colours in the palette as possible, so to speak.

To me, that means get rid of any added sugar at all. That's easy; no more sugar in my tea or coffee. No more ice cream, chocolate, cakes, whipped cream, no more sugar, period, except for where nature put it, and that does not include honey.

But then I would also delete sources of glucose as much as possible: all wheat (not even whole wheat), starchy vegetables like potatoes and other sneaky sources like rice. In addition, I decided arbitrarily to remove all meat and poultry and all dairy. All dairy. No butter or buttery products, no milk, yogurt or any other things that may have had mammalian relations.

No alcohol (natch!) and no non-prescription medications (aspirin, acid reducers, antihistamines—you get the picture).

I know—what's left?

Well, to be honest, not much!

But enough talk; let's see the pics.

The vitamin-mineral regimen started on Day One, Phase 2
And one of my typical dinners from Phase 1 (whole wheat pita with grilled chicken, red peppers, onions, garlic, lettuce, slaw mix, cilantro):


To be replaced by tonight's dinner of shrimp, broccoli, onions, garlic and mushrooms (strawberries and lemon for my water):


And a lavish dessert from Phase 1 (cake, mixed fruits, nuts and whipped cream):


to be replaced with just fruits and nuts:


and finally, the famous tuna-no-radish from last night, accompanied by my home-made Asian cucumber salad.


Day One is over, and it was not great. Dmitry told me "I could never do your diet because I'd give up after only one day."

But I'll just say this: facing my dinner tonight of shrimp and vegetables, I said "I can't do this," and made some brown rice. After all, what's a nice Asian shrimp sauté without a rice of some kind?

And it looked great:


but I looked at it, and I said That's cheating.

So I threw it away.

So there, Kamerad!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Day Before Tomorrow

 A  nd so it began.

It was the best of days, it was the worst of days.
Breakfast

I know: it actually looks pretty appetizing. But I will remind you: those are carrot spears. Carrot spears! Unadorned. No salt, no dip, no NOTHING. That has now replaced my daily Indian snack + Clamato . . .

*Sigh* . . . I'm actually feeling overwhelmed, if you can imagine that. Why? So many things to think about, not the least of which is the upending of well-established routines.

I guess I just have to DO these things instead of worrying about how I'm going to do them. But what is really annoying is thinking about possibilities . . . what to spice up my carrots, with, for example, and then going down the checklist: No, no, no, not that, no, that's not allowed, no, no . . .

It kind of reminds me of when I was totally broke all of a sudden and wandering the aisles of a supermarket. No, can't afford that, no, that either, boy, wish I could afford that, man, doesn't that look good . . . stuff I hadn't even thought twice about when I had money.

I go to the sushi place, all excited. Yeah, that's what I'll have for dinner! Plain old maguro sashimi, that's what I'll have! Maybe I'll get some extra daikon radish curls with it to spice it up a bit!

The Vietnamese women at the sushi place look at me like I just killed their grandmother. "Daikon . .  . umm, radish! You know, that sometimes the Japanese put as a garnish next to the food . . ?" 

"Gahnish? Gahnish? No, no have gahnish . . ." 

"No, no, forget garnish, radish . . . Japanese RADISH!"

"Oh, you say radish? RADISH?"

"Yes, yes, RADISH!"

"No, solly, no have radish . . ."

(Actually, that was taken in Brigitte's hospital room this afternoon. I will be going back tomorrow to return the result of my, err, sample to the lab at the Jewish General. I took it at the same time as the one for uBiome; I'll be curious to see whether or not the two results agree . . . )

Full report, day after yesterday.