Measles: Get A Grip

Mrs. Brady's homegrown vaccination card

Mrs. Brady’s homegrown immunization card – looks like the gang is getting measles!

Oh boy the latest Disneyland measles outbreak is generating some serious name-calling and reprimanding in the newspapers these days and it’s not even limited to the editorials section.

The story is that in January 2015, six people (five unvaccinated) in Southern California came down with measles and they had all been to Disneyland in late December. Since then, the virus has spread to over 100 people. Now there are even 10 cases in Ontario, way up here in Canada and many miles from Disneyland. I guess it really is a small world after all

The way this story is being covered in North America, it sounds like the cause of the outbreak is unvaccinated locals and in particular the parents of unvaccinated children, who are portrayed as selfish, resistant to science and downright stupid.

However the way this story is being covered in Europe is that most likely someone from abroad (Europe, or the Philippines) went to Disneyland and unwittingly spread measles to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, which is much closer to the truth.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE OLD COUNTRY…

There is currently a slightly larger measles outbreak in Germany, instigated most likely by an influx of unvaccinated Bosnian, Herzegovinian and Serbian refugees – but the Germans have totally got a grip and are not overly concerned about it.

In fact, maybe they are eating ice cream and happily watching translated re-runs of the Brady Bunch episode where the whole gosh darn gang gets measles at the same time! (see link at end of post – you have got to watch this episode to see how completely irrational we have become in the last 40 years).

One thing our media refuses to cover is that some of our unvaccinated people may actually be seeking out measles in order to contract and survive the disease – to give themselves guaranteed lifelong immunity, a stronger immune system, greater resistance to various diseases potentially including some cancers, and if they are women to confer immunity to their newborns until they are at least 6 months old.

However when stories of “measles parties” surfaced in January, they were quickly denied as required in a litigious society like Marin County. Although such a media outcome may have disappointed scores of injury lawyers, it may or may not be true. My guess is that “measles parties” have gone the way of raw milk purchases – something you participate in secretly in the shadows.

MEASLES KILLS! SOME PEOPLE!

Let’s get some things straight: measles can be deadly or cause permanent damage if you are exposed to it when you are in the womb, under the age of one-ish, old-ish and weak-ish, chronically malnourished (that can include you, college kids) or suffering from some other issue like auto-immune disease or anything where your immune system is already compromised, including pregnancy.

And if you look at the people who have died, ever, from measles, you will find that these contributing factors were always involved. It is for these people’s sake that we vaccinate the rest of us, just like it is for the peanut-allergic person’s sake that we don’t eat nuts on planes or schools, and for the disabled person’s sake that our building codes enforce ramps and elevators. It may be irritating that we have to avoid peanuts, spend money on ramps and get a couple dozen immunization shots, but all of those irritations are the cost of living in close quarters and being exposed to globalization.

Most people don’t actually die of measles, they die of pneumonia or encephalitis which can also be brought on by scores of other childhood diseases including the flu, colds, herpes and chicken pox, and also from various mosquito-borne viruses. Famously, the children’s author Roald Dahl tragically lost his daughter to encephalitis after she first contracted measles. He led a compelling pro-vaccination movement in England in the 1960s, spearheaded by a very moving letter which I will link to at the end.

At the time, he was certainly acting on the best recommendations and research available. But we’ve learned a lot since then.

I’m no doctor, but 7 year-old Olivia Dahl’s problem might not have been so much that she contracted measles, but that it progressed to encephalitis which killed her. However, eradicating measles will not eradicate encephilitis, as it can be caused by so many other exposures.

A different measure might be to stop measles from progressing to more complicated and dangerous illnesses by the since-proven method of administering high doses of vitamin A and also starting out with adequate nutritional vitamin A levels (source: PubMed).

MEASLES AS A TEACHER

Measles rashBut let’s get something else straight: if you are healthy and properly nourished, it is actually more beneficial to contract measles between the age of 3 – 10-ish than to never contract it at all.

Measles is yet another essential agent in stimulating and teaching young immune systems how to react to greater threats later in life (mechanism works similarly to benefits from parasites, helminths and germ exposure).

Contracting measles has reversed some cancers and has even eliminated a tumor in only two weeks (source:Nature), and prompted pharmaceutical companies to pursue a super-measles “vaccine” as a cancer therapy, which has been used successfully in those patients who didn’t die from the lab-created super-measles. (source: CNN)

So are “anti-vaxxers” really selfish and stupid? In some ways, for sure. But it’s not black and white like that. There is a sweet spot for not vaccinating your kid, and the risk-reward is different for every disease. Since we’re talking about measles though, let’s start there.

If all the adults in the household have either had measles or are up-to-date on their vaccines, you could consider not vaccinating your children for measles. But ideally you also live in a small community of like-minded people, who are super health-conscious, devoted to biodynamic farming and bioavailable vitamin A, and do not plan on traveling the world or going to the Big City.

In addition, you and your community need to have “measles parties” where you force your 3 – 10 year olds to catch measles together and remain quarantined from the younger kids and the pregnant women and oldies. You also want to make sure that no one in your community has any allergies or other immune compromised issues, or at least keep your quarantine very, very tight.

I have to be very clear here: the point of not vaccinating your kid should only be because you intend for them to catch and survive the wild virus. You can’t not vaccinate and then avoid measles – it will catch up to your kids when they are adults and the complications can be much worse, or lethal. In addition, later in life you could catch measles and be a carrier who then goes on to infect vulnerable people.

There is NO BENEFIT to avoiding the vaccine unless you are determined to catch and survive wild measles in your youth. So if “anti-vaxxers” do not intend to give their children wild measles at the appropriate age, then yes I agree they are stupid.

BUT GETTING MEASLES IS HARD NOWADAYS

However even if you do plan to introduce wild measles to your kids,  the isolation of your idyllic community (hell let’s just call it a commune) means that you might have trouble contracting the disease in the first place.

In that event, you may have to fly a few of your commune’s 3 – 10 year olds to Switzerland for a few weeks, or maybe to EuroDisney if that’s even still around. It’s a lot easier to get measles in Europe, and nearly impossible to find it in North America. However it is also nearly impossible to bring your measles infection home on the airplane while simultaneously following adequate quarantine protocols, so this solution creates a huge risk to other people.

A better compromise might be to get your kids a season pass to Disneyland and tell them to seek out European-looking people presenting with a respiratory infection, until they catch wild measles. For all we know, this is just what the “anti-vaxxers” did.

STILL, MEASLES KILLS!

I have to be very clear on another thing: not every 3 – 10 year old survives wild measles!

Things that will help are super nutrition, especially natural fats and fat soluble vitamins like A and D. In fact at the first indication of measles (respiratory infection with white spots in the mouth), anyone should immediately start taking at least 10,000 IU of retinol (vitamin A) every hour for at least three days but probably for the duration of the disease.

There are also herbal preparations that can curtail the cytokine cascade, like Chinese skullcap, houttuynia, ginger and licorice. (Okay post-collapse in Ontario you would have to settle for local wild solutions like blue cohosh rhizome, the invasive kudzu root and elder berry tincture.)

The other question, are “anti-vaxxers” selfish, requires stepping back a little further. In the small picture, it is certainly selfish to risk exposing the young/old/immune compromised to measles knowing that these sick-prone members of the community can literally die or get compilations like brain damage.

However in the much bigger picture, it’s a different story.

WELCOME TO THE BIG PICTURE

If you subscribe to the idea that we are going to suffer through a collapse event in the next 100 years (or much sooner), then these “anti-vaxxers” who expose their children to wild viruses on purpose are in fact preserving a gene pool of potentially higher resistance to plagues and pestilence, and also passing on a learned immune response to disease. If collapse comes for us, the “anti-vaxxers'” immune systems may be better prepared to survive disease, and you might want to consider breeding with them to ensure the viability of your offspring.

Wait, collapse? All civilizations have collapsed, and those that haven’t are simply in the “yet” category. It doesn’t really matter what the cause is, we have so many potentials to choose from: antibacterial resistance, climate change, resource scarcity leading to increased warfare, ecosystem impoverishment, pandemic resulting from factory farming, robot overlord enslavement, financial and political collapse… whatever! The fact is, all civilizations try to squeeze the most out of the short term that they can, and pretend the bigger picture is never gonna happen.

It doesn’t mean civilization won’t come back again; we always do! But your position on vaccinations has to include whether you are willing to sacrifice your genetic lineage for the short-term right to be a beloved member of polite society’s herd immunity protocols. Since most of us live here, in this polite society, we have made the choice to vaccinate our children.

I’m just begging everyone to stop hating the “anti-vaxxers”; those that survive wild measles and respect quarantine protocols are doing a service for the bigger picture post-apocolyptic scenarios. Systems may be more efficient when there is homogeny, however they are safer and more durable when there is diversity.

The “anti-vaxxers” are that diversity for us, because if they are doing it right, they are catching diseases and developing immunities and then passing those learned responses along to their children. When the next pandemic hits, they will fare better than us and basically inherit the earth.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MEASLES?

We are the ebola bats in this case, harboring pestilence! We can successfully live with measles! Although we don’t have any predators or species left who might encroach on us, measles may have helped us deal with encroachment in the past. For example you can spread measles to your pet monkey by coughing on him. Likewise a primate invading your territory could tear your body to bits and feast on your raw, measles-infected flesh and then catch and spread measles to his invading brethren, which would be more virulent in his species than in humans.

And who knows? Maybe an alien army will land on our planet and try to invade us. All we have to do is expose them to our measles and they will drop like flies, having no ability to survive it nor create natural immunity as we do. Alien attack = thwarted!

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you come down with measles tomorrow and you are not in a particularly high risk group (not pregnant, not auto-immune, not an oldie etc), then there is nothing that a doctor will do for you except advise rest and fluids, and there is nothing a hospital will do for you except give you an IV of sugar water so you don’t get dehydrated.

If your case progresses or you are in a high risk group, you may be treated to pharmaceutical antivirals and anti-inflammatories which should limit the disease. The doctors will probably not ask about or test your vitamin A levels. However here is my quick checklist for a nutritional approach to vitamin A:

  • do you take cod liver oil?
  • do you eat liver or pate at least once a week?
  • do you add generous amounts of grass-fed butter to your diet?
  • if you eat dairy, is it always high fat, grass-fed (organic) versions?
  • do you eat fish and eggs at least a couple times a week?
  • do you always add butter or natural fat to yellow and orange vegetables?
  • do you always add butter or natural fat to green leafy vegetables?

If you can honestly answer yes to most of those bullets, then you are going to coast through measles. If you are missing more than three of those bullets however, then you have probably also noticed that you get sick frequently and have trouble fighting off viruses. In addition, your long term health will suffer.

Low-fat vegetarians in particular are at risk of low levels of vitamin A. There is some dogma that suggests beta-carotene in yellow and orange vegetables, and also in green leafy vegetables, is a good enough pre-cursor to vitamin A. Part of that depends on how the vegetables are prepared (for example, steaming carrots increases the bio-availablility of beta-carotene whereas it is virtually locked up in a raw carrot), but also on whether or not they are consumed along with fat.

Vitamin A is a “fat soluble vitamin”, which means if you consume vegetables high in beta-carotene without fat you are essentially wasting them.

Now let’s say your diet checks out just fine, but now you have measles. The very first thing to do is start taking at least 200,000 IU of vitamin A for at least two days and probably for the duration of your illness. The cheapest and easiest way to administer this mega dose is with synthetic Vitamin A capsules (retinol). I would start with 20,000 IU (two pills) every hour for the first five hours and then reduce to 10,000 IU every hour for the remaining ten or so waking hours. Then I would repeat the next day and every day after that.

Mega-doses of vitamin A prevent the measles virus from replicating. (source: Pubmed) Taking vitamin D, say 6000 IU per day, will help protect you from the mega dose of vitamin A. And taking vitamin C, say another 1000mg every hour, will add antiviral power.

In addition, there were the herbs I mentioned earlier and there are some homeopathic protocols that people rave about.

But these nutritional and herbal additions are not the only interventions you are going to have to make…

QUARANTINE COURTESY

So now let’s take a moment and talk about quarantine. You may know logically that when someone in your household gets sick you are supposed to quarantine them, but chances are you have been playing fast and loose with this rule.

Do you sleep in a separate bed from your spouse when he’s sick? Do you use separate toilets? Good for you if you do, but not everyone lives in a palace with all these extra beds and toilets, so it may not be possible.

My point is that we have become super casual about sickness, as if 4 inches of space and super-high thread-count sheets is enough of a quarantine. Frankly I don’t care if you quarantine during the cold or flu – in fact I prefer if everyone goes for it and gets sick together, has intense symptoms and then recovers with the resulting stronger immune system. Again, this can be a risk if anyone in your household is less than one, pregnant, super old or already compromised. However we should at least understand the basics of quarantine in case a more serious disease emerges in our households.

Fly this Quarantine flag if you want people to leave you alone

Fly this Quarantine flag if you want people to leave you alone

The word quarantine is loosely derived from the Italian “forty days”, which is how long ships had to remain isolated before coming to shore during the various plague, yellow fever, smallpox and cholera years. Sanitation

The town of Leicester in England perfected land-based quarantine in the late 1800s with their “Leicester Method”, which they employed in lieu of mandatory smallpox vaccinations. A doctor would investigate any initial cases, get full reports on travel and whereabouts and then contact each and every potential person who had been exposed, and ask them to voluntarily quarantine.

Quarantine could take place in a hospital or in the person’s home, and it was shown that there were better results by keeping the infected people isolated in their own homes due to segregation and reduced travel.

Further elements of the Leicester Method included thoroughly sanitizing the home, maintaining civic sanitation standards, and burning exposed clothing and bedding when necessary. Quarantines for smallpox lasted 14 days.

QUARANTINE WORKS

Just last year a village of 30,000 people in China was quarantined after a 38 year-old man died of the bubonic plague. Yes, I said the freaking bubonic plague in 2014!  He caught it from an infected marmot that he cut up to feed his dog. No one else was infected, and after about a week the quarantine was lifted.

I think quarantine is an essential skill, and requires far more empathy and courtesy for others than just relying on a vaccine.

THE BC CASE: FIRST GENOTYPING TO DETERMINE MEASLES STRAIN

Consider that in the fall of 2013 in British Columbia, the MMR vaccine itself was at last shown to actually cause measles (source: Eurosurveillance). In most cases where vaccinated children acquire measles, it is assumed that they caught the wild virus and that for some reason their vaccine didn’t take.

However in this case in British Columbia, for the first time genotyping was performed to determine that the infecting measles strain was not wild but from the vaccine itself, and infected the toddler a full 5 weeks after she had been vaccinated.

Obviously this begs the question, should MMR-vaccinated children be self-quarantined for at least 5 or 6 weeks? Is there a way to tell who is and isn’t shedding the virus? Is there a way to tell who is and isn’t susceptible to vaccine-virus shedding?

Could there be more sense in requiring recently vaccinated children to stay home from school and self-quarantine than requiring unvaccinated children to do so? Is there any chance that would ever happen? Of course not.

OUR CRUDE INTERVENTIONS

Vaccines are an awesome idea – I mean there are so many wretched diseases out there that may have been prevented by this invention.

In addition to the many regular vaccinations I have received, I also did a slew of them before an extended trip around Nepal, Thailand and Laos. After all of these various shots, I had no adverse reactions and then proceeded not to catch the diseases I was vaccinated for. From my experience and point of view, vaccines have not been a problem and may have even been a lifesaver, or at least given me the convenience of traveling without catching typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis or yellow fever.

The alternative might have meant being bitten by a Laotian mosquito, catching Yellow Fever, and in the best case recovering after a few days despite a yellow cast of jaundice. Next I might have caught Japanese Encephalitis from a different mosquito living near domestic pigs or herons. In that best case I may have avoided the acute brain swelling which leads to retardation and death, and perhaps started to feel better after 5 days. Only next to catch typhoid from essentially eating bacteria-infected feces in food. This best case scenario would be roughing it out for a few weeks without antibiotics, or for about a week with antibiotics.  So even the best case scenario with catching all of these diseases would have made my trip much more expensive and uncomfortable.

The benefit, if you’ll let me call it that, would have been that then I would have developed real life-long immunity to those diseases and could thereafter travel with much more impunity. Of course, I also could have died of those diseases, which would have sucked harder.

And so because of our profound fear of dying and our nearly as profound fear of being inconvenienced, we have this wonderful invention of vaccines.

But that doesn’t change the fact that our vaccines are just a crude hack on our immune system, and an incomplete, transient and sometimes dangerous hack at that. Vaccines are viruses made benign (attenuated). They aren’t supposed to make you sick, but they are meant to stimulate the humoral immune system just enough that it will create antibodies.

The whole faith in vaccines is based on the idea that synthetically increasing antibodies confers immunity.

DOES IT?

From as long ago as 1974, it was well-documented that antibodies were in fact not required to survive the measles virus – survival was dependent on the “other arm” of the immune system, known as the cell-mediated response. In P.J. Lachmann’s paper “Immunopathology of Measles“, he writes:

“Thus, children with antibody deficiency syndromes (specific deficiencies of the B cell system) have quite unremarkable attacks of measles with the characteristic rash and normal recovery. Furthermore, they are not unduly prone to reinfection. It therefore seems that serum antibody, at any rate in any quantity, is not required for the production of measles rash; nor for the normal recovery from the disease; nor to prevent reinfection. Nevertheless, as has already been discussed, there is no doubt that antibody given passively can provide a perfectly adequate protection against measles infection. Anti-measles antibody thus provides a sufficient but not a necessary mechanism for anti-measles immunity.”

So the measles vaccine works, but it’s not in the usual way the body chooses to create immunity. It is a hack that has been adopted around the world without considering the consequences of ignoring the essential role of cell-mediated immunity, the other arm of the immune system.

This research is ongoing, though more subtly in mice. Recent studies confirm that no antibodies at all are required to confer immunity. While humoral B-cells (which produce antibodies) are essential at fighting off viral infection, it appears they can do it independently of actually producing antibodies.

In other words, maybe the source of “immunity” is further upstream and more complicated than just downstream antibodies. (source: PubMed study on mice bred with B-cells that don’t make antibodies). In addition, many people continue to suffer from diseases despite having been vaccinated for them and having created adequate antibodies against them. (source: PubMed paper on severe tetanus cases in people despite high antibodies against it).

HOW DOES NATURAL IMMUNITY WORK?

To create a lasting and legacy immunity, both arms of the immune system need to be stimulated – the humoral as well as the cell-mediated response – but the most essential one is the cell-mediated response. Cell-mediated immunity is the system of white blood cells that attack pathogens and also create the feelings of sickness inside you – from fevers to rashes to inflammations, and this also has to evolve with every pathogen.

At this point in time, a guaranteed immunity can only be generated by responding to an actual disease. Immunization is a word that specifically means you have cell-mediated immunity to a disease; it is not the same as mere vaccination or introduction of serum antibodies. However the words immunization and vaccination are frequently bandied about the by the government, the media and the CDC as if they are equally powerful actions. They are not even close.

Another day, I will get into what the possible consequences could be of filling people with viral antibodies without teaching their bodies the corresponding cell-mediated response. While the viral antibodies (vaccinations) can prevent specific diseases, they are simultaneously dumbing down the cell-mediated immune system. Now that’s an interesting conversation!

In the meantime, understand that cell-mediated immunity is the kind of immune system you want to pass on to your children, provided you can survive the diseases that teach it.

And that’s a tough lesson, but it should be your takeaway:

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

—————————

FURTHER READING

Why is Germany So Calm About Its Measles Outbreak?” – The Atlantic, February 2015

Is There a Doctor In The House?” – The Brady Bunch episode from early 1970s where the whole family comically succumbs to the measles and is generally treated with ice cream sundaes

Roald Dahl’s moving letter to implore parents to vaccinate their children against measles as a way of preventing the complications of measles.

Vitamin A prevents the measles virus from replicating by up-regulating elements of the innate immune response in uninfected bystander cells.

Read about The Leicester Method of quarantine, which proved more effective against mortality than the early smallpox vaccine.

Bubonic plague kills man in China, and whole town is appropriately quarantined – 2014.

Case report of a 2013 B.C. measles infection caused 37 days after a toddler was given the MMR vaccination, and genotyped to show that her infection was the same strain as the vaccination, and therefore a direct result of the vaccination.

Mice bred with B-cells that don’t make antibodies survive deathly virus despite not having antibodies – are antibodies as essential as we thought?

So many cases like this, but here’s Severe Tetanus in people regardless that they were vaccinated and created strong antibodies.

And finally, please re-read my review of “An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Auto-Immune Disease” for a recap on how childhood infections with parasites, helminths and germs informs the immune system and prevents auto-immune diseases and allergies later in life.

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The Feeling: Oxytocin Tingle Porn

Grooming

Imagine if you could trigger a powerful release of oxytocin in your body, along with other feel-good hormones like serotonin, without taking anything or inadvertently messing with your body chemistry or tolerance levels?  Well read on, people!

As a kid, I used to periodically experience a feeling of tingling euphoria, which I aptly named “The Feeling”. The first time I strongly remember it happening, I was playing with our cleaning lady’s daughter Maria, and she was the dentist and I was the patient. Maria had a very gentle voice and a Portuguese accent, and as the dentist she made me lean back in a reclining chair as she poked at my mouth and inspected my teeth with a flashlight.

As far as games went, this one was deadly boring. And yet I wanted it to last forever! Why? Because it triggered “The Feeling”, which I can only describe as a tingling sensation along my scalp, down the back of my neck and into my shoulders, accompanied by very strong feelings of euphoria and calm relaxation.

Cut to twenty five years later when I was given Pitocin to help my labour along. Wow! I went from insanely painful labor cramps to totally relaxed euphoria. My husband wanted to go home to sleep for a while, and I was like, Sure! NBD! I’m just gonna lie here and enjoy this! I was unbelievably high with euphoric feelings, and my pain was gone.

Pitocin is a synthetic oxytocin, but where oxytocin is beneficial to newborns – Pitocin can actually be quite damaging. The natural birthing cocktail is a combo of hundreds of different factors, not just oxytocin – so pushing one, let alone a synthetic version, at the expense of all the others sets up an imbalance from the start.

WHAT IS OXYTOCIN

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide made of nine amino acids which acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. Most oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary gland to create reactions throughout the body.

If you really like the feeling of oxytocin and Pitocin, it’s not hard to buy on the internet as sublingual drops or a nasal spray. But what would be the point? You would quickly build up a tolerance to it and soon it would be nearly impossible to get “The Feeling” at all. Plus coming down from pure Pitocin creates the opposite effects – feelings of isolation, loneliness, unworthiness etc. Total shame spiral.

But the internet has once again changed everything.

THIS IS A HALLELUJAH MOMENT

I’m here to tell you that I can trigger a totally natural release of oxytocin just by watching a certain type of YouTube video. This is freaking bananas. And since it works for me, it might work for you too.

These videos are tagged as “ASMR”, which is a recently made up term that stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”. There are thousands of ASMRtists creating videos that average 20 minutes and consist mostly of gentle whispering, light tapping that rolls from ear to ear, hair brushing sounds, and then diversify into triggers as specific as folding towels and cutting hair.

Many of the videos simulate what I classify as Primate Grooming Triggers. These are simulated hair brushing, eye exams, various other white-coat procedures, shoulder massages and near-ear whispering. In primates, grooming is an incredibly successful behavior which promotes bonding within social groups. If you ever have a chance to experience “The Feeling”, a let-down of oxytocin, you will understand with so much greater clarity why and how these primate grooming sessions work.

White Cheek Gibbons grooming in Vietnam, photo from National Geographic

White Cheek Gibbons grooming in Vietnam, photo from National Geographic. The male looks hella relaxed.

THE VIDEOS

Here is an example of one of the most viewed Primate Grooming trigger videos, by an ASMRtist who calls herself GentleWhispering: Watch this ASMR video first to see if any of these triggers work for you. (I will post these videos again at the bottom because you know how much I hate embedding links within the body of posts because embedding makes us all dumber! I made this exception because I’m weak.)

You need to wear headphones to really make this work, because there is something about the way sound travels from one ear and then around the head to the next ear that is a strong trigger. I think this ear-to-ear intake of sound closely simulates the way we would have processed sound while grooming back when we lived in trees. You don’t remember those days, but your cells still do and they like it.

If you watch that whole video and don’t get a definitive “feeling” of euphoria and tingling, then these triggers do not work for you. We are not looking for a general feeling of relaxation or calmness. This is something more dramatic, and you will just know it when it happens. You will also know it if it doesn’t happen.

But maybe you trigger to different things. For me, I trigger much more strongly to the sound of someone tapping gently on a piece of cardboard. How crazy is that??? Here is an example of another ASMRtist named Dimitri who really knows how to play a piece of white card: This particular video also has nice visualizations. And if you only want a quick 2-minute fix: this “layer cake” gets me every time.

Again, this video does not just relax me. I am talking about something different. I think I am a “strong responder” to oxytocin in that it feels like a total phase change when that peptide is emitted into my system. The feelings I get are so strong they are sometimes nauseatingly euphoric. You may not get as strong a reaction as me (until you find your own trigger), but for it to be defined as an ASMR event, it has to be more than just relaxing or calming.

HOW IS THIS LIKE MEDITATION

benefitsI worked with a meditation coach for a couple years and I really owe her a lot for clarifying the responsibility I needed to take over my moods, thoughts and perceptions. Not all of us are lucky enough to learn those skills from our families or from school, despite the fact that they are critical to living with any presence at all.

My main takeaway from my meditation practice is that it’s not all about carving out some time to sit cross-legged. It’s also about turning every day moments into opportunities to become present. Long line at the bank? Rather than complain about it in your head or fantasize about your bucket list, why not still your mind and focus on your breathing? Look at the long line as a gift, a chance to practice a standing meditation and become fully present. Once you change your perspective this way, you can find opportunities to be grateful for all the most infuriating irritations in life.

However it’s hard to get to a deeper level of meditation without putting in the time to do some sitting. It takes practice, repetition and habit building to be able to release attachment to your thoughts. Finding this “sitting” time was always a challenge for me, and I assume for most meditators. One early hack I took advantage of was a device from HeartMath which connects your ear to your iPhone and gives you real-time feedback about whether you are “in the zone” or not. As you breathe in through your heart and create intentions to feel open and loving, the screen either glows green to show your heart and breath are in coherence, or it glows red to show they are in dissonance. By subtly letting go of attachments to outcomes and thoughts, your heart and breath can make the screen change to green. That’s some powerful feedback! (I will post a link to the device at the bottom).

People who meditate consistently literally change the physical shape of their brains: MRIs reveal a cortical thickening in the part of the brain that is associated with emotions and perception; also revealed is a minimizing of the physical part of the brain associated with worry, anxiety and depression. You actually build a different brain which interacts with your environment in a more positive way. In addition, meditation up regulates the immune system and reduces your chance of heart attack.

MEDITATING DEEPER

Even if you can get “in the green” with the HeartMath device and application for a solid hour, you will be achieving some remarkable health benefits but you still might not reach a truly euphoric state. At best you might reach a calm and tranquil disposition unless you have the dedication of a proper Zen monk. Deep meditators can open the sensory gating channels in their mind and see the world in a different way, also known as approaching enlightenment. However there are some shortcuts to opening those sensory gating channels, which is why sometimes people give up on meditation and turn to ayahuasca, ecstasy, LSD and hallucinogens.

ASMR IS NEXT LEVEL MEDITATION

Well I’m here to say I’ve found a middle ground between basic meditation and psychoactives. Watching an ASMR video with appropriate triggers for your particular disposition can take you to a place where you will get the health benefits of meditation, the “everything is connected” awareness of psychoactives, and a bonus of purely pleasurable physical sensations in your head, neck and shoulders (but not limited to those areas). This is oxytocin, baby!

BENEFITS OF OXYTOCIN

When I’m talking about the benefits of oxytocin, I really mean the benefits of the flood of wonderful chemicals that comes when you breastfeed, when you first fall in love, after you orgasm and when you watch an ASMR video with your unique triggers. This natural flood of chemicals cannot be limited to oxytocin, and at least also includes serotonin, but the comprehensive package is still not really understood. It is better to experience the “full flood” rather than pure Pitocin/oxytocin in the same way it is better to get your vitamins from food than from pills. The full flood of chemicals works together synergistically to create an enhanced experience, and also one that you have specifically evolved to benefit from.

But it sounds weird and complicated to describe it that way, so I am just going to shorthand this list as the Benefits of Oxytocin:

  1. Facilitates mother-child bonding. Without it, all those crying and sleep-robbing newborns would probably be abandoned. Every positive interaction between mother and baby releases new oxytocin, which creates a physical association between the flood of good feelings and the relationship, and in turn fosters an association with general social behavior.
  2. Facilitates father-child bonding. In the same way, fathers can be induced to release oxytocin through skin-to-skin contact with their babies, which creates the same physical feedback loop relationship.
  3. Higher levels of oxytocin drives new oxytocin receptors in the brain, which confers greater ability to manage social stress and aggression. Conversely, abandoned infants have far fewer oxytocin receptors and are susceptible to stress, and prone to hostility and aggression. See: history of Russian orphanages.
  4. Regulates all of our social interactions. People with more oxytocin receptors are better at making and keeping friends, and defusing conflicts.
  5. Reacts with the opiod and dopamine systems in the brain. The release of these other positive-feeling chemicals is part of the synergistic flood experience. An increase of serotonin hormone drives a further release of oxytocin. This seems to create a virtuous loop of good feelings.
  6. More oxytocin receptors in the amygdala still allow you to detect and process fear when applicable, but allow the fears to be mollified more quickly once the threat has passed or proved to be benign. A person with more receptors in this area will have better sleep, less phobias and less feelings of social isolation.
  7. More oxytocin receptors in the ventromedial hypothalamus provides a stronger feeling of satiety after eating, and is associated with less issues of eating disorders and better regulation of body weight. It also facilitates better “play” in women due to enhanced feelings of security and safety, which translates to better sexual response.
  8. More OT (oxytocin) receptors in the hippocamus increase memory and spatial orientation.
  9. More OT receptors in the pineal gland better modulate production of melatonin for more pronounced sleep and wake cycles.
  10. More OT receptors in the brain stem mean better regulation of the whole central nervous system, including cardiac and respiratory function, sleep cycles, and consciousness itself.
  11. OT receptors are also found in the septum, spinal cord, the nucleus accumbens, the adrenal medulla, pancreas, kidneys, ovaries, uterus, testicles as well as other organs or parts of organs which lead to various other associated improved responses.
  12. OT increases both sex drive and sexual arousal, and ability to climax.
  13. OT increases trust, empathy and understanding within a group. However it can foster distrust of outsiders, which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective when outsiders were frequent marauders and rapists, as well as carriers of plagues and pestilence.
  14. OT helps with microcirculation by stimulating the production of nitrous oxide, which vasodilates blood vessels. People without adequate OT levels tend to have cold hands and feet, as well as recurrent headaches.
  15. OT decreases certain cytokines, which decreases inflammation and allows for speedier wound healing.
  16. OT increases pain threshold. Applicable in people with chronic pain or who are going into labor or other procedures.
  17. OT stimulates osteoblasts which build bone, and inhibits the osteoclasts which break down bone. People with low OT receptors develop osteoporosis.
  18. There is a link between OT and glucose metabolism that could contribute to Type 1 Diabetes and the impaired glucose metabolism on the spectrum of metabolic disorders.
  19. There is a link between OT and regulation of cell proliferation. In breast cancer patients, OT helped inhibit estrogen-induced tumor growth.
  20. High levels of OT are associated with mental clarity, concentration and memory. Low levels contribute to a feeling of “brain fog”.

TAKE AWAY

While the natural and evolutionarily preferred methods of increasing oxytocin are ideal, they are not always practical anymore. You can’t breastfeed forever. You can’t fall deeply and madly in love with a new person every month. It’s too expensive to get your hair blown out by a whispering empath every day. You probably have to go to work instead of hosting drum circles and holding hands with friends all day long. So we have lost a lot of our opportunities to create oxytocin release due to the modern way we have organized our society.

Like I said before, supplementing with synthetic or even bioidentical oxytocin is only going to lead to tolerance and addiction – until it no longer does anything for you at all. You will desensitize your oxytocin receptors to boot, which will leave you with the opposite effect than intended. Such is the tyranny of pharmaceutical intervention!

If you can find a couple ASMR videos or audio tracks that actually work for you, then you will always have a natural way to stimulate oxytocin release in your body, which will lead to increased production of oxytocin receptors, which will lead to greater mental and health benefits.

Having said that, I’m not sure that it is a great idea to watch or listen to Tingle Porn all the time. In order to maintain a strong reaction, you may need to keep the novelty alive a little bit. I would consider saving these videos for times of stress, insomnia, grieving, anxiety and disease. That is my recommendation for a healthy person, anyway.

Having said that, if you are suffering from a chronic condition, by all means consider this a form of therapy and work towards increasing your oxytocin receptors. You may have to cycle videos, but fortunately there are many ASMRtists creating new ones all the time – and often they will take suggestions and create experiences based on your own personal triggers.

I know this just got weird, but you will totally thank me once on-demand access to The Feeling changes your whole quality of life forever.

FURTHER READING

The best introduction video to ASMR, firmly in the primate grooming category: GentleWhispering

The best introduction to ASMR tapping, should that be a thing that works for you: Tapping Genius on White Card Stock

Shorter 2-minute “layer cake” video for a quick fix! Remember: wear headphones.

There isn’t any real research on ASMR, but this place calls itself a lab and tries to accumulate information: ASMR Lab.

The Huffington Post article about how ASMR is purported to cure insomnia. This reporting really broke the news to the wider world this year.

Wikipedia tells you like it is about oxytocin.

This is the meditation tool I have used from HeartMath, including the iOS app Inner Balance.

Pubmed article linking social grooming in primates to release of oxytocin, from Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences.

Some people can’t make adequate receptors for oxytocin, and there is a gene to indicate as much. If you want to check yours, send in some spit to a site like 23ndme.com, then once your sample has been processed – look up your OXTR gene, then specifically check the SNP called rs53576. If you have two GG genotypes from your parents, then you will be receptive to oxytocin. However if you have an AA or AG genotype, you are probably much less sensitive. My guess is that you have a hard time feeling empathy for other people, that you find social situations incredibly stressful, and that you suffer from chronic health problems. Super sorry for you, but at least you finally know that it’s not your fault. Add it to the long list of things you can blame your parents for!

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Ebola Big Picture

colobus

Western Red Colobus Monkey, Cote d’Ivoire

Here we go again, spending millions and millions of dollars on symptoms of a viral epidemic without bothering to look at the cause.

Let’s say we actually manage to raise enough money so that every victim of Ebola gets a quarantined bed, a chance at an antidote or at least compassionate palliative care – where does that lead? The next obvious step in the medical industrial complex is to create another vaccination that can be sold around the world and mandated so that we have global herd immunity from this deadly virus.

If this seems like the best case scenario to you, then you are firmly stuck in a world view that chases symptoms without considering cause. And your money, your effort and your worry will always be chasing the next batch of symptoms because the cause is never going to be addressed.

WHAT’S THAT NOW?

What is the biological purpose of a virus? The medical industrial complex, and the media, would have us believe that viruses are simply a form of abstract evil unleashed in the world, and that our only response is to fight their aberrant evil.

This overlooks the fact that viruses have a purpose. They are some of the oldest life forms and they are sophisticated and wise with experience of the world. All life forms contract viruses, parasites, helminths and various types of pathogens from time to time. In fact it is so necessary for us to encounter these pathogens, that if we don’t, our immune systems fail to develop properly which results in auto-immune system diseases (immature immune system attacks itself) or chronically weak immune systems, which of course leads to premature death.

As viruses are living like us (though often dormant), their plan is to reproduce and stay alive. This doesn’t work very well when their host dies. Over a very, very long timeframe, if a virus doesn’t completely kill off its host species first, it will eventually adapt and change (in response to the host’s immune system adapting and changing) so that the host can stay alive and the virus can remain in place (though again often dormant), but kept in check by antibodies that have been developed by the host.

But let me get back on track with my statement that viruses have a purpose, because it’s hard to see through the media’s frenzied terror of Ebola that it could serve a purpose.

THE ROLE OF EBOLA

The Ebola we are dealing with right now has adapted to live in some African fruit bats and Western Colobus monkeys without killing them. This immunity would have taken thousands of years to establish. In both cases, the virus offers each species a protection against excess predation.

Specifically, Ebola offers a unique benefit to the Western Colobus monkeys – as a shield against chimpanzee attacks. Chimpanzees only go after colobus monkeys to display dominance for the purpose of attracting a mate or upending hierarchies, not as a staple source of food. These displays seem to occur rarely enough that the two species can both survive alongside each other. However when the habitat of the chimpanzees and the colobus monkeys is shrunk or stressed, the chimpanzees become increasingly aggressive against the monkeys; at that point, the Ebola virus comes out to save the day (for the colobus monkeys, anyway).

In a stressed habitat, when chimpanzees over-prey on colobus monkeys, the virus makes itself active and infects the chimpanzees. This is a very elegant way for a small monkey to attack a larger primate. While the Ebola virus has little effect on the colobus monkey, it is absolutely deadly in the chimpanzees.

Upon eating infected monkey meat, a chimpanzee will recognize its illness (often before exhibiting symptoms) and isolate itself from its tribe. Usually the chimpanzee goes off into the forest by itself and curls up to die. These dead chimpanzees can be found with internal organs reduced to mush and blood. In fact this is exactly what happened in 1994 when researchers discovered that 25% of the wild chimpanzee population they had been studying in Taï National Park, Cote d’Ivoire, suddenly died or disappeared.

At that time, a human researcher also contracted Ebola from a dead chimpanzee she was autopsying. Incredibly, she was given supportive care and managed to survive. It is unknown whether she contracted a very light variant or whether she had an incredible immune system, but it is very rare to survive a viral attack like Ebola when it first jumps species. Usually neither the virus nor the immune system has the time to evolve antibodies at first jump, so she was extremely fortunate.

Eventually, with enough time, a vibrant population of wild chimpanzees would also adapt and learn to live with Ebola. But while their habitats remain intact and they only rarely cross paths with the colobus monkeys, this adaptation will not be forced. In fact there are too few chimpanzees left in the wild for this adaptation to ever be successful at this point. Rather, if chimpanzees and colobus monkeys are forced into close enough quarters with enough confrontations, the few bands of chimpanzees left will simply all succumb to Ebola.

chimpanzee

SAME SAME THROUGHOUT HISTORY

This happens with all viruses. The Black Plague was originally so destructive that it would consume its host in a matter of days; there are reports of victims going to bed healthy and never waking up because the plague acted on them so quickly (those were the lucky ones). Incidentally although the Black Plague started as a bubonic plague spread by marmots in China, it mutated into a respiratory-style Ebola-like virus, which is how it was able to spread so quickly throughout Europe.

However eventually, after some 200 million human deaths globally and over centuries of infection and adaptation, the virus that started the Black Plague evolved with its human hosts into an illness that was survivable. In fact everyone on Earth today is here because our ancestors were able to evolve their immune systems enough to create and pass on the antibodies to tolerate and live in harmony with that particular viral strain from the 1300s. Nice work, ancestors. (Actually there is a longer story here about natural selection for a gene that was immune to viral plagues, but it plays out to the same basic tune).

While one particular antibody is really only associated with one particular strain of virus, an inherited antibody can at least inform the immune system on creating and evolving new antibodies for new viruses. This is an intelligent system that needs to be challenged to evolve in every generation. In the absence of inherited antibodies, the immune system has less information to draw on. Consider that for a minute, because our whole world view of artificial immunizations does not account for what we are losing by not passing on our collective inherited antibodies.

(As a side note, artificial immunizations or vaccines stimulate the humoral immune system – the part that creates antibodies. While this is a totally brilliant biohack, that’s all it is – an artificial hack which confers temporary and transient resistance. To create a lasting and legacy immunity, both sides of the immune system need to be stimulated – the humoral as well as the cell-mediated response. Cell-mediated immunity is the system of white blood cells that attack the pathogens and also create the feelings of sickness inside you, and this also has to evolve with every pathogen. At this point in time, a total immunity can only be generated by responding to an actual disease. This is the kind of immune system intel you want to pass on to your children, provided you can survive the diseases that teach it).

GET TO THE POINT

So what is the point of a virus? A virus wants to replicate. It wants to keep its host alive and will confer benefits to the host for the opportunity (like killing predatory chimpanzees).

What is the biological purpose of Ebola? Ebola protects African fruit bats from habitat encroachment and over-predation. Ebola protects Western Colobus monkeys from over-predation by chimpanzees when their habitats become unstable. In turn, Ebola spreads from bats and chimpanzees to humans when humans encroach on their habitat. In short, the way to end Ebola is not by coming up with a vaccine. The way to end Ebola is to stop encroaching on chimpanzee habitat.

butchered

Maybe we should stop butchering chimpanzees

If you don’t think you have anything to do with this, then maybe you have never used a prescription medication in your life – tested on kidnapped chimpanzees and other primates. We may not be the ones specifically encroaching on chimpanzee habitat or stressing their populations, but everything we do in the West to ensure our comfort and continuity seems to indirectly lead there.

Ebola is not unique in this way. Responding to habitat encroachment is simply what viruses do, and there are millions of them in the world laying dormant waiting to act. The logical solution is to restore wild habitats all around the world.

However the more economically exciting solution is to keep extracting resources from habitats while simultaneously developing vaccinations for countless viruses on the horizon, and then selling them around the world and enforcing herd immunity. So of course that is what we will do, to great profit.

The big picture is that a vaccine against Ebola is really just a way of buying more time to continue with habitat destruction and resource extraction. If you want to help or raise money, the best thing you can do is direct it towards saving and restoring habitat. Any habitat will do, as viruses aren’t choosy. However the damp, wet jungle habitats seem to release the deadliest viral pathogens when disturbed.

If you are too cynical to believe that saving or restoring habitat is in the cards anymore, then you can at least prepare yourself for a future with higher incidence of viral pandemics. In the case of a viral pandemic, the last place you will want to venture is a hospital or clinic – which will always be the ground zero for viruses and their adaptations, and are also fraught with bacterial super bugs from antibiotic resistance. So in a world where you can’t get your hands on any medical drugs or care, potentially, you will need to know what foods and plants can confer some antiviral assistance to your immune system.

LET’S DO A LIST

  1. Vitamin A deficiency is linked to higher death rates from all diseases. This is precisely why children in the third world die of measles but rarely do in the first world. Vitamin A is in liver and organ meats, butter, egg yolks, cod liver oil and a slightly less bio-available form in orange and yellow vegetables and fruits. IF YOU SUDDENLY COME DOWN WITH EBOLA OR A SIMILAR DEADLY VIRUS, take at least 200,000 IU for 2 – 4 days, spaced out 10,000 IU every hour. I am basing this recommendation on World Health Organization treatment for malnourished measles sufferers; however they only did 2 days of doses at 200,000 IU in their tests. Later trials showed even more reliable results with 400,000 IU over 2 days. Synthetic vitamin A gets pretty toxic quickly, but it will do the trick in a pinch. Even better news, Vitamin A is super cheap! (Remember not to take synthetic vitamin A when pregnant – basically only take this if your alternative is dying from Ebola). Also:
  2. Super doses of Vitamin C or ascorbic acid are incredibly active against viruses. Low doses (1000mg/day) are routinely tested and shown to do nothing. High doses are similarly tested and proven useless, when administered all at once (because the excess is “peed out”). We can only metabolize about 750mg/hour. In the case of any viral illness, take 1000mg/hour for the duration. If you don’t have supplements (hello Apocolypse) and you live in the north like me – you can substitute pine needle tips, cedar tips, sumach and small herbs like sheep sorrel – though you will need a lot.
  3. Antiviral foods like coconut oil, ginger, cayenne, honey and royal jelly – and herbs like Chinese skullcap, licorice, lomatium, cordyceps, isatis, astragalus, boneset, elder, houttuynia. There are lots of others, find out what is in your specific area.
  4. I don’t really want to get into the whole vaccine debate, not at all. But certain childhood infections like measles and mumps seem to confer benefits like lower chance of ovarian cancer and lymphatic cancers, among other things. There may be a price to pay for our vaccine hack, and the price might be weakened, immature immune systems and an eroded immunization legacy to pass on to our children. It could be that after a few generations of vaccines, all our collective immune system work to evolve beyond the Black Plague is for nothing. On a more practical note:
  5. When you and your children get sick, allow yourselves to get sick. Don’t mask the symptoms as far as you are able. Those bad feelings (fever, stuffy nose, cough, congestion, runny eyes) are the result of your cell-mediated immune system firing up white blood cells to attack the invading pathogen. If you suppress the symptoms, you suppress the cell-mediated response and stifle the precious experiential learning that your immune system requires. You can boost the immune system with nutrients and herbs, but don’t suppress the symptoms. (Of course if your fever runs dangerously high, do something about it. You obviously need to live through these experiences for them to be any good to you.)
  6. Try to find some wild habitat near you and examine it. Is it really very wild? Are there very many insects, birds and animals? Are there any large predators, which are the keystone species? Cultivate a reverence for these wild spaces and you might be a little closer to understanding the big picture.

For everyone who doesn’t take the time to respect their wild habitats, there will be an #AndNowIHaveEbola hashtag at the ready. You can count on it.

FURTHER READING

Again, I only post links at the end of my write-ups because of research from the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which I reviewed here.

Details on the Ebola Outbreak Among Chimpanzees in Cote D’Ivoire 1994, Journal of Infectious Diseases

Detail about the surviving ethologist who contracted Ebola in 1994, Journal of Infectious Diseases

My post on a Quick and Dirty Antiviral, with links to further reading

Treating third world children with measles with inexpensive, high dose Vitamin A – from the Committee on Infectious Disease at the American Academy of Pediatrics

Why You Are Still Alive – the Immune System Explained, a great info cartoon on youtube

New research on the Plague/Black Death as an Ebola style virus, Biology of Plague: Evidence from Historical Populations by Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan

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80:20 – A Truly ORGAN-ic burger

And by ORGAN-ic, I mean full of organs!

8020 beeforgansTranscript from yesterday at The Healthy Butcher, a nice grocery in Toronto:

ME: 
Hi there, have you heard of 
this new thing called 
"The 80:20"? Do you 
have it?
THE HEALTHY BUTCHER:  
(wearily) Umm... what?
ME: 
Yeah, it's great! You take 80% 
grass-fed beef and add 20% 
grass-fed organ meats and put 
it all through the grinder 
together!
THE HEALTHY BUTCHER: 
Okay, well we don't have that.
ME: 
So if I give you some notice, 
do you think I could order 
it and pick it up in a week?
THE HEALTHY BUTCHER: 
(seeing I'm not going anywhere) 
Uh...  
What kind of organs do you want?
ME: 
You know, the usual. 
Liver, kidneys... Heart... Um, 
(boldly) brains?
THE HEALTHY BUTCHER: 
Let me go in the back and talk 
to my production team.
ME: 
Thank you!
THE HEALTHY BUTCHER: 
(returning, kind of on board) 
Well we are not allowed to put 
organs through the grinder, but 
we can cut up some liver for 
you and hand mix it all together?
ME: 
Done!

80:20 is the new ground beef. Instead of being 100% ground beef, it’s got 20% organs!

Remember that it is still important that your organ meat be not only organic, but also pastured. But beggars can’t be choosers, just do your best.

In the olden days (before today), 80:20 used to refer to 80% muscle meat and 20% fat. But this is a new paradigm, people. THIS 80:20 means 80% of the mixture is a fatty ground beef and 20% is a mixture of various organ meats. Got it?

HOW TO USE 80:20

You simply take a pound of 80:20, and make hamburger patties as you usually would. But if you’re smart (and have some time on your hands), you’ll mix in tons of sea salt and pepper, some garlic, onion, parsley etc. At 20%, you can’t overtly taste the organs, but you’ll get a whiff of them. So if you or your family aren’t exactly used to organs, then the more spices and flavorings you can add, the better.

Also great: use this as a base for meatloaf, tortières, bolognaise sauce, meatballs. I can see the advertisements now: Use it as you would meat! Only this is way, way better than plain ground beef because organs are over the top with nutritional density.

Let’s look at liver, for example. Here is a super amazing graphic reprinted with permission from Gregg’s Diet Shack:

Kale Vs Liver

Chart courtesy of Gregg’s Diet Shack

I don’t know why the whole world seems to go on and on about eating all your fruits and vegetables in order to get your vitamins. Because if it’s vitamins you are after, your best bet is always going to be liver and other organ meats.

Now I’m not knocking kale, I LOVE kale. My sister, actually both of my sisters, make the most delicious kale salads that you can eat and store for days. Kale, sliced very thinly in a frisée, is also excellent at soaking up olive oil.

However as this chart shows you, kale is better than regular beef in a couple ways (more calcium, vitamin C and folate), but it is really no competition for liver. Kale is still a great bet for vitamin C and folate, but I would probably bank on getting my calcium from an animal source (like whole dairy) rather than plant source because of bioavailability issues.

I’m not knocking blueberries either, of course. This is wild blueberry season in Ontario, also known as the best time of year. It is totally acceptable to gorge on wild blueberries right now. But even though blueberries are hailed as a superfood, they still pale in comparison to liver in every way.

DINNER-DINNER

I was recently reminded by some friends about the classic their mother called “Dinner-Dinner” which exists in many incarnations in Canadian homes in the 80s and 90s. In my family we called it “Goulash” even though it has almost no similarities to that dish.

My friend’s “Dinner-Dinner” was ground beef, onion soup and rice – all cooked down together. In my family, “Goulash” was ground beef, consommé, rice and peas – with a bit of worchester sauce thrown in to be fancy.

This is my new version of Goulash/Dinner-Dinner.

ghoulash

80:20 GOULASH DINNER

  • 2 TBS butter, ghee, lard, coconut oil etc, I used leftover bacon fat
  • 1 minced onion, I used an organic vidalia
  • 1 lb of 80:20, I used grass-fed Kobe beef for extra healthy fat, mixed with 20% liver
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped finely like rice
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup of chopped green onion or scallions, whites and green tops
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin, and some salt and pepper
  • Soy sauce, coconut aminos or worchester sauce
  1. Sweat out that onion in the bacon fat or your choice of fat, about 10 minutes on low in a wide, heavy saucepan.
  2. Add the ground beef and simmer until mostly cooked. You might want to raise the heat a little.
  3. Add the cauliflower and the green onions.
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.
  5. Add the soy sauce or your choice of sauce – just about 2 TBS or so, more to taste.
  6. Add the peas and parsley near the end of cooking.

I actually made this 80:20 Goulash Dinner for lunch, and my six year old gobbled it up. She didn’t need to know there was liver or how highly I think of garlic, green onions and parsley. I also didn’t need to tell her that the original dish included rice, but that I had substituted for lower carbohydrate cauliflower. I also didn’t tell her that my mom used a ton of peas, but that I replaced most of the peas with green onions and parsley so that we could still get that great pop of color – but again reduce the carbohydrate load while increasing the punch of polyphenols. She didn’t care and ate it all up.

The neighbor’s kid? Not so much. You know your family and you know what flavors they will accommodate, so adjust the recipe accordingly. Once you get the hang of it, this is a fantastically simple and nutritiously dense weeknight meal.

80:20 Ghoulash

This one’s for you, mom! Thanks for all the great dinners!

 

November 2014 Update: ROAST on St. Clair West in Toronto will grind 80:20 if you call them ahead of time – they suggested a week.

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Low Dose Naltrexone: A “non-Pharma” Pharmaceutical

More sensitive OGFr

Look at all the new, beefed up Opioid Growth Factor receptors formed on the cell as a result of LDN… So fluorescent!

I’m definitely into low-tech solutions in life: food over synthetic vitamins, fecal transplants over antibiotics (ew gross, right? I talk a big game but it’s not like I’ve ever tried it). However when I started reading about Low Dose Naltrexone last summer, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Low Dose Naltrexone, known as “LDN”, is safe, cheap, essentially free of side-effects, and remarkably effective at treating a ridiculously long list of ailments, particularly auto-immune disorders, cancer, AIDs and chronic pain.

Most patients with auto-immune disorders (such as Crohn’s Disease, Multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Grave’s disease, Lupus, Psoriasis, Alopecia etc.) are put on a regimen of immunosuppressant drugs. Logically this makes sense, because the patient’s immune system is attacking itself – so if you suppress the immune system it loses ammunition for attack. This usually works pretty well at keeping auto-immune disorders at bay. However, and this is a very big however, when you suppress a patient’s immune system she takes on a higher risk for everything from the common cold to Cancer. This is what I call treating the disease at the expense of the patient.

However if you are living with an autoimmune disease, you are probably in chronic pain of one sort or another, and would rather live with a shorter amount of good years than a longer life in pain. There are a million really good reasons to take immunosuppressive drugs, and not a lot of alternatives.

There are many, many different kinds of immunosuppressive drugs at this point, and they all invariably have some acute side effects. But on the positive side, they usually work by a two-fold mechanism: first they act by suppressing the immune system, either by inhibiting the genes that code for T cell proliferation, or by inhibiting B cell and various antibody production; secondly immunosuppressive drugs are usually also strong antioxidants, so that they work by reducing inflammation in the body which tends to reduce immune system reaction (or over-reaction in the case of auto-immune disorders).

I think we can agree that the while the T/B cell reduction is a dicey move if you’re playing a long game, at least the antioxidant part of the drugs is probably very helpful. After all, inflammation seems to be the cause of just about every problem, so curbing it is pretty useful. (Inflammation has its purpose when you have a physical trauma or infection that needs to be sealed off from the rest of the body and healed – but is overkill as a reaction to food choices, stress, and small environmental inputs. More on inflammation another time!).

HERE’S WHY “LDN” IS DIFFERENT

Rather than suppressing the immune system, Low Dose Naltrexone works on another level “upstream” in the healing cascade and appears to regulate the immune system. Some of the doctors (Dr. Ian Zagan et al) who are developing LDN for autoimmune issues claim that it is immunosuppressive, but while this is technically true – LDN is actually concurrently immunostimulating. It seems to be able to curb inappropriate immune responses while simultaneously increasing immune function. In other words, it helps auto-immune diseases without compromising the patient’s immune system. So it’s basically a miracle. People who take LDN only get sick very rarely, if at all, and do not suffer from prolonged infections the way they would if taking proper immunosuppressant drugs.

FIRST, WHAT IS NALTREXONE? SOUNDS INTENSE

Naltrexone is a drug that was first synthesized in the 1960s in America, and determined as an opiate agonist, meaning it could block opiates so that the subject taking naltrexone would not feel the effects of opium and heroin. There was little market value for naltrexone, however the US Governement stepped in and paid for extensive clinical trials hoping it could be used to cure heroin addiction and other drug ills of society. Naltrexone was determined to be completely safe, to have no negative side effects, and to be useful even during pregnancy and breastfeeding – which is very rare for any drug. By the time the trials were completed, the drug was already off patent – though the government extended the patent to DuPont for another seven years. In the ’80s, DuPont started marketing naltrexone as a treatment for alcoholism as it causes drinkers to feel none of the pleasant effects of alcohol yet all of the unpleasant effects. As you can imagine, the biggest issue was patient compliance. Naltrexone never really took off as a treatment for anything, and as of now is off patent, of little value to manufacturers and available pretty freely on the internet without a prescription (!).

One of the main things naltrexone does is bind with Opioid Growth Factor Receptors (OGFr), which are on every cell in the body, and blocks them so that Opioid Growth Factor (OGF) molecules cannot bind to them. When OGF binds with OGFr, cell growth and division is regulated. When OGFr’s are blocked, the cells respond in three ways: by spontaneously creating new OGFr’s on the surface of every cell, by making those new OGFr’s more sensitive, and by increasing the amount of Opioid Growth Factor released in the body. The terms are often used interchangeably, but when I am talking here about “opioids” I mean the natural endorphins created by the body; when I talk about opiates I am using a blanket term for the various natural and synthetic external drugs that act on the central nervous system like morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, alcohol and even sugar and dairy.

In normal naltrexone therapy (full dose), the patient doesn’t get to benefit from the increased amount of more sensitive OGF receptors nor the surplus of circulating OGF caused by the naltrexone because the patient takes another dose and all the OGF receptors, including the new ones, continue to be blocked. And in fact if the patient has other problems, like AIDs or cancer, those problems will get worse. So it was determined by Dr. Bernard Bihari in the 1980s that OGF and OGFr play a tremendous role in healing, and that by blocking them healing is grossly impaired.

HERE’S HOW THE “LOW DOSE” WORKS INSTEAD

A regular dose of naltrexone is between 50mg and 200mg per day. A “low dose”, however, is between 1mg – 5mg per day – much less than 10%. It is available online at 4.5mg compounded doses, which is usually where people start when they are experimenting on their own because they can’t get their doctor to take an interest in it and prescribe it for them.

When you take a “low dose” of 4.5mg, the suggestion is to take it at 10pm. By 2am, the dose is fully working and manages to block your OGF receptors for about two hours, until 4am. What happens during these two sleeping hours is that the body panics and makes more OGF, more OGF receptors and makes these new receptors more sensitive. However when the drug wears off at 4am, you are left with the benefit of all these extra sensitive receptors and a surplus of OGF. You experience a rebound effect which supercharges healing.

It isn’t all about the OGF and OGFr. There are many other endorphins which are blocked and then subsequently rebound to become more effective. Some of them have been studied. Some are still unknown. A pubmed search for LDN comes up with some fifty-four thousand hits on its efficacy for fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease etc. It is also being used in at least three different fertility clinics around the world, which suggests it is not only safe for pregnancy but also effective for women trying to get pregnant.

SOME TIPS

If you are going to bother to try this out, you might as well go for the best experience. As LDN is an opiate agonist, it works best when there aren’t any opiates in your system! It may be easy enough for you to avoid heroin and oxycodone, but it is more difficult to avoid everyday minor opiates like sugar, dairy and any excess of carbohydrates. If you are going to go out and drink alcohol one night, skip the LDN at bedtime and start again the next night. (If you drink alcohol on a full dose of naltrexone, it can actually make you really sick).

If you want to try this because you have auto-immune disease, you should know that people don’t have the best response when they continue to take their immunosuppressant drugs at the same time. It has been described as trying to drive (taking LDN) with the brakes on (immunosuppressant drugs). However that’s a pretty big decision that you shouldn’t make impulsively just from reading a blog post.

WARNINGS

This isn’t just some natural herb that has always been around and tested by thousands of years of civilization. Natrexone is a synthesized drug – serious business. Even though LDN is in an incredibly small dose, it still makes meaningful changes to your body. Fortunately, just about all of the meaningful changes are positive. However there remains one common side effect:

The side effect is that in the first three to seven days, people who take LDN at night tend to experience vivid dreams that seem to last forever, and sometimes experience nightmares. After a week at most, the body becomes conditioned and the potential for bad dreams is gone.

That is the only negative side effect.

A positive side effect is that people tend to sleep more restfully, their auto immune disease stops progressing or regresses, their chronic pain is lessened, etc. This is being used to reverse both AIDs and cancer, and the doctors doing these trials not only take LDN themselves as a preventative, but have their spouses take LDN as preventatives. It seems to have powerful inhibitory effects on tumor cell proliferation.

MY STORY

I don’t have any auto immune diseases, though I continue to be very interested in them. However I have some special friends who I thought could benefit from Low Dose Naltrexone. I gave them some reading, which they brought along to their doctors. But since their doctors had never heard of it, they all thought it was dangerous and wouldn’t read about it. So I found a way to order LDN online without a prescription, and then proceeded to “test” the product to see if the lack of side effects story was true. I am generally very healthy and thought I would be able to notice anything negative fairly quickly.

In my first three nights taking 4.5mg of LDN, I experienced extremely vivid dreams which momentarily turned dark. These dreams felt like they were days and days long. Having been an insomniac my entire life, and having tried every sedative and sleeping pill on the market, I was very surprised that within half an hour of taking LDN I felt pleasantly tired and fell asleep. Although I normally wake up a couple times during the night, sometimes for hours, instead I slept through until the morning. The vivid dreams remained for three nights and then stopped. However I continued to have an easy time falling asleep and staying asleep. My entire quality of life has changed for the better.

Usually sleeping pills (such as Trazadone, Atavan, Seconal, Neo Citran, NyQuil etc) would give me a feeling of intense physical drowsiness that would drug me to sleep but not help me stay asleep; also the effect would wear off after a week unless the dose was raised. This was never a good solution for me, so I stuck with natural remedies like intermittent melatonin, valerian, magnesium, meditation and elaborate bedtime rituals. But mostly I had just come to accept that I was never going to have an easy time falling asleep and getting the rest I needed.

There is no literature linking LDN with curing insomnia. In fact, most patients report the opposite effect – that LDN initially gives them vivid dreams and restless nights. However for some reason this has worked for me, and I am deeply grateful for the sleep that now forms a regular part of my life.

MY RAT FRIENDS

My one friend who tried LDN to deal with chronic pain went from taking 6 Aleve pain pills a day to taking none. However she found the 4.5mg/day dose made her sleep too much, so she reduced her dose to 3mg yet has maintained the same reduction in chronic pain.

My other friend with auto immune disease could not risk stopping her immunosuppressant prescriptions so tried LDN at the same time. She did not have any noticeable benefit except good quality sleep; if anything, she experienced some of the worst flare ups she had ever had, requiring her to increase her doses of immunosuppressants. Putting the car in drive while the parking brake was on didn’t work for her.

BUT IS IT REALLY SAFE?

I started going to a fancy private doctor so that I could get every blood test ordered and every hormone level checked. I wanted to be able to say without a doubt that eating LCHF (Low Carbohydrate High Fat) and doing all my weird things isn’t just making me “feel” healthier, but is actually making me healthier. So I came clean to my new doctor about taking LDN without a prescription. She was not excited, and urged me to stop taking it, and offered me some good alternatives for sleep aids (holy basil tea etc)…

However three months later, my doctor got back to me after having done her own research on LDN. She said not only did she think it was extremely safe, and probably a great prophylactic against cancer and the diseases of aging, but that she would write me a prescription herself.

I have settled on a dose of 3mg/night at 10pm. When I travel, I take it at 10pm in whatever time zone I am in. I skip it whenever I drink more than a single glass of wine.

NOW GO DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH

Fortunately there is a lot of research available on Low Dose Naltrexone. Right now (July 2014) there are dozens and dozens of clinical trials taking place for myriad auto immune diseases, AIDs, cancer etc. There is a non-profit website devoted to organizing resources for LDN. There are thousands of users online sharing their stories of successes and failures. And there is a small window where LDN is still under the radar and so loosely monitored that you can order it for yourself without too much fuss.

WHY DID I CALL THIS A “NON-PHARMA” PHARMACEUTICAL?

LDN is a “People’s Medicine” because it is extremely safe, non-toxic, inexpensive, off-patent, easy to get, and incredibly effective. This is a “non-pharma” pharmaceutical because there is barely any profit to be made off of it. A single 50mg generic naltrexone pill can be bought off the internet for less than $6. Dissolved in 50ml of distilled water, a regular person can use a calibrated medicine dropper to administer 3ml at a time for less than $0.40/dose. If LDN cures your cancer, it’s a great bargain. If it doesn’t, you only risked $135 for a year’s supply.

FURTHER READING

The Low Dose Naltrexone Homepage is a non-profit website devoted to the latest news and information about LDN

LDN SCIENCE: A group of researchers pooling their clinical trials and information

LDN Research Trust: resources, videos and conferences in the UK. THEIR DOCTORS CAN ARRANGE TO GET YOU A PRESCRIPTION, REGARDLESS OF YOUR COUNTRY, IF YOUR DOCTOR WILL NOT.

This book, The Promise of Low Dose Naltrexone Therapy, from Amazon is useful but already over six years old – you have to go online to find more recent updates and news. However this is a good start if you want a solid book in your hand to take to a doctor.

LDN for chronic pain sufferers, a citation from Clinical Rheumatology publication

A presentation about LDN used to boost fertility in cases with low ovarian reserve (low AMH)

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Shut Your Mouth

BECAUSE IT’S FINALLY TIME FOR YOUR BREATHING LESSON

taped mouthSeriously. I thought when people were telling me to shut my mouth that they just didn’t want to hear all the amazing gems that fall from it with such frequency. In fact the gems are fine. But it’s essential to keep the mouth shut to ensure nose breathing, which in turn allows for correct tongue placement which then ensures proper jaw development and facial structure.

Guess what? It is not okay to breath through your mouth at any time.

NEVER BREATHE THROUGH YOUR MOUTH!

Not during the day, not while eating, not while exercising, not while sleeping. Your fussy yoga teacher wants you to breath out your mouth while doing yoga or pilates? Okay, fine. But just for that one hour session. And you should know that most original yogic texts discuss the importance of breathing both in and out through the nose, despite what modern yoga and exercise practitioners are telling you.

When you are exhaling through your small nostrils, rather than your large mouth, a back-pressure is created and the exhale is restricted and slowed down, which gives the lungs more time to absorb oxygen. Most of our oxygen uptake occurs during the restricted exhale through the nose.

You probably think you are breathing just fine, but are you?

80% of the Western population breathes incorrectly, through the mouth. This is also called “over-breathing”, where you take in way more air than you need, and exhale way too much of it. We have all been taught that sucking in huge gulps of air is great because it’s full of oxygen, and oxygenating our blood and tissues is the gold standard. Well that was all wrong, as usual.

When you breath in the mouth, or over-breath, the lungs are overstimulated with oxygen but the airways become dried and vaso-constricted, so an inefficient amount of oxygen is actually absorbed through the alveoli in the lungs.

By contrast, when you breath in your nose, the air is warmed, moistened, conditioned and mixed with nitric oxide, which both kills bacteria and works as a vasodilator on the airways, arteries and capillaries. That vaso-dilation increases the surface area of the alveoli where oxygen is absorbed at the very end of the bronchial tubes, meaning more oxygen is absorbed more efficiently when you breath through your nose.

It’s counter-intuitive, but the best way to oxygenate our blood and tissues is by taking small, gentle breaths in and out through the nose.

WHAT IF MY NOSE IS BLOCKED

Well let me start by telling you how to make your nose blocked in the first place. Literally all you have to do is breathe through your mouth for ten minutes straight. Go ahead and try it right now and I can almost guarantee that after ten minutes, your nose will be stuffed up.

A simple fix is to take an in and out breath, through your mouth if the nose is impossible, and then plug your nose with your fingers after exhaling. Then nod your head up and down while holding your breath for as long as you can. This builds up carbon dioxide in your blood, which can thin the mucous blocking your nose. When you have to, unplug your nose and try breathing through it.

No? Didn’t work? Just keep doing it. Three times’s a charm.

If this method doesn’t do anything for you, you might have a very deviated septum or small nasal airways. You’re not alone. Most modern humans do not develop symmetrical septums or wide airways anymore, and it really comes down to what and how we eat rather than genetics. It boils down to whether you were persuaded to eat a lot of raw, crunchy and challenging foods as a child and adolescent, or whether you were fed soft, mushy, “safe” foods.

The problem with all of our modern, soft foods (all processed foods are designed to literally dissolve in your mouth) is that they don’t give our jaws any kind of work out or use. Our jaw development depends on being used, and growth is signaled by exerting pressure by difficult chewing situations and by pressure of the tongue on the upper soft palate. Without those signals we get undeveloped jaws, crowded teeth, and restricted airways.

Once you start looking for these things (under-developed jaws, crowded teeth, long faces, mouth breathers), you will see them everywhere.

THE FRENCH METHOD

That’s a fancy name for taping your mouth. When my daughter was young, I read that French women tape up their children’s mouths when they sleep to force them to breath through their noses, and to ensure perfect symmetrical facial structure and jaw development. Well I just thought that was Draconian and vain when I read about it, and tossed the anecdote aside.

Now cut to 5 years later – and my daughter’s jaw isn’t developing properly and her teeth are too crowded with nowhere to grow. In addition to outfitting her with an A.L.F. (Advanced Lightwire Functional appliance), I have her Skyping once a week with a myofunctional therapist in California who gets her to perform mouth and tongue exercises, and who insists she tape up her mouth at night.

Well, we both tried it. The French are kind of chic, after all.

The problem is that in the middle of the night, we both end up pulling off the tape in our sleep – I assume to get more air through our mouths. One night I was actually successful at keeping the tape on all night, but in the morning when I pulled it off, the first thing I did was gasp for air through my mouth.

Nothing creepy about taking photos of sleeping children, right?

Nothing creepy about taking photos of sleeping children, right?

Now this gasping for air isn’t really out of necessity. It’s out of habit. Our bodies have become accustomed to our airway inefficiencies and we prefer to pull in huge, deep breaths even though little of that oxygen is actually absorbed. This habit can be broken, but it is going to take a lot of long nights of tape on the mouth.

THE BENEFITS OF SHALLOW BREATHING THROUGH THE NOSE

  • I already mentioned that the nose produces nitric oxide, which increases oxygen capacity in the lungs by about 15% among other remarkable things, like killing bacteria, viruses and germs.
  • Breathing through the nose with the mouth shut allows the normal mouth bacteria to stay in harmony, which maintains pleasant breath. Mouth breathing increases negative bacteria which leads quickly to bad breath.
  • Your nose is connected through the nervous system to your heart and lungs. Breathing through your nose forges a vital connection between these three organs, which fosters harmony to lower stress responses, and bring blood pressure and heart rate into balance. It is essential in any kind of mediation or yoga to bring these organs into coherence by breathing through the nose.
  • Nose breathers maintain their sense of smell and taste throughout their lives, which is pleasant but is more importantly a safety feature. Mouth breathers aren’t as able to smell and taste foods that are spoiled or off.
  • Mouth breathers become snorers and sometimes develop sleep walking or sleep apnea, which can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Nose breathers can avoid these problems while maximizing oxygen absorption. 

LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH TOGETHER, TONGUE ON THE ROOF OF YOUR MOUTH

This is a mantra that you need to get into. “Lips together, teeth together, tongue on the roof of your mouth” was popularized by Dr. Michael Mew, B.D.S, M.Sc. His presentation called “Modern Melting Faces” is available on Youtube. I will post a link to the video because it is really worth seeing, especially the part where he calls out audience members for having their mouths open. Losers!

Ideally, this habit is something you do from birth. So if you have kids, get them on it pronto.

However this is still the ideal mouth position for adults as well. Although our jaws are not actively growing and changing like a child’s jaw will be, our jaws are still moving. You can tell because your teeth start to crowd as you get older. This is partly because of bone loss (yahoo!) and partly because of lack of use. So stop eating all those soft, mushy foods and start exercising your jaw and maintaing proper position. It will keep your face looking younger, and will very slowly change your shape to be more symmetrical.

If you want those changes to go a little faster, you could consider asking your dentist about an A.L.F (the Advanced Lightwire Functional appliance I mentioned earlier, that my daughter uses) or a Homeoblock appliance, which looks a little more intense. However these work not by moving your teeth or even your jaw, but essentially by training your tongue to be your appliance of change. And all you have to do is keep your lips together, teeth together, tongue on the roof of your mouth.

BUT I’M A GRINDER AND HAVE A MOUTH GUARD

Yeah, I hear you. Your dentist fitted you with a mouth guard to keep your teeth APART. So you don’t want to start keeping your teeth together because it might lead to grinding. Well what leads to grinding is having an inactive tongue. You always want your tongue to be exerting an equal and opposite force against the force of your teeth pulling together. Your teeth grind because they are unhappy with the shape of their bite, and they are trying to force a change. Get your tongue actively involved and your tongue and teeth together can make that change for you, and end up with a more comfortable bite. You might be better off with an A.L.F. or similar instead of a mouth guard. It is exactly the opposite way to go, where you cure the bite problem rather than resist it.

A side note on mouth guards: most are made with Bisphenol-A, the hormone-mimicing chemical. The ones that don’t have BP-A in them have something else in them. You just don’t want to chew on plastic all night long, releasing hormone-disrupters into your bloodstream for 8 hours. Throw it out right now. My former dentist fitted me for a BP-A mouthguard while simultaneously asking me for a donation for his bike ride to end breast cancer. I was, and continue to be, deeply offended by the sick irony. (Hormone disrupters lead to breast cancer, duh, in case that wasn’t clear enough).

SUMMARY FOR HOW TO BREATHE

You thought breathing was the easiest of the functions and that you had at least mastered that one thing. Sorry to wreck your fantasy. Basically all I’m telling you to do is:

  • go get some tape for your mouth and your children’s mouths for nighttime
  • work on your nose breathing during the day
  • eat crunchy whole foods
  • keep your lips together, teeth together and tongue on the roof of your mouth.

It’s just breathing, you can do it.

SOME REFERENCES

Dr. Mike Mew’s Youtube presentation “Craniofascial Dystrophy: Modern Melting Faces

A whole bunch of articles about A.L.F. appliances

Google these words: “homeoblock before and after” to see some amazing photos of transformations

The Buteyko breathing technique

Pubmed abstracts and articles about the dangers of mouth breathing, the craniofacial defects that result from mouth breathing, and the forward head posture that results from mouth breathing

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Quick and Dirty Antiviral

ingredientsI’ve been sick for literally two weeks, and it’s mostly my own fault. I broke the golden rule about being sick, which is to stay home and rest. Instead I hosted huge dinner parties, went to drunken costume benders, partied in Aspen for 5 nights, flew internationally for work and internationally for a wedding. All in two weeks. So obviously I am not recovering, and it’s a miracle that I don’t have something worse. On top of all that, I have probably spread my viral infection across the globe. But enough about me.

THE COLD AND FLU

Do you feel achy? Shivering? Alternating with sweating? Runny nose? Congested? Exhausted? Headache? Angry? Depressed? Coughing? Ticklish or burning throat? You have a viral infection!

There is a very, very small chance that you have a bacterial infection unless you ate a five-day old lobster salad which travelled to many hot sunny picnics, or if you have some other kind of food-borne illness, but most sicknesses are viral – meaning that you contracted a virus from somewhere.

Technically, a virus is not really an organism since it lacks a nucleus and cell wall. A virus is basically just a strand of DNA or RNA surrounded by a fancy polyhedron which is specific to each virus and studded with sensory receptors. A virus is like a seed, in that it is dormant until its receptors find the right conditions to grow and replicate. The most famous viral epidemic was the Spanish flu in 1918, which globally infected more than 500 million people, and killed at least 130 million. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

When you’re sick, you need to support your recovery with bed rest and easily digestible foods like chicken broth and coconut oil. The last thing you want to do is run around to pharmacies and herbal stores finding preparations, although you probably should.

If the best you can do is make it down to your kitchen to blend up a concoction of what you already have in your cupboard, then this Quick and Dirty Antiviral preparation is for you.

IMG_0730INGREDIENTS

  • At least a thumb size knob of fresh ginger
  • 5 good shakes of dried cayenne, or as much as you can handle
  • 1 TBS of coconut oil
  • 1 Tsp of royal jelly honey or just raw honey (Manuka honey would be a great option)
  • boiling water

You really need a vitamix or powerful blender to shred the ginger and liquefy it so that you can drink it down. I run the vitamix for at least 30 seconds. The concoction turns a lovely yellow opaque color, and I pour it into a clear glass so that I can really appreciate it.

This is a very hot! And spicy! medicine. It’s not something you want to drink every day, nor should you. However, you should drink this at least three times a day when you have a viral infection, which is basically what most cold/flu sickness are.

POURINGWHY IT WORKS: GINGER

Ginger is a hemagglutinin inhibitor, which means it stops viruses from attaching to the surface of airway epithelial cells (in the lungs). Once a virus does attach, it softens the cell’s surface and sneaks inside to hide from the immune system. The virus performs this “softening” technique by using an enzyme called neuraminidase. The good news is that ginger is also a neuraminidase-inhibitor, so ginger prevents any breaches to the cell wall.

However if a virus has managed to latch onto a cell wall and alter its structure and sneak inside, it will stimulate the cell to create a vacuole of protection around itself inside the cell. The vacuole needs to stick itself to the inside of the cell wall, which it does with hemagglutinin (a “gluey” substance) – but of course it can’t in the presence of ginger, a hemagglutinin inhibitor.

The chain of events that brings about viral illnesses is called a cytokine cascade – as cytokines are the signaling molecules of the immune system. Ginger prevents some of the early parts of the cascade as well as some of the later parts. However ginger does not prevent all of them. (The full blown cure for severe cytokine storms could require Chinese skullcap, lomatium, elder, licorice, inmortal, pleurisy root, Chinese senega root, boneset, cordyceps, Japanese knotweed, kudzu, astragalus, angelica, salvia, green tea and zinc; but at that point you are heading to a pretty special international herb shop and not just down to your kitchen for a Down and Dirty Antiviral potion).

Ginger is also good at thinning your mucus, which helps you to expel it, and will help to lower your fever during infection.

WHY IT WORKS: COCONUT OIL

Many viruses have a lipid coating, such as influenza, herpes, HIV, and cytomegalovirus. This lipid coating can be destroyed by monolaurin, a monoglyceride which is formed in the human body from lauric acid, which we get from human breast milk and coconut oil, and a little bit from pasture-raised ruminant butter. Coconut oil has more lauric acid in it than any other food outside of human breast milk. Its derivative, monolaurin, is not just antiviral, but also antibacterial, anitprotozoal and antimicrobial.

WHY IT WORKS: CAYENNE

At a general level, cayenne raises body temperatures, makes you sweat, and increases activity of the immune system. It is also high in vitamin C and helps create more white blood cells for your lymphatic system, which troll the body looking for infected cells. Cayenne also increases mucus, which allows you to trap and expel virally infected cells through coughing up phlegm and blowing your nose.

WHY IT WORKS: HONEY AND ROYAL JELLY

You could write books and books on all the things that honey, royal jelly and propolis can do for human health. In fact, those books have been written and were first written thousands of years ago. The way it works is that bees pick up pollen from medicinal plants in their ecosystem and then concentrate the pollens and ferment them (which increases and changes their medicinal properties) and then expel them as honey, royal jelly, wax and propolis for the benefit of their hive. The medicine they create is complex, and also depends on the ecosystem they are inhabiting. You can pay $50 for mono-crop Manuka honey from Australia, or you can get a $5 jar of your own local regional honey from a farmer’s market. They are both incredible products for healing, and the list of what they can do and can cure is too long for this blog. Beware of pasteurized honey, honey from China (diluted with HFCS), or any large commercial honey which just cannot be trusted in this day and age. Also beware of honey where bees could have been exposed to pesticides and neurotoxins, because those poisons are also concentrated in your honey. If you know of a place where no pesticides are used in a 50 acre radius, consider installing some bee hives and habitats.

HONEY VS SUGAR

Just because honey is basically magic doesn’t mean sugar and carbohydrates are suddenly okay when you have a viral infection. In fact, the opposite is true. When you have the flu (or any viral infection), glucose significantly increases viral load. So when you are sick, the ONLY carbohydrate you should be consuming is a tiny bit of honey. Not gallons of orange juice, not tubs of jello: Just a little bit of honey because of its profound antiviral, antibacterial, anti-etc properties.  Conversely, insulin reduces illness parameters and viral load – however obviously I don’t think you should inject yourself with insulin just to beat a fever. But you should be very, very wary about being hospitalized with a viral infection and immediately put on a glucose drip or offered sugary Pedialyte-type drinks in order to keep your nutrient levels adequate. Sugar feeds your virus, not your immune system. Is that something you want to do?

FURTHER OPTIONS

That oscilloccoccinum homeopathic remedy available at most stores is also great, if you can remember to take it as frequently as required, and at the very first sign of flu.

If you can get to a herbal “pharmacy” or someplace that can make you a custom tincture or tea, ask for something with all or most of the following ingredients: Chinese skullcap, licorice, lomatium, cordyceps, isatis, astragalus, boneset, elder, houttuynia. 

Zinc and vitamin C are also helpful, but watch out for glucose or fake sweeteners in their formulations.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Stephen Harrod Buhner is the consummate authority on natural remedies for emerging and resistant viral infections and bacterial infections. He has written these two books that absolutely deserve shelf space in your Armageddon cupboard:

Herbal Antivirals, by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Herbal Antibiotics, by Stephen Harrod Buhner

GET WELL SOON AND STAY AWAY FROM ME!

ginger drink

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Why Michael Schmidt’s Appeal Matters

michaelschmidtMichael Schmidt is an Ontario farmer who was targeted in 2006 by the Province of Ontario (through the Grey-Bruce Health Unit and the Ministry of Natural Resources) for making unpasteurized milk available to his small buying group of customers who owned shares in his milking herd. We are talking less than 150 customers over a number of years, and less than 30 cows.

When the judgement for this case came down in 2010, Michael Schmidt was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges. This should have been the end of the story.

But the province appealed the decision! And won! Who let the province waste taxpayer money on an appeal like this? Was anyone injured? Was anyone dissatisfied with Michael Schmidt’s milk? Was there any offense whatsoever that would justify taking this action? No, there was not. Was the spirit of the law being followed when the Province appealed His Worship P. Kowarsky’s judgement? No, it was not.

THE MILK ACT

The Milk Act of Ontario was originally put into place in the 1930s. At the time, milk had become a dangerous commodity due to the unmanaged population growth in cities, the lack of refrigerated trucks to transport milk, a shortage of inspections or regulations in dairy farms pertaining to their cleanliness and standards, among other things (like corporate corruption). There were frequent outbreaks of “bad bacteria” in milk, causing sicknesses and death from tuberculosis and typhoid. In 1927 in fact, over 500 Montrealers died from a typhoid epidemic that was attributed to drinking contaminated milk.

By 1938 it was put into law through the Milk Act that all milk had to be pasteurized to destroy almost all bacteria (there has always been a small amount of allowable bacteria in milk). The spirit of the law was to protect consumers from a lack of standards and unsanitary conditions that were leading to sickness and death.

The cheapest way to do this at the time was to pasteurize. The concept of pasteurization (essentially: boiling) was discovered by Louis Pasteur in 1862. He realized that if he boiled a product – milk, wine, beer, bread dough, vegetables, fruits – the product would stop its natural tendency to ferment and instead become sterile. Boiling would kill all the bacteria, and the product would become benign and any possible disease would be eliminated before it could start reproducing.

Pasteur’s discoveries saved millions of people from untimely deaths by bacterial infection. This is the whole Germ Theory of disease: Kill all bacteria and the bad bacteria will go with it.

This is also known as throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

INTRODUCING THE MICROBIOME

A lot has changed in our understanding of bacteria since Louis Pasteur’s day. Now we know that our own cells are outnumbered by bacterial cells by a factor of 10, making us more bacteria than human by every measurement. Our bacteria live on our skin, our eyelashes, our hairs, our sex organs, our mouths and noses, throughout our entire body and especially along the digestive tract and the epithelium of our intestines.

Our bacteria protect our skin, create a living and fighting barrier against “bad bacteria”, ferment unusable fibers into nutritious fatty acids and other metabolites, and are part of every single thing we do. The name for this set of 100 trillion microbes within us is the Microbiome.

Not all of our microbiome is helpful bacteria. E. coli, despite its deadly reputation, is always present in benign quantities in our intestine. At any moment, we may have a little bit of Streptococcus Progenies, Listeria or Salmonella inside of us as well. The reason these bacterial strains don’t kill us is because we are so full of “beneficial” bacteria that essentially balance the conditions (through acidification or temperature control) to keep the “bad” bacteria in check.

All we have to do to suppress our bad bacteria is support our good bacteria. They will fight it out on their own without further ado.

SIDE NOTE: YOUR FETUS

One important thing to note is that the entire time a fetus is growing inside of you, it is in a completely sterile environment: No bacteria, no microbiome. The reason your gyno is so hell-bent on making you avoid deli meats, sushi and French cheese isn’t because she hates you – it’s because if Listeria or Salmonella makes its way into the fetus, the fetus doesn’t have any “good bacteria” to fight it off. This can result in miscarriage or birth defects.

However, the greatest risk of food-borne infection comes from agricultural produce – most recently lettuce, spinach, celery, cantaloupes, tomatoes and sprouts like mung beans and alfalfa. In particular, most outbreaks from produce have been from large, industrial farms (plant factories, let’s call them) that tend to be near feedlots (animal factories, let’s call them) and then irrigate with contaminated water.

However despite the fact that the greatest risk of bacterial contamination comes from produce, I have never, every heard any doctors advising pregnant women not to eat fruits and vegetables. In fact, we tend to hear the opposite.

The next greatest cause for concern for bacterial contamination is “deli meat”, which is just low quality factory meat processed in the cheapest possible way. Industrial food is a business, not an art form after all. You have to have a tough microbiome at the best of times to survive cheap deli meat, so skip it when you are pregnant.

The next worries – French cheese and sushi – are tricky because somehow the population of France exists even though pregnant women have been consuming raw milk and cheese for thousands of years; somehow the population of Japan exists even though pregnant women have been consuming raw fish for thousands of years (at least). If this was not the case, you would expect those countries to be depopulated. It is possible that French women and Japanese women have evolved a very specific microbiome to fight off any contamination before it can reach their fetuses, but that has not been studied. I just don’t know what to say about that.

Raw milk falls into the same category as French cheese and sushi. It is totally possible that raw milk can contain a small amount of Listeria (in fact even pasteurized milk is allowed to have a small quantity of it, and often does), and that while a healthy person with a robust microbiome can fight off the Listeria, a sterile fetus cannot.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) database shows that while some cases of Listeria have been documented from ingesting raw milk, there are more cases of Listeria documented from ingesting pasteurized milk. This is because although pasteurized milk has been sterilized, it is easily contaminated with “bad bacteria” like Listeria, but doesn’t have any “good bacteria” to fight back with.

Based on the “facts”, it would be more rational to advise pregnant women to avoid ALL dairy products, ALL raw fruits and vegetables, deli meats, ALL fermented foods, as well as undercooked meats and fish. Not sure what would be left for pregnant women to eat except grains and pulses, sugar, rancid fats (processed and oxidized rather than raw), and overcooked (inflammatory) meats – and I think you know where I stand on all of those items.

HOW TO SUPPORT THE MICROBIOME

The best way to keep pathogens at bay is not to sterilize yourself, but to strengthen your microbiome. I’m talking quantity and quality. Our Western diet and propensity for antibiotics and antibacterial sprays and soaps have wiped out the microbial diversity of our guts, and we need to cultivate and develop them back into the equivalent of beautiful rainforests. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Avoid antibiotics, when you can. Don’t go dying just to make a point. I was literally on a course of antibiotics for four straight years and somehow I am still here. It’s not the end of the world to go on antibiotics or put your children on antibiotics; just do your best to save them for when you really, really need them.
  2. Don’t eat industrial meat, so that you can avoid antibiotics. The majority of antibiotic use is to promote the swift growth of livestock and to keep them alive through both conditions and feed that would otherwise kill them. Most provinces, states and countries have laws that don’t allow antibiotics to be used in the last two weeks of an animal’s life before slaughter; this is neither closely regulated nor effective at keeping antibiotics out of the meat you buy. Organic meat is technically meant to be free from antibiotics. Best bet is to buy your meat from a small biodynamic farm, or from a butcher that personally knows where the meat comes from and what the conditions are like. Lots of supermarkets have people dressed up as butchers behind the “butcher counter”; this is just a costume.
  3. Don’t drink water that is contaminated with antibiotics. That means water that is downstream from a livestock operation, or water that goes through a city’s sewer filtration system. City water has famously high levels of antibiotics in it because antibiotics do not break down easily. You take them, you pee them out, someone else drinks them in, the concentrations continue to build up. Our city’s filtration systems are designed to remove hormones and antibiotics from our water, but it doesn’t seem to be working that way. The independent companies that provide water filtration (Pur, Brita and the like) claim to remove hormones, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals from the water they filter, but it’s hard to say how effective any of this is. Your best bet is to get water from an isolated mountaintop well or spring. Next bet: do your research, ask some questions and invest in the best water filtration system you can rationalize.
  4. Don’t drink water that is full of chlorine. Chlorine is put into water to kill bacteria. You are made up of bacteria. So don’t drink something that is trying to sterilize you. City water is chlorinated. See the previous instruction about what to do about it.
  5. Don’t use antibacterial wipes, soaps, sprays or mouthwashes. If you need to sterilize something, try using boiling water. If you just need to clean something, use hot water and soap, or vinegar and baking soda.
  6. Eat a wide variety of bacteria: from the skin of raw organic fruits and vegetables, to the wide assortment of crafted fermented products like cheese, kefir, kvass, sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, natto, real pickles, aged meats, to some extent wine, and anything else we have dreamed up. It is more effective to eat a single serving of fermented vegetables than to take an entire bottle of probiotics, so consider how you want to spend your time and money. Drinking raw milk is one way to get the the bacteria of “the barnyard” into your system without having to actually milk the cow yourself. In my review of “Epidemic of Absence”, I talk about how mothers who were exposed to milking sheds during their pregnancy consistently produce children who are free from auto-immune diseases. I will provide a link below.
  7. Shake hands with people you know and trust, who look healthy. Don’t shake hands with strangers, especially if they look sick. Your flora is your genetic wealth. Share it through touch with those who you care about and want to thrive. Use your eyes, your sense of smell (and taste where applicable), and your “gut sense” to determine if people you might have to have contact with are healthy or if they are carrying a bacterial infection that you don’t want to deal with.  On the flip side, when you are feeling particularly strong, what’s the big deal in exposing yourself to some risk? Every bacterial exposure that you successfully fight off makes you stronger. We are only here today because our ancestors faced infections and pandemics and survived, not because they steered clear.
  8. Keep pets, garden, spend time in the soil, get dirty, visit animals and farms, climb trees, touch the great outdoors. You are not going to grow your rainforest sitting at your desk. There is bacteria all around us, all it takes is for you to go out and sample it.

BACK TO MICHAEL SCHMIDT AND HIS APPEAL

The Province of Ontario won its appeal against Michael Schmidt in 2012. He was fined more than $9000 and put on probation. At which point he became even more political and staged a hunger strike for more than 30 days. (However Schmidt continued to drink his own raw milk during the strike, so didn’t seem to suffer whatsoever.) I know that his milk operation was put on hold, because when I went through my back-alley contacts and tried to buy into his herd-share, I could not get access.

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Ontario Court of Appeals photo from “Doors Open”

Finally on February 5th, 2014, Michael Schmidt was invited to the Ontario Court of Appeals to present his appeal of the Province’s appeal. This was just last week, and I attended the trial.

What struck me the most was how rigidly the judges seemed to be interpreting the outdated law, which is their prerogative, and how the only way to change the system would be to change the law rather than try to work within it.

Schmidt built a bridge between farmers and consumers by creating a cow-share or herd-share program, where carefully chosen consumers (read: not narks) could buy a “share” in his herd, and then buy milk from their share of the herd when available. In exchange, Schmidt would keep his herd on pasture when possible and practice traditional farming techniques which exclude antibiotic and hormone use. There is a small but growing demand for this kind of milk, but there is no real money to be made in providing it – in that it can’t be “scaled” up. A farmer willing to provide for and milk a small herd of dairy cows in this way is doing it partly as a labor of love, partly out of nostalgia, and partly to protect a vision of farming that once was – so that it can be again one day. 

As it stands, and how the present law seems to be interpreted, nobody in Canada has the right to sell unpasteurized milk. However farmers on their own farms can drink unpasteurized milk from their own cows.

If unpasteurized milk was truly a health threat, the government would make it illegal for everyone including farmers to drink unpasteurized milk. The fact that farmers have been drinking unpasteurized milk and have not started a massive typhoid epidemic speaks to the safety of drinking raw milk when it is produced by careful farmers and small herds of cows. (In fact there are a handful of states in America, and countries in Europe where raw milk is legal and even available in stores and vending machines – and yet the typhoid epidemic has not panned out).

The problem is that the people who create and amend our laws, whether they like it or know it or not, are heavily influenced by the large corporations of this world, and their laws and amendments tend to favor industrial production over small-craft production. And these laws build on each other and create conditions where it is no longer possible or affordable to continue small-craft production, either because the licensing has become too expensive, the compliance and bureaucracy too onerous, or the inspections and redundancies too inefficient. And big business likes it that way.

HAS ANYONE BEEN SICK FROM MICHAEL SCHMIDT’S MILK?

What I find so interesting is that the Province went after Michael Schmidt so aggressively (undercover agents, multiple surveillances) despite the fact that there was not a single consumer complaint.

In fact, all of Schmidt’s customers had willingly sought him out, paid him a huge fee to join his cow-share, and then become repeat orderers of his milk. This is a high level of loyalty and repeat business that most companies would envy.

Another thing I find so interesting is that in 2008, Canadian corporation Maple Leaf Foods cut some corners at their meat processing plant which led to an outbreak of Listeriosis which killed 22 people. At no point did the government step in and demand that Maple Leaf Foods cease operations, pay a fine, or do anything at all. The company issued a voluntary recall of their meats that came from the sloppy plant, a recall that was only loosely followed. The company also voluntarily shut down its plant because it could not identify the source of the outbreak – it could have been anywhere in the plant, and there were not enough checks and balances to know.

A lot of mistakes were made, and as a result, 22 Canadians died.

You would think, perhaps, that Maple Leaf Foods president Michael McCain would be persecuted for these mistakes, and that the government would hound him down making him pay for what he had done. However this was not the case.

Instead, McCain cleverly got himself on television and issued a very sincere apology where he looked genuinely contrite. That contrition earned him instant forgiveness, and in fact he was named Business Newsmaker of the Year for how well he “handled” killing 22 people, in that the company’s stock dip and then recovery offered investors a stellar return.

The message is clear to other giant food processing companies: A heart-felt apology is worth more to investors and business strategists than money wasted on sanitation and standards any day. Profits before people. I really don’t have anything personal against Michael McCain, and his apology video (available on Youtube – I will post a link below), while not necessarily moving is at least serious and sobering.

However it doesn’t change the fact that the government turned a blind eye to the big corporate Michael, while persecuting the small dairy farmer Michael. It has occurred to me that if the government could have pulled some resources off of the “raw milk beat” and instead gotten more inspectors in the big processing plants, our citizens might have been a lot safer, and a lot less dead.

THE FARMING AND FOOD PRODUCTION ACT

The Farming and Food Production Act sounds like a good idea – maybe it’s something that protects small farmers and their rights to farm in a traditional, ecological, biodynamic system.

So is it? No way!

The Farming and Food Production Act is there to promote and push intensive industrial farming at all costs.

Like at what costs, you might ask? Well, how about this: the main tenet of the Act is that “Agricultural activities may include intensive operations that may cause discomfort and inconveniences to those on adjacent lands.” The kind of intensive, industrial farming that causes “discomfort and inconvenience” to neighbors is not the kind of farming that is sustainable and desirable!

What is discomfort, you ask? Discomfort is diarrhea caused by drinking water that is contaminated by feedlot effluent. Discomfort is not being able to sleep at night because a loud diesel generator on your property line is pumping water out of a stream 24/7 for irrigation.

What is inconvenience, you ask? Inconvenience is watching your well dry up because your potato farmer neighbor has used it all up for irrigation, which has leached all the nutrients from his soil so that he has to purchase greater and greater quantities of industrial fertilizer. Inconvenience is losing your streams and wetlands and their accompanying life due to dropping water tables.

This “discomfort” and “inconvenience” has been stamped into law so that you can have access to cheap, nutritionally-empty produce. Actually most of the industrial produce and meat protected in this Act is sent out of the country, and the profits are raked in by foreign multi-nationals rather than by your dear neighbor.

Is this an Act protecting farmers? Nope.

Is this an Act protecting consumers? Nope.

This is an Act protecting multi-national corporations who use “farmers” as their day-laborers and patsies.

THE VERDICT

In the “internet age” we read about things online and surmise that everybody is reading the same thing, and acting against wrongdoing on our behalf. We can “text” a vote about our disapproval about certain policies; we can sign petitions at Avaz.org and Change.org, and we tend to assume that these things matter and make a difference.

When I read about Michael Schmidt’s upcoming trial, I assumed it would get a lot of media coverage. I also assumed the trial would be well-attended by people who support Michael Schmidt, and people who care about our food system. I actually thought that it would be a waste of time to attend the trial because there wouldn’t be any room for me. I also assumed the trial would take place in a giant courtroom with hundreds of seats like I always see on television.

In fact the courtroom (Courtroom 1) was very small and only had  room for 45 people including all the lawyers and press. I showed up an hour early “to get a seat”, but I didn’t need to. By the time the trial started at 10:30am, there weren’t more than 50 people there. I volunteered to watch in a second “viewing courtroom” (Courtroom 2) so that there would be ample seats for journalists, and also because I had a 6-year-old with me who might get bored and fidgety during the trial (I also brought a 14-year-old with me but I was not worried about her ability to pay attention!).

By about 11am, the viewing courtroom had also filled up – I would estimate nearly 100 people turned out in total, including lawyers and journalists. This is much, much less than I expected. And not really enough to make a difference. The judges will take up to six months to deliberate on their verdict. I’m not sure if that’s because the case is so complicated or if it’s a measure to make sure media attention has no chance to gain momentum.

There were three small pieces of online coverage after the trial – from CTV, CBC and the Toronto Sun. All three short reports contained the classic journalism style of seeking out both sides of the story without submitting any further research. So when the Sun concludes their article with this comment from the Province’s legal team, “We don’t need to wait for a widespread outbreak or epidemic to take action,” the Sun is clearly framing the story in a certain way. The Sun thinks raw milk is going to kill us all and has to be stopped. You can bet that Sun readers will take that message home to the dinner table.

In accredited journalism, the journalist has an obligation to report statements where available from “both sides” or all sides of any story; but it should never stop there. A journalist also has a responsibility to research those statements and provide evidence about their legitimacy, otherwise outlandish statements carry weight that they do not deserve (like that raw milk consumption will lead to “an epidemic”). I don’t see any of that supporting research happening in this raw milk story, or really in many reports at all. (This blog is obviously not accredited journalism – I can just write whatever I want to write, which is how I like it).

WHY DOES MICHAEL SCHMIDT’S APPEAL MATTER?

Because food matters. Because your right to traditionally raised and farmed food matters. Because farmers matter. Because what you put in your mouth matters. Because the health of your children and their children matter. Because if you don’t care about these small things now, your rights will continue to erode until it’s too late.

The big companies, supported by the government, want you to subsist on fast food, convenience packaging, reconstituted “meat” products, and pasteurized and irradiated “food products”. Then they want to shove you into the medical system and “cure” you of all your nutritional degeneration with on-patent medications and expensive treatments. All you have to do is study Economics 101 to know that this is the best path for our economy and the best policy for growth.

What you have to ask yourself, every time you go to the market, read the newspaper, or walk in the country – is whether growth and economic prosperity are the correct model for our food system and food security? Is food the same as a microchip or a running shoe? I am arguing here that food does not fit into our existing economic models, and needs to be protected in a new category.

I think it’s time to start caring about where our food comes from, because no one else is going to do it for us.

_______________

LATER UPDATE: WHAT HAPPENED

Michael Schmidt lost his appeal. There was no media coverage.

_______________

FURTHER READING

Here is the transcript from Michael Schmidt’s original trial in 2010 where he was acquitted of all charges.

The Milk Act of Ontario.

Read the Farming and Food Protection Act, which should be called the Industrial Food Promotion Act instead.

Three different databases showing higher incidence of Listeria in pasteurized milk than raw milk: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Outbreak Database, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest

News coverage of the February 5th appeal: the Toronto Sun, CTV online, CBC online

My review of Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Auto-Immune Disease  by Moses Velasquez

What you need to know about all the scare-mongering headlines you may read about raw milk, elegantly written by Chris Kessler in “Raw Milk Reality: Is Raw Milk Really Dangerous?”

Michael McCain’s apology video made after killing 22 people with a lapse in processing standards

How to write a letter to your Minister of Parliament, and a list of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly (MPPs)

Print out this petition, get signatures and return it to the Canadian Consumer Raw Milk Advocacy Group so that they can present it to Premier Wynne at the right strategic time.

Link to The Bovine, which covers issues about raw milk in Ontario

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Easy Leek Carbonara – Grain-free

INGREDIENTS

There’s a restaurant in Portland, Oregon called Le Pigeon, which makes a leek carbonara that I read about in The Globe and Mail. My lovely aunt forwarded it to me. I will link to the recipe at the end of this post if you want to try out the original.

Although I don’t eat grains anymore and rarely crave bread or pasta – my Achilles’ heel is spaghetti carbonara. There is something so comforting about creamy fettucine noodles in an egg and parmesan sauce, complemented with rendered pancetta that I just can’t get out of my head. Until now.

This recipe replaces the boring fettucine noodles with strips of leeks, cut into the width of fettucine. Since leeks are probably my favorite vegetable, I decided this was a very, very good idea.

The reason I have messed with the great recipe from Le Pigeon is just to make it a little simpler to prepare on hurried nights, and to increase the fat content (obviously!)pancetta

EASY LEEK CARBONARA

SERVES 4 – 5 AS A MAIN DISH, 6 – 8 AS A SIDE

  • 3 big leeks
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of parmesan
  • 200g of pancettaleek noodles
  1. Cut up 200g of pancetta into small cubes. Cook these slowly in a heavy pot to render out the fat. I always cook for about 15 minutes while I’m getting the other ingredients ready.
  2. Boil a big pot of water.
  3. Trim off the hairy bottom and dark green tops from your leeks. Cut them lengthwise into long strips that resemble fettucine noodles. Rinse these well in a deep bowl of water or the sink to get off any dirt and grit.
  4. Grate about a cup of parmesan cheese.
  5. Crack 3 egg yolks into a large bowl. Add the parmesan cheese and mix together with a fork. Set aside.
  6. Once the water boils, add your leek “noodles” to the pot and boil for about a minute. “Parboil” if you will.egg yolks
  7. Finish rendering the pancetta, being careful not to overcook or your cubes will be crunchy rockettes. Most recipes will drain off the fat at this point, but not me! I spent good money on fancy pancetta from the Healthy Butcher and I’m not throwing any of it away.
  8. Strain the leeks after a minute. At Le Pigeon they are all fancy and plunge the leek “noodles” into an ice bath. I wouldn’t bother, though it is nice to dry them a bit on a towel, and then  add the dry “noodles” to the finished pancetta and hot fat. Toss like crazy in the warm, heavy pan.
  9. Once all the “noodles” have been coated with pancetta fat and the pancetta is evenly distributed, and the leeks have cooked a little more to their desired softness, quickly use some tongs to dump the entire pan into the prepared bowl of yolks and parmesan.  Stir quickly so that the sudden heat doesn’t make the yolks “cook”. (They will “temper” with the heat, but not actually cook). stirring
  10. Serve out smaller portions than you think you can eat, and top with some extra parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

If you think regular carbonara is heavy, this is about twice as heavy. But what I mean instead of “heavy” is filling. What is so remarkable is that even after a large portion, there is no bloating or heaviness – just fullness. I swear you cannot overeat this because it’s just so rich.  And absolutely delicious!

If you are not a fan of leeks, I still think you should try this. Boiling the leeks for a minute before the sauté seems to soften their flavor quite a bit. And yet that subtle leek-ness is still there, making this carbonara dish so much more layered and intense than the standard fare. easy leek carbonara

MACRONUTRIENT BREAKDOWN

One cup of standard carbonara (and who only eats one cup of pasta at a sitting?) is 43g of carbohydrates. One cup of this Easy Leek Carbonara (and you probably can’t eat a full cup) is 7g of carbohydrates.  This recipe also contains 19g of protein and about 32g of fat per serving/cup. If you want less protein, use less pancetta.

As it is, this recipe has 74% of calories from fat, 20% from protein and 6% from carbohydrates. Very LCHF.

What else? Each serving has 25% of your RDA for Calcium, 10% of your Iron, 27% of your Vitamin B12, 28% of your Phosphorous, plus a decent amount of Selenium, Riboflavin, Folate, Potassium, Vitamin A and Vitamin B6.

HOW TO PORTION THIS RECIPE

If you are alone and want to make this for yourself, just use one leek and one egg yolk, with a smaller amount of parmesan and pancetta. You will have leftovers. Generally, a big leek cooked this way will be too much for one person or just enough for two sides  – so gage the recipe that way.

FURTHER READING

Original and slightly more exciting recipe from Le Pigeon restaurant (includes lemon juice! red pepper flakes!)

Read about why leeks are so awesome and also support cardiovascular health. Try to eat something from the allium family every day (garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, etc).

A reminder about just what LCHF stands for (low carbohydrate high fat) and why it matters

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Beet Kvass NBD

IMG_0442Seriously, let’s not make a big deal about this. A couple organic beets, some water, some salt and an air-lock jar. It’s like 5 minutes and then you forget about it for 3 weeks.

Beet Kvass is a 10th century Ukranian probiotic sports drink, essentially, in that it’s full of electrolytes and is super hydrating. It also claims to be an anti-inflammatory blood tonic, to cleanse the liver, lower blood pressure, to oxygenate the blood and spare oxygen when exercising. The Ukranians call it a “Cure All”, and there’s a rumor that the only people who didn’t develop blood poisoning after the radioactive Chernobyll explosion are those that religiously consumed beet kvass. As such, beet kvass and juice are frequently recommended for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

beets

There are complicated ways to make it, and then there is THE EASIEST, most traditional method which is obviously my preference.

BEET KVASS DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil your kettle or whatever.
  2. Wash 2 BIG BEETS or 3 medium beets to get any major mud off of them. Don’t go nuts scrubbing because what we are looking for here is the Lactobacillus bacteria that is on the surface of the beets. Some recipes call for peeling the beets and then adding a whey starter culture. But in this recipe, we are acknowledging that the beet skin already contains the exact starter culture we want (isn’t nature cool?) and so we are going to work with the beets and not against them. Again it’s important to use raw, organic beets here because conventionally farmed root vegetables absorb all the toxic fertilizers and neuro-toxin pesticides that are needed to grow them – furthermore, conventional root vegetables are grown in mineral-starved and mostly dead soil so there’s really no point in eating them anyway.
  3. cut up beetsCut up the beets, LEAVING THE SKIN AND SKETCHY HAIRS on, into rough cubes – smaller than an ice cube but much larger than dice. If you make the beet cubes too small, they will release too much juice and sugar and you will get a different type of bacteria involved that works too quickly, creating more alcohol than lactic acid, and the whole thing will be wrecked. Bigger cubes mean the work will be slow and encourage the right kind of bacteria.
  4. Add 1 heaping TBS of good SEA SALT (or Himalayan salt) into the bottom of a large (say a quart) jar that has an air-lock, or those clamps that compress a rubber seal. The jar is important because a lot of carbon dioxide is going to be created and it needs to escape; at the same time you don’t want to let any oxygen in. (Oxygen will encourage the wrong type of bacteria, which will then “spoil” your kvass).
  5. saltPour about half a cup to a cup of boiling water from your kettle into your salted jar, and swirl it around until it dissolves. The only reason you boiled the water is to help the salt dissolve.
  6. Fill up half of the jar with cold FILTERED WATER. You don’t want the water to be hot anymore or else it will “cook” the beets and their bacteria and enzymes. We need a lot of live action for this process.
  7. Shove in all the cut up beets you have just prepared. Hopefully they will all fit. If you need to add more cold water to cover the beets, do it. Try to leave an inch of airspace at the top of the jar. I’m lousy at leaving space, and usually pay for it a few weeks in when my kvass seeps out of the jar all over my marble countertop. Major fail.salty jar
  8. Seal the jar up, leave it out of direct sunlight at room temperature or slightly warmer and forget about it for 3 weeks. Lactobacillus prefers temperatures between 70-75 degrees F, and likes just this amount of salt, no less and not much more. You could add another 1/2 TBS of salt if you don’t mind the salty flavor, but that’s the limit for a quart jar and 2-3 beets.

OTHER FLAVORING OPTIONS

Maybe add a clove, a cardamom pod, a star anise, a bit of orange peel, a knob of ginger or anything you think will go nicely with the earthy flavor of fermented beet juice. The lactic acid will also work its magic on these ingredients, unlocking beneficial polyphenols.

IN THREE WEEKS TIME

During this time the Lactobacillus have been converting the carbohydrates in the beets into lactic acid, carbon dioxide and small amounts of acetic acid and ethyl alcohol. The carbon dioxide displaces any oxygen in the jar, creating an anaerobic environment suitable for subsequent species of Lactobacillus to propagate.

After three weeks, strain out the pink liquid and put it in a serving bottle, preferably with a flip-top airlock style lid, and keep in the fridge. Drink at your leisure – but start slow. Just half a cup a day is all you really need to get the benefits. You might not dig it at first, but you’ll get used to it. Like all the other weird stuff, you’ll end up craving this earthy, salty elixir too.

beet kvass jar

BONUS PROJECT

Leave about a cup of the liquid in the bottom of the beets, fill again with water and another TBS of salt, and ferment the same beets again for another three weeks.

After that point, you can strain out a second batch of kvass and also eat the slightly tangy beets on their own or in a salad. These 6 week old beets will have much less sugar in them, a slightly tangy taste and will be teeming with beneficial bacteria.

While beets are a pretty starchy, high carbohydrate vegetable for anyone on an LCHF (Low Carbohydrate High Fat) diet or similar – fermented beets are much lower in carbohydrates so totally acceptable.  (Whereas if you just “pickle” beets the conventional way by boiling and dumping them into sugary vinegar, they will actually have a much higher level of carbohydrates and sugars. Don’t do that, silly!).

YOU’RE SO WILD, GIRL

When you ferment vegetables (or anything) without adding a starter culture, it’s called doing a “Wild Ferment”. You’re getting your starter culture from the very thing you are culturing. You can use wild yeasts when making bread and beer; you can use wild bacteria when fermenting vegetables and fruits – and cheeses, wines and meats etc. And that’s just way cooler and more natural. Let’s always do it wild. Less fuss, less muss: more WOW factor. Got it?

BODACIOUS BACTERIA

The bacteria in our body outnumber our own cells by a factor of ten, which has to make your jaw drop.

What that essentially means is that over the last couple billion years, Earth bacteria has been co-evolving with us – you might even say “designing us” – in ways to make itself more mobile, virulent and imaginative. Consider that bacteria used to be stuck to a rock underwater; now it can walk around, drive, fly airplanes and be exposed to all manner of exciting cuisines and experiences.

It’s not like we are just the hapless host; we have benefitted immensely from bacteria. Bacteria protects our skin membranes, gives us immunity to diseases, helps digest our food and even creates essential nutrients for us out of food that would otherwise be useless to us. Although there are hundreds of bacteria that are on our side, there are also bacteria that totally suck for us. By encouraging and cultivating the bacteria on our team, they will keep the bad bacteria at bay. It is totally heavy-handed for a human to go after bacteria in general, by means of anti-bacterial wipes and sprays. It’s not our job to try to target bad bacteria – we are too big and clumsy to figure it out. Our job is to promote the health and propagation of our good bacteria so that it can take care of the bad bacteria on our behalf. This is symbiosis, baby! Our good bacteria has been engaged in this dance for billions of years, so there no point presuming we can do it better just because Louis Pasteur figured out how to boil stuff. 

Lactobacillus bacteria in particular inhibits the growth of diarrhea-related bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella and E. Coli. In addition, Lactobacillus competes with pathogens for receptor sites at the mucosal cell surfaces (nose, mouth, underpants region and entire digestive tract), making it more difficult for us to get sick. What this means is that our body is meant to be teeming with Lactobacilli, and has evolved to thrive in its presence. However our modern, sanitized environments and dead, overly fibrous or rancid foods create conditions that deplete Lactobacillus along with other beneficial bacteria. So stop doing that.

Making and drinking beet kvass is too easy not to do. I know you have a couple beets down there in your fridge drawer that you have been too lazy to cook. So just spare five minutes of your time and get on with it. This is a great winter project, and much needed in this season of flu and cold.

FURTHER READING

Article on beet juice lowering blood pressure and sparing oxygen while exercising.

More detailed information about the different Lactobacillus bacterias and their products and by-products, including a table showing all the major lactic acid bacteria involved in fermented fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Mercola’s site claims one serving of fermented vegetables has more probiotics than an entire bottle of commercial probiotic supplements. In other words, don’t bother wasting your money on proprietarily limited commercial strains when making fermented vegetables is dead easy and way more useful.

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