Back From Being Sick and Tired

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Pardon the unexplained absence and the slow response to comments. I spent the last 10 days or so becoming reacquainted with what it feels like to be sick and tired.

Tired came first. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m prone to occasional bouts of insomnia. The good news is that I hadn’t experienced a serious case of it in a long time. Back in the summer, I finally went to see a sleep specialist. Among other things, he recommended I take a dose of melatonin about an hour before I intend to sleep. That seems to help. I’ve had a sleepness night here and there, but no consecutive nights of staring at the ceiling.

Until last week, that is. Since I’ve been dealing with this stuff my entire adult life, I know when it’s pointless to try to fall back to sleep after popping awake at 2:00 AM or so. I get a feeling like there’s an engine spinning somewhere in my body. Doesn’t matter how tired I am, if that engine is spinning, I’m not sleeping.

So on those nights, I accept reality, get out of bed, drink some coffee, and put in my programming hours for the day. I usually fall asleep after the sun comes up. Most of the time I’m able to sleep normally the next night, and I’m back on track.

But then there are those bouts of insomnia like last week’s … ugh. I go to bed exhausted after being awake most of the previous night. I fall asleep … then pop awake two hours later, with that damned engine spinning again.  Oh-no … it’s going to be one of those multi-night versions …

I’ve had occasions when the engine started spinning because an idea got ahold of me and refused to let go. I’m okay with that. It usually means a multi-day burst of creativity and productivity. One of the best programming ideas I ever had came to me while I was asleep. I woke up thinking, Wait a minute … could that actually work?!

I went on a multi-day programming jag, sleeping an hour or two here and there.  I’d snap awake thinking about the next bit of code and start programming again. The idea worked.  It solved a problem that had been nagging my company for months. It was worth being physically tired.

But sometimes (like last week), the engine seems to start spinning for no reason. No Big Idea.  No Big Worries keeping me awake.  If I lie awake in bed, I’m treated to what feels like a non-stop conveyor belt of unrelated and unimportant thoughts. I find myself wondering, Why the @#$% am I thinking about that at 3:00 AM? It’s like my brain has decided to empty the trash after months of hoarding, and I’m forced to witness the process.

So I get up and work. Or get up and watch TV. Anything beats lying there and watching the mental trash go by.  That’s what it was last week: a long stretch of being awake for no apparent reason, then a few hours of sleep. Another long stretch of being awake, then a little more sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

After five days of this nonsense, I decided I’d had enough and went for the less-than-ideal cure: I waited until 9:00 PM – at which point I’d been awake for 33 hours – and drank a bottle of red wine. That nearly always shuts down the random-thought conveyor belt. Then I’m able to sleep through the night. It’s not quality sleep, of course, but it gets me back on the normal-person schedule of sleeping at night and being awake during the day.

Unfortunately, I landed back in Normal Person Land just in time to get hit with a nasty chest and sinus infection for the first time in years. Dang, I almost forgot what that feels like.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I rarely get sick since adopting a good diet. Mentioned? Aw, let’s be honest: I like to brag about it. Some bug goes around, co-workers and acquaintances start dropping like flies, and the most I usually get is a sniffle for a day or two.

“Where’s Joe? He’s been out sick all week? What about Deborah? She’s out sick too?”

Well, that probably wouldn’t happen if they’d stop eating that nasty sugar and flour, he thought to himself, turning up his nose a bit.

Perhaps my immune system was weakened by several days of too little sleep. Or perhaps the universe decided to provide a lesson in humility by reminding me I’m not invincible. Whatever the reason, I ended up spending the next several days hacking and coughing and sneezing and dripping and generally feeling as if someone had stuffed a gallon of gooey stuff into my skull. I managed to put in my programming time working from home, but as soon as the workday was over, all I wanted to do was vegetate in front of the TV before bed.

I still don’t feel normal, but at least I had the energy to drive to the office today. I can tell I’m on the mend.

So that was my week. How was yours?

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On The Adventures Of Keto Woman Podcast

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I was recently a guest on The Adventures of Keto Woman podcast with Daisy Brackenhall — a woman with a lovely English accent who lives in France.  (Perhaps it’s easier to get good butter there.)

We had great time talking about Fat Head Kids, wacky Wikipedia editors, the origin of Fat Head pizza, and dealing with naysayers.  You can listen to the episode here.  I love the cartoon graphics Daisy uses for her episodes, by the way:

 

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Wheat Is A Pain In The Neck

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Throughout my thirties and forties, I experienced fairly regular backaches. I’m not talking about excruciating pain, mind you. It was more like a tightness and dull ache in the lower back that usually came around at night. Sometimes it was enough to wake me from sleep. I’d try to fix it by lying flat on my back, raising my right leg, then tossing it to the left. Then I’d repeat the process with the left leg. Sometimes I’d feel little pops, like when you crack your knuckles, and that seemed to loosen up the tightness.

Those backaches went away when I switched to a low-carb diet and stopped eating wheat. There was no great AHA! moment. It wasn’t like experiencing sudden relief from nagging pain. It just occurred to me after some months that I wasn’t waking up with those annoying lower-back pains anymore.

Chareva had a similar experience, only her little aches and pains were in her neck. It seemed every other night, she woke up and began fluffing her pillow, trying different arrangements of pillows, all in an attempt to find the perfect angle of support so her neck felt comfortable. I used to tell her I’m glad we’ve opted for cremation when we die; otherwise I’d worry she’ll spend eternity lying in a casket with her neck propped at an angle she finds disagreeable.

As in my case, there was no sudden, life-changing sense of relief after giving up wheat. The neck pains just went away. Eventually we both commented on how the annoying aches and pains were gone, figured the change in diet probably had something do with it, and otherwise didn’t think much about it.

I did think about it recently because of my daughter Sara. She inherited my body type, all the way down to the O negative blood. Once she hit puberty, sugary foods made her feel queasy – exactly what happened to me in my teens. She noticed a couple of years ago that when she eats white flour, she gets little red, itchy patches on her arms afterwards. Consequently, we don’t have to preach to her about the health effects of sugar and wheat.  She generally avoids them.

However, last weekend she participated in a speech and debate tournament in a town about an hour from here. After the tournament, the organizers served the kids pizza. Sara was hungry and figured what the heck? So she ate pizza.

Later that night, she was watching TV with Chareva and me and started shifting her head a little this way, then that way. Then she complained that her neck was bothering her and she couldn’t find a comfortable position. Since she’s been listening to us talk about this stuff for several years now, she made the connection herself: it could be a reaction to the pizza, some kind of inflammation.

A couple of days later, I went looking for the first time to see if there are studies or least some interesting articles on a connection between gluten and backaches or neckaches. Yup.

I wasn’t surprised when one of the first articles that popped up was from Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly Blog:

I believe we need to add back pain to the list of common health conditions that are relieved with wheat elimination.

Not to say that all back pain goes away with wheat; it course it does not. But there are people who obtain substantial relief from even years of debilitating pain with wheat elimination.

After sharing a reader’s letter about debilitating back pain disappearing after ditching wheat, Dr. Davis writes this:

I am very grateful that Wendi experienced this life-changing event, an effect I’ve seen in many other people. But the question that plagues me is why? What is it in this crazy creation of geneticists that would cause such an effect? Is it some inflammatory response triggered by wheat lectin? Is it some peculiar gastrointestinal effect of gliadin expressed in the back?

Good questions. Dr. Amy Burkhart writes about similar experiences with patients in a post on The Celiac MD site:

In my previous practice as an emergency room doctor, I saw numerous people with back pain. It was often due to a traumatic injury related to lifting, a fall or a car accident. However, sometimes we could not pinpoint exactly why someone was suffering. We evaluated and treated the back pain, even when the true cause could not be identified.

Fast forward 10 years to my current integrative medicine practice. Many of my patients have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. As they tell me their medical history, many recount back pain so severe it required MRI’s, medication and therapy. Some had mysterious pain that no one could explain. In many cases, the back pain in these patients simply resolved with a gluten-free diet.

There is scant information in the medical literature on the relationship between low back pain and celiac disease, but what is available is worthy of mention. In a 2010 study evaluating back pain and sacroiliitis (inflammation in the joints around the tailbone), 70% of adult celiac patients were found to have changes or involvement of the sacroiliac joints.

The 2010 study Dr. Burkart mentions is this one:

All patients were currently on gluten-free diet and none of the patients had gastrointestinal symptoms at the time of the study. Using various imaging techniques, involvement of the sacroiliac joints was confirmed in 70% of celiac patients. Imaging revealed different morphological changes in the sacroiliac joint, e.g. accumulation of synovial fluid, synovitis, erosion with concomitant sclerosis, sacroiliitis or calcification of the ligament. These changes probably represent different clinical stages and/or manifestations of the same process. In a follow-up study of eight patients, after 11 years on a gluten-free diet, the great majority of patients had no clinical symptoms; yet, a subclinical progression of the sacroiliac joint involvement could be verified.

Interesting. The study suggests that the celiac patients still had damage at the base of the spine, but were no longer feeling the pain after going on a gluten-free diet.

This article on the Arthritis Health website was interesting as well:

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints and scaly patches of skin known as psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis occurs in people with psoriasis, but not everyone with psoriasis develops the arthritis.

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes severe itching, most commonly in patches on the elbows, knees, and scalp. An estimated 10% of patients with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, with the joint symptoms often appearing approximately 10 years after the start of the skin condition.

Psoriatic arthritis will first manifest as the skin condition in most cases, sometimes years before joint symptoms will be present. The joints that are most commonly affected with psoriatic arthritis include those closest to the tips of the fingers and toes. The joints of the hips, knees, and spine can also become involved.

As I’ve mentioned before, I had a patch of psoriasis on the back of my head that went away after I gave up wheat. The Arthritis Health article doesn’t mention wheat or gluten, but the connection between psoriasis and arthritis certainly points to a common cause.

As. Dr. Davis and Dr. Burkhart both mentioned in their articles, there’s not much research out there directly linking gluten to back and neck pain. But there seems to be rather a lot of experience. As Dr. Burkhart writes:

Anecdotally, I do see low back pain as a manifestation of celiac disease and it commonly resolves after diagnosis and initiation of a gluten-free diet. It also frequently recurs if gluten is ingested.

I don’t have celiac disease. Since I don’t seem tolerate wheat very well, I had the test just to be sure. But I’m convinced you don’t have to be diagnosed with full-blown celiac disease to experience problems with wheat. Eat wheat, I have back pain and other problems. Don’t eat wheat, the problems go away. Same goes for my wife and older daughter. Makes you wonder how many people are popping pain pills and running out for chiropractic treatments when what they really need is to ditch the wheat, doesn’t it?

My psoriasis wasn’t severe. My back pains weren’t severe either. But man, I’m glad they’re both gone. Giving up wheat was a small price to pay.

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Eat Me, Lancet … These People Are A Perfect Example Of The Anointed

Actually, I know the EAT-Lancet people won’t eat me because I’m made of meat. To stay within the range of what they consider healthy (and sustainable!) meat consumption, they’d have to divide me into something like 7,500 servings. Walter Willett could put my left calf muscle in his freezer and have all the meat he’s allowed to eat in a year.

If you follow diet and health news and haven’t been in a coma for the past few weeks, you know the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health launched their first Big Event on January 17th, complete with a media blitz. Here are some quotes from an Irish news site:

A major report on healthy diets and food systems commissioned by the Lancet Medical Journal has called for a comprehensive shift in how the world eats.

The EAT-Lancet Commission involved a three-year collaboration between 37 scientific experts from 16 countries.

It concluded that our food systems are faulty and a major contributor to climate change, leaving civilisation in crisis.

The recommendations would imply a 90% reduction in red meat and milk consumption in Ireland, a 70% reduction in chicken, as well as substantial reduction in the consumption of potatoes and some other vegetables.

And some quotes from the New York Post:

A hamburger a week, but no more — that’s about as much red meat people should eat to do what’s best for their health and the planet, according to a report seeking to overhaul the world’s diet.

The report was organized by EAT, a Stockholm-based nonprofit seeking to improve the food system, and published Wednesday by the medical journal Lancet. The panel of experts who wrote it says a “Great Food Transformation” is urgently needed by 2050, and that the optimal diet they outline is flexible enough to accommodate food cultures around the world.

So who are these people? I first wrote about them in this post and described them as a bunch of social-justice warriors, which they are. But there’s quite a bit more behind the curtain, as reported in the Mirror:

The globe-trotting billionaire behind a campaign to save the planet by drastically reducing meat consumption is accused of blatant hypocrisy.

Gunhild Stordalen, a Norwegian who owns a £20million private jet with her husband, regularly flies to exotic destinations around the world.

Air travel pollution is a major contributor to global warming. Critics claim the pair are doing exactly what she is fighting against.

Model-turned-doctor Gunhild, 40, bankrolled the EAT-Lancet study … The green campaigner and vegetarian, founded the EAT Foundation in 2013. It set up the three-year EAT-Lancet commission recruiting 37 experts from 16 countries.

In recent months she has posted photos of herself sunbathing in Mexico, relaxing in Greece, hugging a tree in Costa Rica, meditating with husband Petter in Antibes, living it up in Cuba and posing by a pool in St Tropez.

She was also photographed in front of a backdrop of New York skyscrapers in a post lecturing people to cut meat from their diets.

So we have a billionaire zipping around the world in a fuel-guzzling private jet and lecturing the rest of us about drastically reducing our meat consumption to save the planet. Yup, that figures. Since she bankrolled the EAT-Lancet people, you can bet your bottom dollar they agree with her views. In fact, if you read the EAT-Lancet paper, you’ll see these people are a perfect example of The Anointed – even better than Dr. David Katz, which takes some effort.

To prove the point, I’ll lift some quotes about The Anointed (in bold) from my Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds speech, then mix in quotes from the EAT-Lancet people and my comments.

The Anointed identify a problem. This is now THE BAD. To fix the problem, The Anointed propose a Grand Plan – preferably something bold and new and exciting.

Plenty of The Anointed have proposed Grand Plans over the years. We’ve had Grand Plans to end poverty, improve education, reduce rates of heart disease, get rid of illegal drugs, make health care affordable for all, etc., etc. But Grand Plans don’t get much Grander than the EAT-Lancet group’s Grand Plan, because by gosh, their plan is going to SAVE THE ENTIRE PLANET!  Just ask them:

Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience and constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed.

The Commission highlights the need for a Great Food Transformation—ie, a substantial change in the structure and function of the global food system so that it operates with different core processes and feedback.

If you’re highly resistant to being bored to death, go find a copy of the full report (which I downloaded) and read it. These people have produced a detailed Grand Plan, complete with marching orders for nearly everyone and everything involved in food production. Here’s just a taste:

Our vision, with scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production, integrates food, health, and environmental policy into many policy areas, including trade, economics, rural livelihoods, equity, culture, society, and community. This inclusion is a strength, not a diffusion of effort. For the food system to change and for healthy diets to be available to all requires not only food production or consumption to change, but also active involvement of sectors in the middle of the food chain, such as food processing, storage, logistics, retail, and food service. These sectors need to be engaged in the transformation, not least because these intermediary sectors have economic power and cultural influence in food systems.

And another taste – try to stay awake:

By assessing the existing scientific evidence, the Commission developed global scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production and integrated these universal scientific targets into a common framework, the safe operating space for food systems, so that planetary health diets ( both healthy and environmentally sustainable) could be identified. This safe operating space is defined by sci-entific targets for intakes of specific food groups (e.g. 100 to 300 g/day of fruit) to optimize human health and scientific targets for sustainable food production to ensure a stable Earth system

Hey, WAKE UP!! You awake now? Okay, good.

To fully grasp the depth of the commission’s arrogance, it helps to have an interest in economics. There’s a famous essay titled I, Pencil that explains, simply and beautifully, why central planning doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because nobody knows how to make a pencil.

What? Of course we do!

No, not really. No single person knows, anyway. To make pencil, you have to know how to find and cut down the right trees for the wood. To cut down the trees, you need equipment, like chainsaws, which means you have to know how to make a chainsaw. To make the chainsaw, you need steel, which means you need to know how to find iron ore, mine the iron ore (which requires a whole ‘nuther set of equipment) and smelt it into steel. You need to know how to build the machines that stamp the steel parts of the chainsaw.  You have to know how to deliver the chainsaws to where they’re needed.  Once the trees are finally cut down, you have to know how to deliver them to a mill, build the equipment to cut and shape the wood, etc., etc.

That’s just a small fraction of what’s involved in acquiring the wood. Now toss in the same complexities for acquiring and shaping the graphite, the brass ring, the paint, and the rubber for the eraser. What you end up with is a countless number of people, skills, materials, equipment and locations involved – just to produce a lowly little pencil. No group of human beings, no matter how intelligent, could sit down and successfully plan and coordinate everything involved. That’s why central economic planning has failed miserably everywhere it’s been tried.

And yet the EAT-Lancet people believe they’ve figured out everything there is to know about producing and distributing food. They believe they’ve constructed a plan to feed the world and save the planet in the process. And they actually believe their plan would work … because:

The Anointed simply assume that because their intentions are good, the plan must be good.

This Commission does not underestimate the importance of its message or the urgency of the task it sets.

Gee, that’s very humble of you not to underestimate the importance of your own message.

We outline five specific and implementable strategies, which are supported by a strong evidence base.

So obviously, the Grand Plan will work … because you said it will work. Case closed.

And because The Bad is so very, very bad, we MUST ACT NOW, before it becomes even worse.

A global transformation of the food system is urgently needed … Data are sufficient and strong enough to warrant action, and delay will increase the likelihood of serious, even disastrous, consequences.

The Commission proposes boundaries that global food production should stay within to decrease the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic shifts in the Earth system.

Yup, if we don’t adopt the diet the EAT-Lancet committee recommends, we’re all doomed. And what does that diet look like? I’m sure you’ve seen descriptions in various media outlets, but I believe this graphic from their paper pretty much says it all:

Got that? To be healthy and save the planet, you need to limit yourself to 15 calories of beef or pork per day. Just over 60 calories per day of chicken. Eggs? Forget it … you get 19 calories per day. One egg is about 80 calories, so enjoy that one-fourth of an egg for breakfast tomorrow. But be sure load up on those healthy, healthy, healthy grains!

Are these dietary recommendations actually based on solid science? Of course not. Here’s a quote from the New York Post article:

John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford University, said he welcomed the growing attention to how diets affect the environment, but that the report’s recommendations do not reflect the level of scientific uncertainties around nutrition and health.

That’s putting it mildly. Go ahead and read the (ahem) “science” in the full paper if you choose to torture yourself, but it’s the same old Willett nonsense, cherry-picking a few meaningless observational studies and pretending he’s engaging in actual science.

Interestingly, the Grand Plan often requires spending more of other people’s money, or restricting more of other people’s freedoms, or both.

I believe this section of the EAT-Lancet paper this says it all:

Environmental and societal health costs of food supply and consumption should be fully reflected in pricing by introducing taxes. As a result, food prices might increase. Therefore, where appropriate, social protection or safety nets (eg, increasing income through cash transfers) can be established to protect vulnerable populations, particularly children and women, while keeping trade open.

Domestic spending will need to increase for policy instruments supporting healthy diets from sustainable food systems.

Local authorities need powers to apply zoning regulations in low-income areas to restrict unhealthy food outlets.

Yup.  They want to tax you on the food, then tax you again to subsidize people who can no longer afford the food because of the taxes.

The Anointed will, if they can, impose the Grand Plan on other people – for their own good, of course.

If you have a tendency to bang your head on your desk, you might want to don a helmet before reading this:

The full range of policy levers is likely to be needed. Faced with challenges, policy makers might initially implement soft policy interventions, such as consumer advice, information, education, or, in the case of food, labelling. These interventions assume that consumer actions will generate sufficient change and are slow in effect unless mass public interest in change exists. However, the scale of change to the food system is unlikely to be successful if left to the individual or the whim of consumer choice.

We won’t succeed if consumers are allowed to make their own choices, so we’ll need the full range of policy levers. That’s the polite (sort of) way of saying We need to force this on people for their own good.

By contrast, hard policy interventions include laws, fiscal measures, subsidies and penalties, trade reconfiguration, and other economic and structural measures. These interventions alter conditions in which the whole population exists. The type of interventions adopted is the prerogative of governments, people, and processes. However, countries and authorities should not restrict themselves to narrow measures or soft interventions. Too often policy remains at the soft end of the policy ladder.

Let me interpret that: too often, authorities don’t actually force people to make the choices we want them to make. So get out there and do some forcing!

You get the idea. A total of 37 “experts,” funded by a vegetarian billionaire who enjoys globe-trotting on her private jet, have decided they know how we should eat, and they know how food should be grown, distributed, taxed, subsidized and advertised. And if we don’t listen, they want governments to stop pussy-footing around with “soft” policy interventions and go in hard – to save the planet, of course.

You’d best be prepared to hold onto your steak with one hand and fight these people with the other.

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Fat Head Kids Bonus Track

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When Gravitas Ventures agreed to distribute Fat Head Kids, I asked if people still buy DVDs and Blu-rays.  Yup, they answered, video discs are what we call a sunset technology.  It will go away someday, but for now, plenty of people still prefer a physical product over a download.

I wanted people who buy a physical disc to get some sort of bonus track, so I put together 20 minutes of extra interview footage.  Here’s a six-minute version I uploaded to YouTube:

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On The WTF (What The Fat) Podcast With Dr. Ryan Lowery

The fun part of appearing on all these podcasts is that each interviewer asks different questions.

Anyway, I was recently a guest on the WTF (What The Fat) show with Dr. Ryan Lowery.  Love the title he chose for the episode: If I’d Known This, My Whole Life Would Have Been Different.

That is, of course, the message in Fat Head Kids:

Too late for me to go back and be a lean and healthy kid, but you can make that choice now, my young friend.  Here’s what you need to know …

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