Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To hell with good intentions: I used to think that Ivan Illich was a douche, but I was wrong

Garbage is funny.  One man's garbage is another man's... garbage.  It's garbage.  Nobody likes garbage.  It's gross.  Likewise, one man's poison?  It's most likely poison to the other man, too.  Poison is like that.  There are certain things in our culture that have a universally denigrating and stifling effect.  Ideas should be the servants of people and not rule over them.  But I see a disheartening habit in just about everyone -including myself- to use ideas to gag our own inner promptings.  In the circles that I frequent, I see it mostly manifested in health obsession.  And I say "health" obsession because it isn't just diet and fitness.  I don't think that listening to one's body will make one healthier.  Health is for chumps.  Health is an invented concept intended to sell our corrupt consumerist culture via a fear of life; a fear of struggle; a fear of death.  After all, you can't be healthy without the miracles of modern science.  And what have we traded for freedom from the ills that previously plagued us?  Most of us will no longer die from tuberculosis in old age.  And our children do not die so often in their infancy.  Unless you happen to live in the US, of course, which has a staggeringly high infant mortality rate for a so called "developed country."  But we have traded a life where dying from infectious disease was considered a natural death.  We have traded a life that had meaning.  We have turned struggles into nuisances, where before they had rich spiritual meaning.  The Dance of Death has become a commercial caricature.  When we removed -or more precisely, redefined- suffering from our lives, we also removed everything that made us humans.  In biological terms, we didn't just change the biome, we sterilized it.  And it has been recolonized with pestilence.
So what bug crawled up my ass?  To be frank, I'm fed up with ideas.  I'm fed up with ignoring my own natural inclinations at the expense of someone else's ideas that I have forced onto myself out of fear of the consequences.  And I have it just as bad as everyone else.  In the past, I have taken supplements, taken up exercise regimens, taken up dietary prescriptions, all in the name of some nebulous health that never really brought me happiness.  It was all to fill a hole that was left gaping by our unhealthy, disordered society that values television over social interaction.  Pre-recorded music over musical jam sessions.  People used to know how to play instruments.  They'd get together and drink, dance and play just for the hell of it.  They worked hard and they played hard.  And they were happy because the fruits of their labors were tangible.  There was a life before Sports games and prime time television shows.

So I say renounce health.  Renounce nutrition.  Renounce exercise science.  Instead, use the time to actively and passionately pursue things that bring happiness, not just the negation of bad feelings.  The farther and farther you get away from yourself and your own efforts and your own input, the farther you get from a satisfying life.

Don't ever think that when you blog on nutrition or health, you blog on just what you are saying.  When you say anything, you say your whole self at the same time.  You transmit the context that contributed to those words.  You transmit the damaged culture that poisons our hedonistic impulses.  They are our True North.  They may lead us astray, but they will lead us there whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.  Sure, you can bring addictive substances and drugs into the equation.  What about these things that make us feel good but ruin our lives?  What of them?  You can't help it.  Addicts don't usually "quit" their addiction.  They stop when they grow out of it.  Dietary changes are about as successful as drug rehab.  Ever notice that?  About 5% of people will be successful.  And that number is quite generous.  Stop trying to swim upstream against a current that is far more powerful than you.

So give up.  Stop listening to the sales people and gurus and pundits and armchair nutritionists.  Work with your impulses instead of struggling in vain to work against them.  There's no guarantee of health or youthful appearance.  But maybe, just maybe, you'll gain a little dignity.

Edit:  There's a line in Solaris that really encapsulates this for me.  We say that we want grand things, but in reality we just want community.  Link

Monday, December 24, 2012

Short note on the idea of energy excess

Health scientists don't like cellular energy surpluses.  They think that the cells do bad things like become resistant to things.  I have problems with the facile notion that our cells just have too much energy to process and so they shut down.  I think this has more to do with moralistic underpinnings of health research that infect many parts of the glorious institution to this day.  Cells are not subject to the 7 deadly sins.  Unlike us, whenever they get energy they do something with it.  The problem is that researchers don't seem to look at the big picture.  When you have an excess of acetyl CoA or pyruvate or fructose 6 phosphate or whatever, your liver doesn't just throw its hands up and go "well I guess I'll just let myself go."  It creates steroids, among other things like ramping up its detoxification pathways.  These crazy metabolic monsters that are created from carbohydrate metabolism are dwarfed by the sublime gaze of the protective hormones.

Energy and structure are interdependent at every level.  When you have more ability to do things, the body does things- because that's what life does.  Hysteresis (biological inertia) and resonance govern life's inherent ability to become more elegant, when it has the chance.  The chief product of a decrease in cellular energy is growth (both hyperplasia and hypertrophy).  The chief product of an increase in cellular energy is transformation.  

A literal example is the shift from larval hormone to molting hormone in insects.  You can either continue to be a caterpillar or you can metamorphosize into a moth.  I bet you thought I was going to say 'butterfly.'  Butterflies are savage, vile creatures.

Excursion to banana island?

I've had a long time to read a lot of things.  The thing that I'm most interested in is the idea of protein and what we need it for.  When Ray talks about the dietary need for moderately high protein, I wonder what factors he's considering.  Generally, it's stated that it's for "general resistance to stress."  And that may seem frustratingly vague to some people, but I think that it's just another case of keeping it simple.  I have no idea how protein factors into stress resistance specifically, because I thought that glucuronidation was primarily glucose driven.  But who knows what else is going on there.  I remember Chris Masterjohn's treatment of Campbell's protein restricted mice.  The ones that had a complete protein got cancer; the ones that got partially so called "complete" protein died early.  The complete protein was either soy or whey.  The incomplete proteins were from somewhere interesting, I'm sure.

Campbell:  "Ergo, animal protein causes cancer."

Of course.  Idiot.

So there's clearly something useful about having adequate supplies of the amino acids when in the face of an acute stress.  However, seeing as though we are generally not ingesting pounds of mold toxins with our cereal, I wonder how one can compare it to a human life.  Yes, we're exposed to natural and manmade environmental toxins all the time.  Yes, we're even exposed to boat loads of environmental stressors.  But there are a million factors that the low-proteinies get that probably help compensate for the stress.  Added glucose and fructose from all that fruit and quinoa that they eat.  Added magnesium and B vitamins from all that... fruit and quinoa that they eat.  Et cetera.

There's another interesting character in this story that never gets mentioned.  The humble handyman, the keto-acid.  There are a number of these things that are present in fruit and leaves to varying amount. Potatoes, as us Peatards know, are pretty crazy high in these things.  I don't doubt that most plant foods contain these things in some amount, as they are made from various parts of the respiratory cycle.  The studies that I have peeked at have implicated mostly oxaloacetic acid (I think), but I'm sure that other ketoacids are present as well.  If you want to load up on these bad boys and you hate potatoes, then your best bet is strawberry leaves.  I knew you were waiting for me to say that.
Somehow, these things can combine with ammonia in the body and be molded into many different amino acids.  Which ones?  No idea.  Does this mean that in the presence of these neat things, amino acids aren't essential?  Possibly.  The interesting idea is that the biochemical pathways exist to synthesize all the essential amino acids.  The problem is that currently they have only been observed in not us animals.  We lost it somewhere along the way.  Or at least it has never been spotted.  Do ketoacids give us a chance to make up for lost protein?  It might if the additional amino acids spared the essential ones somehow.  Like the "rescuing" of methionine from homocysteine (something that is governed by b-12).  Folic acid also has an integral role in all this stuff, so perhaps the additional folate from all those oranges and kale salads helps cheat the system a bit.  The thing that gives me hope is that the body has remarkable ways of sparing just about everything if the need calls for it.  Stress can short circuit that, though.  And so we come around full circle.

So what I'm doing to test this theory is to periodically have low protein days where I pee and spaz out like Durianrider.  The odd thing is that whenever I get a little meat in my belly, I don't have the kind of "this is mana from heaven and must be treasured" effect that I am expecting.  Provided that I eat enough calories, I don't really care what goes into my maw.  That is very interesting.  I discovered that I didn't need a tub of butter everyday through isolating variables (it was the salt.  yay salt).  Perhaps I'm discovering that I don't need 120 grams of protein every day.  We'll see.

For the record, the clear nose and energy thing is totally true.  The breathing thing actually surprised me, as I have never, ever had an easy time breathing through my nose.  Tryptophan restriction leading to a reduction in double agent serotonin?  I was also more responsive to pregnenolone supplementation when riding the banana boat.  That may or may not be a good thing.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Painful, detailed stuff?

One can hope.  I want to try my hand at analyzing one article of Ray's.  Here we go:

Protective CO2 and Aging

"The therapeutic effects of increasing carbon dioxide are being more widely recognized in recent years. Even Jane Brody, the NY Times writer on health topics, has favorably mentioned the use of the Buteyko method for asthma, and the idea of “permissive hypercapnia” during mechanical ventilation, to prevent lung damage from excess oxygen, has been discussed in medical journals. But still very few biologists recognize its role as a fundamental, universal protective factor. I think it will be helpful to consider some of the ways carbon dioxide might be controlling situations that otherwise are poorly understood."

Ray had mentioned in a few places that some clinicians are doing this "permissive hypercapnia" thing with their ventilated patients.  I unfortunately have not come across a setting where this is considered "best practice", but I am hopeful.  If only to see it in action in real life.  But before we get to that, Let's touch upon the phenomenon that is Jane Brody and her obscure 'Zine, The New York Times.  Jane Brody talks Buteyko

I think that she did a decent job writing the thing.  She's extremely conventional in her viewpoints and I think she showed remarkable open-mindedness in her treatment of it.  To be honest, there isn't much to the whole Buteyko thing that I can see.  It's just "Bohr effect... albumin.. hemoglobin....oxygen... etc."  Which is cool.  The important part is that carbon dioxide is awesome and they know it.

Now on to permissive hypercapnia.  From what I've been reading and watching (youtube it!), it's mostly used for people in "Acute respiratory distress".  At this point, they don't even know what the best setting is.  There is no official "best practice" for it yet that I know of.  The protocol consists of "cut tidal volume in half and tinker if they twitch too much."  No really.  From the conventional perspective, most of the damage comes from the air pressure on the alveoli.  Well, it comes from a few places.

1.  The air pressure itself (barotrauma) 

2.  The stress caused from the repetitive inflating and collapsing of the alveoli (atelectrauma)

3.  Excessive tidal volumes (volutrauma)

There is a concern for oxygen toxicity, but it's low on the list.  

The frustrating part is they do not view carbon dioxide as having any protective effect in and of itself.  At least not commonly.  In fact, they have special machines that filter the CO2 out of a person receiving this protocol.  So it would seem that indeed few biologists are on board with this idea.  

I may continue with this and I may not.  There's a lot of paragraphs in this article and it's seriously cutting into my "Netflix and chicharrones" time.

Friday, June 1, 2012

short blog post

I feel like I've been set free.  The Ray Peat video that I was attempting to blog about was just cramping my style.  I found that I just couldn't focus on one bit of subject matter for one time.  Not after I'd constrained myself to it anyway.  I'm glad that the video is out there where anyone can review and learn from it.  I will go back to it and bits from it from time to time.  Just not all at once.

So first of all, my ideas about Ray's view of life are changing quite a bit.  Influential people in his past may say one thing, but the man's perspective is extremely interesting.  Mostly because A.  It isn't anything I've ever heard before and B. It is reasonable

In that same vein, I wanted to make an addendum to my last post.  I had said that there is nothing special about life.  Well, I might have been a little premature in drawing that conclusion.  A more precise view would be that there is everything special with all matter.

Longer post on stuff to follow

Monday, April 16, 2012

What I've learned thus far about Bose and why you should care

So Bose's stuff is pretty easy to get ahold of on Amazon or whatever, but I've already blown my book budget. So I've had to make do with Google books. The problem with this stuff is that you never know when to post what you've found. There is no neat end of the chapter. I think that the more you read into any technical subject, the more you realize that there is no hope of becoming truly well informed. The most you can ever hope for is, comparatively speaking, "able to dress his or herself and be minimally supervised."

Besides, this blog was intended for me to be an ongoing log of my ongoing education. Not a memoriam to some distant diligently studious past. I ain't got that kind of time. So without further ado, I present to you "Data Dump Number 9".

Bose was born into a Bengali family. In my past, I was an avid reader of Indology and Bengal/Bangladesh is my favorite part of India (note: Bangladesh is its own country, but you get the idea). They are the underdogs, in my eyes. And their culture shows it, when they are given the means to do so... which is still pitifully infrequent. Bose and his family were intentional Slumdog Millionaires- and I mean that as the highest compliment. His father was an educated man employed by the British controlled government. He was a consulate of some sort and was (allowed to be) an entrepreneur. Among his successful (although personally ruining) endeavors was the first community bank of India. He would have been stupidly wealthy except for the fact that he either gave it all away or refused payment. Bose inherited his father's sincere altruism and often said that it was a major inspiration to his character for his adult life. Bose invented things that are awesome by today's standards. With literal junk yard parts, he invented radio transmission and millimeter wave transmitters. The latter was invented because he just wanted to see what they did. Needless to say he could have held numerous patents, but opted to share them freely with the public. He considered it his duty to his people. It was plainly another time...

So what did he do that we should care about? He zapped things. Lots of things. More precisely, he liked to make things twitch. He played around with organic and inorganic (in this context meaning living and non living) substances and observed their similarities. The book that I mostly read (google books) described his experiments on muscle, plants and the electrical currents that existed in all things. He could change the polarity of the organically originated current by damaging. So if he took a frog's leg and subjected it to, say, a Crossfit workout, it would produce this altered current. If he damaged a plant by slapping it (no really) it would do the same thing. That's all cool. Living things generate electrical current and it changes quality in relation to damage. Here's where it gets weird: He did the same thing to rocks and hunks of metal. They did the same thing. They contracted when introduced to electrical current and altered polarity when strained.
If you smack a plant (or frog's leg or whatever) around for long enough, it'll become tired and "die". That is, no more current will be produced and no more contractions will occur. If you do the same thing to a rock, it will die in much the same way. Luckily for the rock, you can recharge it by running it over a magnet, which makes perfect non-woo sense.
He was encouraged by this stuff and tried some really weird things. He got frog's legs drunk on booze. Same with plants. In fact, he makes a list of plants that are most affected by these things. A sort of little black book for botanists. Afterward, he tried getting rocks drunk. It worked. Things got so weird that he was eventually able to prove that, according to Peat, all matter exhibits all the hallmarks of life. While that sounds very mystical on first blush, it has a very practical implication. That all the bits and parts of us are all matter and all respond as other matter does. Life is not special. There is nothing that life has that boring old matter does not. In fact, he goes out of his way to say this in flowery, old person English.

Going further, there is nothing that separates life from non life. "Organic matter" as it pertains to living things is just a minor philosophical distinction.

While I'm sure that this wasn't the first time that Dr. Peat had seen such a wholistic vision of reality, I'm sure it greatly influenced him. Especially seeing as though he actually spoke to this person. So thank you, JC Bose for helping to set the stage for a later unfolding of these ideas. I'm sure you would approve of where it has ended up.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Carbon Dioxide

I've been struggling for the past month to decide how I was going to write about this lecture. He starts off by answering a question about how many languages he speaks. In true Ray form, he mostly dodges the question. But he says something which has stuck with me since I heard it. He said that someone sometime had introduced him as being fluent in Spanish. Wherever this was, it was high up in the mountains. He joked that at that time he probably was fluent. Because of the CO2, you see. Well, at least the crowd thought it was funny. But that lead me to pursue this particular vein of thought. Does CO2 increase intelligence?


Thank you very much. I'll be working on my next blog post: Sombreros, ice cream and gummy bears in context. I kid. Actually, that's not such a bad idea.

So carbon dioxide. Ray has spoken voluminously about CO2's role in just about everything. Because it is in just about everything. At the cellular level, there are two opposing forces. They forever duke it out, but neither really wins. We have our friend, Carbon dioxide and then we have lactic acid. Long story short, CO2 relaxes the cell by glomming on to all manner of things in it. It is what is called a "cardinal adsorbent". I still haven't really learned what that means yet. I think it has to do with excited atoms and calming them down. He talks in this video about that too. But I digress...

What happens on the cell level is also reflected in your mental processes. If your cells and tissues are in a relaxed state (brain cells?), so shall you be also. Which is neat. Ray talks often about CO2's effects on longevity and wound repair. He talks about metabolism's direct effect on intelligence. It's only a hop, skip and a jump to associating carbon dioxide with nerdiness. Incidentally, CO2 helps facilitate the removal of serotonin from the blood by making albumin stickier (and preventing the albuminites from letting go of it...). It then makes its way to the lungs to be destroyed. When there is low CO2, the serotonin gets dropped all over the place like so many misplaced socks on the way to the washing machine. But that's a whole other story.

So back to the video. Dr. Peat went on to discuss his mythical upbringing. He speaks of his parents having all manner of interesting counter-cultural books in their possession. In another interview, he said that he'd grown up reading the controversial "Little Blue Books". So given that he was surrounded by books on alternative medicine (homeopathy and the like) and those little gems -they are quite good- I would say that his parents were free thinkers. Now, when Ray was a tad older, he liked to go swimming with his friends. Ray was a sinker. He thought at the time that it was because of all his time spent up in the mountains. He had dense bones, in other words. He goes on to say that there were some experiments that were conducted in a high carbon dioxide environment. I think it was for submarine research. And these folks who were stuck in these chambers had something odd going on with their blood. Their bicarbonate levels would rise and fall in the strangest ways. But they excreted very little calcium. Apparently they- like our buddy Ray- kept throwing it into their bones as calcium carbonate. Or I'm presuming that it's calcium carbonate. They had ended up storing 10 times as much carbon in their bones as a normal person at sea level.

Ray continues to talk about how he had read about some folks who had osteopetrosis. They had a chronically high level of carbon dioxide in their blood. Luckily for them, it was a minor case of the disease and so they were simply blessed with super hard bones. I think something similar had happened to the Blue People of Kentucky. Only in their case, their chronically high CO2 levels had blessed them with long lives. And they were blue.

So I'm gonna cut this short. The subject of JC Bose comes up next. Ray went to Russia one year to meet up with his favorite researchers there. Nobody was home, so he eventually crosses paths with this guy. My next post will be on the awesomeness that is Indian secondary education. Just as soon as I can finish reading a few of his books. Bose was a really smart guy whose instruments were mad scientist level sophisticated. Even today, people are impressed with his stuff. He discovered many things and even invented the radio in his spare time. Of particular interest to me is his research into the physical properties of non-organic matter. He had essentially shown that chunks of metal and rock exhibited all the hallmarks of life. His particular area of interest was in their electrical response and contractile properties.

So that's it for now. A rambling first post, but it helped me to articulate some things.