Monthly Archives: January 2013

Wrapping my Head Around new Health Concepts

A special fellow stayed at my house in Bangkok for the last couple of weeks, providing me a great opportunity to probe the larger concepts that the alternative health movement are exploring.

Olli Posti is a young Finnish man, who was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis). This is a condition where the immune system attacks the CNS (central nervous system), causing a myriad of debilitating symptoms. Since medications for MS are largely at an experimental stage, and contain massive risks, Olli took the alternative route and has been using nutrition and a mishmash of traditionalist ideas to combat the condition.

When Olli found out he was sick, he thought his life was over, that’s what his doctors told him too. Today he is great-full for his condition, and believes he is healthier then a decade ago when he was first diagnosed. He won the b-series tennis tournament in Finland and has beat his teenage cooper tests – he insists that these sports achievements are not based on exercise but simply nutrition and a generally a generally healthy lifestyle.

I will introduce a few larger concepts he discussed, and will come back to update this post as I can wrap my head around the science of these concepts and trace original research.

1. Quality is everything.

One concept Olli kept repeating was that of quality. He says people should stop comparing apples and oranges for a while, and wrap their heads around how massive differences there are between apples and apples, and oranges and oranges. Mineral depletion, narrow approaches to fertilizing, pesticides, GMO’s, natural breeding for yields alone and other factors have all reduced the nutritional content of our food. He says that organic is better, but often not the best. He looks for products which come from single estate farms, that have the confidence to share their exceptional techniques, rather then holding on to them as production secrets.

On the side note Olli talked about how processed goods often work in opposite ways then the original, claiming that sea and rock salt reduce blood pressure while table salt raises it, and chewing on sugar cane strengthens teeth while all processes from squeezing out juices to industrial applications gradually create more stress for the teeth.

2. Drinking salted water

Olli believes that the quality of water we consume is very important. He said that water produced by reverse osmosis is ‘too clean for our body’, he felt more comfortable about it once we hunted down some pink Himalayan rock salt to beef up the minerals. In Finland he would generally consume spring water that he collects into glass bottles. Olli says that adding a little salt to the water increase our cells ability to take in the water. He also proposed adding some lemon or lime for similar ends.

3. Avoiding processed goods

Olli believes it is better to fast, then to eat bad things. If the food has little nutritional value, or causes inflammation etc. just skip it altogether  He talks about a sensitivity that develops once we get over the bloat we have subjected our selves to, and from there on we can navigate with an internal compass.

4. Decoding your cravings

Do you feel like an ice cream? Your body is calling for fat and sugar. If you give your body a higher form of fat and sugar (say organic avocados and wild honey), your body will start craving the more nutritional forms is has encountered. Look for charts that present qualitative differences of food sources, and be sure to understand how to ensure that the praised properties make it until your digestion (don’t roast your nuts or overcook your fish).

5. Natural probiotics

Olli was not against probiotic supplements, but he claimed that all natural cultures have had their own sources of probiotics that we have often forgot or bastardized over time. In Thailand he was always on the lookout, finding fermented cabbages, crabs and fish in the Thai markets, fermented olives in the Chinese markets etc. He correctly predicted that a lot of these traditionally raw foods were boiled today, destroying the beneficial bacteria’s. He wanted the uncooked traditional versions. He claimed that if we have enough healthy gut bacteria, nasty ones don’t get a foothold, making us immune to scary bacteria like e-coli or salmonella.

He said that the least understood area of probiotics is that of our skin, which traditionally has a probiotic layer, that is killed by the normal chemicals on soaps, especially antibacterial ones. Since there was no satisfactory soaps in my house, and we were unable to find any in our brief shopping trips, he just settled for water showers and cold pressed coconut oil. I must say to Olli’s credit, that I didn’t catch a whiff of bad body odors from him, which is more then I can say about myself despite multiple daily showers and all that soap.

6. Other weirdness
There were many other weird concepts he talked about, like grounding; spending time on grass every day, or getting a special mattress that is connected to the ground in an electric plug. Orgonite; he left me an orgonite neckless and a ‘zapper’ which has a battery that is fed through some crystals etc. and can supposedly charge positive energy to the body. He also talked about a concept which I cant remember the name to, where gold or other materials are somehow processed into a magical state, giving them extraordinary powers.

My conclusion

Spending a couple of weeks with Olli was a fascinating experience, I saw him as an extremely intuitive individual  who is driven by his condition to experiment with marginal cures. Sometimes I was disturbed by his lack of ‘objectivity or quantification’ , and I tried to caution him. Any fear mongering was wasted, he felt that all risks in his actions were negligible compared to the side effects he could expect from traditional MS medications. A brief look into the subject certainly gave credibility to this claim.

I felt a strong anti science sentiment with Olli, which disappeared with some debate. I explained that science cannot really lie, since science is nothing but the experimental design and the observation. All explanations are philosophy of science, thus when we think we are discussing science, we rarely are. Most of what people see as scientific dishonesty actually relates to the interpretation of the science, have you ever noticed what happens when courts force medical companies to publish the missing details from their research (the real science)? Scandals follow. Its ridiculous to even discuss an experiment for which all the data has not been revealed. Don’t be mislead by the pseudo scientific rantings of those who treat their scientific philosophy like a religious conviction. Those making the actual research are usually much more open to possibilities and interpretations. Force is chosen by those who lack or fear reason.

One principle I defiantly disagree with is his idea of understanding a bio-active botanical through large doses. I think there is a clear pattern of dose dependency in medical herbs, that is expressed in traditional approaches, and being validated through research. Traditional herbal medicine is based on balance, and the herbs are mainly a tool to help achieve that end. Large dosages might provide beneficial properties, but perhaps at the cost of balance and long term well being.

I find it strange that a country like Finland with a socialized healthcare system  does not grab onto the opportunity to perform some basic research on these types of individuals who have chosen a path questionable to traditional medicine. It seems that Olli has achieved much better results then could be expected by the experimental 3000e per month that the government would have funded for him.

You can visit Olli’s website (in finnish) at the following address:

Drinking Salted Water

I was recently introduced to the idea of drinking lightly salted water, by a friend. He said that drinking an equivalent of one spoon of seawater, in a diluted form through the day was a good idea. If you are not close to the sea, a good quality salt should do. Pink salt supposedly reduces body temperature, and sea salt raises it, I strongly advise against regular table salt for any application.

I did some googleling on the subject, and I was supprized to see that all the cautionary websites only talk about the dangers of drinking pure seawater, and although they admit that the dangers are based on dosage dependent mechanisms, they offer nothing on drinking water that is less saline then our body. Here’s an example:

The link is listed under science vs myths, but it seems like an attempt to misuse science to create a myth. The argument says that sea water is four times saltier then our body, so osmosis starts pulling water out of our cells. I have no problem, but what happens when it is diluted to less salty then our body? Its ignored, thus the advice is useless for evaluating or arguing with alternative health proponents who claim to feel great when adding a little salt. On the other hand those who promote drinking salt water remain equally vague on dosage, claiming that if one uses a good quality salt the body will tell you when you have had enough. Neither of these approaches satisfies me.

In wikipedia it says that the average salinity of seawater is 35 grams/L, since sea water is four times saltier then our body, they suggest that the quantity needed to reverse osmosis is under 9 grams/L. One spoonful of seawater a day does not come close, whatever type of spoon we are talking about. The wikipedia page on seawater lists multiple examples of people who were forced to varying strategies, consuming much higher quantities then theoretically possible. These people have been criticized  but no alternative theories on how they survived have been offered.

As a slight side note, many of the sites warning on the dangers of seawater talked about it leading to low blood pressure, while every resource I found presents table salt increasing blood pressure. This is something I have heard alternative health people talk about, and defiantly something I want to look into.

All of this is significant to me from the perspective of mineralisation, which I will post on next.

Living in a big city I have chosen to try adding about a teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt to a 1.5L bottle of water, and drinking a couple of those a day. I will update the post if I feel anything worth noticing. After a single day I must say I can’t notice any difference.

Botanical Revolution

Science is opening a whole new world in terms of health benefits from plants. While corporate inspired regulators, and the medical profession have seemed less then exited about people trying to improve their health with plants, it seems that other corporate elements are in a hurry to cash in from the trend.

“Botanicals, the bioactive components of herbs, spices and other plants in either powdered, extracted or other forms, promise to take advantage of substances that have potential benefits while they do not qualify as nutrients.

Plant chemicals – phytochemicals – garner attention because they are viewed as untapped sources of energy and health benefits. There are only three energy-yielding macronutrients — proteins, fats, and carbohydrates — and only a handful of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, all of which are dietary essentials. But the number of plant-derived chemicals that could yield health benefits is vast and yet to be completely discovered.”

Overview of Trends in Botanical Drinks

 There is huge growth in the market of healthy spiced up drinks, as a side note its good to keep in mind that these products are pasteurized so many benefits might be lost. Its also worth checking for chemicals included for shelf life.

“After water, tea is the second most consumed beverage globally. But tea drinking historically has lagged in the U.S., even though it may hold the Asian secret to longevity and good health.

As July 4 approaches, one can’t help but reflect that a tax on tea in the Colonies was the impetus for our rebellion from Great Britain in 1776. In Tea Lover’s Treasury, author James Norwood Pratt relates this story: En route to sign the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail that he asked at a tavern, “Is it lawful for a weary traveler to refresh himself with a dish of tea, provided it has been honestly smuggled and has paid no duty?” The landlord’s daughter answered sternly: “No sir! We have renounced tea under this roof. But, if you desire it, I will make you some coffee.”

American attitudes are changing. An aging U.S. population with disease prevention on its mind, including some 77 million baby boomers, has embraced beverages such as tea as part of a holistic lifestyle. Many believe the antioxidants, botanicals and herbs not only quench their thirst but aid their hearts with anti-inflammatory benefits, improve immunity, aid digestion, provide energy, detox their systems and help them relax.”

Health by Stealth

  Demand for healthy food for children is skyrocketing among parents. Creative ways to hide healthy ingredients are entering the market. Being a parent myself, I must admit I have often compromised the quality of my own meal, so i could let my child get her extra omega threes or more organics.

 I have been quite dissapointeed in the corporate approach to health food. The root problem is in the corporate approach to product design, specifically in the way quality is defined (quality in product design means only giving what is appreciated and understood, everything else is waste), so kellog’s would make a bad product if the iron in corn flakes were bio available, since the customers are not wise enough to appreciate the difference. There would be no more perceived value, but an increase of price, resulting in a ‘lower quality product’. Quality means something different for us as consumers, for product designers and in the manufacturing process. Its worth understanding these differences as a consumer.

The other day on was an ingenious sippy-cup design that contained a hidden compartment near the lid to put liquid medication. It mixes in unobtrusively with a child’s beverage to help parents avoid one potential battleground with their children in the quest to stay healthy.

For years now, food formulators have employed stealth options for hiding nutrients or better-for-you ingredients in children’s snacks, meals and beverages. New ingredients, methods and technologies have made this task easier, and this leads to healthier food options at retail and in the school lunch line.

Resource: Graphs on the Decline of Infectious Diseases

The following link leads to a collection of graphs demonstrating the decline of infectious diseases. While some of the graphs actually show an accelerated decline, a majority actually demonstrate a reduction of decline from the introduction of vaccines. What seems clear though, is that vaccinations have not been the sole reason behind the decline in infectious disease, that western countries have been enjoying.

“Figures one (1) through eleven (11) graphically illustrate that in North America, Europe, and the
South Pacific , major declines in life-threatening infectious diseases occurred historically either
without, or far in advance of public immunization efforts for specific diseases as listed. This
provides irrefutable evidence that vaccines are not necessary for the effective elimination of a
wide range of infectious diseases”

You Should Know the China Study, the most Comprehensive Nutritional Study ever Conducted

I met a genius in nutrition, while I was in college, he studied public health, and borrowed this book to me for a while. Evan though its a few years old, it has not lost an ounce of significance.

“What will it take for veggie stir-fry on rice to replace a beef burger on a bun as the all-American meal? A switch to a more plant-based diet has been standard dietary advice for years and the new Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report is no exception. In The China Study, however, the Campbells go much further, arguing that “a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness” and that the healthiest diet is an entirely plant-based whole-food diet (no meat, dairy or eggs and little, if any, fish). A simple switch to such a diet, claim the Campbells, will dramatically decrease your risk of getting the diseases common in Western societies, including auto-immune diseases, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As large-scale genetic screens to identify genes for these same diseases continue to fail, and as this failure looks to be permanent (seeThe Great DNA Data Deficit: Are Genes for Disease a Mirage?), this advice appears more and more prescient.”