Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Archive for September 2006

Zohnerisms and anti-Zohnerisms

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Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death! Learn more about DHMO here!

This is one that comes around every April, so I thought I’d talk about it in September. Just in case you hadn’t cottoned on, DHMO is an urban legend. It’s an alternative chemical name for water.

Last spring, Nathan Zohner, an enterprising 14-year-old student at Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, conducted his science fair project on just this theme. Nathan distributed a tongue-in-cheek report that had been kicking around the Internet, “Dihydrogen Monoxide: The Unrecognized Killer” (from which the quotes above are drawn), to 50 of his classmates.

These are smart kids who had studied chemistry; many of them, like Nathan, have parents who work at the nearby Idaho Nuclear Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. Nathan simply asked them to read the report (which is completely factual) and decide what, if anything to do about the chemical. They could even ask the teacher what DHMO was, but none did.

In the end, 43 students, or 86 percent of the sample, “voted to ban dihydrogen monoxide because it has caused too many deaths,” wrote Nathan in the conclusion to his project, adding that he “was appalled that my peers were so easily misled. . . . I don’t feel comfortable with the current level of understanding.” Dihydrogen Monoxide: Unrecognized Killer

Writes James Glassman in the above 1997 Washington Post article, “The implications of Nathan’s research are so disturbing that I’ve decided to coin a term: ‘Zohnerism,’ defined as the use of a true fact to lead a scientifically and mathematically ignorant public to a false conclusion.”

What a fantastic phrase, one might think, until they read the next line in this Washington Post article: “Environmental hysterics — Vice President Al Gore springs to mind — and ideologues in such fields as race, women’s issues and economics are adept at using Zohnerisms, with help from the media, to advance their agendas.”

Sort of ironic now the tide of opinion in the US is turning, really.

Zohnerisms are commonly used by media and politics to create sensationalism and distort the real facts. Raw milk is currently under threat yet again in the US because some E. coli recently contaminated some spinach (the leap of logic here is obviously beyond me). But just how common is the opposite scenario, the anti-Zohnerism? How many times have we heard public health officials deny there is anything wrong with the food supply, only to eat their words? I for one am sick of hearing about how safe aspartame, MSG and other additives are.

This 1999 CSPI review on the safety of additives [pdf] has a word or two on the subject:

The FDA is the federal agency responsible for ensuring that synthetic food colors and other additives are properly tested for safety. In 1993, the FDA published “in cooperation” with IFIC a pamphlet entitled “Food Color Facts.” Actually, the pamphlet was written by IFIC and only edited by the FDA. IFIC is an organization directed by officials of, and funded by, many makers of food additives and processed foods, such as General Mills, Kraft, Procter and Gamble, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Monsanto (maker of aspartame), and Ajinomoto (maker of monosodium glutamate).

The pamphlet states:

Q. Do food color additives cause hyperactivity?

A. Although this theory was popularized in the 1970s, well-controlled studies conducted since then have produced no evidence that food color additives cause hyperactivity or learning disabilities in children. A Consensus Development Panel of the National Institutes of Health concluded in 1982 that there was no scientific evidence to support the claim that colorings or other food additives cause hyperactivity. The panel said that elimination diets should not be used universally to treat childhood hyperactivity, since there is no scientific evidence to predict which children may benefit.

Says the CSPI: “The pamphlet has rewritten history.”

Written by alienrobotgirl

29 September, 2006 at 3:28 pm

Salicylates, bacteria, and skin conditions

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Salicylates increase the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics: pseudomonas cepacia, staphylococcus aureus.

Mmm. Pseudomonas and staph, really nice bacteria. Those can both become very bad dermatological infections.

Staph has been linked closely with eczema and atopic dermatitis. “These findings indicate that atopic dermatitis patients have an impaired immune response that prevent them from producing adequate amounts of antimicrobial peptides in their skin. […] Two immune hormones secreted by their skin cells, IL-4 and IL-13 suppressed the production of at least one of the peptides.”

Salicylates inibit or affect the production of the aforementioned IL-13 and IL-4 (interleukin-13 and interleukin-4) in human beings, the mechanisms by which our skin is protected from these infections.

Yet salicylates ARE a kind of antimicrobial in plants, and have apparently been shown to reduce virulence of staph.

Salicylates disorganise the immune system. Salicylates increase the resistance of staph to antibiotics. Salicylates are linked to eczema and dermatitis. Staph is linked to eczema and dermatitis. Yet, salicylates are supposed to kill staph?

I’m confused.

Written by alienrobotgirl

29 September, 2006 at 2:52 pm

Posted in The Science of FCI

Natural polyamines and cancer

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13/03/2002 – Scientists have known for some time that certain components of some foods, called amines, possess biological activity. Amines are formed during normal metabolic processes in living organisms and are present in everyday food products.

The characteristics and biological functions of amines are very diverse; they may have beneficial or harmful effects. In general, amines can be described as ‘biogenic amines’ (such as serotonin, cadaverine and histamine) or ‘natural polyamines’ (such as spermidine and spermine).

Both polyamines and biogenic amines are present in food, but, while polyamines appear to be essential (through their involvement in growth and cell proliferation), biogenic amines are mainly detrimental (having the potential to lead to nausea, hot flushes, sweating, headaches and hyper- or hypotension). The biogenic amine content of food should therefore be kept at a very low level.

An interdisciplinary, joint European effort – a COST action – has been put together to clarify the physiological functions of biogenically active amines. In addition, the COST action includes an investigation into medical applications, such as the formation of a low-polyamine, anti-cancer diet to provide a better quality of life for patients with cancer, and the development of provision of nutritional advice to people on certain types of medications. Some of these medications, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, MAOI, which is used in some depressive illnesses, can make patients sensitive to biogenic amines (specifically tyramine) found in foods such as some mature cheeses, fermented foods, e.g. sauerkraut and fermented soya products, yeast extracts, pickled fish and red wine.

The project has 5 working groups concentrating on: physiology and metabolism of biologically active amines; polyamines and tumour growth; transgenic plants (with modified amine content); biologically active amines in food processing; production of biologically active amines by bacteria.

I was unaware that a low-polyamine diet was being investigated as an anti-cancer diet. I wonder how they’re getting on?

This review of polyamines and cancer [pdf] suggests it’s difficult to avoid polyamine formation once the cancer is established, but what about the avoidance of polyamines for cancer prevention? This seems more promising.

Along with this is the fantastic research being carried out by Dr. Seyfried on the ketogenic diet as an anticancer diet [pdf], particularly brain cancer, I think cancer diets are at last making a huge leap beyond the juice fasting/chemotherapy paradigms we saw in the last century – and in my opinion, the faster we can ditch all forms of chemotherapy and juice fasting for genuinely targetted treatments the better.

Written by alienrobotgirl

28 September, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Posted in The Science of FCI

Gone bananas

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In his fantastic anthropological books “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches”, and “Cannibals and Kings”, Marvin Harris provides descriptions of the Yanomamo people.

The Yanomamo are a people who live in the forests along the border between Brazil and Venezuela near the headwaters of the Orinoco and the Rio Negro rivers. They are continually at war with one another. Male bravado and supremacy rule the Yanomamo culture. Polygyny, frequent wife beating, and gang rape of captured female enemies are a normal way of life. Women serve their men’s every needs. Female infanticide is common, with the sex ratio of male to female children being distorted by as much as 260:100 in some particularly war-like tribes.

It seems the Yanomamo are always fighting about something. The men regularly get into fights over their women, in fact they regard fights over women as their primary cause of wars. One third of Yanomamo male deaths are caused by wounds received in battle. Fighting is a normal way to resolve disputes, and villages regularly erupt into punch-ups over trifling matters that are usually resolved by thwacking each other violently with long wooden poles until someone falls down bloodied, injured, or even dead.

Things have not always been this way. The Yanomamo used to be distant forest tribes that survived by hunting in the peripheries, whilst the Orinoco and Rio Negro rivers were occupied by civilised river Indians like the Arawak and Carib groups, whose sophisticated dwellings stretched for miles and miles along the edges of the rivers. The river Indians lived largely by fishing. But white traders bringing infections, invaders and a reduced food supply killed this civilisation off, leaving the land empty for the Yanomamo to occupy.

Unlike the river Indians, the Yanomamo never learned to fish. Their population only took off about a hundred and fifty years ago when they began to obtain steel axes and machetes from contact with other Indians and white traders. Most Amazonian Indians traditionally relied on manioc (cassava) for their starchy carbohydrate supply, but the Yanomamo learned how to cultivate bananas and plantains, which entered the new world from Asia and Africa in the post-Columbian period. Banana and plantain cultivation has taken over from manioc, perhaps because they produce a more abundant crop, or require less post-harvest processing (manioc must be carefully cooked to ensure that the cyanogenic glycosides in it are neutralised – they turn into cyanide in the presence of linamarase, a naturally occuring enzyme in the plant).

The Yanomamo men regularly gather and imbibe hallucinogenic and other psychoactive drugs from the plants in the forest. Psychoactive drugs produce behavioural problems, including aggression, anger, and irritability as a matter of course, and the Yanomamo are very good at taking psychoactive drugs.

The Yanomamo diet is made up of at least 90% bananas and plantain. Hunting in the forests is very scarce. Harris reports that the average animal protein intake per capita per day for tropical-forest village groups averages 35 grams, and the Yanomamo appear to get even less than this due to population pressure. Is 35 grams of protein per day sufficient? I am an individual of small size and weight, and my RDA for protein is around 50 grams. Whilst 35 grams is enough to prevent outright clinical deficiency, is it enough for optimal development? Protein deficiency, it has been observed, produces aggression and even cannibalism in otherwise good-tempered, gentle animals. Even mice become aggressive and kill and eat each other when fed a diet of nothing but fruit.

Bananas and plantains are extremely low in protein and fat, and extremely high in carbohydrate. An average 7″ banana contains around one gram of protein, and bananas are low in every single essential amino acid with the exceptions of glutamic acid, aspartic acid and histidine, which is present in vast quantities. Bananas also contain the biogenic amines, histamine, tyramine, serotonin, and dopamine – neurotransmitters that can produce a variety of mental effects. Nutritionally a diet of bananas is a recipe for disaster. Glutamic acid and aspartic acid are used as excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain. The high quantities of histidine break down into the pro-inflammatory compound histamine as the fruit ripens. The carbohydrates present are digested quickly, impact blood sugar, and are not kept in check by protein, fat, or fibre. The diet is high in phytosterols, lacks vitamins A, most B complex (but is grotesquely high in B6 including the b6 blockers pydridoxine glycosides), D, E, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, sodium, and essential fatty acids.

In short – the Yanomamo, who are considered the most aggressive, violent tribe in the world, are also on the diet most likely to produce aggression and violence. It would be interesting to see how different the Yanomano diet is from the diet of the worst deprived, most criminally inclined groups in Western society.

Written by alienrobotgirl

24 September, 2006 at 11:44 am

Posted in Historical Diets

Mass poisoning

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“What do you get if you dump 400 tonnes of petrochemical sludge into open tips around one of west Africa’s largest cities?” Asks this week’s edition of the New Scientist, reporting that a Dutch company has dumped toxic waste close to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. “The company says the waste is tank washings from a gasoline tanker, and as it originated aboard a ship rather than on land Trafigura claims it is exempt from the EU ban [on waste dumping]. But it admits the waste contains hazardous material that is subject to the Basel treaty, so the Dutch authorities say the exemption doesn’t apply.”

“The main poison seems to have been hydrogen sulphide – rotten egg gas – with lacings of mercaptan, another sulphureous poison.” The result? “At least seven deaths and up to 40,000 people complaining of vomiting, rash, breathing difficulties and headache.” New Scientist

Written by alienrobotgirl

21 September, 2006 at 10:41 am

Posted in The Science of FCI

Raw meat

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On the subject of Palaeo, I’m no longer convinced that our current notion of a Palaeolithic diet is genuinely Palaeolithic. The fruit and vegetables we get today are Neolithic, they’ve been through a long period of alteration and cultivation in order to increase their sugar content and make them more resistant to the pests attracted by large monocultures. Wild strawberries are tiny and extremely sour, you really wouldn’t want to eat that many of them – and probably wouldn’t be able to find many of them anyway!

Many people describe themselves as ‘Palaeo’ when in fact they still eat cooked vegetables and drink tea and coffee. I equate this to ‘vegetarians’ who eat fish – they’re sort of pretending to go along with the principle. I wonder what percentage of ‘Palaeo’ eaters are actually truly Palaeo? How long we have been cooking all of our meals is still a matter for debate, but the fact that we cannot eat most vegetables raw – because of the toxins and indigestible starches they contain, is surely a clue that such vegetables shouldn’t form a significant part of a Palaeolithic diet.

The other week I found a ‘Palaeo’ recipe in a magazine – it was a mixed green leaf salad with a dressing of pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, and black pepper and mustard seasoning. I can just imagine Palaeo woman putting on her pinny and getting out her matt-effect steel pepper grinder, walnut wood bowl and matching Habitat salad tossers to throw that one together.

I find it quite amusing to consider that cashew nuts are such a hot topic of debate in Palaeo forums (because they need to be cooked), when that timeless Palaeo quote – that one should only eat what one can find or catch on the Savannah with a sharp stick, pretty much rules out everything from cauliflowers to carrots to green tea to noni juice!

Is eating three meals a day every day truly Palaeo? I think not. Michael Eades advocates intermittent fasting for its health benefits. I’m a fan, I’ve been skipping lunch or tea, undereating or overeating, or mixing up when I have my main meal for a few months now, and it definitely helps weight loss, and is even energising.

Is eating a Palaeo diet composed entirely of cooked meat truly Palaeo? I’ve been eating a little raw meat. It took a bit of courage. I am of course besieged by all the irrational fears about getting worms (it’s not actually the having of worms that is terrifying, more the having to go to the doctor to get rid of them aspect). Having done a little research I’ve learned from the Palaeo/raw messageboards that it’s pretty difficult to get worms from beef, especially when it’s been frozen for a couple of weeks.

Raw meat is tasty. It’s tastier than cooked meat. I’m not at all repulsed by the look or texture of it. I’ve been mincing it and eating it with raw egg yolk and plenty of salt, sometimes adding in a crushed garlic clove, or I’ve eaten raw minute steak. I actually seem to tolerate it better. Sometimes too much fried meat makes me crave sugar, but raw meat doesn’t. The other thing I’ve noticed, is specifically on mornings after eating raw meat the night before, the permanent dark circles I’ve had under my eyes since being a child almost disappear. Now I know they aren’t “allergic” shiners – but perhaps a curious sulphate-deficiency related kind of anaemia. Vitamin supplementation has never worked.

I’ve been eating a lot of beef lately. I guess I’ve been eating about 4 ounces per day, for about five days per week. Based on the statistics I published a few months ago, the average beef steer yields 568 lbs or 9088 ounces of meat. This means at my current rate of 20 ounces per week, I will consume about 1040 ounces per year, so it will still take me 8.73 years to eat my way through one beef steer. I also average around three eggs per day every day. In the same period of time I will work my way through 9559 eggs. Someone who eats one fish five days per week would get through about 2270 fish.

Written by alienrobotgirl

19 September, 2006 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Historical Diets

Honourable mentions

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Rob from Zero Carb Daily gave me a link to my article on why meat prevents scurvy! Thanks Rob! “I don’t eat any veggies primarily because they taste like absolute crap,” he says. It sounds like Rob is a supertaster. I understand Rob, as only other supertasters can understand! Around 25% of people can taste a chemical that acts as a goiterogen that is in many vegetables. This is an evolutionary mechanism to prevent us from getting goiter. I tried for years to make myself like fruit and vegetables, but all of those salads and greens I started eating when I went on Atkins just left me feeling like I was chewing on animal fodder. I now contend that salads are completely pointless.

Raw Paleo John has left a few comments on my blog too:

It is really fascinating that there is a connection between skin condition and salicylates. I remember a period, maybe a year or two ago, when I was eating a paleo diet (including cream) with no coffee, and still had small pimples on my forehead and sometimes around my nose. I thought I was following a perfect diet, being such a good paleo-man and eating 200-400 grams of berries each day for my anti-oxidants… Strawberries, raspberries, currants, lignonberries, cherries etc. I must say it was completely confusing to have pimples while following a perfect diet. Interestingly, I had a period before this, with the same diet (also no coffee) with one exception: I was eating tomatoes instead of berries. The result: No pimples. Tomatoes are low in salicylates, and berries are high in them. I believe salicylates might be the explanation for the pimples…

I’ve been there John! I tried Palaeo, swapping cheese for nuts and berries, and because I’m such a strong salicylate responder my dermatitis got worse and my face was very flushed. I was also starving because I couldn’t figure out where to get enough fat from!

Written by alienrobotgirl

19 September, 2006 at 10:30 am

Posted in Personal Diary