Monday, January 24, 2011

My Intestinal Saga, Part 4: Gurus and Rotten Meat

Rotting meat in mason jars.
So there I was.  It was late summer 2006.  The sweltering Tucson sun beat down on the city relentlessly.  White tail doves could be heard flapping and cooing on rooftops and power lines, and the cicadas' symphony was in full swing.  I sat inside, bathing in the cool air of the swamp cooler, a plate of raw ground beef sitting in front of me.  I took a bite.  It went down easy.  I took another and my body screamed for more and more -- so I fed it.  I followed the meat with a few spoonfuls of raw, "unheated," honey and some raw butter.  I was satisfied like I hadn't felt in years.  And it was all thanks to a man by the odd name of Aajonus Vonderplanitz and his book, The Recipe For Living Without Disease.  In this book, Vonderplanitz outlined the key to optimal health and vitality through food, and it enthralled me.  Raw meat, unheated honey, raw dairy, raw vegetable juices -- these were the ingredients to becoming well again, and I had no problem eating all I wanted and enjoying the heck out of it.  My family and friends were somewhat worried about me at his point.  Salmonella, E. Coli, and countless other bacteria existed in raw food products -- how would this negatively affect my health, particularly my already stressed out gut?  Surely I would get food poisoning at the very least.  And straight butter?  Heart attack city!  Well, after several weeks of the eating all of the foods suggested by the quirky Aajonus, I was happy to report that I had absolutely no problems.  In fact, I had more energy than I could remember feeling in my whole life.  Then I thought, "Hmm.  I wonder if I could feel even healthier?"

Aajonus Vonderplanitz believed if raw meat was healthy, then rotten or "high" meat is probably even healthier.  The Inuit traditionally enjoyed rotted flesh as part of their diet, and so did many cultures around the world.  I was insanely curious about this.  Would it feel good in my body?  Or would I get really sick?  So I began making "high" meat -- filling mason jars with sliced up beef and airing them out every few days.  Oddly enough, the rotten smell that developed over a few weeks began to please my senses.  It smelled good, it looked good -- I couldn't wait to eat it.  Then the day came when it was ready.  So I took a jar filled with rotting, slimy meat outside, opened it, and reached in for my first taste of this supposed health elixir.  I loved it.  Weird, I know.  It just tasted way good for some reason.  Although the little white beads on the meat that had developed over the weeks somewhat disturbed me.  Were these some kind of worm eggs or something?  Was I ingesting parasites?  Well, even if I was, Mr. Vonderplanitz assured me in his book that they would merely detox my body and consume my unneeded intestinal wastes.  Win-win for me and my little worm buddies.  They get to eat and I get better!  Oh lord, I have done some interesting things in my life, and this one is up there on the list.

Again, much to my surprise, the most shocking thing that happened was -- well, that nothing happened.  I remained healthy and feeling quite good overall on my raw and rotten diet.  After a few months of this "primal diet," I encountered something even more alluring in my continual research: the raw paleo diet.  I joined a forum where there were a handful of folks experimenting with this diet -- consisting of nothing but raw meat and fat -- and experiencing great results.  (Apparently these folks still exist.)  Their stance on eating mostly organ meats made a lot of sense to me, as this was where the most nutrients exist, and if my goal was optimal health, well then I wanted all the nutrients I could get, gosh darn it!  I began the raw paleo diet with enthusiasm, picking up raw liver and raw beef fat from the butcher at a local organic foods store.  Damn, did that stuff taste good to me.  I swear, at the time, the liver tasted like chocolate and the beef fat tasted like ice cream.  Soon I was gorging on kidneys, spleens, tongues, and any other raw offal I could get my grubby little hands on.

Pretty soon I realized that zero-carb, raw paleo was the way to go (naturally, right?).  I felt great -- well, for the most part.  My back pain was pretty much gone at this point, but I seemed to have developed hard stools from the sudden transition to zero carbs + zero fiber.  Not only that, but I began to see fat chunks in my stool, which, at first I thought were gall stones until, ahem, closer inspection.  There also was this "heavy" feeling in my body at times, like I was walking underwater.  Also, another problem --chest pain -- came about when I started to try to eat only one large meal a day, as some folks on the raw paleo forum were suggesting as the optimal eating pattern.  It would sort of come and go and actually wasn't too bad ... until I tried to do some push-ups -- ouch.  I thought I was having a heart attack.  I calmed myself and decided that maybe it was just some kind of strain.  It hurt horribly for two days.

The Bear
During my raw paleo stint, I was also floating around the Active Low-Carber forum and talking with some zero-carb folks on there.  (You can probably still look up my posts; just search for my username, "rk900.")  We were a ragtag bunch of wandering souls.  There were people who swore that the only thing that kept their weight stable was absolutely no carbs -- not even too many eggs or liver.  Others were on the paleo bandwagon.  Still others were curious about the diet, but were not bought in due to fears of losing their cherished carbohydrates.  I felt proud to be one of the few who was practicing full-on paleo zero-carb, just as primitive humans had done for millions of years before me (or so I thought).  Then, all of the sudden a post appeared: "The real human diet is a totally carnivorous one."  The author of the post was a man simply known as "The Bear."  It began:

I have been eating the natural human dietary regime for over 47 years now. I do not eat anything whatsoever from vegetable sources. The only things veggie I use are spices. My diet is usually 60% fat and 40% protein by calories. I used to eat 80/20 when younger and about twice as much quantity of meat also, but that seems too much energy at my age, which is 71- even though I am very active. I think the body actually becomes more efficient with energy as you age, but I have no way of proving it true. Otherwise, my body today is very like it was at the age of 30. I figure most of what we call 'aging' is due to insulin damage to the collagen and other body structures. No carbs = no insulin. I don't heal quite as fast when injured as I did as a youngster, however. But I have few wrinkles, and my skin is still strong and elastic.

The guru had arrived.  Responses came pouring in.  The Bear had answers for everything.  His healthy 47 years of experience with the zero-carb "regime" proved that modern humans could live well on such a diet without problems.  There was a very strong divide on the forum: some loved him and others thought he was full of crap.  One guy even started a dedicated blog on the "Zero Carb Path."  The Bear validated everything I believed at the time, and I followed guru's advice on eating and living well.  I still had the aforementioned problems with my gut, but decided that I felt better than any other time in my life, so I continued on "the path."

The saga continues in Part 5, coming soon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Palate Expansion Update, 1/10/11: First Appointment

Brief break from "My Intestinal Saga" to bring all you readers out there an update on my palate expansion pursuits ...

I'm a few weeks away from being an official homie on the block.  I recently took a trip to Flagstaff, AZ for my first Homeoblock appointment.  The dentist, Scott Darlington, was very pleasant and shared his excitement about the procedure.  It's rare that people come to him for adult palate expansion, which he thinks is unfortunate because the benefits are so great -- particularly in opening up the airways.  I told him I was interested to see how my craniofacial structure would change and whether or not this procedure would provide any significant benefits for me.

For this initial appointment, I had a short dental check-up followed by my mouth being filled with plaster to make forms of my upper and lower palate -- all of which was completely painless.  These forms are currently being sent to a lab where they will be used to manufacture my own custom Homeblock.  This usually takes a few weeks.  I plan on returning to Dr. Darlington's office in Flagstaff to pick up my appliance around mid-February on my way to Wintercount.  For the first few months, Dr. Darlington recommends wearing the Homeoblock as much as I can, including daylight hours.  After this, I will only have to wear it at night and it will be recreated every few months to continue optimal expansion.  The cost for all of this -- appointments, new appliances, and all -- is $2000.  I payed up front for a substantial discount of $250, so the final cost was $1750.  I'm looking forward to looking like a retainer-wearing teenager for a short time -- maybe I'll even have a cool accent like Shelly from South Park.


Friday, January 7, 2011

My Intestinal Saga, Part 3: Making Connections

With the realization that my back pain was somehow related to what I was eating, I began connecting some dots.  Less food + Simple food = Less back pain.  More food + Varied foods = More back pain.  But what the heck did food have to do with muscle pain?  Why would my lower right back hurt so incredibly much based upon my dietary choices?  Why did I feel so much lighter and tension-free when I ate less or fasted?  I began researching the human body and its inner workings to find out why my pain was so localized to this one place on my body.  It turned out that, in the lower left abdomen where the junction of the small intestine and large intestine, there exists something called the ileocecal valve.  This little valve controls when undigested food exits the small intestine and begins the journey into stool formation in the large intestine.  Hmm.  Did this area have something to do with my back pain?  I pressed on my abdomen where the ileocecal valve was located.  It was tender.  Not only that, but I felt the pain from my back transfer to this spot when applying pressure.  It was an epiphany for sure.  I thought, "Wait just a gosh-darn minute here!  Does this mean my pain is actually intestinal, not muscular or skeletal?"  Apparently it was.  Fascinating!

My entire school of thought shifted.  No longer was I wholly committed to a purely external yoga or massage-manipulated path to healing.  I believed I had found the root cause of the pain and tension I was experiencing, and now I only had to figure out how to manage this internal problem.  Easier said than done.  For several months I experimented with herbs, digestive supplements of all kinds, probiotics -- the whole gamut of intestinal warfare.  Nasty herbs for any parasites that might be still hanging out.  Enzymes to aid the breaking down of food.  Good bacteria to repopulate my sad, miserable gut.  All these things, along with continued yoga and the like -- yet, aside from simply eating nothing at all, I experienced little or no improvement.  What hadn't I changed?  Was there anything else I could do?  Or would I have to live with this inconvenient pain the rest of my life?

Finally, the cognitive dissonance had to come to an end.  I was underweight.  I was fatigued.  I had little zest for life.  I asked myself a difficult but honest question: Was I unhealthy because I was a low-calorie vegetarian?  It was time.  I was ready to take a good, hard look at this mostly philosophically-driven food choice -- one that I had always thought could only make me healthier.  That's what all the books I was reading at the time were telling me.  Everything in my mind up to this point had said "yes" to a vegetarian diet.  All these years, however, my body had been crying out a resounding "NO!"  Time to eat some meat.  And, while I'm at it, why not eat nothing but meat for a while?  Oh, how I loved extremes at that time in my life.  So on I ventured into the world of zero-carb, "The Bear," and a sudden fondness for the Inuit.  More digestive lessons were soon to come.

Part 4 of "My Intestinal Saga" up next.