Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Taking Control of Your Health

Health is such a huge topic, easily zillions of blog posts.  So many aspects to health.  I write about my own experiments with nutrition and exercise and my own health on this blog but today's focus is about the importance of taking control of your own health and steps you can take to do it.  And by that I mean doing research whether it's going to and reading studies or watching lectures on YouTube or reading blogs and books.  Such a wealth of information out there.  Too much information out there.  How do you know what to believe?  I'm pretty sure those folks telling us to eat 30 bananas a day are off their heads but what about the rest of the information out there?  And no I'm not making it up about the 30 bananas a day.  I so wish I was.

Then there's that study that shows that we believe studies and research that support our beliefs and reject those that don't.  So there's that.

So many questions regarding health and so few good, solid scientifically backed answers.  Health and nutrition science and research is appalling, that topic alone could be a nice meaty blog post.  Part of the problem is the sheer number of studies being funded by the food industry and their lackeys.  Such a powerful lobby.  Scary powerful.  The mere mention of Monsanto raises the hairs on the back of my neck.  Just ask Vani Hari, the Food Babe, who fights the food industry.  She gets death threats on a daily basis.  Death threats.  Such a big scary wealthy powerful industry.  And there's the problem of how difficult and expensive it is to run a truly good study.  Many of them rely on people self-reporting what they ate and that right there is a problem.  A long term study that confines people to a metabolic ward and strictly controls their diet is hugely expensive and problematic.  And probably reductionist.  The human body is not so much a system as it is a system of systems.  Hard to get the science right.  Is it accurate to isolate certain things like diet and exercise without looking at other things like exposure to environmental toxins, stress levels and the way people cope with them, emotional well being, and of course the gut microbiome?

Ah the mighty gut microbiome.  It's what all the cool kids are talking about these days.  Hundreds of trillions of bacteria living in our gut.  The implications to health and nutrition are staggering never mind the existential crisis of are we humans carting around a gut full of bacteria or are the bacteria carting around a sack full of human skin and bones?  Who's really running the show?  Do the answers to treating obesity and chronic diseases and dementia lie in the gut?  So much we don't know.

But as humans living more in a zoo than a natural environment we need to be aware of these things, we need to try to understand all we can about the food we eat, the types of exercise and activities we do, the ways we manage stress and emotions.  All of these things have a profound effect on our health and well being and the approach of going to the doctor and taking a pill for every possible malady with little or no changes to lifestyle is failing.  Miserably.  And I'm not at all anti-drug/modern medicine.  I take a prescription drug to treat the symptoms of a chronic condition and it works beautifully for me, so far.  The drug even helps prevent certain cancers (though may make me susceptible to others).  It has given me my life back.  Some of my lifestyle changes have made the condition far less severe and easier to deal with but I experimented with going off the drug last month and it didn't go well.  Drugs have their place.  Some drugs keep people alive.  But they aren't the answer to many chronic conditions and often make the conditions worse, especially if people continue with the unhealthy lifestyle choices that have brought the condition about in the first place.  It takes 17 years for research to make its way to the doctor's office.  Do you have 17 years to wait for the doctors to change their outdated advice and protocols?  The other day I learned that the brain degeneration that leads to Alzheimer's/dementia starts in your twenties and thirties.  The cupcakes and pizza you eat as a 25 year old make a huge difference to your future health.  I wish I knew back then what I know now about Alzheimer's and diet.  Hopefully at 50 it's not too late to turn things around.

So whatever health issue you struggle with I urge you to do your own research, be your own advocate, question your doctor, don't just let him or her give you the latest drug, pat you on the ass and send you on your way.  Experiment with things, figure out what works for you.  Functional medicine is a great place to start for chronic health conditions, weight loss, hormone issues.  Getting your nutrition right is crucial.  If what you're doing isn't working, question what you think you know about nutrition.  Is 'Calories In = Calories Out' a realistic, effective strategy for weight loss?  Is saturated fat bad for you?  Is fruit juice good for you?  Get your Google and your YouTube on.  Sometimes moderation isn't always the answer.  This is a great lecture by Denise Minger who shows that the research seems to point to life on the extremes of diet being the best.  Or at least our current perception of what is extreme.  Despite the title of the video this is not promoting veganism, it was a talk given at a paleo conference.  I'm not a vegan myself.  But I found some of these research reports fascinating.

Question, research, be your own advocate and keep an open mind.  But not so open that you let the 30 Bananas a Day people in because Yikes. Most important of all don't just sit there, get off your butt, realize that you need to make some changes.  It's not enough to figure out what changes you need to make, you have to actually make the changes.  And keep them.  Not just for a week or a month but forever.  Or at least until you decide to experiment with something else.  Maybe veganism is just the thing to help turn your heart disease around but once you're healthy again you can add meat and dairy back in, like Clinton did.

Here are some of my favorite voices out there.  I encourage you to go find yours.

Peter Attia, M.D., The Eating Academy (by far my favorite voice out there)

David Perlmutter, M.D., neurologist and author of 'Grain Brain'

Sara Gottfried, M.D., everything you ever wanted to know about hacking your hormones

Tom O'Bryan, everything you ever wanted to know about gluten

Alesio Fasano, M.D., the godfather of gluten

Jeff Volek, PhD and Stephen Phinney, PhD, kings of ketosis for health and performance

Dominic D'Agostino, PhD, using ketosis to help treat cancer

Denise Minger, a journalist but I love how she digests research

Nina Teicholz, author of 'The Big Fat Surprise'

Stephan Guyenet, PhD, obesity researcher, great blog that dissects current research on nutrition

Some fun Podcasts on health and nutrition

Fat Burning Man

Bulletproof Radio 

IHMC- Not a podcast but they have some great video lectures on health

A great resource for finding out what is in your food, shampoo, and other consumer products is the Environmental Working Group.  Asstons of great information on that site, definitely worth a click.

Everything I've said here goes for dog health and nutrition as well.  I'm a big fan of real, whole foods for dogs.  Not a fan of kibble, especially grain free kibble for the same reason I'm not a fan of gluten free processed food.  First of all its processed food and second of all, the binders that they use instead of grain/gluten are usually cheaper, worse quality, more unhealthy stuff than the grains and gluten.  Read the labels, do the research, know what's in their food and yours.  The quality of our lives depends on it.

This post is a part of Dog Agility Blog Event Day.  To read more posts on the topic of 'Health and Well Being' click here.


  1. Wow, the resources in this post--amazingly useful. Of course it helps that all the exploration/thinking I've been doing lately resonates perfectly with what you've said. ;> Thanks!

  2. Glad the resources are helpful. I have a ton more but didn't want to overwhelm everybody.

  3. So I've been thinking about the banana thing for weeks. And I probably have the wrong concerns. It would be so embarrassing to be buying that many bananas. I know the employees would take notice. Would you buy them by the case? If you aren't going every day, you would have to buy 60 or 90+ per trip. Would that fill a whole shopping cart? How would store a 3 day supply of bananas in your house? I've been estimating/roughly counting the bananas on display at the grocery and it really does seem like you would need to be asking for cases, otherwise you're taking out most of the display, even at a larger grocery (if buying a 2-3 day supply). I can't stop thinking about it!

  4. I know, it's fascinating isn't it? I have seen them do videos of the asstons of other fruit that they buy and yeah, they get huge boxes of dates, figs or whatever. It's both fascinating and disturbing. And never mind what it must smell like at their house.

  5. Though to be perfectly honest I think the whole thing is a marketing scam. I can't believe they eat what they say they eat and are still alive. And of course there's no way to prove it either way so they can get away with saying whatever they want. I just feel bad for all the people who've gotten sick, gained weight, etc. trying to follow their wacky diet.

  6. Marketing scam by the people advising this (which I would guess are just... people, not like..."the world banana growers association"?)?

    Well - when I hear about dogs on odd diets ...they can survive on some pretty odd things.... and "adequate" and "optimal" are two different types of diet.

  7. The couple promoting this diet are 'health coaches' and militant vegans/fruitatarians. The woman has a diet book out. They put out YouTube videos with provocative titles like, 'Why I Hate Fat People' or ' So and so is suing me', etc. and the woman wears skimpy clothes - your basic click bait. And it works. Their videos get views in the hundreds of thousands compared to maybe 10,000 views for other more legitimate health/diet related type videos. The videos themselves are pretty boring - long-winded rants and footage of them showing off their abs with little actual content. They get loads of clicks and attention and I suppose this translates into coaching clients because the videos keep coming. I'll occasionally see videos of people who've gained weight and/or had their health seriously damaged by these folks ( ) but even more remarkable are the folks who've gained large amounts of weight yet still defend them. It's a cult for sure and if you look at the comments of the video I posted you see what happens when you leave the cult.

    There are a couple of studies of diets - the A to Z study and its follow-up - that show that only about 25% of the population can tolerate a high carb diet and this was looking at high carb/low fat Ornish type diet not high fruit which will be even higher in sugar and more imbalanced. There may be outliers who can tolerate this diet but for the majority of people it can range from unhealthy to disastrous. And I do question whether these folks promoting it are actually following it or whether they've found a way to stand out from the over saturated health/fitness market. So many desperate, vulnerable folks out there who've tried everything and are looking for a miracle, I can see how it would be easy to suck them in and brainwash them.