Subscribe: Health Matters To Me
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
back  body  day  diet  digestive  eating  fecal  food  health  intestinal saga  intestinal  much  pain  part  things  time 
Rate this Feed
Rating: 4.5 starRating: 4.5 starRating: 4.5 starRating: 4.5 starRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Health Matters To Me

Health Matters To Me

Observations and Ideas from a Curious Soul ... Nutrition, Wellness, Anthropology, Primitive Living ... and other endlessly fascinating topics.

Updated: 2018-03-06T03:31:13.175-07:00


A Belated Farewell ... For Now


(image) As a soul adventurer of sorts, I have a great many interests that occupy my time.  New interests come and consume my time and focus.  Old ones go on the back-burner, but sometimes return to the fore-front.  The blog you are reading is a bit of a relic of my past interest and passion -- health and nutrition.  It was a very important time for me, as I learned a lot about how a sound body cultivates a sound mind.  However, as these things go for a mental drifter like myself, once I learned the lessons I needed to learn, I integrated them into my life and moved on to other things.  Hence the extreme lack of updates on this here blog.

That is not to say that health is no longer important to me.  Rather, I mean to say that I am not actively pursuing the study of it aside from my own personal tinkering in the kitchen and ever-evolving eating patterns.  It is something I enjoy doing, but it is not something I am inspired to write about anymore or dwell on too much.  That may make some of you feel sad: "Darn.  I really enjoyed this guy's crazy perspectives and wild experiments in health."  It may make some of you feel relieved: "Finally he's stopped his kooky health adventures!  I thought he was going to die of Salmonella poisoning for sure!"

Either way, I have always appreciated the support from my readers.  Your comments, donations, and e-mails still reach me and are always well-received.  So keep them coming.

Where do we go from here?  Well, the blog will stay right where it is.  It is here as both a service to other health explorers who can benefit from the information as well as my own personal historical account that I can look back on fondly.  If I should embark on another significant experimental health venture which I feel the world could benefit from knowing about, you can be sure this blog will be the venue for it.  In the meantime, my hope is that it continues to inspire people to question diet gurus and mainstream nutrition and instead seek answers for themselves, paying attention to the wisdom of the body while utilizing the intuition of the spirit.  That is ultimately the only "right" way to approach health improvement -- as your own journey which only you have the answers for.  The pieces of your body's puzzle are out there for you to fit together.

Wow.  I got pretty deep on you there, didn't I?  That was heavy stuff.  Really, what I want to say is: Keep on keeping on, and may all of your lives be blessed with optimal health, self-knowledge, and tasty food.

Until Next Time,
Ryan Koch

The Long Awaited Palate Expansion Update, 5/21/2012


I often receive e-mails from folks asking how my Homeoblock experience is going, and rather than continuing to respond to individual queries, I finally decided to get off my butt (metaphorically) and create an update post. So here it is.

It's been many months since my foray into the world of palate expansion.  After finding an affordable option for my palatal expander of choice, the Homeoblock, I diligently used the device as instructed -- one quarter turn each week, if possible.  A few months later, I had created almost a 1/16 inch gap in the device.  Pretty impressive movement!

I visited Dr. Darlington in Flagstaff for a check-up, and he was surprised how much I had expanded my palate. Actually, "surprised" isn't the right word.  He actually seemed a little concerned.  As I was among the first of his patients to request the Homeoblock, his experience had been limited and there was cause in his mind to slow down the expansion.  In fact, he told me I might want to back off some.

I found this unexpected, as I had not experienced any uncomfortable symptoms, and the Homeoblock seemed to be doing the trick.  But Dr. Darlington explained that the device appeared to be kind of slipping and not fitting as well, so in the long run it would not have the desired effect.  He went on to say that it might actually tip the teeth instead of expanding the palate if I continued applying the quarter turns daily.  So I left his office that day with instructions to reverse the quarter-turns until the device fit again and then apply very small 1/8 turns or less for a few months.

As instructed, I backed off the expansion of the Homeoblock to where it fit better.  Still, it seemed to me like it wasn't optimal, as I could easily slip off the device with my tongue, where it's only supposed to come off with a firm double-handed loosening.  I decided to just let it be and use it like a retainer until I saw Dr. Darlington again.  Perhaps I would even have to get an entirely new Homeoblock created.

My last appointment was almost a year ago now. (Wow, that's a long time without an update ...)

So now I use my Homeoblock like a retainer and it keeps my teeth from relapsing to pre-expansion position.  I notice that I can now go days without putting the device in and only feel a slight pressure upon reinsertion.  That indicates to me that my palate is holding the teeth in place quite well.  I do intend to visit Dr. Darlington again in the near future, and I will give an update if that happens.

Well, the story ends there for now.  I have been focusing on many other things in the meantime, including explorations in outdoor education work, music production, building community, and researching politics.  That's my nature -- I have a great many interests, and often some take precedence over others, as there is only so much time in the world.  But I do want to refocus my efforts on blogging and integrate some of the interesting things I am up to.  Until then, I wish everybody out there happy expansions!

Wellness Consultations Are Now Available!


I am now offering donation-based personal health consultations to help you achieve your health goals.  Click the following link for more information: Wellness Counseling For Preventative Health

Good health is our birthright, and it's truly something to smile about!

Fecal Transplants: Ben's Story


Continuing my adventures in understanding the long hollow tube that is the human GI tract, I've been in correspondence with a blog reader, Ben D., for the past month or so regarding fecal transplants and our similarities in intestinal dysfunction.  We are definitely gut brothers from other mothers, as his symptoms match up incredibly well with my own.  When he told me he would be trying the human probiotic home infusion protocol a few weeks ago, I was very curious to follow his progress.  Ben was wonderfully light-hearted and humorous about the whole thing while providing very useful information regarding his 10-day transplant experience.  Here is his intestinal saga in his own words.  Thanks, Ben!What's up gutsers? I am coming to the end of 10 days of fecal transplant therapy carried out at home with my doctor's blessing and prescriptions.I am posting here because I want to answer any questions people have about the procedure, especially if they are considering doing it themselves. So far it has improved my symptoms quite a bit, but has not been a total cure. I think it is going to turn out to have been a very valuable tool in the treatment, and eventual cure of my condition.Below is a short version of the whole story of my illness. Check it out before asking questions... the answer may be in there.My name is Ben. I'm 25 and I've been dealing with Post-Infectious IBS-C since January 2010. It started on a trip to India with some diarrhea and then I became constipated for the next two months of the trip. I tried the usual fiber + probiotics and I think they just made things worse. Since nothing was moving, I think they just gathered in my small intestine and gave me a case of SIBO because I ended up with terrible bloating on top of the C.I had stool and blood tests done, as well as a colonoscopy, while traveling and they all found nothing. The Indian doc diagnosed the P-I IBS-C and gave me Lactulose, a daily laxative. I took that for a while and it helped the constipation, but made the bloating much worse. I eventually got another case of diarrhea, took some antibiotics for the diarrhea, and all the symptoms went away. About a week after the antibiotics, some symptoms returned in a very mild form, but didn't bother me much.Then in January of this year (strangely enough around the same date that the first flare began in India), after 8 or so months of relative health, the constipation came back. Again I tried more fiber in my diet and probiotics and again this produced the backed-up, SIBO-esque bloating. I had stool and blood tests and an ultrasound that found nothing. I then tried 3 rounds of various antibiotics, because they seemed to help back when I was traveling. None worked this time, so I started working with alternative treatments: Oregano oil, raw garlic, cloves, Wormwood, Black Walnut hulls, Aloe Vera, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, etc. I've also been on the Specific Carbohydrate diet since early April. Some of the alternative treatments helped, and the SC Diet keeps the bloating from being too crazy, but nothing was really moving me in the direction of a cure. I also saw a holistic doctor who had me do a stool test with Diagnos-techs. It found a very light amount of Candida, moderate pathogenic Strep, occult blood, and low SIgA.I got a recommendation for a tropical medicine doctor in New York (Dr. Kevin Cahill). I saw him and he inspected a scraping of my colonic mucous that revealed an infection with Entamoeba Histolytica. I was relieved to finally have a more clear diagnosis. He gave me Paromomycin, an anti-amoeba drug, and Doxycycline, an antibiotic. I took them, was retested by him, and came up negative for the amoebas. He told me it may take a couple months to heal and feel well again, but after abouta month and a half I only felt worse.At that point I began to assume that the amoebas and all the antibiotics I had taken had caused some other damage to my whole flora that needed to be addressed. My [...]

Fecal Transplants: The Turd Twister & A Historical Account


I have been voraciously exploring the world of human gut bacteria, fecal transplants, and the like as of late, and I wanted to update all you readers with some information that I've found particularly invaluable.  Well, okay the first bit of info isn't invaluable, per se, but it is pretty funny.  My awesome aunt, a frequent reader of this blog, recently sent me something she dug up as she was preparing for an estate sale.  I don't know if anybody else out there has heard of this.  It's called a "Turd Twister."  I thought it would make a great gag gift, especially for a potential fecal transplant donor.  There are many wonderful shapes that can be produced and presented with this device!  Anyway, the version I received is kind of old school and uses hard cardboard, but for more serious turd twisters, you might want to check out the website for a modern and far more comfortable-looking model. Next, I wanted to reiterate a point I made in the comments of a previous post in order to further bolster the merits of the "sh*tshake" method.  Here is a comment from "Mike K" on the Freakanomics radio show website:Forty years ago, we treated antibiotic resistant bacteria in the colon by giving the patient a dose of antibiotic sensitive E. coli in a malted milkshake. The sensitive bacteria would replace the resistant bacteria in a day or so. Our theory, or that of my professor who devised the treatment, was that “wild” or sensitive bacteria are better adapted to the normal colon environment. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can only take over when the sensitive bacteria are killed off by antibiotics, as when a patient has been treated for an infection like diverticulitis. When the antibiotics are stopped, the normal sensitive bacteria will quickly oust the resistant ones which are less adapted for life in a normal colon. All that is necessary is to provide a dose of the normal wild bacteria.In the County Hospital, we used the same method although we did not have the nicety of cultured sensitive bacteria. We would take a fecal sample from a healthy patient coming in for hernia surgery, for example, and give it to the patient in a milkshake.Needless to say that none of the patients were ever told the extra ingredient of the milk shake. This marks the second time I have heard of a fecal transplant used in such a manner.  The first time was from a retired nurse who basically said the same thing.  What surprised me in both cases is that the amount of "donation" required was minimal enough for the patients to not even realize they were drinking a poo concoction.  Also, one might think that the milk would cause a serious acid dump in the stomach and kill the beneficial bacteria, but this didn't seem to happen.  Must be a strength in numbers thing.  Anyway, this just goes to show that the essence of the fecal transplant's magic is actually pretty simple, and it certainly doesn't require some of the exorbitant costs and methods of implementation that are associated with it.Next up, I have a very juicy post to share about an adventurous blog reader, Ben, and his recent foray into the fascinating world of home fecal transplants.  .[...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 10: Final Thoughts (cont'd.)


Okay, let's add some more notes to parts 5 through 9 of of the saga.Part 5, Monastyrsky and Kwasniewski: The most important lesson I learned from this time period was that the heaviness in my body was directly related to being constipated 24/7, and that there were ways to restore my intestinal motility.  I highly recommend Monastyrsky's book, Fiber Menace, to anybody interested in the ins and outs (pun intended) of digestion and how to maintain a smoothly functioning GI tract, as this is what ultimately opened my eyes.  This book has a combination of the author's deep experience and thorough research, which makes it a very powerful read.  His recommendations are solid and very helpful to most modern people struggling with GI problems.Part 6, It's All Digestive My Dear Watson: Damn, I wish I could eat all the fat I wanted without having gut issues.  Maybe someday I'll be able to if I ever resolve things completely.  Until then, I have to actually keep fat consumption at moderate to low levels because I get the same symptoms as I described in this post: the bad breath, the muscle tension, the bloating, the insomnia.  All of these things I believe are related to the slow motility of my intestines.  And I discovered this by thoroughly observing my body's response to eating food.  This is a fine art, and it requires an understanding of just how food travels through the body. I have found through talking with others that the one place many folks get tripped up in evaluating their own bodies' digestive capacity is not knowing their symptoms connect with very specific parts of the GI tract.  For example, I have heard many people complain about "feeling full" after a meal, and they'll often say that their "stomach is full."  Yet, when I see where their hands go to describe this fullness, I realize it is not their stomach that is full at all -- it is actually their lower abdomen that is bloated and uncomfortable.  The stomach, of course, is just below the sternum a little to the left -- not around the belly button.  So this "fullness" is most likely coming from the last part of the small intestines.  This region is probably bloated from some kind of dysfunction and is putting pressure on the GI tract above it, including the stomach -- which gives the sensation of having eaten too much.  Knowing about little things like this can help a person really narrow down and target their specific digestive ailments.Part 7, The Holy Grail of Probiotics ... Part 8, A Fecal Transplant Story ... Part 9, The Long Journey of Mister Poop: I'm covering all of these parts together because they fall under the same general category: taking someone else's poo and putting it in my body to restore intestinal flora.  There are many things that I would do differently now if I did the procedure again -- possibly antibiotics before the implant; better donor selection; make a more palatable concoction and pinch my nose (!) while drinking.  I'll outline my plan in more detail in an upcoming blog post.  For now, I will say that I have not ruled out this procedure and still have great hope for its use in the near future. I believe very deeply that this is the ultimate tool in regaining digestive health and it deserves far more attention and research than it is currently getting.  However, word is definitely getting out, and I'm encouraged by some of the latest coverage of the treatment.  Here's a list of very recent and active links that I've found regarding fecal transplants:Freakanomics Radio: The Power of Poop -- A good primer for potential donors on the merits of the procedure.  And it's entertaining.Fecal Transplant - I Took the Plunge! -- On the "Healing Well" forum.  Exhaustive 5-part resource on individual experiences and questions regarding the treatment.Home Fecal Transplants [...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 10: Final Thoughts


For this final installment of "My Intestinal Saga," I wanted to add a few notes and resources to each of the previous parts before I close with an assessment of where I am now, as well as ideas I have to further improve -- or possibly completely resolve  -- my digestive problems.  I would appreciate any input from others, as well.  Please leave a comment if you think you might have more insight into all this gut stuff.  Here we go again down the long, hollow tube!Part 1, Dabbling in Parasites:  Here I delve into my childhood health issues a bit, which included headaches and TMJ (tempromadibular joint) disorder.  My best guess as to why these things were happening is the same reason that I experienced them in a more mild form as I grew older: digestive tension/pain.  There is a direct correlation for me.  I believe I had a problem with gluten as a young child, and this created a poor digestive environment and subsequent pain in the GI tract that referred pain and tension to my neck and jaw.  Here is a quote from a great blog post explaining this phenomenon:In a nutshell, referred pain happens when nerve fibers from regions of high sensory input (such as the skin) and nerve fibers from regions of normally low sensory input (such as the internal organs) happen to converge on the same levels of the spinal cord. This is something to keep in mind for folks out there engaged in your own health explorations.  The body can be a tricky bugger sometimes, so it is important to stay open to what the origins of your discomforts truly are.I also want to expand upon some of the thoughts I had in this post about bloating.  I was completely unaware that the bloating was a simple distention of my belly and not an actual "gut."  This unawareness created body image issues for me, as I thought I was fat and struggled to get rid of the belly.  No matter how hard I worked out, it remained, and it left me feeling frustrated and inadequate.  I imagine there are others out there for whom this may be the case, and I just want to say that bloating is not fat!  Even today, I can see my belly go flat and distend over a matter of hours depending on my mealtimes, types of foods eaten, etc.Part 2, Lower Back Pain: This is where I discovered the magic of referred pain and what measures I truly needed to take to resolve it.  The tweaking of my back left me debilitated, and at that time I thought it was because I had a "bad back."  This turned out to not be the case, as I found out while working in the wilderness, where my back pain disappeared while eating very little.  It was all digestive, once again.I want to share a wonderful resource that I came across a few years ago that shed a lot of light on how digestion is connected to much of the pain and discomfort I have felt in my life.  It is a book called, The Digestive Awareness Diet.  Interestingly enough, the author actually says that the reason we suddenly throw out our back or get a tweak in our neck isn't from muscle strain, but digestive tension.  This certainly rang true for me.  Check it out.  It might help you better understand your body.  I know it helped me.A few more resources about general body awareness that might be useful which I utilized during my "yoga years" are the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique, both of which got me thinking about posture and what is and isn't the natural, optimal use of the human body -- or "use" for short.  One of the authors even suggested something I had already intuited: observing little kids and indigenous people to understand proper use. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that resolving digestive tension is a big part of regaining our bodies' natural ease.  Utilizing the body awareness techniques in combination wi[...]

Accepting Donations From My Fellow Health Nerds


If you look to the right of my blog, you'll notice that I've set up a donation button for anybody interested in supporting this blog and my health explorations.  I would appreciate any amount you can offer.  I also accept gifts through the mail, such as gluten-free cookies or books that might be of interest to me.  Mostly, I just want cookies.  Donations of healthy poo -- freeze-dried and neatly packaged -- for my next attempt at a fecal transplant will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  (Kidding!)  Thank you. :-)

My Intestinal Saga, Part 9: The Long Journey of Mister Poop


Having decided that the best way to treat the entirety of my GI tract with a fecal transplant was through the oral route rather than rectally, I pondered just how in the heck I would get myself to consume my friend's sh*t -- I mean, it can't taste good, right?  Hmm.  Probably not.  Then there was the problem of administering the concoction.  I didn't have a nasojejunal tube and sedatives, as Borody's clinic does, so I would certainly have to just toss it down the hatch and pinch my nose.  One woman I was in contact with -- a retired nurse -- said that fecal bacteriotherapy used to be around in her day (the 60s) as a last resort therapy for ailing patients, and it often worked (interestingly enough without antibiotic or colon lavage preparation procedures).  How did they administer the therapy back then?  Milk + poo.  A sh*t-shake.  I thought this would be an easy and perhaps even pleasant way to go.  Heck, I might even have a burger and fries with it.So, on day three of my adventure in feces shenanigans, I popped open the yogurt container with my donor's deposit inside.  Stinky!  (Duh.)  I mixed a bit of the stool with water and strained it into a mason jar.  I had some goat milk on hand and stirred it in.  The mad scientist was at it again, and nobody could stop him.  I looked at the whitish-brown beverage in front of me.  For a second I thought about sweetening it or something, but I had already begun to feel my body and mind rejecting the idea of consuming the liquid, so it was now or never.  Just do the damn thing before doubt takes over.  Glass to lips, in it went.  Oh, dear God!  It was the most acrid taste I've ever experienced in my entire life.  My gag reflex kicked in and almost kept me from swallowing, but somehow I managed to get it down.  Gurgle!  Gulp! ...  Holy sh*t.  I just ate sh*t.  The horrible taste remained, so I immediately began rinsing my mouth and smearing toothpaste all over my gums.  I must have rinsed for 20 minutes.  During this time, I realized I could have probably at least pinched my nose while I drank the poo drink.  Oh well.And so the millions of bacteria were now in my stomach doing God knows what.  The long journey of mister poop had begun!  Thankfully, I had no need to vomit.  In fact, besides the objectionable taste, it was a downright quick and painless experience.  I wondered how this would turn out.  Would I have diarrhea or a food-poisoning kind of episode?  Only time would tell.  Surprisingly, that evening, as I laid down to go to bed, I had a feeling that I hadn't had since I ate very little food for several years and did yoga and meditation every day.  It was a feeling of complete and total comfort in my gut -- my body felt 100% relaxed.  I think it worked!  I fell asleep quickly and woke in the morning feeling refreshed and energetic.  I remember playing guitar and singing that day -- my voice was smoother than it had ever been.  I presumed this was due to my stomach not being bloated and stiff, so I could finally breathe fully again.  Amazing!The afternoon rolled around and I felt a strong urge to sh*t.  When I did, it happened very quickly and without difficulty -- definitely something new for me, since I was usually the opposite.  It was a soft, well-formed stool and, hot damn, it smelled just like my friend's poo!  The poo cocktail must have survived the acid bath of the stomach and traveled the entire length of the intestinal tract.  The question was, would these feelings remain?  Unfortunately, they didn't.  That evening, I had trouble sleeping again and woke the next morning to another difficult bowel movemen[...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 8: A Fecal Transplant Story


I've done a lot of crazy things in my life.  I dropped a college scholarship to go live on an isolated homestead with a mountain man named Peter Bigfoot.  I lived in my car in frigid cold temperatures in the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains, waking up in the middle of the night to high speed winds rocking my vehicle and groups of 50 illegal immigrants passing by; border patrol agents would flash their lights in my windows hours later.  I did several survival trips into the wilderness with little or no gear, sleeping on the cold hard ground and eating cactus, lily bulbs, any creature I could get my hands on -- lizards, rodents, grasshoppers, scorpions.  I went for years as a low-calorie, highly-active vegetarian, working as a wilderness guide for troubled youth for weeks at a time and hiking many miles on nothing but lentils and ash cakes.  I jumped into dumpsters to retrieve ripe avocados and flour tortillas to avoid buying food from our country's faulty factory-farm system.  I ate rotten meat because I thought it would improve my health based on the recommendations of a guy who calls himself Aajonus.  Oh, and I worked in a retail store at the mall once.My friend and yours ... Fleet Eneman!But all of that pales in comparison to the gastrointestinal exploration I was about to embark on.  Bathroom door closed behind me, a sealed yogurt container in front of me.  I popped the lid.  Smelled like sh*t.  Looked like sh*t.  It was definitely sh*t.  My friend had left it for me that morning, a gift -- "the good sh*t," we had earlier joked.  It was helpful to have a sense of humor around such an odd and awkward circumstance.  But with the backing of an MD and an ND, hours and hours of research, and the home infusion protocol in hand, I was confident in this circumstance.  I decided to skip the antibiotics in the protocol because I wanted to avoid them if I could, and I wondered if things would work without this step.  I also didn't do a colon lavage or bother to get any saline solution for mixing.  I wanted to see what would happen if I just did the damn thing with no preparation. So this was it.  Now or never.  My friend's turd was my medicine.  I scooped out some poo with a spoon and mixed it in a separate container with a little water until I had a brown slurry.  I then poured the slurry through a strainer into another container.  This watery sh*t shake was then streamed into a small fleet enema bottle, after which the I screwed on the probe-like lid.  The concoction was prepared.  The mad scientist in me became excited for the unknown results of what I was about to do.  I got in enema position.  Then in it went, where the sun don't shine.  Squirt.  I held it, got up, cleaned up, and left the bathroom that cold winter morning with somebody else's crap in my colon.I went about my day as usual, preparing some breakfast and sitting down to eat.  "Hmm.  No difference so far."  About two hours later, I felt the urge to "drop the kids off at the pool."  To my surprise, what came out wasn't my usual brew -- it smelled and looked exactly like my friend's sh*t.  And it came out much easier than was usual for me.  Okay, so obviously my donor's bacteria had multiplied and formed stool in my colon.  But would that last?  To my disappointment, I had my usual hard stools that evening.  The next morning I did the protocol again with the same result.  Again the following morning.  Damn.  Something isn't right.  I realized I might not be getting the bacteria far enough up the colon to make a difference.  In Borody's clinic they often implant the feces deep in the colon through a colonos[...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 7: The Holy Grail of Probiotics


At the end of my rope after years of irritating intestinal symptoms, I decided there had to be something out there that was a silver bullet -- something that would end my problems for good and allow me to live my life free of abdominal discomfort and 3 A.M. insomnia.  Manipulating my pattern of eating only helped mildly and did not work as a long term fix.  I was on a maintenance plan of suboptimal health, and I was tired of it -- ready to try anything. Me and my dog.  Note the sh*t-eating grins.One sunny winter day, on a hike with my dog in the mountains of southern Utah, I was pondering what else I could try that I hadn't already.  My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a grotesque munching sound: Chomp, squish, blurg!  It was my little black lab enjoying some fresh cow dung.  I'd seen her do this countless times in her puppy years, and I always figured she was getting a healthy dose of beneficial bacteria with every squishy bite -- perhaps to stimulate her immune system or to settle her stomach.  In a sense, my pup was happily choking down natural probiotics in that slurry of cow excrement.  As I witnessed this phenomenon for the umpteenth time, a light bulb went off in my head: "That bovine poo must be absolutely teeming with hundreds of species of millions of bacteria -- probably in greater diversity than could ever be produced in a laboratory.  I wonder if there are any accounts of humans eating feces for health as some animals appear to.  And, if so, could this be something that would help me?"  Not the weirdest thought I've ever had, but certainly up there on the list.   I voraciously researched the internet for anything relating to humans and feces consumption that wasn't connected to some odd fetish or mental disease.  My first lead came from a humorous website, called "The Straight Dope."  This website answers questions people have about random, often shocking subjects.  A woman had written in to ask whether or not coprophagia -- sh*t eating -- was dangerous for humans.  The website authors, who actually appeared to be quite intelligent despite the mocking and sarcastic nature of the site, dug into some research to answer her question the best they could.  What they found, in a scientific journal, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, was this:... consumption of fresh, warm camel feces has been recommended by Bedouins as a remedy for bacterial dysentery; its efficacy (probably attributable to the antibiotic subtilisin from Bacillus subtilis) was confirmed by German soldiers in Africa during World War II.Fascinating!  A bacterial remedy for a bacterial illness.  So, did I go out and eat cow dung after reading this?  As tempting as it was to a crazy, fringe health dude like myself, I decided to do some more research first.  After coming across other counterintuitive silver bullets in reversing disease, such as helminthic (worm) therapy, and coming full circle reading about Aajonus Vonderplanitz (God, I love that name) and his recommendations to eat animal crap, I finally stumbled upon what appeared to be a scientifically-validated therapy for gut issues, called "fecal bacteriotherapy" or "fecal transplant."  In a paper, called "Bacteriotherapy Using Fecal Flora: Toying With Human Motions," Austrailian gastroenterologist, Thomas Borody, outlined the historical and scientific precedence for a procedure he developed to treat severe digestive diseases.  What was this procedure?  Basically, he was implanting the feces of healthy people into sick people -- orally or rectally -- and achieving amazing results, not the least of which was a long term remission of crohn's disease.  Holy sh*t.I found out that B[...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 6: It's All Digestive, My Dear Watson


On Kwasniewski's Optimal Diet, I felt the strongest I had felt since I was a high school athlete working out at the gym 6 days a week.  My body composition was extremely desirable to me.  I felt solid and seemed to build muscle very easily.  Eating gobs and gobs of fat along with just enough protein, I was never unsatisfied with meals.  The satiety factor of this dietary pattern was incredible, and I happily stuck to it for close to a year even though I had odd muscle tension throughout my body and would toss and turn in my sleep, sometimes waking up for three hours around 3:00 A.M.  My breath also was absolutely horrible, as my girlfriend at the time made perfectly clear to me.  There were so many things right with the Optimal Diet and, yet, so many things were wrong.  I had the body and strength that I wanted, but, good Lord, was I slothful at times.Me on the Optimal DietDuring the Optimal Diet, I began to tweak my mealtimes to see whether or not my symptoms were fully attributed to the digestion and absorption of my food.  I experimented with one meal a day, which was easy to do and get adequate calories from since the foods I was eating were so low in fiber and very calorically dense.  As I had expected, my symptoms suddenly became isolated to certain times, depending on when I ate.First, an hour after eating, my chest would usually begin hurting and feeling tender and then subside over another hour.  Also during this time, I would often get a headache and a bit of lower abdominal discomfort along with a unique "pins and needles" feeling in my chest/upper abdomen.  About 8-10 hours after the large meal, in addition to bloating, I'd feel heaviness come over me in the form of shoulder, abdominal, and -- oddly enough -- left calf tension.  From my studies of human digestion, I knew this is when the food would have been traveling through my small intestine (food typically empties from the stomach in 3 hours).  So I thought maybe something was wrong with that part of my GI tract, but had no clue what it could be.  Sometimes the abdominal tension (which felt like a rock) would be so bad that it would "push up" my stomach, and I'd actually have to vomit.  Taking the experiment further, I learned that if I fasted for a day, I would feel absolutely amazing the entire next day.  Upon eating again, I'd experience some "tender chest" pain, but no "pins and needles," headache or lower abdominal discomfort.  I realized after eating the next day and then feeling those symptoms coming on that they were actually happening 24 hours after my last meal.  I came to call these the "24 hour symptoms" as a result of this discovery.  The "8-10 hour symptoms" consistently happened the same time after mealtime.So I had my answer.  My detective work paid off.  It was all digestive.  It wasn't "all in my head" as some of my close friends and family suggested.  It wasn't due to poor posture or not exercising enough.  It wasn't because I was some kind of hypochondriac.  It was because I had friggin' digestive problems.Abdominal/Pelvic CT scanAt this point, some of you may be thinking, "Ryan, why the heck didn't you just go to a doctor to diagnose all of this?"  Well, I did.  I saw quite a few M.D.'s, Naturopaths, and body workers, and they all provided some pieces of the puzzle, but I never got a definitive answer from any of them.  I was subjected to various tests, as well -- barium swallow abdominal/pelvic CT scan, gall bladder ultrasound, and stool/blood analyses of all kinds -- and nothing informed me that I had specific digestive problems.  Yet, here I was with direct experiential proo[...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 5: Monastyrsky and Kwasniewski


After my introduction to the man known as "The Bear," I followed the zero-carb "path" and ate nothing but rare-cooked steaks, liver once in a while, bites of butter, and occasional eggs.  To my surprise, I remained at a stable weight during this extreme dietary experiment.  I also had energy to go on long walks, infrequent runs, and swim for hours whenever I could find a body of water large enough.  Despite all of this energy, though, I was still bogged down by the same heaviness that I had felt since I began eating lots of meat again.  The only thing that seemed to alleviate it was eating one meal a day in the evening, after which I would feel the heaviness but it would be gone by morning.  The other problem I had -- hard stools -- was still plaguing me, as well. In the meantime, I was still reading a lot of zero-carb material on the internet, trying to sort things out.  One man, Jeff, started his own forum dedicated to proving that human beings thrive when there are no sugars and starches in the diet.  He also made it a point to exhibit that, no matter how many calories he ate on a zero-carb diet, he would not gain or lose weight.  At one point he was as high as 4,500 calories a day, literally drinking more than a quart of heavy cream each day.  He also was out to show that exercise is completely different while avoiding carbs and eating an extremely high-fat diet, and his daily and weekly logs displayed how many miles he'd ran and how he felt for days afterwards.  One thing that struck me was that he claimed to not feel sore at all after running over 20 miles in a day -- this coming from a guy that was not, by any means, a runner before the experiment.  I was certainly impressed by all of this and similar reports from others, so I kept on with zero-carb hoping that I would adjust as other folks had.I never adjusted, and I was starting to get frustrated.  Spending time on forums, I couldn't find anyone that shared a similar predicament aside from a handful of folks.  I had a few "gut buddies" who related to much of what I had going on, and we would all communicate what seemed to be working and what wasn't.  We each individually tried manipulating our eating patterns and supplementing digestive aids like enzymes, herbs, probiotics, and all of those things that are typically recommended to people with the catch-all health problem known as "irritable bowel syndrome."  While some approaches appeared to have benefit, by and large nothing did the trick.  In the end, we still had the same symptoms.  Seeking to deepen my understanding of what was going on, I returned to studying the human digestive tract.  I payed careful attention to where I was feeling what and how the symptoms could be related to certain organs and functions within my GI tract.  Much of the information I came across was pretty dry and lacked experience.  I needed to find someone who had resolved his or her digestive problems experientially and could help me along.  The problem was that every digestion expert out there seemed to recommend fiber as the Holy Grail of gut reparation.  I was already skeptical of this method of improving intestinal problems because 1) it hadn't worked for me and 2) fiber appeared to be completely unnecessary in digestive functions anyway -- lots of folks I was in contact with weren't having any problem with a zero-fiber diet.  But why the heck was I having problems?  Enter Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of a book called Fiber Menace.I caught wind of Mr. Monastyrsky's gut manifesto on a forum I frequented.  Reading excerpts from his book, I knew this was the guy to l[...]

Palate Expansion Update, 2/27/11: Finally Got It!


The Homeoblock appliance with case and advancement tool.On my way home from Arizona, I swung by Dr. Darlington's office for an appointment to fit my Homeoblock and take it home with me.  Dr. Darlington, as usual, was very kind and accommodating to my needs as a patient living six hours away, scheduling the appointment for when it was most convenient for me.  The Homeoblock fitting and insertion procedure took about a half-hour due to the upper palate device not fitting very well.  It was a back-and-forth scenario with Dr. Darlington inserting the appliance and then me giving him feedback on how it felt.  There was some discomfort around my gums, and he adjusted the Homeoblock with small pliers to fix it (similar to what is seen in this training video by Dr. Belfor).  I was pretty surprised how easy and painless it all was.  I was also relieved to find out that I would only be wearing the appliance at night, rather than all day and night for a few months as I initially thought.The upper Homeoblock fit well enough, although I still felt that it wasn't optimal.  Dr. Darlington said I could adjust the wiring as I needed to when I got home with my fingers, so I wasn't too worried about it and decided to get back on the road.  The Homeoblock was given to me in a retainer-like case with an adjustment tool to advance the appliance a quarter turn each week.  It's a pretty slick system.At home, I made sure to take some "before" pictures to compare later down the line when I finally look like the Neanderthal that I've always wanted to.  Kidding.  But it will be interesting to see what changes occur, however subtle.  Here's some of my mug shots to show you all what I'm working with.  Please understand that I sacrificed a great beard so that my facial structure can be seen for what it really is -- all in the name of science.  First face pictures:Note the yellow line above that I drew on my face to illustrate its lack of symmetry.  The left side appears to droop down, particularly noticeable by observing the eyes and lips.  In the picture on the right, you'll notice that while smiling there is a definite natural face lift going on for me, but there is still marked asymmetry around the nose. Now let's take a look at my glorious upper and lower palate as they are now. On the far left, you can see how my teeth come together off centered.  My lower palate (center) is pretty narrow and my front teeth are slightly overlapping due to years of shifting (I got my braces off at age 13).  On the right is my upper palate and a similar process is underway with one tooth in particular poking out a bit.  Of course, also note that neither palate has the wisdom teeth courtesy of my high school orthodontist.After analyzing my facial features and chompers, I was excited to try the much-anticipated Homeoblock out that night.  I inserted it right before bed, slept through the night fine (besides a little excessive drooling), and woke up to fairly sore teeth.  Things were definitely moving!  My jaw felt like it had a bit of a workout.  I could still eat solid foods and the soreness went away after a few hours in the day.  The next night, I decided to try to adjust the upper Homeoblock to get it to fit better.  I toyed around with it a bit much, apparently, as one of the wires snapped!  "Well, it was an interesting $1700 experiment while it lasted," I thought to myself.  So I wore only the bottom palate that night.  I called Dr. Darlington the following day to inform him of what had happened.  He said to just send it to him and he c[...]

Return From Wintercount


It was another great time at the Wintercount Primitive Skills Rendevous this year.  Beautiful weather and beautiful people; primitive skills galore and amazing speakers and discussions; and, as always, a wonderful sense of community in the Arizona desert.  Now that I'm back in freezing cold Utah, I'm kind of kicking myself for not getting more sun while down south.  Oh well, I guess I'll have to keep up my vitamin D stores through food.

My class on Primitive Nutrition and Health was a blast to teach.  The folks in attendance were very engaged and had lots of insight and knowledge to share.  I'm always amazed by the collective wisdom of a group of people, and the discussions that came about from this particular group were quite thought-provoking, to say the least.  I'm especially grateful for the folks that were well-versed in some of the finer details of human evolution, which really added a lot to the class.  It was also fun hearing others' stories about diet and health and their response to some of the material I provided.  One man, who had been on a diet of donuts and soda, expressed his relief that to eat healthy doesn't mean that you have to munch on baby carrots and celery all day long -- and that a diet of steak and potatoes is a viable way to achieve wellness.  He liked that idea very much.

Wintercount Primitive Skills Rendezvous 2011


I'm off to Arizona for the yearly primitive skills gathering, Wintercount.  I'm looking forward to going "abo" for an entire week and teaching a few classes.  This year, I'll be covering the history of the human diet -- from paleolithic to modern -- and the studies of Weston A. Price once again, along with an edible Sonoran Desert plants walk.  I'm hoping to learn more about the atlatl, as well, as I want to set up a range at the wilderness rehab I work for.  Should be a good time.  If any of you blog readers out there are planning on being there, I'd love to meet you!

I'm also planning on picking up my Homeoblock on the way back, so I'll update everyone on the details on that upon my return.  See you in a week or so!

My Intestinal Saga, Part 4: Gurus and Rotten Meat


Rotting meat in mason jars.So there I was.  It was late summer 2006.  The sweltering Tucson sun beat down on the city relentlessly.  White tail doves could be heard flapping and cooing on rooftops and power lines, and the cicadas' symphony was in full swing.  I sat inside, bathing in the cool air of the swamp cooler, a plate of raw ground beef sitting in front of me.  I took a bite.  It went down easy.  I took another and my body screamed for more and more -- so I fed it.  I followed the meat with a few spoonfuls of raw, "unheated," honey and some raw butter.  I was satisfied like I hadn't felt in years.  And it was all thanks to a man by the odd name of Aajonus Vonderplanitz and his book, The Recipe For Living Without Disease.  In this book, Vonderplanitz outlined the key to optimal health and vitality through food, and it enthralled me.  Raw meat, unheated honey, raw dairy, raw vegetable juices -- these were the ingredients to becoming well again, and I had no problem eating all I wanted and enjoying the heck out of it.  My family and friends were somewhat worried about me at his point.  Salmonella, E. Coli, and countless other bacteria existed in raw food products -- how would this negatively affect my health, particularly my already stressed out gut?  Surely I would get food poisoning at the very least.  And straight butter?  Heart attack city!  Well, after several weeks of the eating all of the foods suggested by the quirky Aajonus, I was happy to report that I had absolutely no problems.  In fact, I had more energy than I could remember feeling in my whole life.  Then I thought, "Hmm.  I wonder if I could feel even healthier?"Aajonus Vonderplanitz believed if raw meat was healthy, then rotten or "high" meat is probably even healthier.  The Inuit traditionally enjoyed rotted flesh as part of their diet, and so did many cultures around the world.  I was insanely curious about this.  Would it feel good in my body?  Or would I get really sick?  So I began making "high" meat -- filling mason jars with sliced up beef and airing them out every few days.  Oddly enough, the rotten smell that developed over a few weeks began to please my senses.  It smelled good, it looked good -- I couldn't wait to eat it.  Then the day came when it was ready.  So I took a jar filled with rotting, slimy meat outside, opened it, and reached in for my first taste of this supposed health elixir.  I loved it.  Weird, I know.  It just tasted way good for some reason.  Although the little white beads on the meat that had developed over the weeks somewhat disturbed me.  Were these some kind of worm eggs or something?  Was I ingesting parasites?  Well, even if I was, Mr. Vonderplanitz assured me in his book that they would merely detox my body and consume my unneeded intestinal wastes.  Win-win for me and my little worm buddies.  They get to eat and I get better!  Oh lord, I have done some interesting things in my life, and this one is up there on the list.Again, much to my surprise, the most shocking thing that happened was -- well, that nothing happened.  I remained healthy and feeling quite good overall on my raw and rotten diet.  After a few months of this "primal diet," I encountered something even more alluring in my continual research: the raw paleo diet.  I joined a forum where there were a handful of folks experimenting with this diet -- consisting of nothing but raw meat and fat -- an[...]

Palate Expansion Update, 1/10/11: First Appointment


Brief break from "My Intestinal Saga" to bring all you readers out there an update on my palate expansion pursuits ...

I'm a few weeks away from being an official homie on the block.  I recently took a trip to Flagstaff, AZ for my first Homeoblock appointment.  The dentist, Scott Darlington, was very pleasant and shared his excitement about the procedure.  It's rare that people come to him for adult palate expansion, which he thinks is unfortunate because the benefits are so great -- particularly in opening up the airways.  I told him I was interested to see how my craniofacial structure would change and whether or not this procedure would provide any significant benefits for me.

For this initial appointment, I had a short dental check-up followed by my mouth being filled with plaster to make forms of my upper and lower palate -- all of which was completely painless.  These forms are currently being sent to a lab where they will be used to manufacture my own custom Homeblock.  This usually takes a few weeks.  I plan on returning to Dr. Darlington's office in Flagstaff to pick up my appliance around mid-February on my way to Wintercount.  For the first few months, Dr. Darlington recommends wearing the Homeoblock as much as I can, including daylight hours.  After this, I will only have to wear it at night and it will be recreated every few months to continue optimal expansion.  The cost for all of this -- appointments, new appliances, and all -- is $2000.  I payed up front for a substantial discount of $250, so the final cost was $1750.  I'm looking forward to looking like a retainer-wearing teenager for a short time -- maybe I'll even have a cool accent like Shelly from South Park.

allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />

My Intestinal Saga, Part 3: Making Connections


With the realization that my back pain was somehow related to what I was eating, I began connecting some dots.  Less food + Simple food = Less back pain.  More food + Varied foods = More back pain.  But what the heck did food have to do with muscle pain?  Why would my lower right back hurt so incredibly much based upon my dietary choices?  Why did I feel so much lighter and tension-free when I ate less or fasted?  I began researching the human body and its inner workings to find out why my pain was so localized to this one place on my body.  It turned out that, in the lower left abdomen where the junction of the small intestine and large intestine, there exists something called the ileocecal valve.  This little valve controls when undigested food exits the small intestine and begins the journey into stool formation in the large intestine.  Hmm.  Did this area have something to do with my back pain?  I pressed on my abdomen where the ileocecal valve was located.  It was tender.  Not only that, but I felt the pain from my back transfer to this spot when applying pressure.  It was an epiphany for sure.  I thought, "Wait just a gosh-darn minute here!  Does this mean my pain is actually intestinal, not muscular or skeletal?"  Apparently it was.  Fascinating!My entire school of thought shifted.  No longer was I wholly committed to a purely external yoga or massage-manipulated path to healing.  I believed I had found the root cause of the pain and tension I was experiencing, and now I only had to figure out how to manage this internal problem.  Easier said than done.  For several months I experimented with herbs, digestive supplements of all kinds, probiotics -- the whole gamut of intestinal warfare.  Nasty herbs for any parasites that might be still hanging out.  Enzymes to aid the breaking down of food.  Good bacteria to repopulate my sad, miserable gut.  All these things, along with continued yoga and the like -- yet, aside from simply eating nothing at all, I experienced little or no improvement.  What hadn't I changed?  Was there anything else I could do?  Or would I have to live with this inconvenient pain the rest of my life?Finally, the cognitive dissonance had to come to an end.  I was underweight.  I was fatigued.  I had little zest for life.  I asked myself a difficult but honest question: Was I unhealthy because I was a low-calorie vegetarian?  It was time.  I was ready to take a good, hard look at this mostly philosophically-driven food choice -- one that I had always thought could only make me healthier.  That's what all the books I was reading at the time were telling me.  Everything in my mind up to this point had said "yes" to a vegetarian diet.  All these years, however, my body had been crying out a resounding "NO!"  Time to eat some meat.  And, while I'm at it, why not eat nothing but meat for a while?  Oh, how I loved extremes at that time in my life.  So on I ventured into the world of zero-carb, "The Bear," and a sudden fondness for the Inuit.  More digestive lessons were soon to come.Part 4 of "My Intestinal Saga" up next.[...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 2: Lower Back Pain


Following the parasite party in my gut, I had a few months of sulfurous burps that just would not go away.  I was the weakest I'd ever been in my life.  If my memory serves me correctly, this was the start of years of funky stools (the description of which I'll spare all of you readers out there unless you personally inquire), as well as a sudden increase in the lower back pain I'd had since high school.  One day, maybe a year after the gut bug debacle, I was shoveling dirt in a garden when all of the sudden I tweaked my back into immobility.  This lasted 3 days.  It was incredibly painful and a huge wake-up call for me -- something about what I was doing for my health wasn't working.  Rather than blame it on being weak and malnourished from vegetarianism and parasites, I turned to purely external physical solutions, such as yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and body posture practices.  I focused on keeping my spine aligned and balancing the use of my muscles.  To a certain extent, this worked quite well and kept me somewhat capable physically, although I honestly could not imagine having to do yoga or pay attention to my posture the rest of my life -- it seemed unsustainable.  And why was it that primitive peoples -- who I had begun to study in depth -- appeared to be so light and tension-free in their bodies without needing to do daily maintenance practices such as yoga?  Also, working around kids a lot in summer camps I noticed how they naturally had absolutely perfect posture without any kind of attention to it.  I decided it was my goal to experience this natural freedom from tension.  Yet all that seemed to work was doing yoga three times a day and paying careful attention to my body posture.  There had to be a better way.In the summer of 2005, I began work with a wilderness therapy program, called The ANASAZI Foundation, and was spending weeks in the backcountry with troubled youth.  Not learning my lesson from the experience with Vince Pinto in the Chiricahuas, I was confident that I could drink from streams without purifying the water.  I was so convinced psychologically that I was the healthiest, most resilient dude of anyone I knew that I believed I could withstand whatever nature threw at me.  I was wrong.  Again.  Three more parasitic episodes over a couple of months and I finally started purifying my water like a logical person would.  I no longer felt invincible and really started to question some of the crazy things I was doing, such as constant yoga and a vegetarian diet.During my time at ANASAZI, I also realized something profound about my back pain: it would subside to almost no pain at all while I was in the wilderness.  At first, I thought this might be the product of living a more natural lifestyle and walking the earth as humans had done for millions of years before me.  Over time, however, I began to realize that there was something about the food I was eating in the backcountry -- both in amount and type -- that appeared to lessen the pain.  Lentils, rice, and ash cakes in small amounts were my staples in the field.  When I came back to civilization, I'd load up on loaves of bread, peanut butter, salad and tons of yogurt.  So I tried an experiment: eat how I ate in the field while I was at home in the city.  The results were the same: far less back pain and an overall feeling of being lighter in my body.  I thought I had found an answer. &nbs[...]

My Intestinal Saga, Part 1: Dabbling in Parasites


Wow.  It's been a really long time since I've posted a blog entry.  I'd like to have some extravagant reason as to why, but the truth of the matter is that I've simply been inspired in other directions for the past several months.  My own physical health progress has been at a standstill this whole time until quite recently.  As some of you may know, I have had long-standing digestive problems that possibly came about after many episodes of backcountry parasitic infections beginning almost 8 years ago (which also was the time I began experimenting with vegetarianism).  My digestive problems usually manifest in the form of a slowed down transit time, hard stools and bloating, along with infrequent sharp pains in my intestines (my apologies if anybody is disturbed by my blunt description).  These symptoms have greatly affected my body and my mental state in negative ways: poor sleep, sudden fatigue, coming and going depression, muscle tension, pain, and the like.  When I began eating well again and adding certain supplements to my diet, I was able to lessen or eliminate many of these issues.  I thought I would delve a little deeper into my health history and describe what kinds of changes I made along the way get well again, dietary or otherwise, with the intention of possibly guiding some of you folks out there in blogger land to better health and also receiving feedback from anybody who wants to offer me some other directions I might be able to take to further improve my situation.Hmm.  Where to begin?  I guess I should probably go back as far as I can remember, and that would be my childhood years.  The major body disturbances I recall from this time, let's say around age 8 and for several years after, were TMJ syndrome and frequent headaches.  I would grind my teeth at night and wake up with a sore jaw quite often.  The headaches seemed to arise at random moments throughout the day, but I remember them being excruciating.  Besides that, as far as I know, everything ran smoothly (if you know what I mean).  It's debatable whether or not the aforementioned problems were from digestion, but later -- in the midst of my health transformation, around age 23 --  I would discover some connections that surprised me.  More on that later. (See the three part post on my own personal health profile for more on my physical transformation and dietary history.)Now on to high school.  This was when I first started to notice bloating in my lower abdomen.  I've been an avid athlete all my life and high school was the most active time of my life.  Lifting weights 6 days a week; running 3 miles every other day; swimming laps and doing sprints; and practicing on baseball and soccer teams on top of all of that.  Pretty active, right?  Well despite all of that, I still had this perceptible "belly" on me.  At the time, I attributed it to fat, but I'm fairly certain now that it was just bloating -- I was pretty ripped in every other regard.  So what caused the bloating?  I don't know for certain.  My educated guess based upon later experimentation is that it was brought up by some kind of milk and/or gluten intolerance.  Another primary physical issue of that time in my life was lower back pain.  This was why I absolutely abhorred doing any kind of physical labor that involved bending over and lifting.  Again, I now believe I have answers as [...]

Obesity & Heredity, Part 4: Epigenetics


I first heard about epigenetics from Dr. Theodore Belfor, the man behind the adult palate expansion device called the Homeoblock.  It is his opinion that epigenetics will be the most important field of science in the next decade.  In brief, epigenetics is the study of  the changes that take place within the epigenome – literally, "on top" of the genome – due to environmental factors, such as food and pollution, without affecting the DNA sequence.  Here's a more lengthy explanation from a website  published by a European group who call themselves “The Epigenome Network of Excellence:”Conrad Waddington (1905-1975) is often credited with coining the term epigenetics in 1942 as “the branch of biology which studies the causal interactions between genes and their products, which bring the phenotype into being”. Epigenetics appears in the literature as far back as the mid 19th century, although the conceptual origins date back to Aristotle (384-322 BC). He believed in epigenesis: the development of individual organic form from the unformed. This controversial view was the main argument against our having developed from miniscule fully-formed bodies. Even today the extent to which we are preprogrammed versus environmentally shaped awaits universal consensus. The field of epigenetics has emerged to bridge the gap between nature and nurture. In the 21st century you will most commonly find epigenetics defined as 'the study of heritable changes in genome function that occur without a change in DNA sequence.' Take home quote from above: “...epigenetics has emerged to bridge the gap between nature and nurture.”  This is extremely important in the study of health and nutrition, as there are many questions of what brings about good health and poor health in the context of inheritance, none of which can be fully answered without evaluating specific individual choices – dietary, environmental, etc. – made within each generation (which affects future generations).   In other words, nurture – how we are taken care of as children and how we take care of ourselves as adults  – is what molds and shapes nature – the way our bodies and minds express themselves epigenetically, which is then potentially passed to our children. How do epigenetic changes take place?  The Epigenome Network of Excellence reporter, Brona McVittie, puts it this way:The genetic blueprint, like a complex musical score, remains lifeless without an orchestra of cells (players) and epigenotypes (instruments) to express it... Epigenetic factors include both spatial patterns, such as the arrangement of DNA around histone proteins (chromatin), and biochemical tagging...With some 30 000 genes in the human genome, the importance of silence, as with any orchestral performance, must not be underestimated...As cells develop, their fate is governed by the selective use and silencing of genes... Failure to silence genes can produce a hazardous cacophony.What does all of this have to do with obesity?  Well, scientists have discovered that epigenetic changes in mice that are pregnant mothers can directly impact the health of the offspring.  How?  By turning on or off specific genes through dietary or environmental means.  One of these health effects, in addition to cancer and diabetes, is a tendency of the offspring to become obese as adults.  In one study, if a single gene, called the “agouti gene,” is overexpressed through [...]

Obesity & Heredity, Part 3: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?


Below is an intriguing BBC documentary, called "Why Are Thin People Not Fat?"  In this film, ten thin people who have no history of obesity overeat whatever foods they want for several weeks and the results are evaluated at the end of the experiment.  One especially interesting facet of the documentary is the fact that the Asian participant gains the least weight of all the participants and also appears to have the most elevated metabolism.  Could it be that his genes are more pure -- i.e. less degeneration in his family -- than the others?  Watch and decide for yourself!

(object) (embed)

Obesity & Heredity, Part 2: You Are What Your Parents Ate


Stephan Guyenet at Whole Health Source wrote a brilliant blog series a few months back, called “The Body Fat Setpoint,” in which he describes the mechanisms behind an individual's ability to maintain a  very specific weight.  No matter how much a person overeats and how much weight is gained, his or her body is simply primed to be at this “setpoint” and will “defend” it diligently through natural fat regulation mechanisms.  Stephan references a study where:They overfed lean and modestly overweight volunteers 50% more calories than they naturally consume … After 6 weeks of massive overfeeding, both lean and overweight subjects gained an average of 10 lb (4.6 kg) of fat mass and 6.6 lb (3 kg) of lean mass...  Following overfeeding, subjects were allowed to eat however much they wanted for 6 weeks. Both lean and overweight volunteers promptly lost 6.2 of the 10 lb they had gained in fat mass (61% of fat gained), and 1.5 of the 6.6 lb they had gained in lean mass (23%).  To me, the most interesting aspect regarding human overfeeding studies like this is that, once the overfeeding period has ended, the participants return to their original weight without dieting.  As Stephan indicates, this means that our bodies have the inherent ability to maintain our “normal weight.”  Refer to the post I wrote on tribal fattening practices and the fact that the fattened women who refuse to overeat their real foods diet return to a healthy weight in short order.  Normal weight, however, appears to be different for every individual. For example, when a person has a normal weight – a setpoint – that, by all standards, can be seen as obese, we are left with the question of just why in the heck this is happening.  Why does the body insist on remaining in such a biologically abnormal state?Many scientists and researchers claim that leptin – a hormone which regulates appetite – plays a key role in obesity, as many people who are overweight exhibit low levels of the hormone.  Much research has been conducted on the validity of this theory and it is now recognized that leptin resistance – in which the body can no longer can recognize when it has had enough food – is what enables a person to eat more than they need, thus leading to obesity and keeping that person obese.  And, surprise, surprise: artificial fructose is a prime culprit in leptin resistance because fructose doesn't stimulate leptin (or insulin for that matter).  No stimulation, no appetite regulation.Skinny Jeans & Skinny GenesOkay, so leptin appears to play a role in weight maintenance.  That's all fine and good, but why can some people eat and drink whatever they want -- including artificial fructose -- without affecting their body composition while some people become obese?  This is where I believe heredity comes into play.  Depending on what stage of degeneration a person is in – first, second, or third generation of processed food consumption, let's say, and/or what a person's mother ate while pregnant with him/her – obesity can be more or less of a potential complication. In my case, for example, my mother wasn't overweight when I was in the woom and neither of my parents are overweight now.  This is despite consuming a lot of high-fructose corn syrup and omega-6 vegetable oils for much of their lives.  I was raised on this typical [...]

Obesity & Heredity, Part 1: Don Gorske


For better or for worse, we inherit much of the body composition tendencies of our parents.  This can be argued as merely adopting their food habits, which directly affects our health, and I believe that's a big part of why our bodies are the way they are.  However, there are most certainly genetic predispositions to certain body shapes and sizes, as well.  Often times, I focus on diet as the #1 instigator of health and disease, but when it comes to issues of overweight and obesity I often find myself wondering just how much genetics can play a role in whether a person is thin or fat, muscular or lanky, apple or pear-shaped.  Many of us know folks who can eat whatever the heck they want without any apparent health effects or significant body composition changes.  Case in point, Don Gorske, the infamous McDonald's enthusiast who has eaten 24,000 Big Macs since 1972.  Despite this indulgence -- and the sodas that come with it -- Gorske appears to be in good health.  (I say “appears” because he is not overweight and has good cholesterol numbers; not so sure about his teeth, triglycerides, HDL:LDL ratio, VLDL levels or other markers of health.)  He has a full head of dark hair, walks every day, and also has a positive outlook on life.  Arguably, these are signs of good health.  How can this be?  Isn't fast food one of the prime suspects in modern disease?  Could this mean that fast food is off the hook?  Well, before you go out gorging on McDonald's because of one man's seeming success on such fare, read on.Mr. 180, Matt Stone, recently blogged about Gorske, pinpointing dietary, philosophical, and hereditary  reasons as to why this man's physical health seems to be unaffected by the foods he eats.  Of all the reasons listed by Matt, I believe heredity to be the most important factor.  For one thing, as Matt says in his post, Gorske grew up “ cow country and didn't start eating fast food until age 18 ...”  Developmentally speaking, this Big Mac-lover had a head start in good health -- especially if we consider that he only started eating fast food after his body and metabolic tendencies were well-established.  And while it's interesting to observe Gorske's apparent well-being and question the assumption that fast food is detrimental to our health, the picture would not be complete without full consideration of his unique heredity.  Perhaps he is the fortunate heir of health not-far-removed from that of our ancestors.  What of his genetics, his childhood health, his parents' and their parents' health?Unfortunately, I don't have access to this information, but I would hazard a guess that his parents were closer to a traditional diet than not for most of their lives, and that they were maybe the first or second generation of degeneration.  In contrast, many of us have parents or grandparents who were well on their way to degeneration during their life time and this directly affected our health -- epigenetics influenced strongly by diet. (See section below, “Degeneration in the Cafeteria.”)  Maybe some of us, like Gorske, are able to avoid some of the dramatic metabolic changes seen today -- namely obesity -- simply because our parents and grandparents hadn't quite reached that particular stage of degeneration.  Obesity, if we think about the very low [...]