Friday, January 21, 2011

Losing My Mind (assuming I had one to begin with)

I am one of those rare few people that out performs in crisis mode. If there is something that needs to happen, I can put aside every single emotion known to mankind and get things done. The only major problem with this is, since I am not dealing with emotions in the heat of the moment, they tend to bubble up when I least expect them and often forget what caused the upset in the first place. Enter this week.

I have been going to school part time to accumulate enough pre-requisite classes to apply to medical school. I also work full time. I have a dog, a boyfriend, friends, a pretty addictive photography habit, and I refuse to eat fast food. What does this mean?! Not enough time to do anything ever. So crisis mode is sort of a constant companion.

To get an idea of what this like let me explain. I am currently taking 200 level biology classes. This includes genetics, and taxonomy of ever creature under the sun, literally, except archeas. I am in class 8 hours a week, with at least 20 hours of homework and studying required to maintain A grades which are required for maintaining scholarships. That’s 28 hours of school a week at least. Add that to a 40-50 hour work week, at an office, which adds approximately 5 hours of driving time to and from work. Plus on days that I have class, the distance traveled between by school, office and home are too great to traverse between activities so I go from work to class adding an extra 4 hours to my school time. Leaving my out of home time commitments at about 87 hours a week. Assuming I get 6-8 hours of sleep a night, that is a total of 48-56 sleeping time. In summation I have already accounted for 143 hours of my week of which is there is only 168, leaving me 25 hours to: play with my dog, spend time with a boyfriend that means to world to me, see my friends (who are truly incredible people), keep my house clean, feed myself, keep myself clean, grocery shop, get some exercise, as well as work on scholarship and grant applications, taxes, mortgage payments, house projects and maybe if I have one second of one moment I would like to just sit and not do anything (but this never actually happens). Week over, lights out, goodnight, my brain has left the building.

Why am I torturing myself like this? Because I hate my job, and I am slowly (very slowly) working my way to a goal that makes me so excited sometimes I could cry. Properly understanding the human body, our interactions with food, the environment and our world at large is an amazing journey.  I cannot wait to be a Naturopathic Physician, I have never in my life felt this kind of joy and pull toward doing something with the exception of photography and dance. And as the days and weeks and months progress, I get busier trying to keep up on everything. It is very easy to lose focus and not spend enough time on one of the aforementioned activities of everyday living. Currently it seems to be seeing my friends and sleeping.

This week has been a particularly good week though. I have gotten to spend, not enough time but, a decent amount of time with the boyfriend. Had a wonderful date, turned in a bunch of papers and homework (a head of time!!!!! holy crow), have managed to utilize more of my commuting time by finding some books I have been meaning to read on CD at the library (The Greatest Show on Earth currently in the player), have gotten a decent amount of sleep (though not enough) and even managed to run a couple miles. And then I started crying. Why?! I honestly dont know, but I am sure it was built up from trying to organize scholarships, and get Christmas together on top of all my other every day duties as well as trying to get my house ready to sell. And while I had a couple days of blissful peace my exhausted body said finally! now it’s time to panic.

The moral of this story is twofold. One, if I have been cranky, moody, flighty and/or irritable towards any of my  favorite people this is why. And two, I need to take more breaks so the bottled up panic can work its way out more evenly. Sadly this state of being is only going to get worse once I start grad school, so maybe it times for me to be better at organizing and simplifying my life, but that in its self is just yet another project that requires time. I think it’s time to start petitioning  for a 12 day week.

                                         worn out, just like me

Thursday, January 20, 2011

not for the alliumphobia sufferers

The last couple of weeks in my lab have been dedicated to testing the effectiveness of natural antibiotics to pharmaceuticals on varying strains of bacteria. It’s sort of gross, and smells about as great as you can imagine. But the most interesting effects (in my opinion) that came out of the tests were the differences between commercially prepared garlic and fresh garlic.

Garlic has been used historically for many medicinal purposes for anything from cold and flu symptoms to the regulation of blood sugar levels. There have been scientific studies connecting garlic consumption with heart health, as well as the treatment of stomach and colon cancers. Louis Pastuer used it to help prevent gangrene throughout World War I and II. It has been used in homemade mouth washes to prevent mouth infections, gargled to stop throat and respiratory infections. The Cherokee used it for coughs and croup. Sailors used it to prevent scurvy. It can prevent beriberi by increasing the body’s ability to absorb thiamin. It has been known to help treat cryptosporidium, and toxoplasmosis  in Aids patients. And it has been known to help treat a random assortment of chest infections, digestive issues and fungal infections like thrush.

I would love to continue pushing garlic, but in my research I feud that some people can be severely allergic to it and as always before making any  dietary changes a person should have a food allergy test, anaphylactic shock is not something to play around with. It has been known to cause burns when administered topically, it thins the blood and should not be eaten in conjunction with insulin shots unless cleared by a physician.  But none of these are common, and occurred when garlic was consumed in larger than normal quantities (more than 2 whole cloves a day for a prolonged period of time).

The  active anti fungal, bacterial and microbial qualities in garlic can be attributed to allicin and phytoncide. These two compounds exist in the garlic clove and are not activated until the clove its self is crushed. And while these properties are present in very large quantities, the longer they sit the less active they become. Peel, crush consume all within a half an hour to receive the most benefit of your garlic as well as taste. So while fresh garlic is not only delicious, if prepared properly can perform some truly amazing feats of health. Wild garlic is best, organic, then non organic fresh, and commercially prepared is best  avoided.

I say avoid not because it doesn’t taste as good (which is certainly true) but also because in the tests my lab partner and I preformed commercially prepared garlic was not only out preformed by fresh garlic (remembering the time sensitive nature of allicin and phytoncide) but grew some curious additions that were definitely not the bacteria we inoculated the dishes with. And by curious I mean fungal, colorful, fuzzy, gross!

This brings me back to many of the arguments being presented by organic, whole food eaters. While garlic is just one type of food, the point was pretty clear to me. As consumers we put our trust in the rules and regulation presented by the FDA. We assume that things bought in the grocery store are things that can and should be eaten. But as I find more evidence to the contrary, I find more I am spending more time in local produce markets and less time at grocery chains. In this case particularly,  I would like to know how the commercially prepared garlic is…prepared. I would very much like to know how these beautiful fungal colonies came to be and well as what kind. Bust mostly I would like to know what other presumably fresh looking foods offers this array of diversified hitchhikers so I can avoid them as well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Seeking Inspiration on a Cold and Rainy Day

A lot of my favorite people have gotten to go on some fun trips out of town lately. And being strapped down by work, school and lacking cash, I am not only feeling left out but lacking any true inspiration from the void of outside exposure. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love where I live, but everyone needs escape. So my lunch break today was spent looking for visual escape via the blogs I follow (thank you sources).

                                                                 I'd like to live here
And see this

I'd like to celebrate with these people

And then take a nap here

I'd like to sail on this

and get places on this

I'd like to spend my night here

And have all friends over for dinner here

I would like it be to socially acceptable to wear this every day

Or this

But I'd settle for this

I'd like this to be boyfriend and I right now

And this to be best friend and I

I'd like to know the story behind this

And the rest just make me smile

Inspiration found in multiple sources:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I am reading two of Michael Pollan's books for my biology class. And while I really loved the Botany of Desire, In Defense of Food is really the book for me. And for you by close proximity. And although I have written a total of 16 pages in book review for the two books (one of which isn’t even completed). I refrain from inundating you with my opinion. I will simply say read them both, you won’t regret it. But if you don’t take this incredibly well written quote from In Defense of Food home with you.

 "One of the most momentous changes in American diet since 1909 (when USDA first began keeping track) has been the increase in the percentage of calories coming from sugars, from 13 percent to 20 percent. Add to that the percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates (roughly 40 percent, or ten servings, nine of which are refined) and American are consuming a diet that is at least half sugars in one form or another - calories providing virtually nothing but energy. The energy density of these refined carbohydrates contributes to obesity in two ways. First, we consume many more calories per unity of food; the fiber that's been removed from these foods is precisely what would have made us feel full and stop eating. Also, the flash flood of glucose causes insulin levels to spike and then, once the cells have taken all that glucose out of circulation, drop precipitously, making us think we need to eat again."

To view his books, and the man himself go to here :

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Malk, now with more vitamin R"

There is a whole host of conflicting studies showing drink skim milk for reduced fat intake, drink organic whole milk for full vitamin intake, drink soy milk for prostate and whole health, don’t drink soy products due to over processing and under fermentation.  It gets a little confusing, and extremely irritating, everywhere you turn another interest group is telling you to consume a different type of milk like products. But take a look at this sentence and tell me what is wrong with it…..interest groups and milk like products. If single ads don’t set off bells and whistles in your head try compiling a few ads and studies done on milk and find out who has backed them, what measures were taken during the study, what was actually studied, and what was actually found before just jumping onto that conclusions mat and making rash decisions.

First of all can we agree that one should “eat for evolution”. Eat the food in the form that we as humans have evolved to consume, it may seem silly, but it is astonishing how far from this we have come thanks to food industrialization. The short of it, eat the food that looks like food, your body will thank you later. Second,  milk is a fantastic source of calcium, vitamin D, A, E and K. These also all happen to be fat soluble vitamins, meaning without fat in your diet you will never be able to absorb and take benefit from them. But not to worry, our brilliant mother nature has managed to provide a neat little package to ensure that your fat soluble vitamins in milk will be absorbed properly, its called whole milk. Other types of processed milk 2%, 1% and non fat get increasingly less beneficial, and also tend to be worse for you. There are several types of milk proteins that are broken into two groups, caseins and whey.  Caseins are the fats that generally get used for cheese production and whey gets pulled out to create proteins powders, chip flavors and various other dairy flavored food type products. These also happen to be the two bi products under most scrutiny by anti milk interest groups  and have organized studies that have shown they aggravate the symptoms of autism, ADHD, and IBS.

Do these two types of proteins then cause these problems, no. Do they aggravate them, maybe but only if these people are allergic to milk products. And this goes back to “eat for evolution” any person with Asian decent has a very high probability of being allergic to milk or lactose intolerant (two different problems), this includes Muslim, Indian, Greek, any Asian country, parts of Russian heritage, parts of Gypsies heritage, Native American and some south Americans.  It takes a certain amount of a certain type of bacteria in a person’s gut to properly break down these huge animal proteins (nearly 6 times larger than the milk proteins found in human breast milk). When humans first started drinking cow’s milk they became very sick, but over time of continued use and the wonders of evolution and adapting to environment certain peoples have developed the ability to properly digest and reap the benefits of this fantastic food.

Those afraid of the side effects of dairy allergies don’t go running to the grocery store and picking up all dairy free products yet. Caseins are extracted for dairy products like cheese. But whey is extracted for all manner of processed foods including dairy free creamers. If you think about whole milk, all the things that it holds, a certain percentage of this a little bit of that, etc. Then think of processing out whey, its going to take a lot of milk to pull out enough whey to create the cheesy flavor in cheetos. The amount of whey being consumed in one package of cheetos is astronomically higher than that of a glass of milk. Not to mention that fact that glass of milk is a package of natures brilliance, chances are your body knows what to do with it, where as eating cheetos probably causes your digestive stomach bacteria’s to say WTF (not really but you get the point).

I read a study not to long ago, and now I cannot for the life of me find it to attach for your reading pleasure (or horror, more likely horror) about kittens and milk products. A group of kittens were split into test groups one of group of kittens were raised on whole milk, another on 2% milk and yet another on dry powered milk (powerdere milk tends to be made of processed flours, proteins, whey, extracted and refortified vitamins etc). The groups of cats on liquid milks seemed to have grown into adults with seemingly little issues, those on powered milk were a little slow in development but nothing too noticeable. The second generation of liquid milk cats were fine, the powered milk cats showed some pretty serious retardation, the third and subsequent generations the 2% cats started to show lowered developmental abilities but no major side effects and the powered milk cats got worse and worse until they could no longer reproduce.

Now that you have some facts on dairy, let’s talk soy milk and milk alternative. Soy milk has its own issues in that about 90 % of the American population is allergic to it. Just like most people of Asian descent are allergic to dairy, Americans only started eating soy products with any sort of regularity around 1920’s and have had very few generation to adapt a proper internal biochemistry to digest such foods. Almond milks and coconut milks are also decent tasting bi products but before you make any rash decisions remember that these two are highly processed products and lend themselves to their own problems, many are high in sugar and low in fat which makes the fat soluble vitamins they are fortified with nearly impossible for your body to absorb (just because they are on the label doesn’t mean your body will automatically know what to do with it).

The best possible thing you can do for yourself is go to a doctor and get allergy tests. Not all doctors will see this as a reasonable request, so going to a naturopath will lend the most support for your quest. There are two types of allergy tests one for immediate reactions and one for long term reactions. Not only do they show what you may be allergic to but also the degree. After getting your results back you will be better equipped to make a decision regarding what sorts of milk products you should be consuming. If you don’t have the means to undertake this quite expensive endeavor you can test yourself through fasting and then reintroducing products back into your diet. This takes a lot of patients and an insight into what your body is telling you that not everyone has the patience to undergo. Just be patient with yourself if this is your choice, it make take a few trials. This is the method I have taken and am still several years later playing with it. I know I am allergic to whey and while it is in milks and cheese, I find I have a much more mild and manageable reaction to whole milks and cheese than I do to food type products (which I avoid like the plague now).

Choosing how to eat right can be very confusing, especially considering all the conflicting message out there. The best possible advice I can give is just listen to your body. It will tell you when something is wrong, you just have to be listening to understand what it is trying to say. If you go into anaphylactic shock when you eat dairy, I’d say avoid it. If your child’s ADHD or IBS symptoms are worse when consuming certain products, avoid it, but don’t replace it with a processed product just to maintain a semblance of normality, these products have their issues too. Be smart about your choices, research foods and pick ones that work best of you, not anyone else but you, because every body is unique.

Side Notes: Two trivia questions, where is the title of this blog from and what is wrong with the picture I have posted above. Also see below for links to more milk information.