Thursday, January 27, 2011

Maybe its the attitude - not the action - that creates negativity around medical staff

I normally have a very good relationship with medical staff. I put it down to four things:
  • Firstly I try to be nice / kind / thoughtful. In my mind even if you are in pain you shouldn't be rude or obnoxious. And any person who is prepared to train for years, then work in the middle of the night has got my respect!
  • Secondly if I am interacting with a medical person it is because I want their help. Whether this be a stitch in my head cause I didn't think through my actions assembling a steel shelving set, or wanting my wife taken care of, whatever the reason I want them to give me their best information and make the best decision so I am on my best behavior! 
  • Thirdly I very quickly try an establish a professional rip-poor (sp?). With out trying to be a know it all, I can hold an intelligent conversation on most medical things and if I am with another person I interpret the medical persons jargon into something that my kids or wife can understand. So they quickly see me as a knowledgeable customer so treat me more of an equal than a bleb
  • Lastly I ask lots of questions. Part of this is my natural inbuilt curiosity, I want to know how every widget works, and why things are done the way they are. I do try not to be annoying ! and most of the time I succeed. Most professionals love to show of their knowledge to a inquisitive audience. 
So I have a positive view of the people who work in our "health" system and at the same time I am applauded by the so called "health" system, which is my mind is more of a death and illness system.

When people find I work in the complementary medical space out comes their story. Normally the story revolved around some medical screw up or some medical person who didn't really do the right thing. I personally haven't had many horror stories. I could tell you about the surgeon who put in my chest drain. He had never done the op before, and he should have been supervised, but he wasn't. I choose to look at the fact on Thursday night of the Easter weekend some young guy was on hand to save my life (my lung had completely collapsed, and very high risk of making other lung collapse. If this happened I wouldn't been able to get oxygen into my blood and there is not much that can be done to help!!!). Or when I get told off by the young hospital doctor for reading my notes - I think poor person being that hemmed in by the rules - so laugh it off and keep on I guess that I  tend to look on the bright side of the situation.

Therefore it was very surprising that I had a interaction with a doctor, and to some degree a pharmacist, which left a very bad taste in my mouth. I currently take a rather high dose of a calmative (is that a word?) called amitriptyline to get to, and stay, asleep. It is habit forming with sever withdrawal effects also the long term effects are now well known. Therefore I am keen to get off this medication as quickly as possible without kicking the withdraw symptoms.

I was originally taking 2x 50 mg tablets + 2x 10mg tablets. I dropped the 10 mg tablets, about 6 weeks apart and was down to 2x 50mg without any issues. However replacing a 50mg tablet with 5x 10mg tablets resulted in very poor sleep. So last week when I saw my doctor for a prescription we discussed this. We agreed that it didn't make sense. However there were 25mg tablets that I could try and if I was to change something wait 2 weeks before saying it doesn't work.

So when I picked up the prescription from a pharmacist who doesn't normally do my scripts, he gave me 4x 25mg tablets per night instead of the 2x 50mg. I was somewhat surprised as I thought we had just talked about making a change and we were not going to go the whole hog so to speak. Well after 10 days of not sleeping at all well and becoming suicidal (not terribly uncommon for me) that I had tried the 25mg and needed to go back to 50mg.

Normal doctor was away, so had a locum. Firstly it turned out that the pharmacist didn't have any 50mg in stock so just substituted them without telling me. Given that this script had two types antidepressant (amitrip is a type of antidepressant) I would have thought that it would have least been mentioned. However I'm sure it was a genuine mistake (well I hope so)

But what really got up my nose was the attitude of the doctor/locum. She called the pharmacist who said he could get some in withing 3 working days. So the doctor said that the different med's could be here by 3 days and "it wasn't going to kill me" if I waited the 3 days. I thought hold on - I'm suicidal (I hadn't actually told the doctor this as just wanted a simple change) - I might not last 3 days. I didn't say it - cause I didn't want to speak that over my life !!!!

Then after this little issue she went on to become very condescending about the fact that a change from 2x 50 to 4x 25 shouldn't had made any difference. That it was "all in my head" and I was being neurotic. She didn't exactly say those words but is was very firmly communicated. I new that the change shouldn't have made a difference - except it does - and consistently does. Felt very undervalued, treated like a silly child. It really made me mad......... and  afterward I wondered if this is how  some medical people can treat general public - I was unshaven, in non work clothes, in a small rural town, so assumption probably was that I was just some uneducated plebling.

No wonder then people have these stories about not being listened to. I know understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of a medical person who treats you like a little kid and not the adult you are. So next time someone tells me a story I will likely have a bit more empathy - although I don't really like hearing about your negative experiences - tell me about your overcoming ones, the positive end result !  

 Postscript got my 50mg tablets, slept much better, mental health much better :)

Great study on mum's and fish oils - a piece of the puzzle

Eat more fish !
Every now and then a very well thought out study is undertaken. A excellent study on fish oils has just been published. To looked to determine what is the steady state level of fish oils in mum's blood cells after child birth. What happens in mums is that when breast feeding she pumps her milk full of DHA, cause it is important for babies brain development. Thus the mother can become at risk for PND, and other issues, due to her lower DHA levels. What is really intriguing is that mum's who don't breast feed, still have the DHA transported out of her cells and into her blood before disappearing. So if you think that not breast feeding would reduce PND due to more DHA oils in mum's body you are wrong!

So the question would be - what level of fish oil / DHA does mum need to consume so that her cells still have optimal supplies of DHA. Thus reducing risk of PND, heart disease etc.

Before this question can be answered. The more basic question needs to be answered. What is the optimal fish oil / DHA levels in mum's cells. To find the answer to this the study looked at mum's fish oil / DHA levels in her red blood cells. They found when the DHA levels were 8% of the total fatty acids in the red blood cells that this was a steady state. What this means is that if you had any more fish oils your body wouldn't use them, as you already have enough.

The next question is what fish oil intake creates this 8% level? We don't know. The study was a population study in Ghana were some populations have a very high level of fresh water fish, hence they have an oversupply (if there is such a thing) of fish oils in their diet. Also just at birth mum's had a DHA level of 7.1 - 7.2 %. So this should be the target for mum's who are pregnant.

However now it should be possible to have a blood test and measure the DHA levels in your red blood cells. If you are a mum pre or post birth, or breast feeding your DHA levels should be 8%, if not then you need more fish oil / DHA. Unfortunately I have looked up my (now outdated) medlab handbook of all the blood tests they do. I couldn't find any test for measuring any fatty acids. In North America they can do the test so if you are serious it is highly likely you can get a sample processed.......

I love studies should as this. A conclusion based upon facts and data which should give the ordainary person in time a test to determine if they need more fish oil / DHA in our diet (which at this stage just assume you do if you have a western diet).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

False advertising in food

Today we rejoined as a family. To help celebrate we had a cold slushy, in the shade..... very yummy and cold. Today's offerings was bright blue, being some kind of tropical flavor and bright yellow being pineapple. Nutritionally unsound - absolutely. A time of celebration and enjoying the moment - absolutely.

However on exciting the store I noticed they had a sign up saying Real Fruit Slushy(s), and this was overlaid on top of a picture of assorted berries. My logic tells me that there was not a shred of fruit or nutrients in the slushes - ok maybe a bit of apple juice, or some other token and cheap juice. To me it is blatant false advertising..... trying to make something that isn't healthy into something you could count as healthy. I personally think this should be illegal....  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Zinc and miscarriage/prem birth

I have already discussed the tantalizing hint that zinc could be associated with the ability to be pregnant and the impact of zinc intake on labor. Well today's post focuses on the link between zinc levels and miscarriage/premature birth.

Zinc seems to be a wonder nutrient involved in all sorts of processes inside the body. It is well known that in animals low zinc levels can cause pregnancy complications. However the question is can we infer from these animal studies that zinc is important for human conception, carrying and birth. We can only infer such things as it wouldn't be ethical to put women on a low zinc diet to see what happened to their fertility and of  spring!

Guinea pigs are a test animal that can give us insight into human nutrition and effects. What a study done 20 years ago investigated effect of low zinc levels on carrying babies. What they found was that guinea pigs who had low levels of zinc in the diet either miscarriaged or have premature birth.      

The logical question is what should we now eat..... well due to a number of factors (read my book) we really have no idea about zinc levels in our food. I would recommend a good multi (surprise!).

Now given that this study is 20 years old (I sometimes look at journals that are a in multiplies of 10 years old) and that we have fertility issues in the Western world, one would expect a quick pubmed search would through up some studies that further extend this work. What I found was:
  • A 1994 paper concluded "In a recent Zn supplementation trial, 1 of 248 Zn-supplemented women spontaneously aborted, compared with 5 of 249 women given a placebo (Mahomed et al, 1989). However, enrolment in the study at < 20 weeks of gestation appeared to be well after conception and the period of greatest risk of fetal loss". So here we have further data to support the study discussed above that zinc levels are important to carrying to full term that is 20 years old
  • Another paper published in 1993 quoting at length "zinc therapy in identified low-zinc groups has given favorable results and has reduced the frequencies of premature birth, placental ablation, perinatal death, and postmaturity. It is suggested, as we did in 1980, that these data are compatible with the presence of a zinc-deficiency syndrome in pregnancy, which includes increased maternal morbidity, abnormal taste sensations, abnormally short or prolonged gestations, inefficient labor, atonic bleeding, and increased risks to the fetus such as malformations, growth retardation, prematurity, postmaturity, and perinatal death" (emphasis added) So what this all means is that low zinc levels are bad in pregnancy. They state that "fasting serum or plasma samples or the more laborious estimation of zinc in leucocytes or monocytes if sampling and handling is carefully performed"
This makes my blood boil ! What this means is 30 years ago researches began to see that human zinc status could be important in carrying babies to full term. Then 20 years ago this hypothesis was well confirmed with animal studies and human studies. I ask you this question - do you know anybody who had trouble with miscarriages or carrying babies full term? The odds are you do, as this seems to be a common problem, and likely more prevalent as it is a painful and personal issue, not one that is badgered about the office in ideal chit chat.

So these people that have trouble carrying to full term - have their doctor or medical person tested their blood for zinc levels? NO I think not - well none I know of...... yet this is old science. The lack of understanding about nutrition in the medical field is disturbing (BTW I really respect doctors and medical people as they have worked their butts off to get were they are. My beef is with the system that stops information such as above reaching the right people!).     

Monday, January 24, 2011

An organic / permaculture solution to kikuyu grass

My latest you-tube video about a possible solution to kikuyu grass invading gardens.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Calcium RDI for men increased by 100mg

In my book I talk about the time lag between research, medical personal becoming aware of the change and the general population becoming aware of the change. Although via electronic media this time lag as shortened because research can now be communicated directly to the public. However I suspect the delay is now measured in years instead of decades.

Another point is that the RDI are not set in concrete and that as we uncover more of how the body works the RDI's increase.

This is what has occurred with calcium intake for men. A paper coming out in February undertook two activities. Firstly they reviewed and analyzed high quality research already published about how much calcium was lost daily from the body. This is mainly in urine as we pee it out to help balance out the sulfuric acid and urea that comes out in the urine.

Secondly the paper then estimated the loss of calcium via the skin. I am currently unsure why this was so important. Maybe it is losses through sweat, or via skin cells. Either way they did some rather robust calculations.

Their conclusion: That the calcium RDI should be 900 mg a day for men (>18 years and < 60 years). Now the current RDI is 800 mg. Therefore the calcium RDI should be increased by 100 mg. If you are reading this post you now more likely know more than your health care providers about the calcium RDI !   

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Liquid soaps ingredients: The secret to low allergen personal care items

Have you ever wondered what your liquid soaps ingredient list actually meant? I have! A friend on facebook asked me about a particular soap as it is the only liquid soap that makes his daughter eczema disappear! So here was my analysis of the top ingredients:

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (also known as SDS) = surfactant (soap) compound. Used as standard soap ingredient in nearly all soaps/shampoos. However it can be quite harsh - I used it at relatively low concentration for a series of experiments. I didn't use gloves cause it isn't "nasty" in the chemical sense. However after a day to touching this stuff all the time the oils in my hands were stripped out and I got dermatitis all over my hands (used gloves after this). So very interested that product has this as number one ingredient. I would have thought that the low allergen products had used another chemical as the soap.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This is interesting chemical made from coconut oil. It is added to soaps to "reduce irritation purely ionic surfactants cause". In everyday speak this chemical reduces the irritation of SDS (the above chemical).

Cocamide DEA. This creates foam. People equate foam = clean/product working. No really need to have it at all. It is however again made from coconut oil and is a known irritant. So as 3rd ingredient I find it intriguing that the soap doesn't cause irritation (I suspect low irritation soaps don't have this in them?)

Glycol Distearate. This holds the fatty parts of soap in solution so don't get settling out of the ingredients in the bottle (known as emulsifier)

Sodium Chloride = salt. This is very common ingredient in liquid soaps to increase viscosity. It also prevents other chemicals coming out of solution at lower temperatures (kind of like when you put olive oil in fridge, thus adding salt lower the temperature that the chemicals will solidify at)

Carbomer thicker / emulsifier the same as PEG-150 Distearate.

Parfum = fancy name for perfume / chemical smells good.

The next on the list is Disodium EDTA. EDTA is a very potent anti bacterial agent. Basically it keep the product sterile so nothing grows in it! Soap is a very good food for bacteria/mold etc. However EDTA is very poisons and is added in very low concentration. Therefore I will stop here as we are getting down to lower concentrations which are likely not to be the source of the problem/solution to problem

So in summary I would say the high level of Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CB) is the secret to having a low irritant soap. Would be interested in any feedback on what products people have found to be low allergen and what there ingredients are.    

Monday, January 17, 2011

A colorful dinner

Last week we had a very colorful dinner, Tiffany pointed out that I had grown everything except the meat. So I got a picture for you'll. We don't eat like this every night, but when we do eat right, we get it pretty good.

I'll give a brief comment about each item, started at top (12) and working clockwise:
  • Cucumber. I don't like the taste. However noticed that if I grow a vegetable more likely to eat it because I loathe blood sweat and tears (ok over dramatic) going to waste. So I planted cucumber for the first time in years.... and found that I can [mostly] eat it. 
  • Cherry tomatoes. As previously mentioned on this blog cherry tomatoes have higher nutrient density than ordinary tomatoes as they have more sunlight per unit volume. This year I planted red, yellow and purple cherry tomatoes to get the range of colors
  • Radish. This is a heirloom variety that is purple instead of red. You can purchase (and we have done a few times this summer) red radishes in supermarket so try and grow colors you can't purchase
  • Salad greens. I wasn't going to plant any lettuce because my rational was, lets purchase lettuce from supermarket and I will provide the color/extras. However we were not purchasing/eating many salads cause lettuces were expensive due to the drought and we were not in the habit of purchasing lettuces. Therefore I planted more lettuces and it was a good move. Salad also contains beetroot leaves, mustard greens, cress and new growth of rainbow beets 
  • Maori potatoes. These are purple all the way through, so we actually get nutrients with our potatoes! I have tired growing these for two years. Not had much success. These need a long growing season and I'm not that good at it. However I have since discovered that a "normal" potato (ie round and easier to grow) that is purple has been developed by Crop and Food (?) recently. I saw the seed purple potato "seeds" for sale in Hamilton this year and will make a move to this next year. Generally speaking we don't often have potato as we don't need the starch, but it is a comfort food for us.... 
  • NZ free range lamb (which all our lamb is). 
The only obvious improvement is larger portion sizes of the salad/tomato area. This year my garden hasn't been as productive as I am breaking in a new section of soil. This is an area which needs lots of remediation so nutrients are low, thus not have flood of vege's like we would normally have at this time of year.

PS Yes it is a star plate! Tiffany was having it as she had just completed a weeks work.   

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Increased sulfur in soil increases nutritional properties of cabbage, broccoli and radish

The goodness of these cabbage depends on sulfur levels in the soil
Cabbage, broccoli and radish all belong to the cruciferous family. This family is known for a distinctive class of plant compounds that are miracle workers, being antioxidants, anti cancer etc. These properties come from the sulfur compounds in the plants called glucosinolates. It is said that it is these compounds that give broccoli and other cabbage type foods the sulfur type smell on cooking. I say that "it is said" because I can't smell sulfur type smell when they are cooked and I would consider myself having a sensitive sense of smell.....

Now sulfur is an essential element so this means that growers are unlikely to supplement with sulfur as typically it wouldn't increase plant yields. However an important question would be: If the level of sulfur in the soil is increased, would the glucosinolates increase?  

The answer is yes - increasing the sulfur levels increases the glucosinolates in cabbage, broccoli and radishes (only these three were investigated in the study.)The results were "60 kg/ha, a 2–5-fold increases in total glucosinolates contents in the sprouts were observed" So clearly adding sulfur to your garden is a very good idea!!!

Converting this to a practical measure..... 60kg/ha is 6 g/m^2, so look at your trace element mix and from the percentage you can calculate how much you should add (or contact me if you have issues calculating it). The other common produce used that increases the sulfur level is gypsum. According to NZ'ers supply of gypsum sulfur is 18% of the product. Therefore you need to add 33 grams of gypsum per meter squared.

Of course you know how much your supply of cruciferous vegetables added to their fields..... no ???! Sorry couldn't help the sarcastic comment, my dig at the mythical healthy diet, that it you have no idea the level of glucosinolates on the produce you purchase. I am going to purchase some gypsum, and add it to my vege patch!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Soil creation is simple and easy

This is a short video about how simple it is to create lush and healthy soil. In digging out my hole for my mushroom project (more on that later) there was as great soil profile exposed that showed how much soil we have created in less than 3 years. Was very impressed ! Mulch was cardboard with wood/leaf chips. The mulch would have been replenished only once since garden creation. I am very generous with mulch as it suppresses weeds so makes gardening easy and simple. The rest of the soil would have been build up by fallen lemon balm and lemon grass leaves...... enjoy

Surprise - poisons are bad for you !

NZ Herald has an article today discussing that painkillers are bad for your health. Drugs are poisons, true drugs can world "miracles" and there can be many benefits from taking the right medication. However this does not negate the fact that drugs are poisons, toxins that the body must get ride of.

Therefore it shouldn't be a surprise that long term drug [poison] use increases probability of illness. In this case long term use of pain killers increases chance of stroke or heart disease. The pain killers were non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAID] which include ibuprofen among others. However it doesn't include paracetamol or voltaren. Given that stroke and heart disease are caused by oxidative stress, on could conclude that these drugs increase the oxidative stress on the body. Therefore you should increase your intake of antioxidants if taking these drugs. Buy how much is of course difficult to determine! 

Pain is a sign that the body isn't well. The way to heal the body, long term, is to heal the body by supplying it with the appropriate nutrients allowing it to self heal (unless the damage has become permanent). So by all means take the drugs, but explore other options as to why the pain exists and what changes you can make to allow your body to heal.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not all heritage foods are nutritious: Case in point pickled walnuts

Green walnuts perfect for pickling
It is wonderful to see cottage industries supplying farmer markets and a insurgence of small local business producing products that can't be easily found in a supermarket (or taste nothing like they should in the supermarket). However we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking just because it was eaten in times passed that it is nutritious. Not all heritage foods are nutritious! This post is about my experiment with pickled walnuts. They are a traditional English food, and I have been trying to make them for years. However you only have a small window of opportunity, between when the walnuts are reasonable size, and when the shell starts to toughen up. If you can't poke a needle through them, they have gone "passed it" when it comes to pickling them. I normally only see walnuts in late spring/early summer by which time they are to hard. This year while out walking I went past a walnut tree, noticed the fruit and to my delight they were still soft on the inside.
Walnuts after brine-ing ready for drying/pickling

I followed a combination of two recipes (A and B). You first have to get the high tannins out (like acorns, and why you can make wine from the young walnuts leaves). You do this by soaking them in salty water for 10 -14 days. Then you dry / blacken them in the sunlight. After this you pickle them like you would any other vegetable.

Opened my mine the other day - it is still early days and they need a few more weeks in the pickling solution before they are pickled through, and like a few months until they are in their prime. However I was struck by the fact I was eating a mushy olive, without any of the nutrition of an olive. They are black, quite processed and I am not sure if they have any real nutrition left. The only thing could be some omega 3's or 6's that are found in the walnuts. However I am not holding by breath....... conclusion pickled walnuts might be a heritage food but I will not be making them again as it would appear that they are not at all nutritious.

A pickled walnut cut in half, with normal walnuts in background
Picture credits: Cevenol Kitchen for green walnuts, The Cottage Smallholding for the picture of brined walnuts ready for drying or pickling. A Taste of Sovoie for finished product.         

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to find real food at the supermarket

Thanks to Summer Tomato for posting this.

Mothers taking omega 3 oils make their breast milk higher in omega 3's.

Clearly mothers diet has an impact on their breast milk. This is important because so much body development happens in the first few months of life. Secondly breast milk should be the exclusive thing past babies lips for the first 6 months of life.

This placebo double blind (this means very good) study gave expectant mums "400 mg DHA or placebo from 18–22 wk gestation to parturition[birth]." They analyzed the breast milk at 1 month after baby was born. They found that the supplement group have significantly increased DHA (a good omega 3 fat).

This shows (a) that supplementation of diet with DHA (found in fish oils) increased the DHA that baby can use for its brain development. (b) that the fat metabolism is much longer than that of say a water soluble vitamin. Stopping the supplementation at birth there was still a significant effect on the breast milk composition at day 30. Therefore the DHA was "hanging around" in mum's body for at least 30 days, if not longer 

Monday, January 10, 2011

horse radish sauce success

Feeling very pleased with myself, my second go at horse radish sauce is a success! I tried last year, but (a) made to much and (b) didn't puree the horse radish enough. This left a woody/chunky/rooty feel to the sauce. The smell wasn't all that great either.

However I did replant the horse radish (it self divides/multiplies) that I didn't use (and once I killed the snails they quickly regrew). So felt like another go today. Used this recipe which suggested blending the rood to make the sauce. This worked very well. Also I used roots that were quite thin - so they were fresh and not to woody - I thought that I wasn't going to make enough, but a few thin roots produces more than enough. Have a white thin paste with quite a kick.  I will "store" the other horse radish in the soil and pull it periodically when I need to make the sauce. This solves my huge harvest in late autumn.....

I had never heard of horse radish sauce until I purchased a horse radish plant (see cartoon to left). Best description are parsnips that taste like wasabi.

horse radish sauce

Natural is better than synthetic

I am a firm believer in supplementation, and I am a firm believer of a high nutrient diet. As I say "supplement like you are not eating and eat like you are not supplementing"

Therefore it is not surprising that a study has shown that obtaining vitamin C from a natural source (in this case kiwifruit) gives five times the tissue concentration as the same level of vitamin C from a pure ascorbic acid tablet

I alluded to this in my book but there was very little published evidence to prove that this was the case. Once I obtain the full paper and digest it I will post again with further details.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Exciting changes in this blog

After a blogging sabbatical it is with great excitement that this blog announces some changes for 2011. In the past I have focused solely on research. Going forward the research focus with be complemented with my personal journey to live a healthy lifestyle, specifically focusing around the fruits and vegetables that I grow and other more "novel" foods that I might be experimenting with.

Hope that you will join me for the journey !