Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Follow the Money

Sometime in October, a friend and I had a discussion about the cost of fruit and veggies. So I became interested in my monthly food expenditures. I created a spreadsheet and fastidiously recorded my family's food purchases for the month of November 2014. Yes, I included Thanksgiving purchases as well. I figured it wouldn't skew it that bad because we shared a meal with a large extended family and all pitched in.

The main finding, fruit and veggies are pretty damn expensive. We eat a lot of fruit, I must have spent about $50 on apples alone. As I continue this process I will break it down further to see where the most costly purchases are coming from. Another thing I need to add to my spreadsheet for December is caloric amount per item.

When I Look at the amount of meat our family of four consumes it seems really low. If I had added each item's calories to my spread sheet it would give me a more accurate measure to compare what we are purchasing/consuming for their dollar value?

All-in-all, it is interesting to see where the money goes and the amounts you eat. I really thought I consumed a larger amount of meat and alcohol.

The revealing bit that is hard to swallow is when I compare our family's expenditures with this gallup poll. "WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans report spending $151 on food per week on average. One in 10 Americans say they spend $300 or more per week and, at the other extreme, 8% spend less than $50."

Even though it is from 2012 and food prices have risen, I am still spending out of my place on the totem pole. The next question I have to answer is are my expenditures economical and healthy. Then I can find out if healthy food is only for the wealthy. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I am passionate about Epidemiology! 

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds." from The Letter from Birmingham Jail written on April 16, 1963, by MLK.

Over the past few years there has been a strong push for Libertarian ideas in the public arena using constant hyperbolic speech about the rights of individuals. Although, every policy, before being enacted, should face rigorous scrutiny about individual rights, we should keep in mind that if individual rights always win we will get blind-sided by disease.

That is why epidemiology (methods to understand the distribution of disease, exposures and behavior) are so important to society. They confirm the idea put forth above by MLK. Epidemiology teaches us that people are not independent agents walled in and isolated from disease.

One of the important lessons we have just learned from Ebola is that you can not block out disease by isolation. We need to use all our analytic methods to understand how disease travels. So  keeping people together and listening to them is essential to our individual survival.

One last message, if you feel like there are exposures, like GMOs, Vaccines, Fluoridation, etc that are not being addressed to your satisfaction then get together and ask for better information. Please don't poo poo on the medical field or create some elaborate conspiracy theory. If there TRULY is an effect, the tools in epidemiology can demonstrate it much more powerfully than saying the whole system is corrupt!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dietary Alchemy and Gluten Intolerance

Dietary alchemy is my name for healthy eating that is based on research about the Mediterranean Diet and participation in my own Italian cultural traditions. I use the term, alchemy to reference an earlier time where most diets focused on traditional food and balance;  a time before processed foods came into the world and seduced people away from whole food diets with the promise of convenience and more free time. 

Today, many people claim to have gluten intolerance. You see gluten-fee on labels every where these days, even on beer. Now, let's clarify something right away, I am in no way doubting the validity of Celiac's disease, but this has gotten to a point where everyone is saying they have a gluten allergy. A blurb From a new age blog, entitled, 10 Signs You Are Gluten Intolerant, estimates "that as much as 15% of the US population is gluten intolerant." Always ready to jump on the next fad regardless of epidemiological reality, adds the fear factor, " Could you be one of them?" 

Even though many of the issues in diet-related diseases are really complex, the gluten intolerance issues seems to simply amount to the consequence of a country without a connection to whole foods that is overly dependent on corporate foods and more importably a loss of how to prepare food.

In 2012, the USDA reported that American diets are out of balance. Americans are overeating meat and grains and under eating fruits and veggies. In Dietary Alchemy that "diet" is the way to make a brick in your stomach. Seriously, try this experiment in your kitchen, add some chopped meat, some refined white flour, or a little sliced bread, then a smaller portion of water, and maybe a little portion of broccoli. Your outcome will be a solid brick. Of course, your stomach can't digest that. That "thing" is not for eating, it is for making a shelter. That also explains why Americans are addicted to soda drinks, like Coke, they need a strong bubbly acid to break up the glue they just created in their gut. 

Conversely, take those very same ingredients but change the proportions by adding a lot more veggies, some fruit and a small portion of meat and grains and many will see that their body can digest gluten.  

A word of caution, I am not talking to people who have been diagnosed with a serious problem. The people I am addressing this article to are those who "think" they have a gluten intolerance after they thought they were allergic to meat and became a vegan, then realized all along they were a paleolithic hunter. Admittedly, I have been there, too! 

Now, this is where Diet Alchemy really comes into play. Once you understand your body and how not to make bricks from food you can take charge of your food processing and even start to add in fermented foods. 

Fermented foods are foods that have Lactobacillus , our microbial partners that have aided our digestion through the ages. Modern food tried to kill them off with processing and preservatives but researchers are now finding that we need them. People can purchase them in a pill form but it is way more enjoyable, cheaper and fun culture your own. 

The greatest thing about Dietary Alchemy is that you take charge of the process of feeding yourself and exploring the amazing world of your body, your digestive tract and food.  

I have made sauerkraut, kimchee, preserved lemons and I try to eat something fermented everyday. 


Here are some links to recipes: 



Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Checking Your Blood Pressure Does More for Your Health than a Blueberry Smoothie

When I was a very small boy I saw my grandmother have a heart attack. I remember her children, my mom and her brothers, frantically rushing to get her in a car to drive her to the hospital. That was the last memory I have of her. Needless to say, it made a lasting impression on me and our entire family.
The CDC estimates that 68 million people have high blood pressure in the United States. For some perspective Heart disease kills almost 19 times more people annually than guns, and that includes all gun deaths, even suicides and accidents.
I read and write something about about health everyday and there is much more hype around super foods and high-intensity exercise than simply getting your blood pressure checked.
Research Trip India, 2009
I cannot stress how important it is to check your blood pressure. Not checking your blood pressure is extremely risky. One way to think about your blood pressure is that it measures the health of your heart and arteries, which are the highways that transport food and oxygen to every part of your body. Your heart is the engine that makes that happen. Said another way, in the dark ages, when king a wanted to attack an enemy’s castle they would block the routes in and out of the castle so no food or supplies can enter. The people inside would starve or surrender. If your organs and other vital parts of your body are blocked from getting food and oxygen they would die. If your blood pressure is high that could mean there is a disruption somewhere along the highway. 

This dysfunction can be the result of too much fat and inflammation in the arteries or problems with the heart muscle itself. This indicator of a problem can lead not only to a heart attack, it can also cause permanent scarring of your kidneys, loss of eye sight and limbs, as well as other problems. So waiting on checking your BP or not treating high blood pressure with lifestyle change and/or medication is doing long-term damage to your vital organs and they call them vital for good reason. 
To repeat, my main argument here is that keeping up with your health indicators through a spreadsheet is far more beneficial than eating blueberry smoothies. I think many people forego checking because they are afraid that they will have to make drastic changes to their diet and lifestyle. I love food, tasty food, and I can say that small changes to your diet and a little exercise go a long way. The bonus is that if you make those small changes early, inspired by the knowledge of your BP, then you can still eat many of the foods you want. If you wait and you will have to make drastic changes in a short period of time.  
Sometimes I think what my life would have been like if my grandmother were alive. Her death left a weak spot in our whole family, in fact much of our family became estranged after her death. So help keep your family together by staying healthy and checking your blood pressure often.