Tag Archives: Vitamin D

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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Get Your Mag On

Mg12

Photo from the helpful Periodic Table

I’ve talked before about how I recommend using topical magnesium oil as a better method of supporting the body’s magnesium needs (see the “Start Here” link under “Home” in the menu bar). But let me break down my recommendations again:

  1. Rub an almond-sized dollop of topical MAGNESIUM OIL on yourself every night about half an hour before bedtime. Magnesium oil makes your skin a bit itchy, like how you feel after getting out of an intensely salty sea. I rub the oil on my stomach and the leftover on my legs. After half an hour, if the itchiness is still irritating me – I wipe it off. All the magnesium should have been absorbed through my skin by that time.
  2. Take epsom salt baths. There are other kinds of salt baths – like Dead Sea Salts, Brittany Fine Sea Salts, Himalayan Salts etc. All of these are great, and I love to alternate. But if it’s magnesium you are after, epsom salts have the most. Epsom salts are also by far the least expensive. I buy huge tubs of it at Whole Foods in the bulk section for about $2.
  3. Consider taking a magnesium supplement, especially if you are prone to constipation, arteriosclerosis or kidney stones. Magnesium chlorate might be best for you, possibly in powder form – but others are also good. But skip magnesium oxide – it doesn’t absorb very well at all.  This should be taken ideally in the morning and then again at bedtime. You need to pace it out. The problem with oral magnesium is that if you take too much, you can get diarrhea. So at least you always have an easy and relatively harmless way of knowing if you have taken too much. The topical magnesium oil above bypasses the digestive system, so will never give you diarrhea. Hooray for that.

A TELLING EXPERIMENT

Take an ounce of water. You know: a shot glass. Now crush up a calcium pill and try to dissolve that in the water. You will see that it doesn’t dissolve very well and leaves some chalky bits suspended in the water. Now crush up a magnesium pill and add that to the same glass. Suddenly the calcium starts disappearing. The magnesium helps keep the calcium dissolved in solution.

/END OF EXPERIMENT

When you take calcium or even just get a lot of it from your diet – without enough magnesium – this is what can happen to calcium in your body: Calcium will precipitate out of solution and form nasty things like kidney stones, stiff cell walls and arterial plaques.

So first of all, never, ever, ever take calcium supplements on their own. I don’t want you to take them at all, not for any reason. But if you absolutely must because of some deep belief or fear – then please, please take a calcium/magnesium combo. And of course make sure you are also taking Vitamin K2, which also directs calcium to your bones and teeth and away from soft tissues. Please see my book review of “K2 and the Calcium Paradox” under the “Books” tab in the “Home” menu above. (I will provide a direct link below.)

Magnesium won’t reverse arterial calcification on its own; only Vitamin K2 can do that. However to reap the full benefits of Vitamin K2 (and A and D), you will need magnesium for the maximum vitamin metabolism.

magnesium miracle

THE MAGNESIUM MIRACLE

I learned about this easy-to-visualize experiment from a book by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND called “The Magnesium Miracle”. If you want to get hot and heavy on magnesium, this is a great place to start. She promotes a very specific pico-ionic magnesium which is apparently absorbed “100% at the cellular level”! So maybe if you are not seeing profound enough effects with the above recommendations after 3 months, these crazy blue bottles are the way to go. I will link to the product at the bottom of this post, though I haven’t used it.

FOODS THAT ARE HIGH IN MAGNESIUM

  • Wild nettles
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sea salt

I am going to skip right over grains. That’s because although grains have incredibly high levels of magnesium, the magnesium is bound up with the grain’s high phytic acid content – so it is unavailable. Furthermore, the phytic acid can bind with the magnesium in your body and further deplete you. It is a total misunderstanding and marketing ploy to indicate that you can get magnesium from modern grain products. A caveat: if you soak your grains (at least overnight in an acidic solution), you can reduce the phytic acid content and make the magnesium more bioavailable. This is the case with traditional, whole grain sourdough bread. But come on people, we’ve come so far… Just skip the grains altogether!

Likewise legumes, which have the same phytic acid business going on.

BACK UP. REMIND ME ABOUT THIS PHYTIC ACID BUSINESS AGAIN?

Okay listen up. Phytic acid is a storage form of phosphorous which is bound up with grains, legumes, nuts and seeds to prevent them from sprouting. This is why you can store grains, legumes, nuts and seeds for so long without them growing into plants or rotting. Phytic acid does this by “locking down” these minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc (and others). Locked up means you can’t get them! Not for you!

So if you want to source fresh organic wheat berries grown on magnesium-rich soil, stone-grind them at home for freshness and to prevent oxidizing the fatty acids, then soak the ground flour overnight in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar or whey, and then pour off the phytic acid-rich water and make a sourdough with an extended rise over a couple of days – like, go for it. You can probably get a good dose of minerals from this effort.

What I do is split the difference. I buy raw, organic almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds – which are all rich in phytic acid – and I soak them overnight with a little bit of apple cider vinegar. In the morning, I rinse them all and then put them in a dehydrator at 105F to keep the seeds “alive”. You can also use a low oven setting (ideally 140F or less) for a day or so. If you don’t dry out the nuts, they will go rancid pretty quickly.

Alternatively, you can do the super Ayurvedic thing and soak just 10 almonds overnight, and maybe 2 Brazil nuts, and then eat them “wet” the next day.

Nuts and seeds have more nutritional density and less effect on insulin than grains and legumes.

MORE BORING PROBLEMS: OXALATES

Green leafy vegetables are also rich in magnesium (and other minerals), BUT WAIT! They are also high in oxalic acid, which works just like phytic acid to bind minerals and make them unavailable to you.

Now of course there is a bit of natural buffering going on, but essentially what this means is that if you are trying to do yourself a favor by eating a lot of raw spinach, Swiss chard, and even kale to a lesser extent – you are inadvertently depleting your body of minerals. Which is pretty ironic because spinach, Swiss chard and kale are pretty packed with minerals.

SO HOW DO YOU WIN AT THIS INFURIATING GAME?

This part is easy. COOK your dark leafy greens. Swiss chard, which is particularly rich in oxalic acid, should be boiled, for a long time (!), and then drained of its oxalic acid-rich water.

I know there is a big movement afoot to eat raw vegetables for all of their fabulous enzymes. But the fact is that minerals trump enzymes. Why? Because enzyme action is driven by minerals. Not enough minerals? No enzyme action. Minerals are the chicken that comes before the enzyme egg.

So you should eat the majority of your vegetables (ALL VEGETABLES) cooked. It’s not my fault that we evolved this way.

SOME RAW IS PERFECTLY FINE!

Oxalic acid is not all bad. It’s also a fine antioxidant. So don’t freak out so much.

QUICK SAMPLE LIST OF MAGNESIUM-DEFICIENT SYMPTOMS

  • migraines, pain and insomnia
  • strokes, brain problems
  • cholesterol and hypertension, heart disease
  • obesity and diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia
  • PMS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • infertility, pregnancy, preeclampsia, cerebral palsy
  • osteoporosis, kidney stones and tooth decay
  • anxiety and depression
  • chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, asthma

WHY DID I EVOLVE TO NEED THIS MUCH MAGNESIUM BUT I’M NOT GETTING IT NOW?

It’s our industrialized food system, stupid! Growing food on depleted soil means no minerals. That’s why they add fertilizers like Potash, which is essentially a cheap potassium solution. Potassium is great! But it pushes out the magnesium. Now it’s not available in your crops! Those cheap crops are fed to your “protein sources” like factory-farmed cows, chickens and farmed fish. Are you getting it? What you’re not getting is magnesium.

OTHER THAN SUPPLEMENTING, WHAT CAN I DO?

Buy your vegetables from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group or farmers’ market, and check in on their farming practices. You’re looking for some biodynamics going on – crops fertilized with cow and chicken manure either from the same farm or a local neighbor. You’re looking for naturally mineral-rich soils, or soils that are supplemented with balanced minerals (like Redmond Clay).

Eat pastured meats (grass-fed, grass-finished) like lamb and beef, and true free-range poultry – animals that can absorb the minerals from the soil in the grasses they eat. Use these mineral-rich bones to make stock!

Eat brains and hearts! Brains and hearts are super concentrated with magnesium. Choose young lamb brains and hearts from a butcher you trust.

THE MAGIC OF ROCKS

Did you know that having rocks in a field used to signify mineral-rich and fertile soil? But now we think rocks in a field means the farmer is too poor to remove them and buy himself a tractor. That’s because rocks mess up tractors – from tilling to seeding to harvesting, so we have developed a bias against them. Industrial farmers have to remove the rocks from their fields.  But the rocks were the sweet naturally slow-releasing mineral depositories. Now they have to replace those lost (free) minerals with purchased fertilizers and nutrients. That’s an expensive proposition, and besides, a lot of the fertilizers just get leached away when it rains… Which then accumulate in wetlands and create salty, acidic, life-averse environments. So on every front: bummer.

The CSA I buy my vegetables from uses horses to plow their fields. I’m serious! There are rocks everywhere!

THE VERY BOTTOM LINE

Magnesium is deficient in almost everyone. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is between 300 – 400 mg for adults. Any overdose is self-correcting (you will get diarrhea if you ever take too much). It improves the body’s ability to metabolize other minerals and vitamins. There’s not much magnesium doesn’t help with, and it doesn’t cause any harm.

FURTHER READING

The Magnesium Miracle” by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND

ReMag Pico-Ionic Magnesium drops

Ancient Minerals Magnesium oil, available at Smith’s Pharmacy on Yonge Street in Toronto

My book review of “K2 and the Calcium Paradox”

Arteriosclerosis linked to magnesium deficiency.

Migraines and magnesium

Diabetes and magnesium

Plowshare Organic Farm CSA outside of Toronto that uses Sally and Milly, two fine work horses to plow

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How To Eat More Butter

butter

Our whole lives (or at least mine, born in the ’70s) we have been taught to be sparing with our butter, or even to substitute it with something else like lemon juice or soy sauce. But now all of a sudden I am trying out LCHF (Low Carbohydrate High Fat diet) and searching for ways to increase my butter intake. This is a weird turn of events.

Of course it’s easy enough to load butter onto cooked green beans, asparagus, peas, fiddleheads, broccoli and the like. But let’s face it, these vegetables are all a little slippery and just don’t hold a lot of butter.

Unfortunately the things I most strongly associate with butter eating – bread, potatoes and popcorn – are now out of my diet due to their high level of carbohydrates. Technically summer corn on the cob should be out of my diet too, but come on! Summer corn? That’s like the best thing in the world. So I’m still going to enjoy summer corn when the time comes, and I’m going to load it up with grass-fed butter and sea salt.

There have always been a few vegetables where using scant butter seemed to ruin them. In particular, I am talking about boiled artichokes and mushrooms.

When I used to boil artichokes, I would serve them with a sauce of butter cut with lemon juice, and then I would just barely dip each leaf in the sauce. It was an agonizing exercise in restraint. Well now it’s a different story. Now I am really slopping the artichoke leaves around in the butter to intentionally absorb as much as I can. Last night my daughter and I managed to eat 1 TBS melted butter each on our artichokes. Wow, right?

morelsDon’t you find when you cook mushrooms that they get incredibly dry? And that adding water or broth just makes them taste, well, watery? Well literally the only thing that can fix this problem is adding more butter. But until discovering LCHF, I wouldn’t dare. Now I am sautéeing 2 cups of mushrooms (about 5g carbohydrate) with at least 2 TBS grass-fed butter. If the mushrooms get dry, I just ADD MORE BUTTER! This works especially well with morel mushrooms, which are a wonderful treat in spring.

Cauliflower (about 5g carbohydrate per cup) is such a versatile vegetable because it can be roasted whole, it can be boiled, it can be “riced” with a ricer, grater or food processor, or it can be mashed. If you mash it, you can add crazy amounts of butter and also cream cheese, whipping cream or sour cream.

LET’S TALK ABOUT BUTTER SOME MORE

To be clear, I am talking about using grass-fed butter. I don’t really care if it is certified organic, because the process of pasture-raising cattle usually indicates that a different standard of farming is at play. Of course, organic is preferred. However I approve of Kerrygold butter from Ireland, which is not organic – nor is Smjör from Iceland. Incidentally, on the Smjör website they claim that the Icelandic people used to consume about 1700g of butter per person per week – which is about 3 3/4 pounds of butter. Let’s keep breaking that down. That’s just over 2 “sticks” of butter per person EACH DAY, or half a pound.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED?

I don’t think I could stomach it.

2 sticks of butter is equivalent to 16 TBS (that’s 1760 calories and 192g of fat!) . On a good day, I can have 2 TBS in my coffee or other hot beverage, another 2 TBS on 2 cups of vegetables, and then possibly another TBS or so in some grain-free baking or melted into a sauce. And that’s only 6 TBS of butter, still 2 TBS short of a stick! (I don’t think I’ve ever actually been able to eat that much in a day, and incidentally, that’s 660 calories and 72g of fat). There really isn’t a limit to how much butter you can consume for health – it will be how much you can stand. Butter and fat are really going to stimulate your bowels, possibly make you feel nauseous at high levels, and generally take some adjusting to. It is really, really hard to eat “too much” butter accidentally.

If you want to do these same fantastic butter conversions, use this online butter calculator and knock yourself out!

BUT SERIOUSLY, WHY BUTTER?

There are so many fats to choose from if you are attempting LCHF. I think coconut oil or Medium Chain Triglyceride oil would be the most important fat because those oils tend to coax your metabolism into ketosis or fat-burning more than any other fat. However butter is important for so many other reasons.

The best reason to eat grass-fed butter is that it contains the magic trifecta of Vitamins A, D and K2 in perfect harmony. Vitamin K2 is going to help you move calcium from your soft tissues into your bones, and reverse plaque-related heart disease. Vitamin D helps the calcium to take orders from the K2, and Vitamin A again helps with the absorption of calcium. I mean, this trifecta does so much more – protects against osteoporosis, fights tooth decay, helps control cell division and gene expression, nourishes the mucous membranes, protects against cancers – but trying to figure it out in supplement form will always mean that one is out-dosing another. The best way to get your fat-soluble vitamins is from a natural, traditional food like grass-fed butter that contains all three in a golden proportion.

The next best reason is that grass-fed butter is full of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). We initially get it in breast milk and we make a little bit of CLA in our gut, but the best source is kangaroo meat and pastured animal products like butter. Grass-fed ruminants can have as much as 5 times more CLA in their end products as grain-fed ruminants. CLA is concentrated in the fats of animals, so butter is especially potent. CLA has anti-tumor properties that fight all three stages of cancer – initiation, promotion and progression, in addition to being able to dampen the effects of carcinogens on cell mutations. CLA also boosts your immunity, lowers insulin resistance, builds muscle mass and reduces body fat. I would hate to skip out on butter and miss all that.

Butter is also a great source of antioxidants from Vitamins A and E, and structurally insulating cholesterol which nourishes the brain.

There are a million other reasons. Just google it. If you don’t want to smuggle grass-fed butter over the border into Canada, you can do everybody a favor and buy a share in a small local dairy farm. That way you can access your own grass-fed milk, cream and butter to your heart’s content, and simultaneously support local independent farmers. Go to the website realmilk.com and search around until you find your country and city. I would recommend a small farm with less than 20 Jersey or Guernsey cows because they are more likely to carry the beneficial A2 gene. Avoid Holsteins. Make some phone calls, visit the farm, take responsibility and ownership of your food supply. If you aren’t ready to trust raw milk per se, you can always buy it and boil it yourself.

My point here is not to waste your time with conventional butter and dairy. Not when real food is so close at hand.

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Books: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox

There are thousands of books about what to eat, and while so many of them are essential reading, I think this one pulls it all together into a simple yet mind-blowing concept.

Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox

This book is written by an Ontario (shout-out for local) naturopath, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, who became fascinated by the x-factor of Vitamin K2 and the way it has eluded our modern foods and created a huge nutritional deficit and misunderstanding.

For starters, most books about building bone density (for example let me cite “The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach” by Annemarie Colbin) will talk about Vitamin K1 and totally miss or misunderstand Vitamin K2, which is completely different. These books will tell you to get your Vitamin K1 from leafy greens like kale and spinach. This is great advice on the surface, because our intestinal bacteria can convert Vitamin K1 into Vitamin K2 – so long as our intestinal bacteria is in tip-top condition (rare) and so long as we eat mountains and mountains of kale and spinach, which is probably going to degrade and disorganize our intestinal bacteria. In other words, we are not ruminants. We do not have the kind of stomachs and digestive systems that can efficiently create the amount of K2 that we need for optimal nutrition.

Now I want to step back for a moment because I hate the idea that there is a supplement out there or a specific vitamin that we “need” to fix everything going on inside us. I’m more of the school that if we start loading up on one vitamin, it is just going to throw our other vitamins and minerals out of whack and cause greater problems. So in general, I want all of my nourishment to come from whole foods, and not from supplements. And NEVER from synthetic vitamins and supplements, which studies have shown over and over to cause more harm than good.

SO WHY AM I SO ENAMORED WITH THIS BOOK, AND WITH K2?

Because Vitamin K2 is something that has been systematically (and let’s say accidentally) bred out of our food system by industrialization. And when we don’t get Vitamin K2 in our system, we have no way of sending calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin A to their proper locations where they can do the most good. Vitamin K2 is the organizer, the director, and without it, calcium binds to our soft tissues instead of our bones and causes heart disease. Whereas getting K2 back into the diet literally REVERSES heart disease.

Consider what conventional health protocols have us do: take calcium and vitamin D supplements every day of our lives. Without any consideration for Vitamin K2, all this does is increase our risk of heart disease, and actually increase our risk of brittle bones, fractures and osteoporosis. The conventional advice does the exact opposite of what it intends. The conventional protocol is outright dangerous and wrong.

HOW DID WE GET VITAMIN K2 BEFORE INDUSTRIALIZATION?

There are two factors that have contributed to removing K2 from our food supply. The first is factory farming, and the second is the advent of refrigeration. Because of the efficiencies of factory farming, our livestock is treated like a commodity and eats commodity corn and grains in order to grow bigger and fatter in a shorter period of time. The resulting fats from these animals do not contain Vitamin K2. Whereas if you can get your hands on pastured ruminants and pastured eggs (the animals need to literally eat grass from weaning to slaughter, or peck at insects in the field and feel actual sunshine on their backs), you will be getting a dose of Vitamin K2 in the fats and yolks.

Another point is that when we eat conventional animal foods, we are (correctly) advised to eat the lean protein and avoid the fat. This makes sense but not because of the “message” you have been hearing: not because saturated fats are bad for you or because they will make you fat. You must avoid these fats because conventional GMO grain-fed animals have to be saturated with antibiotics and other medicines to keep them alive until slaughter on a diet that fills them with disease – all those toxins are concentrated in the animals’ fat. If you eat that fat, you are getting a dose of the worst of the worst. Whereas the fat of a pastured animal, presumably (you’ve got to take responsibility and research your own food from the specific farm and area you are from) is free of antibiotics, toxins and GMOs and is rich in Vitamin K2, the best source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin D. Amazing what a difference a little natural farming can make.

My second point was about refrigeration. Obviously we all love our fridge and it has created a million conveniences for us, and even scores of nutritional benefits. However because of these efficiencies, we no longer need to culture or ferment food to keep it from spoiling. But as it happens, culturing and traditionally fermenting food is a great way to increase access to locked nutrients in our foods, such as Vitamin K2 and a host of B Vitamins.

However it depends on the ferment and the culture. Some cheeses don’t contain any Vitamin K2, some contain lots (Dutch Gouda). Fermented or coagulated tofu made from soybeans doesn’t contain any Vitamin K2, whereas soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis creates Natto, and contains the highest amounts of K2. (The best K2 “supplements” you can buy are whole-food versions derived from Natto).

This book is so important I’m going to go all-caps and bold and call it a FOUNDATION BOOK. This will subvert your understanding of calcium supplementation, Vitamin D supplementation, saturated fats, fermented foods and even vegetable loading, to a degree. This book will show you how the conventional nutritional guidelines are leading us down the path to disease, and how a traditional approach to eating can actually reverse the damage done.

The great news is that the body wants to heal itself, and all we have to do is feed it human-appropriate food and get out of its way.

My mother and I found this book in the spring of 2012, and read it in tandem. Almost every day we were calling each other exclaiming, Did you read the part about the something or other?! Hopefully you will have the same thrill when you read this with all your friends and relatives… (!)

Jenny McGruther at Nourished Kitchen has put together some great resources about these concepts, as well as an interview with Dr. Rheume-Bleue. You can find out next-level info like making your own K2-rich cheese at home.

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