Lessons of This Blog (1st of 2)

Kirsten Marcum told me she had “put a number of [my] findings to use in [her] own life.” I asked how. She replied:

I’ve put a few of your specific recommendations to work (SLD, standing on one leg each day, omega-3s, more animal fat/pork fat, butter tea, fermented foods)…but in thinking about this, I realized I’ve gotten even more use out of general principles I’ve drawn from your blog over the years:

1. Trust your results. I’m thinking of your own (and other people’s) experiments with what caused acne (dairy, etc.) or migraines (soy) and helped restless leg syndrome (b6) or sleep, etc. You and others tried solutions, and the solutions either worked or they didn’t, and you/they looked to correct root causes, and those corrections either worked or they didn’t. If you still have acne, the acne treatment didn’t work–even if it should have, and even if an expert recommended it…and you probably shouldn’t just keep doing the treatment just because it’s supposed to work. And if you cleared your acne, then the intervention worked–regardless of whether it “should” have. If your brain performance improves in a measurable way after eating butter, trust that result–and be skeptical about the people who tell you butter is damaging your health. If treating a leaky gut improves your thyroid labs, trust that–not the doctor who says your leaky gut diet is too restrictive and is going to damage your health.

2. Many unpleasant circumstances are reversible. It’s often possible to find positive interventions that ameliorate, reduce, or remove things that are bothering you–many of which are cheap or free and not hard to implement. It’s possible to fix health issues, productivity problems, make learning more fun or effective, etc. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t think this is true–that you’re stuck with extra weight, or acne, or creaky joints, or back pain, or migraines, or the inability to motivate yourself to work–and there’s nothing you can do.

3. Most things that are beneficial are also pleasurable, and vice versa. When something is good for us, we usually find it pleasurable (animal fat, salt, sugar at night, umami flavors, learning while moving, faces in the morning). Otherwise, how would we have evolved to do it?

I extend this to say: If something’s not pleasurable but supposed to be beneficial, it’s either bunk or you’re doing it wrong (i.e., in a way that removes the pleasure and possibly the benefit.) So look for the pleasure–because then you’re more likely to do it and to see a benefit.

And: If something is pleasurable but not beneficial, your body probably wants something very similar and it’s confused–junk food umami vs. fermented foods. In which case, find a pleasurable AND beneficial substitute, and it will be easy to stop doing the thing that is not beneficial.

4. Be skeptical of experts. Most experts have incentives that have nothing to do with the reasons you’re consulting them. Understand this, look for their motivations/weaknesses/blind spots, and always check what they’re telling you against what your body (or other results) are telling you. Also look for non-experts with interesting ideas.

5. What’s good for the brain is good for the body. I would add to this: Many things that we think of as personality or mental/emotional issues actually have a physiological basis–and optimizing your health will likely have a positive effect.

They sound elementary, but they’re counter to the way nearly everyone I know thinks.

Over the years, thinking like this has improved my life in multiple ways:

- I 100% cured my back pain (after 3 rough years) with Esther Gokhale’s 8 Steps to a Pain Free back–which cost $17 and provided more practical and helpful advice than the two doctors, physical therapist, and personal trainer I consulted.

- After a bunch of looking, I found a doctor who, when presented with new ideas, says: “That’s interesting. Where did you find out about it, and what have you tried?” More than once, she has looked into the subject, found the new recommendation convincing, and has started to share the information with similar patients–which means I also benefit from what she learns from others.

- I fixed my complexion, have nearly fixed my weight issues, and reversed dozens of nagging health issues (peeling fingernails, bad breath, rosacea flushing, random bad stomachaches, food sensitivities, mood swings, lack of motivation and focus etc.) through a whole-body thyroid/adrenal/gut repair approach that’s considered bunk by most mainstream endocrinologists. Parts of this approach happen to incorporate things you’ve found beneficial–increased amounts of animal fat, fermented foods, focus on optimal sleep, focus on aligning with circadian rhythms. (Interestingly, one of leading proponents of this approach started out focusing on thyroid health and has found even better results by broadening his focus to brain health….very much like your “what’s good for the brain is good for the body.”)

FWIW, I tend to use topics you’ve investigated as a check on other people’s recommendations–you’re not an “expert” in the field of thyroid repair, or gut health, etc., so you have no incentives to adhere or not adhere to a particular line of thinking. So if both you and a thyroid doctor find a particular approach beneficial, that seems very convincing to me.

Those are good lessons. Tomorrow I will explain why I think they all come from one somewhat hidden underlying lesson.

7 Responses to “Lessons of This Blog (1st of 2)”

  1. q Says:

    ok, on stomach issues. my stomach is more or less fine, but i have a friend who has a lot of “random” stomach issues. i don’t think she’s going to do the “experimentation” thing much herself but is there anything i should suggest she read or anyone she should see? ie where should she start? i know what i would do, read a ton of stuff and try some things and keep track, but it’s not me.

    Seth: Read what I’ve written about fermented foods.

  2. Charlie Currie Says:

    Excellent…I concur with all 5…

  3. Jackye Says:

    How did you heal your peeling fingernails? I have also greatly benefited from reading Seth’s blog; cured my acid reflux/heartburn by eliminating gluten from my diet.

  4. Portlander Says:

    The one that most resonated with me is #2.

    I’m always amazed by the number of people that seem to shrug and assume sub-optimal health is part of life. No, it means you’re doing something WRONG THAT NEEDS FIXED! Your job is to pay close attention to try and figure it out.

    When genetic pre-disposition for one ailment after another was newly the rage (which, I guess it still is), the counter joke was “Hey, our genes didn’t evolve to kill us.” I think too many people think misery is just bad luck and there’s nothing one can do about it. It’s Shakespearean. Or Biblical. One is born under a crossed star, or a pox is on one’s house, and ‘dems da’ breaks.

  5. Alex Says:

    For q: one of the surest ways to make your own life worse is to be more invested in solving your friend’s problems than she is.

  6. Alex Says:

    Great observations and impressive results, Kirsten Marcum. If you ever blog about the process, I’d love to read it.

    I’m most envious of your having found your doctor. When I told my GP I’d lost 30 pounds by eating paleo, she all but rolled her eyes. I’d love to know how many other patients she has who’ve dropped over 10% of body weight in months without any exercise or calorie restriction.

  7. Kirsten Says:

    Hi Jackye– The fingernails were fixed by stomach acid supplements (HCL with pepsin). My doctor told me that low stomach acid is common with autoimmune thyroid issues. So I did a self-test to figure out the dose size I needed, and about four months after I started supplementing, my fingernails stopped peeling. My theory is that without stomach acid, I wasn’t breaking down my food well and so I wasn’t using all the nutrients I took in. I have to wonder about the positive effects on the parts of my body I can’t see.

    Incidentally, my nails peeled continuously from age 13 to last January (age 39), with only two breaks: once when I took biotin supplements (when I stopped, it came back) and during the year I drank a ton of raw milk.

    And Alex: Thanks very much! I’ve been a blog lurker since 2001, but haven’t commented much or blogged myself. Maybe that will change as my health improves….one of my major symptoms is a failure to connect intent to action. So I would read blogs and intend to comment, but never do it, or intend to start a blog, but never post. Now that my health is improving, I find I have a shorter list of things I mean to do and longer list of things I’m actually doing. So you never know.