Friday, December 30, 2011

Example Investigation and Musings on Genetic Destiny

I am working with someone to help him troubleshoot and get rid of his very troublesome health issues, which include fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Incidentally, this person has been on a "paleo diet" for several years, but this hasn't helped with his most troublesome health complaints. This isn't an argument against the diet, but is merely an example that eating plan vanilla paleo is a necessary but often not sufficient step towards complete health.

Anyway, I wanted to share some tidbits from our investigation of his case. It should be quite interesting because we employed a range of tools (including 23andMe genetic testing) to home in on different problem areas.

Exhibit A: 23andMe genetic test results analyzed through Promethease software.
Here we found the genetic variant ("polymorphism") associated with problems with folate metabolism, and which is common in people with CFS and fibromyalgia and many other whacky health conditions. BINGO!

Exhibit B: …However, a test of plasma homocysteine showed a perfectly normal reading (7.9 umol/L with 15 considered elevated), so no apparent sign of a problem here when using this common doctor's office test.

The non-confirmation here shows one of the big limitations of genetic testing alone. Genetic testing just can't predict how genes are actually expressed in a person's body, and the body also has clever backup systems to prevent problems.

[Digression: This apparently normal homocysteine reading would typically be the end of the investigation for most people and their healthcare practitioners. However, VitalObjectives' heroic clients, who all want to do what it takes to get better, and who don't give up even if it means paying out of pocket for the privilege of pooping and peeing into vials and jars, push forward toward true resolution and restoration of health.]

Exhibit C: In order to dig further, we performed a test for urinary metabolic markers of methylation problems. BINGO! The high reading of "FIGLU" shows that the genetic propensity actually translates into a real problem, but this through a different pathway than the one that would result in elevated homocysteine. Through this finding we know with more certainty that proper function in the body may be supported through supplementation with a natural form of folate called 5-MTHF, and that the problem is both functional and genetic.

Now proponents of evolutionary thinking may ask: "How can it be that some people with this genetic issue develop health problems when many others do not? And, why hasn't this common variant/mutation been weeded out of the gene pool?".

This is an especially valid question since 5-MTHF is the natural form of folate that one could readily get from one's diet if one eats a proper human diet rich in items such as green leafy vegetables, egg yolks and liver.

So there must be additional necessary conditions present to cause trouble in a given individual - something that prevents a person from getting enough 5-MTHF from the diet, right? (Remember that the particular individual under investigation eats a paleo diet.)

Yes, the presence of such additional factors is quite demonstrably the case:

Exhibit D: A salivary panel looking at immune function in the mucosal barriers revealed that the immune system in the GI tract is likely to be very weak. The very low reading of 4.8 for Secretory IgA (a type of anti-body involved in the first line defense of the GI tract) indicates that chronic inflammation may have exhausted the immune system. This condition often correlates with poor absorption of nutrients because of destruction of the intestinal lining and problems with the gut flora.
Exhibit E: A hair trace minerals analysis confirms this idea as many nutritional elements (notably iron) are found to be low. Notable here is also that cobalt is non existent(!). Cobalt is involved in folate metabolism (in ways that I don't yet understand), so this reading may be another confirmation of abnormality in this area, and something to ponder further.

In summary, the findings revealed through this process indicate that my client likely would benefit from 5-MTHF supplementation, potentially for life. However, since we are also working on healing his gut and his absorption, it is not unlikely that supplementation ultimately becomes unnecessary. Genetics is not destiny.

Finally, here are some overall take away points:

1) Genetic testing is almost never the final word on any actual or potential health issue, but may give clues about where to look for functional signs of problems. Forget the idea of deriving your diet or supplementation regimen from genetic tests.

2) Often several different tests are needed to give an accurate enough picture to guide action. (The way single blood tests are used to prescribe powerful drugs or even "natural" remedies by some practitioners is just insane in my opinion.)

3) Most of the diagnostic tools that I and my client used above will become very difficult/expensive/impossible to get access to unless YOU fight against government intrusions into health, food, and medicine. Same thing with advanced supplements such as 5-MTHF (and probably even Vitamin D) in effective doses. So stop voting for Fascist politicians who in the name of "food safety", "consumer protection", "universal coverage" or crying babies rob you of access to your means of staying healthy and to save your own life.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Neglected aspects of effective & injury free strength training

There is a lot of debate about the technical aspects of how to best lift weights for strength- and muscle gains, but, in my opinion, not enough discussion about some core psychological- and physiological aspects that can make all the difference regardless of what specific training techniques one choses.

#1: Be Howard Roark. Focus on your exercise set, and your body's signals. Don't think about what the meat-head across the room is doing, or what he thinks of you, which may switch your focus - a recipe for injury. (This is part of the reason that I'm a bit skeptical of Crossfit - many people just can't handle the "other-people" orientation inherent in the competitive element.)

Also, if you ever got repetitive strain injuries from plain office work, you may want to learn to listen to the signals of your body better. You may want to seek out a really good coach to watch your technique.

#2: Control inflammation by eating right. Train hard enough to turn some acute inflammation on - the trigger for muscle acquisition. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet (a paleo diet) to make inflammation turn off properly. (This is why pro sports teams eat gluten free diets.)

#3: Optimize cortisol to control inflammation and to maximize training intensity.

Not enough cortisol will contribute to inflammation, which weakens tissues and makes them more prone to injury and soreness. Many people aren't even aware that they have the problem (advanced "Adrenal Fatigue"), until bang! orthopedic surgery is needed.

On the other hand, chronic cortisol elevation is catabolic and hence counterproductive. Ideally, you'll want to have acutely high cortisol during training to maximize intensity, but after training cortisol should rapidly drop off to a healthy baseline. (Not too high and not too low.)

#4: Optimize androgens. Get enough sleep and control all types of stress, including stress from food sensitivities, gut pathogens, and annoying relatives.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Acne Troubleshooter v2.0

The skin is a window into overall body function, and acne is a sign that something isn't working as well as it should.

I have updated my acne troubleshooting chart, which is based on more or less validated scientific theories about the mechanisms behind acne, as well as clinical observations of what types of issues may have to be resolved to say goodbye to acne forever.

Notably, I have included the important liver/detox/anti-oxidant axis, which I think is a missing link in dietary theories about acne.

It is not uncommon to see improvements in acne with good liver support supplements, particularly after grains, legumes, and dairy have been reduced in the diet.

Please click to make the diagram larger.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cholesterol and CVD Risk in a Nutshell

This is a brief summary of my current understanding about how to interpret cholesterol values as they appear on the blood chemistry panels that's done during regular medical check ups. (I deliberately don't list specific ranges, as this is about the essentials of what I think is a correct perspective.)

  • Elevated total cholesterol in the absence of inflammation (and associated oxidative stress) is unlikely to contribute to heart disease. (Though an extreme elevation or depression in cholesterol may indicate other problems in your body.)

  • Elevated cholesterol (especially high LDL relative to HDL) in the presence of inflammation is likely a risk factor. This is because this scenario involves LDL cholesterol carriers becoming oxidized and stuck inside the lining of blood vessels causing artherosclerosis as well as processes leading up to acutely threatening events such as infarctions.

  • The likelihood of cholesterol becoming target of harmful oxidation is higher in people who have blood sugar dysregulation (suggested by elevated triglycerides) such as the obese or (pre)-diabetic, because these malfunctions contribute to the formation of "small dense" highly oxidizable LDL as well as inflammation.

In other words, the more inflamed and/or diabetic your are (risk increases dramatically if you eat a typical Western diet) the more an elevation in cholesterol is likely to be a concern in regard to heart disease. In this situation, statin drugs may lower your risk somewhat, but possibly with side effects that will ultimately kill you from causes other than heart disease.

In people who do not fit the above disease- or dietary profile, cholesterol is likely of no particular concern unless it is heavily elevated or depressed. (Extremes in both directions may indicate chronic infection, genetic weaknesses related to cholesterol metabolism, or thyroid dysfunction.)

The apparently most relevant marker that suggests heart disease risk as it relates to inflammation is hsCRP ("High Sensitivity C Reactive Protein"). hsCRP tends to be well below 1.0 mg/L in healthy individuals with no acute infections.

This is not medical advice, and, as a health consultant, I don't diagnose or treat disease, but if your doctor isn't equipped with the knowledge to even discuss these points, he or she has no business trying to "treat" your cholesterol values as such.

(*Technically, what's listed on blood panels isn't actually cholesterol, but cholesterol carrier proteins, but, oh well, once we have declared war on a natural substance, who needs such distinctions...)

Thanks to Chris Masterjohn for contributing through lectures and writings to my understanding. (Any errors are mine and this is not an attempt at paraphrasing Chris.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank you, Steve Jobs.

Steve, I cannot thank you enough. You inventions fueled my interest in computers from when I was 12. You provided me with tools for work and fun that I have enjoyed using every day for hours and hours. You have been living proof that success and unwavering commitment to one's ideals are not just compatible, but that valid ideals, pursued relentlessly, are the drivers of lasting business- and personal success. You have been an inspiration when I have taken my own steps into the unknown, showing that failure is nothing to fear, but something to learn from.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Wizard of Oz (Part I)

OK, it is perhaps getting a bit old to criticize mainstream health advice. I mean, if you are reading this, you probably already suspect that cable television is the go-to place for learning at least 15 different ways to waste muscle-, bone- and brain mass by eating tofu and whole grains while running on a treadmill.

On the other hand, when I receive such a hilariously stupid promotional message as I did this morning, I can't resist the temptation to publicly register my mocking response.

The particular message was about Dr. Oz's (aka the Wizard of Oz's) health “tips” in Men's Fitness Magazine.

My snide remarks are inserted after each quoted section:

“Hi there-

Thought you may have interest in Dr. Oz's tips for living life to its absolute fullest. Help your man live to 100 with Oz’s advice! In the September issue of MF, he’s prescribing a mix of competition, training, nutrition, and preventative medicine that will keep your man tuned for the rest of his life!”

That is a decent intro, indicating that the advice is directed towards women who are then supposed to harass their men into taking some prescribed actions. (As we all know, health has nothing to do with internal motivation.)

“Annoyed that your guy isn’t taking care of himself? Wish you could help him get in the best shape of his life? Or maybe you just want to help him get back on track?”

So "your guy" is a fixer-upper in the health department?

There are three options:

1) Your guy knows he is out of shape, but doesn't care.
2) Your guy doesn't know (or evades) that he is out of shape, and doesn't care.
3) Your guy knows he is out of shape and does care.

For #1 my suggestion is that you acknowledge that you two have incompatible values regarding health and fitness. Loath it as you wish, but don't pester him with "Wizard of Oz"-info. If he truly is a man he will not tolerate it. (If he does tolerate it, he is not an alpha-male, and you must therefore leave him for a tattooed gangster/crossfitter [See, this is holistic health coaching at its best!])

For #2, my advice is to dump him. A brain-in-a-vat would be OK, but who wants to live with a brain-in-a-tub-of-lard?

If it is #3, then your guy has already tried every single health platitude spouted by Dr Oz's, resulting in even more stubborn love handles (the carb addiction fat site) and/or on his legs/chest (the estrogenic fat sites). Get him away from Dr Oz before he acquires an insulin/estrogen related cancer.

“For guys in their 20s

Twentysomethings’ testosterone levels are high, so they have a big desire to be sexually intimate and a need to build muscle mass. Place more emphasis on muscle-building activities. They should be working out every other day, building up their core, arms, and legs. The one activity they should definitely be doing is pull-ups. You know you’re fit if you can lift your own body weight at least 10 times—that’s the bare minimum.”
Doesn't this sound like a description of pubescent chimpanzee?

Anyway, I am past 40, yet the gist of the above actually fits me quite well, but with the difference that my "need" to build muscle is both driven by testosterone-induced vanity and my belief that muscle mass is one of the most important determinants of health and longevity.

“Guys in their 30s

Once your guy hits his 30s, he can start to move away from muscle-building activities a little bit and focus more on fitness. Young guys are more able to move around, but thirtysomethings are a little stiffer and start putting on more weight. So now they have to worry about not burning as many calories.”

On my 30th birthday, I barely knew what a second mortgage is, yet here Dr Oz proposes that one's 30s should be the time to scale back on that testosterone-driven muscle building craze and prepare for retirement (buying a mobility scoter?). The 30s is when guys just happen to become a little "stiff" and chubby (aka the "registered dietitian"-look), right?

Anyway, as far as I can tell, I begun to age backwards by my late 30s when I ditched the USDA/ADA/Oz diet and begun to pay attention to what people with superior health and fitness were actually doing.

“Guys in their 40s

By the time your guy is in his 40s, it all becomes about your body’s pliancy. Once he loses the ability to stay flexible and balanced, he starts to develop frailty—and frailty is what really hurts us when we get older. So I would spend more time doing yoga or balance activities, like doing exercises with your eyes closed. To improve your balance, do this simple test. Stand up straight with your arms folded across your chest, close your eyes, and raise one foot, bending the knee at a 45-degree angle. Set a goal of balancing for 15 seconds.”

Balance exercises are probably a good idea, but one's 40s?!! :) Not that frail 40 year olds (or 20 year olds, or 10 year olds) don't exist today, but the fact that this particular "schedule" of degenerative aging is tossed around as normal and uncontroversial is a glaring admission of the intellectual- and practical failure of the government-pharmaceutical-medical establishment that the majority of people have chosen to endorse and listen to. Enough said.

“Guys in their 50s

The big epiphany—and this is going to blow your mind—is that the fitness level of someone who is 17 years of age is no different from someone who is 65 years of age. So your man has to be able to stay physically active throughout his life. Guys past the age of 50 should focus more on endurance activities as they get older—things like biking, running, the elliptical if he has weak knees, and swimming.”

So, suddenly after twenty years of progressive stiffness, frailty and obesity the typical 50 year old can suddenly enjoy fitness like a typical 17 year old. I can't follow the logic, but, oh well.

More “endurance activity”? I'm reminded of the middle aged, metabolically deranged men who suddenly realize: "I'm obese, I'm diabetic, I desperately need to do something! I need to train for a Marathon!".

This is one reason that gyms have CPR equipment.

We know the archetype from fitness centers everywhere: A sweaty, red-faced, and panting, 50-something with an enormous wheat-belly suddenly clasping his chest in terror.

Meanwhile, on the TV screen attached to the unfortunate's treadmill we see the face of a recently polypectomized Dr Oz doing his best to obfuscate the message of an actually quite fit 50-something: Gary Taubes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Q/A: Will X cure or prevent Y in person Z?

Question: There is this story in my family: In her 50s, my grandmother took a certain formula consisting of lecithin, raw wheat germ, "debittered" brewer's yeast, bone meal, and sunflower oil. This apparently cured her angina and atherosclerosis. Does this sound plausible? Should my relative who is suffering from heart disease today take this formula?

That concoction looks rather awful (!!!), but we must keep in mind that any nutritional deficiency (or nutritional "overload") can be causative in any health condition in a given individual.

For instance, too much calcium may contribute to heart disease in one person, whereas too little calcium may cause heart disease in another. (Nutritional calcium can either cure or contribute to the dysregulation of calcium metabolism.)

So even granted that the described formula actually was the instrumental factor in your grandmother's recovery - who knows, it may have pushed just enough micronutrients into her system to get excess calcium out of her blood stream, it is a mistake to assume that it would automatically benefit all individuals with heart disease.

Beyond such individual variation as discussed above, we also have to keep into account that the body is an interconnected system. This means that it is actually dangerous to treat a disease (aside from acute interventions, of course) or try to prevent it in a vacuum without considering systemic side effects - side effects, which again, could vary from person to person.

For instance, I believe that many people who go on heavy fish oil- and niacin dosages may perhaps prevent death from heart disease, but may increase their risk of dying from something else. (Pharmaceutical doses of niacin and fish oil can be toxic.)

These are some of the major reasons that I insist on doing functional analysis (such as assessing hormones, digestion, detoxification, and metabolism) of what's going on with a person, including looking at his or her health history, before recommending any type of supplement, and thereafter carefully monitoring feedback and results.

There is no inherently good or bad nutrient/formula/medication. Everything must be put into the context of the individual and the purpose at hand.

Practically speaking, most anything can rationally be tried for a limited time and then evaluated, but one must know that one's evaluation accounts for as many relevant effects as possible, and not merely consists of looking at lab results or symptoms in isolation.

(To the above conceptual points I must add that I find it hard to come up with any plausible scenario where it would make sense to feed anyone sunflower oil.)

Remember to always consult with a government approved/licensed practitioner before making any changes to diet and lifestyle. What I write here is for educational- and entertainment purposes only.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A lesson about the art of reading lab results

Toxic metals are bad. We don't want them stored in our bodies. If they are, we want to eliminate the source (e.g., amalgam fillings, environmental sources), and help the body get rid of whatever is stored.

Here are two examples of laboratory assessments of nutritional- and toxic minerals using hair samples.

My question to the reader is who (person A or B) is having the worst toxic metals problem. In each case, toxic metals are presented to the right and nutritional mineral to the left.

(Click to enlarge the images.)

Person A:

Person B:

(This person has mercury fillings.)

OK. So who has a really serious problem? Person A, with a super high cadmium reading, or person B who has a visible low mercury reading? (Let's assume that cadmium and mercury are equally disruptive to body chemistry.)

By the method that most health care practitioners read lab results, it is quite obvious that person A, with the high cadmium has the worst problem, whereas person B has an expected (due to the mercury fillings) but low elevation in mercury.

This is totally backwards. The proper reading of these charts is that person A is far better off than person B.

Why? Because person A is actually moving cadmium out of his body such it shows up in the hair. Furthermore, we have corroboration that his body is able to do this quite effectively because all of his nutritional minerals are reasonably high, hence the enzymatic processes in his body can access an ample supply of needed minerals to deal with the cadmium. (Therapeutically, we would of course advice this person to support his body further in this effort as well as eliminating any sources of cadmium.)

Person B, on the other hand is low in virtually all nutritional minerals (K, potassium can typically be ignored on this type of test).

We also know that his dental fillings should supply enough mercury for it to show much higher readings if his body had enough nutritional minerals for the task of moving it out of vital tissues. What likely happens instead that the mercury from his tooth fillings end up in his brain-, or other tissues. Bad!

So what do we do? We start working on getting person B's nutritional mineral deficiency under control.

How do we do that?

Do we recommend a multi-mineral supplement?

Possibly, but, much more importantly, we need to work on enhancing this person's digestion. Very likely he is low in stomach acid (an effect by itself of zinc deficiency and/or H Pylori infection), and/or his digestion is systemically impaired in some other way. (Why else would virtually every mineral be low.)

So we will further investigate and deal with digestive- and gut issues before moving on to the mercury itself.

It would be quite useless (if not dangerous) to target the mercury first. Doing so might just increase the amount that would wind up where he doesn't want it.

The big lesson here is that one can't just read lab results and "treat" what's "too low" or "too high" without looking at the whole picture including the person's health history. (When did your doctor ask you to fill out a 45 minute health questionnaire before interpreting your lab work?)

The risk of causing real harm is imminent when lab values are taken at face value in a vacuum of ignorance about the patient. Unfortunately this is how most health care practitioners look at lab results.

(VitalObjectives is not a healthcare provider, but a company that coaches and teaches you how to achieve whole body health from the ground up, system by system.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Readers are welcome to got to my contact page and submit questions for the blog. I will read all questions, but can't guarantee an answer personally, or on the blog. The likelihood that I will answer is quite high though, as I like answering questions more than I enjoy writing original blog articles. :)

Someone wrote in with this question: I read a number of your blog posts and got curious. Do you have a position on nootropics?

Learning about nootropics (aka "smart drugs" or brain enhancers) is actually one of the things that got me interested in health/longevity/performance-optimization in the early 90s. (My modest experimentation in that area hopefully at least didn't shorten my lifespan significantly.)

Nootropics is a very broad category of substances ranging from pure pharmaceuticals (such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and psychiatric medications etc) to plant formulations/extracts with some pharmaceutical actions (e.g., coffee and ginko biloba) to isolated amino acids and other compounds (e.g., choline, inositol, vitamin D, steroid hormones) that are available from regular food, or manufactured by the body from food.

Given how different the risk/benefit profile is for each of these items, each must be evaluated on its own merits and particularly with an eye to if it is intended to be used temporarily or chronically.

In opinion, very few (if any) qualify for sustained long term use as they invariably create imbalances or other side effects if there is no dietary or functional deficiency to begin with. (I doubt that most people are born with a genetic caffeine deficiency.)

The body can't do something out of nothing and is a finite system with finite resources. If one area of function (such as mental function) is artificially ramped up, function somewhere else will invariably have to be sized down at some point. A simple example is that drinking too much coffee may lead to exhaustion of the sympathetic side of the endocrine- and autonomic nervous systems.

In my experience, few things in the realm of brain performance beat the following basics on a long term basis:

  1. Sound nutrition: Anti inflammatory diet ("paleo"), appropriate macronutrient ratio for body-type/health-condition, vitamin/mineral supplements as needed.
  2. Sleep. (Sleep might even be #1)
  3. Restoration/maintenance of gut health (neurotransmitters are produced and/or metabolized in the gut).
  4. Restoration/maintenance of steroid hormone balance/production.

Bottom line: Make the whole body optimally functional, and the brain will be optimally functional. (This may sound a little boring for those who want quick, pragmatic tricks, but then, well, go google for "Mondo 2000 and nootropics" and you'll see what type of stuff intrigued my less mature self twenty years ago.)

On top of the lifestyle/restorative foundation sketched above, feel free to intermittently add your nootropics of choice as an occassional performance enhancer for whatever job you need to get done.

My personal favorites are L-tyrosine and caffeine when I want to boost dopamine (the "go-do-something" neurotransmitter).

A nootropic mix that I use occasionally rapidly unwind jet lag is Alpha-GPC in the morning combined with melatonin, phosphatidyl serine and magnesium chelates around bed time.

But really, a "paleo" diet + fixing up my adrenal glands is what has given me the best brain boost that I've ever experienced.

(As always, this is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Check with your government approved/licensed health care practitioner before making any changes in diet, exercise, and supplements.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

From the VO FaceBook page. (#2)

These are some recent tidbits from our FaceBook page containing my brief musings on various health related topics.

Don't be a brain in a vat!

A study confirms the VitalObjectives' approach: If you build whole-body health, disease (in this case dementia) will have no place. As one of the investigators put it: "Anything that's bad for you is ultimately bad for your brain. That's because the brain and body are intimately interconnected -- so any physical health problem can affect the cognitive organ."

In other words, don't pretend that you are a brain in a vat. Take care of your body and you will take care of your brain (which keeps that consciousness of yours alive).

The KettleBack for summer training.

The "KettleBack" from MBody Strength is perfect for bringing a kettlebell to the beach for a work out, or for weighted walks. I ended up walking 7 miles last Monday with a 35 pound kettlebell on my back. A great feature is the way the back pack's design transfers the load of the weight from the kettlebell to one's hips. (I'm not affiliated with MBody Strength, but really like this product - below is a video presentation of it.)

Be strong and live long! (Or should it just be "moderately strong"?)

This study found that having muscular strength has a remarkable correlation with reduced risk of death for virtually everyone: "When examining the relation between muscular fitness and all-cause mortality ... the moderate and high muscular fitness groups had, respectively, a 44% [!!!] and 35% [!!!] reduction in risk compared with the low muscular fitness group, after adjusting for age and sex." BOTTOM LINE: Guys and gals, train with WEIGHTS and GET STRONG!

Now, in reaction to the above, one of my intelligent readers remarked "
But maybe not very strong?". This in response to the slightly elevated risk in the strongest group compared to the moderately strong group.

This is my answer:

I think that very strong is actually what to aim for, but it needs to be done gradually, without drugs, and with an eye towards injury risks.

The slightly heightened risk for the very strong group in the study likely comes from including elite athletes (who tend to burn their candles in both ends) in the sample. Other studies made on elderly subjects show a mortality risk advantage for the strongest people."

Three leg press tips:

I like the leg press. I think that it is a safe and effective alternative to barbell squatting for many trainers. Here are three tips. (I have been leg pressing for 15 years without injury.)

Tip #1: one legged leg press saves the lower back vs using both legs, but take care to keep the back stable and pressed to the back of the seat. Also, always do the proper abdominal brace. (Google mcgill and abdominal bracing for the correct way.)

Tip #2: I avoid going really heavy with a deep knee bend on the leg press as that may stress the lower back too much. You don't want your lower back to round. (Think of a curled up fetus - that's not a look that you want to approach on the leg press machine.)

Tip #3: If your progress on the leg press stalls, try a different type of leg press machine (if available). There is a huge variation in how different machines accentuate the sticking points in each individual's biomechanics. I had to change from a newer Nautilus machine to an older model in order to keep making progress with the exercise.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Take Action! Save Your Supplements!

One of the few freedoms that we still have left in this country is our relatively unrestricted access to innovative and high quality nutritional supplements, many of which are crucial for building health and for reaching health goals.

However, this freedom is constantly under threat. The FDA and crooked politicians in collusion with various lobbyists relentlessly try to remove our ability to stay healthy through natural means, and to remove our means for escaping dependence on the flawed and expensive pharmacological "disease-care" model advocated by drug companies and agricultural lobbies.

This summer, new formidable attacks on health freedom have been mounted by Congress and the FDA, which could take away your access to supplements.

I urge you to read the following alert from "The Weston A Price Foundation", and to take prompt ACTION.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Clinical Notes: Acne Geography

These are some of my observations about where acne appears and what it may signify in terms of malfunction in the body:

Acne all over the body: Primarily "leaky gut", which may or may not be addressed by going on a paleo diet. (A more concentrated therapy may be necessary in addition.) If temporary (such as during a dietary change or the introduction of a new supplement), it is possible that the acne is because of inefficient liver detoxification (see more below).

Acne all over the face: Primarily dietary causes (typically grains, legumes, dairy). Leaky gut is very possible. In women, when the acne appears "cyclically", there is a component of hormonal imbalance (which could be dietary in origin, but more complex than in men).

Acne concentrated around the mouth: Inefficient liver detoxification. This may be because of leaky gut, poor gut flora, poor intake of nutrients supporting detoxification and elimination.

Acne concentrated to the back and/or shoulders of guys: Get the diet in order. No grains, legumes, and dairy, and it will very likely go away.

Acne or spots on front of thighs: Poor liver detoxification.

From the VO FaceBook page. (#1)

These are some recent tidbits from our FaceBook page containing my brief musings on various health related topics.

Misunderstanding the paleo diet.

There is an enormous misunderstanding about paleo diets held by scores of both proponents and detractors: That the paleo diet is about "what cavemen did". No, no, no! It is about what nature did to the cavemen. In other words, what needs to be figured out is which environmental inputs and stresses form the basis for how human physiology evolved. The answers then inform what the general dietary template for humans should be.

My new DASH shoes from Soft Star Shoes.

I still love my Original RunAmocs LITEs, but the DASH model is more stylish and feels just as great. I don't intend to ever return to wearing "normal" shoes - exceptions made for formal events. If there is one experiment that anyone with knee-, back, or even neck pain should make, it is to try bare-footing shoes for a month. Soft Star Shoes makes the best shoes in this category in my opinion. (I don't get paid to say this.)

Vitamin C as an anti-stress remedy.

Feeling overly wired after having had too much coffee? Take a 0.5-1 grams of vitamin C with flavonoids to clear out the cortisol. Same trick works for me to enhance sleep after some excessive bar hopping.

Therapeutics: The importance of "Glimpsing".

‎"Glimpsing": When a person has a day or two with higher energy, diminished symptoms, and a good mood. It doesn't matter if it doesn't last longer. It is a sign of what the person's body and mind are capable of; that nothing is irreversibly broken; that healing is possible, but that healing is a process not a single event.

Measuring health: Idiotic lab reference ranges.

Lab reference ranges: The ones that you see on your blood test are derived from either a statistical spread that includes many sick people, or recommendations from a committee of politicians and drug industry lobbyists. Wouldn't it be smarter to look at reference ranges that reflect supremely healthy people? I think so, so that's what I do. :)

Have you eaten your steak today? #1

Did you know that the body's biggest pool of anti-oxidants doesn't come from those "anti-oxidant rich" veggies touted on cable TV, but from systems that rest on the body's own anti-oxidants: uric acid and glutathione. These are made from nutrients found abundantly in.... meat and other animal products! No wonder that feel that I age backwards when I eat a steak.

Have you eaten your steak today? #2

In a recent study, the acid taurine reversed metabolic damage in rats made pre-diabetic through fructose overfeeding. The same tendency has been shown in humans. We find taurine in relevant amounts in meats and seafood. (Please don't try to get your taurine from Red Bull.)

Genetic testing? That's cool, but...

I have recommended the genetic test to have some FUN and to DEFY the coming Gov't crackdown. But, really, for health optimization, the test isn't very useful. The health hurdle for most people isn't their genes. It is the maladaptive stress and malnourishment that they subject their bodies to. Optimize your hormones, digestion, detoxification, and immune system. Then we can talk about genes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

From My Sketchbook: Why Being "Free of Symptoms" is not Enough.

Some crude sketches here, but these are points that I just feel that I have to get across because there is so much misunderstanding about what health is, and how it relates to symptoms.

The Normal (or what should be): The Body in Perfect Health.

  • Proper nourishment exceeds the body's requirements for dealing with the level of stress it faces.
  • The "homestatic pendulum" (as illustrated above) swings effortlessly and with great flexibility in response to stressors of different kinds.
  • The body is responding successfully to stress from different directions without internal resource depletion. (This is a key point.)
  • The person experiences great energy, great mental and physical function, and no persistent symptoms of any kind.
The Body in an Early Stage of Chronic Stress. (Or
what commonly passes for ”health”.)
  • Stress exceeds the incoming nourishment required to fight it.
  • The body gets increasingly stuck fighting one or more stressors without enough recuperation. Resource depletion begins to occur.
  • Homeostatic flexibility and balance are gradually lost. A common cold can make the person under the weather for days or weeks.
  • The person feels mostly OK, but something seems to be amiss…

  • The Body in a Late Stage of Chronic Stress. (This is most people past the age of 30, which drives me nuts, given the health that I know is possible.)

  • Stress continues to exceed required incoming nourishment, and resources have become depleted.
  • In one or more respects, the body is in a sustained state outside the bounds of normal homeostasis.
  • The symptomatic threshold is permanently crossed, and symptoms become persistent.
  • Symptoms begin to bother the person and/or his doctor.

  • Implications:
    1. Symptoms are the last thing to appear when the body gets out of balance. (When and how chronic symptoms occur is a matter of a person's internal resource reserves and his genetic propensities.)
    2. Being symptom free is not to be healthy. (Say after me, slowly: ”being symptom free is not to be healthy”. Once more: "being symptom free is not to be healthy!!" - Thanks!)
    3. Getting rid of overt symptoms is not enough to stop a degenerative process. (Finding and removing stressors, while restoring nourishment is the only way to do it.)
    4. Most people spend time going back and forth (usually with the help of the corner pharmacy or their doctor) between the early- and late stages of chronic stress. However, since the ratio between stressors and nourishment is never corrected, people become more and more symptomatic, and lose more and more homeostatic flexibility. Homeostatic flexibility is the hallmark of life. When it goes to zero, you are dead.
    5. So called ”health care” commonly concerns itself with returning people from the symptomatic stage to the early stage of chronic stress, but does not at all help people return to perfect health.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Amen to Aquinas's "Interior Principle"

    One of the realizations that inspired me to start VitalObjectives is that the fundamental problem with mainstream health science and practice is not that people who take their flawed advice tend to fail in the pursuit of lifelong health. A failure that presents the "choice" between a too early death by something like a heart attack, or spending decades in diapers during what should be healthy, vibrant years at the final one third of the natural human lifespan.

    These very common outcomes are tragic, and my goal is to avoid this fate myself and to help as many people as possible to do the same.

    However, the root of the problem goes much deeper than any specific flawed belief, practice or habit that can be countered by the advocacy of a better diet (such as a species appropriate template like the paleo diet), a better way to exercise, or a better way to reduce stress.

    The root of the problem with health today is about flawed philosophical beliefs about what the human body is; how it works; and how one should in principle approach the task of installing health.

    13th Century philosopher Thomas Aquinas offered the following pearl of health wisdom, which is as relevant today as it was in the 13th Century:

    Health, is caused in a sick man, sometimes by an exterior principle, namely, by the medical art; sometimes by an interior principle, as when a man is healed by the force of nature. . . . Just as nature heals a man by alteration, digestion, rejection of the matter that caused the sickness, so does [medical] art. . . . The exterior principle, art, acts not as a primary agent, but as helping the primary agent, which is the interior principle, and by furnishing it with instruments and assistance, of which the interior principle makes use in producing the effect.

    Thus the physician strengthens nature, and employs food and medicine, of which nature makes use for the intended end.

    Amen to that!

    Helping the "interior principle"; in other words helping your body do its job, is precisely what a proper, practical, scientific, and highly effective approach to health is all about.

    Furthermore, do not buy into the idea that your genes are defective, or that your body for some unfathomable reason is one that nature and evolution forgot to give the blueprint for vibrant health.

    Aquinas believed that God made the body perfect; however no such faith is necessary.

    If you have survived for so long as to be able to read this, your body, regardless of whatever health issues that you face today, can be assumed to be an excellent specimen with a strong capacity for life and health. Your body is innocent until proven guilty.

    The basic error of most of what passes for health advice today is based on precisely the opposite idea — the idea that our bodies all come with inborn deficiencies: sleeping pill deficiencies, acne cream deficiencies, statin drug deficiencies, appetite control deficiencies, anti-inflammatory drug deficiencies, etc; and that staying healthy is all about fighting the human body's inherent flaws (flaws that somehow have multiplied over the past decades) and of suppressing the body's programmed responses.

    [Editor's note: You may have noticed that most pharmaceutical drugs are described as "inhibitors" or "suppressors" — philosophically astute readers may want to call it the Augustinian approach to health, or the-hatred-of-the-body approach.]

    I say, with Tomas Aquinas (although he may have phrased it differently): To hell with this tripe!

    The proper path to health consists of working with your body, not against it.

    The general principle for doing this is simple: Give your body the nourishment that it needs, and find and eliminate stressors that harm or hinder it.

    You will be surprised by how practicing this principle across decades will build robust health from the ground up.

    Disease and health can not occupy the same space at the same time. When you work alongside your body to install health, disease, dysfunction and premature aging simply have nowhere to go but away.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Repair your gut and lose belly fat.

    Much can be said in favor of identifying a "leaky gut" (or "enhanced intestinal permeability" for those who need a scientific term) and addressing this common problem. For instance, fixing up a leaky gut is key to addressing auto-immune issues and other chronic conditions, as well as dealing with all sorts of skin problems. (I'll return to these matters in the future.)

    A less commonly toted advantage to getting one's gut health in order is that it tends to help with fat loss.

    In particular, ensuring gut integrity lets the body chew away on two types of belly fat: visceral fat tissue (the dangerous fat behind the abdominal musculature that's embedded around organs), and subcutaneous belly fat (if you are able to grab a skin fold around your navel, you know what I'm talking about).

    One of the mechanisms by which getting one's gut in order helps with these pesky fat depots is the reduction of stress hormones.

    When a person has a leaky gut, a meal may trigger an immune reaction which is perceived by the body as a stress to which it reacts through secreting the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

    The hormone cortisol contributes to elevated blood sugars and to insulin resistance which both lead to fat accumulation, particularly in visceral fat tissues.

    Adrenaline is actually a hormone that helps with accessing fat for use as energy, however if one's adrenaline secretion is kept chronically high, the fat tissue seems to become deaf to the signal, and will not as readily release stored fat in response to adrenaline. (This is called "adrenaline resistance".)

    After one has successfully addressed a leaky gut, the body's overall immune - and stress responses go down, and the fat may then be released from storage.

    I just lost a slightly unbecoming bulge of fat on my tummy over a couple of weeks of doing a gut repair protocol. Overall, I lost a couple of percentage points of body fat, and my abs are saying "hello world"!

    It's not only about vanity - I promise I feel truly great too! And this, of course, in turn will make for even less stress hormones - a virtuous spiral in place.

    The foundations to repairing a leaky gut are:

    • Eliminating grains, legumes, and possibly dairy.
    • Eliminating foods that may cause an enhanced inflammatory response. (These tend to be the foods that you've eaten a lot of under stress.) An MRT test, which I can help you get access to, is a valuable tool for quickly identifying these foods. One could also simply eat entirely different foods from what one is used to, and rotate between them.
    • De-stressing and keeping cortisol down when it should be down. (I currently use phosphatidyl serine and magnesium in the evenings to keep my cortisol down.)

    An advanced protocol would also consist of:
    • Supplements such as L-Glutamine and various botanical products. (I tailor these to each individual client depending on several factors, including current food sensitivities.)
    • Quality probiotics containing a number of different strains. (Again, types and sequence may differ depending on the person's issues.)
    • Getting rid of intestinal bacterial infections and parasites. In my case, I needed to kill an H Pylori infection. I did that through taking a blend of anti-bacterial herbs.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Vital Premises

    I have done a lot of thinking over the past year about how to define a proper framework for understanding the human body and how to deal with it in health and disease. I have looked into the Hippocratic writings; I have read and listened to materials about subjects such as evolutionary medicine, and functional medicine. I have had the opportunity to listen in on what a wide range of practitioners who adhere to different modalities and philosophies have to say.

    A strong conviction that has been reinforced through my studies is that it doesn't matter how much technology, money, time and effort that we throw on health care (or just trying to be healthy) if we don't have certain basic premises right.

    Interestingly the debate about the basic premises of health and medicine go back thousands of years, and is coming to an important inflection point right now as evolutionary thinking is applied across all the domains of biology, including (100+ years after Darwin) human health.

    Here are some of the basic defining premises that govern what we do at VitalObjectives:

    1) The human body is perfect. That is, your body can be assumed to be perfectly able to heal itself and stay healthy when exposed to the right environment, including the correct types and levels of exposure to stressors and intakes of nutrients. (The burden of proof lies on those who propose that chronic disease, premature aging, physical- and mental suffering, and unhappiness, are normal states of the human condition - we don't believe that they are.)

    2) All disease and dysfunction stem from the presence of external- or internal stressors and/or mal-nourishment which hinder the body in its perpetual strive for self-maintenance.

    3) Health, function, beauty and longevity result from the body's successful strive for self-maintenance, which is enabled by the absence of pathogenic stressors, and the presence of appropriate nourishment.

    3) VitalObjectives looks for root causes. Symptoms are merely clues to functional imbalances caused by external or internal stressors or the absence of appropriate nourishment. Symptoms generally represent the body's attempts at curing itself. (Many medicines and remedies that focus on symptoms attack the body's own curative actions while leaving root causes untouched - VitalObjectives opposes this approach on ethical and practical grounds.)

    4) The person who wants to achieve and maintain health must find and eliminate external and internal stressors and provide appropriate nourishment to the body through protocols and regimen.

    5) A protocol is an intensified nutritional program designed to safely restore normal function in the body as fast as possible. A protocol is attached to a time limit and objective criteria for evaluating success.

    6) A regimen is one's daily practices that support the body in maintaining balance and health.

    7) VitalObjectives helps clients find external and internal stressors, define and implement effective protocols to restore health as well as designing and implementing a personalized, and sustainable regimen that maintains health.

    8) VitalObjectives works with clients who value their health as a highly prized possession and their bodies as works of art (albeit works in progress). Our job is to make the process practical, enjoyable, and affordable, yet with a stern eye at the objective reality revealed by the person's health complaints, health history and laboratory test results.

    9) VitalObjectives doesn't pretend that achieving health requires little investment in effort, time, or money, or that health mustn't at times be made one's top priority. We lend our vocational skills, experience, and other lessons learned, to helping clients make the best possible choices in regard to health in the short term and in the long term.

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