Sunday, November 16, 2014

Great article from an Alaskan local paper of all places

The gluten made her do it: How going gluten free saved my daughter's mental health

This is a wonderful read. I love sceptics and this woman is very sceptic. But I have to mention that this was how medicine was practised in the old days. Someone would have heard that something had an effect and then they would try it out. Or they would have an idea like the guy who invented the small-pox vaccine by inoculating a poor kid with cow pox (please do not do anything potentially dangerous to children because you think it will work - talk it over with someone smart like your doctor). Actually, don't do anything potentially dangerous to children or anyone else, full stop.

There's a good point in there that doesn't get much attention: that auto-immune disease tends to run in families. I may have mentioned him on the blog but I have a mate with diabetes 1 and each of his three brothers and both parents have their own auto-immune disease. Different diseases for each one, mind.

I think I got this link from The Paleo Drummer on Facebook. Yep, just checked and I did. Like him if you want - he posts good stuff.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Probiotics, prebiotics, counterbiotics...

So you are sucking down the probiotic yoghurt, the carefully fermented Kombucha tea, and your prebiotic supplements? Why?

Okay, fair enough, you want your digestion to work better and you hope that improving your gut flora composition will improve this. But if you also eat a bunch of counterbiotic crap then you are basically just wasting your energy.

Today's rant sparked by Mark's Daily Apple: 16 Things That Affect Your Gut Bacteria and a bunch of other articles on the same subject. And a key note I saw in a gut microbe conference a couple of months ago (I only caught that one talk - it's a bit outside my field).

The thing that boils my piss is that everyone is missing the one factor that probably has the greatest influence on the composition of the gut microbiome (the bacteria that live in your gut and do all sorts of fabulous things for you). Food preservatives.

Food preservatives are specifically designed to kill bacteria or inhibit their growth. Not only that, they are selected to be most effective against the stuff that lives in humans naturally. So we shift the flora of the gut to these other bacteria that tolerate (and metabolise) sulphur compounds and probably some drug resistant bugs as well. It is not a good thing.

Food should be preserved by refrigerating, freezing, drying, pasteurising, or low pH. Or - call me crazy - eaten fresh.
Refrigeration is usually most helpful with things that have innate defences against spoiling. Apples can keep for a year or longer if very carefully stored (traditionally though you only keep them from fall till the end of winter). But it is brilliant.
Freezing is obvious. Not many bacteria are reproducing at minus 18. They can survive it though.
Drying is the same. When the water concentration goes below 20-25% bacteria and fungi are no longer able to grow. Honey is a great example of using low water content to prevent microbial growth in something that should be a feast for any bacteria or fungi. Things that look dry can still contain a lot of water though and condensation is usually enough to spur growth. Drying is the oldest method of food preservation known to man.
Pasteurisation is the process of heating and cooling food very rapidly so it doesn't cook but all micro-organisms are killed. The food is canned or sealed in some kind of pack (like a milk carton) to prevent micro-organisms from re-colonising the food. Although, if you cook things during pasteurisation it is more effective. It doesn't make for tasty milk or juice though.
Making something acidic is classic way of warding off bacterial contamination. This is usually achieved by fermentation, like in yoghurt. So there are actually micro-organisms in the food but they create a hostile environment for pathogenic and foul tasting bacteria. And the bacteria in a fermented food product produces many of the compounds that we otherwise depend on the bacteria in our gut to produce. Good stuff.

Now apart from possible competition from fermentation bacteria all of these preservation methods have no influence on the health of your gut microbiota. And the fermented foods actually (should) help your gut flora. Though the equilibrium of the species diversity in the fermentation wouldn't be identical to the equilibrium of the species in your intestines, it would still be in the same ballpark.

But artificial preservatives are still active when they hit your intestines. You've got benzoate, propionate, sulfur dioxide, sulfites, and EDTA as some of the major compounds. If you go to the Wikipedia page for preservatives EDTA is listed as an antioxidant but the fact of the matter is that it is an effective bacteriostatic and unlike other common metal ion chelators, like citrate, it is also not biodegradable. If you are worried about the ability of phytate to remove essential trace elements from your diet then you extension you should be terrified of EDTA. And just to freak you out even more - parabens in skin care products are absorbed by your skin and enters your blood stream which means they can enter your gut. So in addition to being endocrine disruptors they could also be gut flora disruptors. Just throwing that in there.

I like to think of these compounds as counterbiotics. They aren't antibiotics because they aren't effective enough to kill everything. They just shift the balance from a healthy, normal gut microbiome to something awful. Stay away from them.

"Ah, but surely that's pretty easy," I hear my over-used literary device, which I still don't know the proper word for, say. Well, it could be but in a lot of countries you don't have to advertise preservatives in things like fruit and vegetables. So dried fruit often has a butt-load of preservatives in them unless the packaging specifically says "No artificial preservatives". I have a soft spot for Crazy Jack's soft figs despite the pain in my cheap bastard heart for forking over that much for dried, rehydrated figs.
And if you treat food stuffs with chemicals to resist micro-organisms then you don't have to put it on any ingredient list. Since "a treatment" is analogous to milling or cooking or whatever. This includes things like ground meat (since you can mix that with Finely Textured Beef and pink slime is treated with antibacterial solutions) and flour. But flour is awful anyway. The world is just awful.

tl;dr Don't eat anything processed that you didn't process. Even if the ingredients ought to be paleo you basically can't trust anything processed that comes out of a supermarket. Because lawmakers hate you, that's why.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Eve menu

I was tasked with cooking dinner for New Year's Eve this year. Suited me well because I really enjoy cooking but it was a bit tricky since I was still back home so I was cooking half in my mum's kitchen, half in my mate's. It turned out well though - in my opinion anyway.

Just a simple plating of yum. I managed to forget that I had a bunch of avocados in the fridge so we didn't have them :(

  • Baby Romaine lettuce
  • Smoked salmon
  • Crayfish
  • Zingy Ginger Dressing from Well Fed 2
  • Bread. Oh no! The humanity. It was delicious.
  • Probably something more that I've forgotten
I was browsing through the supermarket catalogs to try and get some inspiration from some kind of offer and noticed that a place had Black Iberian Pig shoulder roast. It was pretty expensive but not bad considering that it is the finest pork you can get. And it was really hard to find anything free range otherwise (unless you went organic). So I based a menu on that and of course they didn't have any when I got to the shop. So I ended up with some pretty standard pork. At least it made for a very inexpensive meal and I do like that.

  • Slow-Cooker Italian Pork Roast - no slow cooker so just popped it in a big pot and put in the oven at 110 Celsius, removed the meat juices and drippings and put them in the fridge in the morning and let it roast on.
  • Umami Gravy - this one got some subs. Fish sauce replaced with oyster sauce (not paleo), no dried mushrooms, dried thyme instead of fresh (and possibly a bit too much, I think a teaspoon would have been more than enough), and the broth was definitely not paleo or organic or homemade or anything. To make up for the lack of dried mushrooms I added all of the meat juices (after removing most of the fat) from the roast. Any slow-cooked roast needs some juice returned to it before serving. You can just use the juices directly if you don't want to make gravy but it was awesome.
  • Casablanca Carrots from Well Fed 2. They were bloody amazing. Silly name though.
  • Belly Dance Beet Salad from Well Fed 2 or Also a silly name. Since these are served cold or room temperature I think they could have gained from using an oil with a lower melting point than coconut oil when baking them. And I made them the day before and they suck liquid so I think it would have been good to have given them a splash more orange juice before serving them. They were still rather delicious though. I also waited until serving with adding the pistachios and I think that worked well.
  • Oven roasted sweet potatoes. Oiled and sprinkled with salt and rosemary. Baked with the grill on. You never get a good texture with just convection heating.
  • A green salad. I think it was rocket, radicchio, and something else and then with cucumber and cherry plum tomatoes. 
  • Leftover bread and dressing from the starter. Yes, I am that lazy.
I did the carrots and the beets the day before and the dressing and most of the gravy in the morning (along with dessert). Then I just packed it all up and finished the sauce and made the sweet potatoes and salad at my friends place where we had the party. Pretty easy.

I firmly believe that one of the defining characteristics of dessert is the neural reward elicited from high concentrations of fat and carbohydrate. Therefore I don't think any of the "paleo" desserts you see on Pinterest or wherever are actually paleo. Unless they aren't any good and if they aren't then that's just money out the window. I did however make a cake without flours, preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilisers, etc.
  • Chocolate pie with walnut-date crust. I have no clue what a graham cracker tastes like so I'm just going with this name instead. The only good chocolate I could find which seemed to give a damn about slavery was björnsted from Germany. I usually always mock German chocolate so that was a nice surprise. And it's made from only 3 ingredients which I was really pleased with. Nomnompaleo says to use several cans of coconut milk but I found that one can separated gave me almost exactly one cup of coconut cream. I used Jefi brand Tropical Delite coconut milk and it only had two ingredients (coconut and water) and really separated well. Definitely try to find one without any emulsifiers or such. I found this in a Middle Eastern green grocers and I usually have to go to an Asian supermarket in the UK. Oh, and I sprinkled orange zest on top because it's much prettier that way.
  • A single slice of 5-6 different kinds of fruit. I didn't know most of them so I can't actually remember their names. Basically, it lightened a cake that is quite rich.
And of course I drank beer, white wine, red wine, champagne, crémant, prosecco, more beer, and got laid. It's two days later (really late in the evening) and the hangover is just about gone. I don't regret anything but it is remarkable how stupid I still am two days after drinking. Thinking was so hard today.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Doctor's View on Obesity

I just read this very honest article by an Australian physician about her experiences with obesity, both as an attending doctor in a hospital and specifically as the doctor that does the pre-surgical evaluation of potential bariatric surgery patients (link shared by Crossfit HQ's Facebook).
Fat City - What can stop obesity?
It's a brilliant read. She covers the dilemma of having to point out that a patient's weight is negatively impacting their health while knowing the kind of shame she is inflicting on them (on average fat shaming is counter-productive and just plain wrong).
To me the most interesting parts is about the bariactric surgery. If I remember correctly gastric banding has a success rate ~50% and a gastric by-pass has a success rate ~75%. Death from complications is about 0.5%. From my friend, who's an anaesthesiologist and has worked on a number of these surgeries, this is pretty bad but the challenge is that any time you put the morbidly obese through any surgery you run a number of risks that are absent from "normal" surgery. So in addition to the high risk of bursting stitches there's also a risk associated with general anaesthesia. But if you decide not to do the surgery then you still get morbidly obese patients under the scalpel at some point.
I usually hate the whole IIFYM mentality (If It Fits Your Macros - a concept that you eat anything as long as the three macro-nutrients hit your target) but for someone like the 200 kg young man she describes, who literally doesn't have anything enjoyable in his life apart from junk food, I think it is actually a better option than Paleo. Phew, too long sentence. But when someone can't even leave their bed some days then asking them to cook all their meals and ignore all junk is probably a bridge too far. Someone like that needs to manage how many calories are going in and he needs to do it in the simplest way possible. If he gets that working then he might learn that he can eat more food if he goes for a healthier option. Let's do some math! I love numbers. He could probably stand to lose 120 kg. There's ~7.2 kcal/g in adipose tissue (that's probably not the most precise number btw). So he has 864,000 kcal to lose. If we guess that his metabolism turns over 3000 kcal per day (yes, the bigger people are, the higher their base metabolism is). That might be low. Let's say 4000 because that's definitely too much. Then he has stored enough energy for more than 216 days. Without any calories from outside of his body. So basically, this dude needs a diet that is sustainable for about 3 years. Not a "Lose 5 pounds in 7 days with this skinny bitch we hate"-Cosmo-cover-diet. I don't like to admit it but Brad Pilon's Eat Stop Eat or Martin Berkhan's methods would probably be the best for him (both are intermittent fasting approaches with calorie restriction). Of course any successful weight-loss diet is simply a set of ways of acting that allows a person to eat fewer calories than their body needs without experiencing hunger (and preferably without a down-regulation of thyroid function).

My only issue with that article is that she thinks you can't be hungry when your stomach is full. It's a terrible feeling but perfectly possible. It's true that the stomach being full sends one signal to decrease the sensation of hunger but if you are in calorie deficit then that's another signal to increase hunger. Protein deficiency increases hunger. High concentration of fats and monosaccharides override satiety. I'm sure there's a lot more. Now I'm hungry.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

BMI categories

Less than 18.5 : Underweight
18.5 to 25     : Scrawny
25 to 30       : Overweight
More than 30   : Obese

Because your weight is wrong and your height is wrong and you'll get sick and be a burden to society.
And no one will ever love you. Least of all you.

Even Wikipedia has a nice section on the problems with BMI.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

But it's so tasty!

Great! Let's eat everything tasty.
Tasty, tasty ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol and lead sugar (it tastes like sugar but it's lead! Amazing!).

By now you have hopefully figured out that I am being sarcastic. There are plenty of things that aren't good for us that still taste nice. And you already knew that. But instead of spending so much energy on "Oh, it's so naughty but so good. I know I shouldn't." spend some energy on "Oh, this is yummy and good for me. Score! *nom*nom*nom*.". Guilt is the best spice but leave it for your freaky sex games with your consenting partner.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Midway between Paleo Nazi and eating like a child

The Paleo drummer did a really good piece on finding your balance between eating well and eating fun (though personally, I think paleo food is very enjoyable or I wouldn't be eating it, see gluttony, but there are things that are sociable and just very high in reward).

The basic tenet is that everyone is a special little snowflake and you should listen to your body, blah blah. Sound advice.

I just figured I would take the opportunity to post my personal list of the things in the borderlands for me.
Potatoes: no! Boiled, mashed, or roasted they make my keratosis pilaris worse but rarely make me break out. Deep-fried potatoes or potato powder is just awful. Gives me zits. Reminds me of the Clearasil tv adverts of my youth where kids would share pizza and make fun their classmates' acne behind their back. Good times. Clearasil is fantastically useless against acne btw.
Wine and grapes: Not really good for me, digestion-wise.
Gluten, in beer and home-made cakes: Surprisingly, not that much of an issue. The sugar and alcohol both lead to cravings sometimes but it's not really an issue. And too much alcohol is too much alcohol. Same as too much sugar is gross mouth-feel, bloated, drowsy, fucked.
Store-bought or "semi-homemade" cakes and other treats: No no no no no no. God no. Just when I think I might have figured it out (like macaroons) I find that I have in fact not. Semi-homemade is the worst because you feel like you can't say no when "they made an effort" and you don't want to be the dick who points out that they could just as well have picked up 5 doughnuts for 65p in Tesco. Because that's how shit their cake is.
Rice: I eat it when I'm out and there's not real "meat and veggies" option. Which is slang for cock and balls apparently. I don't mind, I like all four. Rice makes me overeat carbs and that then kills my appetite for the next couple of days. So good for carb-loading and also good because I love sushi. Which I really do overeat and it's glorious. Joy. *Note Carb-loading is generally once a week at most. That follows the turnover rate of thyroid hormones pretty well.
Milk: There doesn't seem to be much difference between when I do dairy and when I don't. Milk, some Greek yoghurt or skyr, ice cream. Ice cream is a treat of course and one of the few I buy ready-made (though I am pretty good about checking whether it was made with vegetable oil or dairy - vegetable oil ice cream is a gross concept). I do not like cheese. From descriptions it sounds like people eat it as mindlessly as potato chips.
Chocolate: This might depend on the brand but if there's a bar in the cupboard I'll end up eating it and regretting it. No matter if it's 56% or 85%. A leftover bit or the little ones you get with coffee is fine. If it's milk chocolate it just goes in the bin. Ew.

So there it is. Gluten might not fuck me up like it does to so many people but wheat is still really addictive and is usually in a context where I die from eating too many carbohydrates. Splat. So I don't. Eating my veggies instead keeps me rock-steady.