- How not to govern a university
- Smelly fish popular in Korea. “Extremely chewy texture.”
- Popular pain killer associated with doubled risk of atrial fibrillation
- Hunter-gatherer microbiome
- interview of me in Chinese
Thanks to Tyler Cowen.
Thanks to Tyler Cowen.
Thanks to Casey Manion, Phil Alexander, Viorel Tulica, Melody McLaren, Christian Pekeler, Donna Warnock and Tom Passin.
Thanks to Melody McLaren.
When I was a graduate student, I had acne. Via self-experiment, I discovered that the antibiotic my dermatologist had prescribed didn’t work. He appeared unaware of this possibility, although antibiotics were (and are) very commonly prescribed for acne. “Why did you do that?” he said when I told him my results. As I’ve said before, I was stunned that in a few months I could figure out something important that he, the expert, didn’t know. He had years of training, practice, and so on. I had no experience at all. Eventually I gathered additional and more impressive examples — cases where I, an outsider with no medical training, managed to make a big contribution with tiny resources. The underlying message seemed to be that professional medicine rested on weak foundations, in the sense that big conclusions could be overturned with little effort.
Two recent posts (here and here) on this blog argue that eczema, which afflicts about 10% of Americans, can be cured and prevented with fermented foods. This observation makes perfect sense because of two pre-existing ideas: 1. Eczema is due to an overactive immune system. 2. Fermented foods “cool down” that system (a variant of the hygiene hypothesis). Professors of dermatology failed to put them together, but people outside medicine were able to.
After I learned that eczema could be cured easily and safely, statements by medical professionals about eczema became horrifying. A dermatologist recently wrote about eczema on Reddit:
Eczema is a chronic condition, which includes hand eczema. It’s a condition of dry and sensitive skin. Topical steroids are a useful adjunct in getting your skin clear, and – in certain cases – keeping your skin clear. I tell my patients that the most important thing in management of eczema is the skin care regimen. This means avoidance of irritating factors and restoration of the skin barrier.
The exact causes of eczema are unknown. You might have inherited a tendency for eczema.. . . Many doctors think eczema causes are linked to allergic disease, such as hay fever or asthma. Doctors call this the atopic triad. Many children with eczema (up to 80%) will develop hay fever and/or asthma.
The Mayo Clinic website: “The cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, but it may result from a combination of inherited tendencies for sensitive skin and malfunction in the body’s immune system.” The various remedies listed have nothing to do with the immune system.
What else don’t they know? Doctors have great power over our well-being. Imagine learning that the driver of the car you are in is nearly blind.
My eczema and other skin problems of 15 years disappeared completely from regular kefir and yogurt, which I did because of this blog.
I asked for details. (more…)
On this blog, Peter commented:
Lactobacillus brevis also is found in pickled turnips. I’ve used it for weeks and noticed a difference. It seems to clear my lungs [emphasis added] (I probably have a low level infection that once cleared by taking intravenous antibiotics). I buy the Japanese style fermented turnips.
At Mr. Heisenbug, libfree commented:
I’ve taking the probiotic for just this week (twice a day plus some kimchi when I can + I started eating Kimchi at the beginning of last week) and I’ve seen some dramatic improvements. My feet have always had dry, itchy skin which has just disappeared. I have a cronic bunionette, a bunion on the outside edge of the foot, that has softened dramatically. My Rosacea hasn’t changed at all. Sinuses seem better but I’m still holding off on weather this intervention is helping. The most dramatic change has been in my lower respiratory area. My lungs are nearly free of mucus. I don’t remember a time that they were this clear. [emphasis added]
Lungs: canary in the coal mine of modern life?
At some point during the last decade, while living in Washington D. C., I began to suffer from hand eczema. Painful red itchy inflamed dry skin covered most of my hands. It was usually triggered by cold dry weather in the fall and winter. It also flared up after a lot of cleaning — when my hands were exposed to a lot of water and soap, which dried them out. I was in my twenties when it began. (more…)
Thanks to Phil Alexander, Joseph B. and John Batzel
Thanks to Carl Willat.
I’ve been testing my brain function daily for the last six years. I use a reaction-time test (see digit, type digit as fast as possible) that takes about five minutes. I have gradually improved the test over the years — this is about version 8. One reason for this testing is that I might observe a sudden change. That could suggest a new factor that affects brain function — whatever was unusual before the change (e.g., a new food). This is how I discovered the effect of butter. My score suddenly improved, I investigated. Another sudden change (improvement) happened soon after I switched from Chinese flaxseed oil to American flaxseed oil. I hadn’t realized that something was wrong with the Chinese flaxseed oil. I started brain tracking after I noticed a sudden improvement in balance the morning after I swallowed about five flaxseed oil capsules. Millions of people had taken flaxseed oil capsules, but no one, it seemed, had noticed the balance improvement. Maybe other big changes in brain function go unnoticed, I thought.
Thanks to Phil Alexander and Claire Hsu.
Thanks to Donna Warnock.
A Korean artist named Jihyun Ryou has invented modules to keep food fresh without refrigeration. This connects with the themes of this blog in several ways: using science to find cheap safe low-tech solutions, minimal solutions (Ryou’s designs use no electricity, I try to find solutions that require no willpower), and increasing (rather than reducing) the microbial content of food. Food stored at room temperature will have more microbes than food stored cold. Ryou says:
I’ve learned that we hand over the responsibility of taking care of food to the technology, the refrigerator. We don’t observe the food any more and we don’t understand how to treat it.
That there could be something wrong with division of labor — handing over tasks to specialists, including specialist machines — is a subtle point. Division of labor works fine for inanimate things, such cloth and furniture and pencils. No economist has realized that animate things (such as our bodies) might be different.
The value of Ryou’s designs partly rests on the variability of living things, as does the value of personal science. Well-educated Americans, in my experience, have little idea what they lose when they hand over care of their body to experts, such as doctors and drug companies. As Ryou says, they lose a kind of mental fitness (“we don’t observe the food any more,” we don’t observe ourselves as closely) and are forced to accept solutions in which what the experts want plays a big role. I discovered the power of self-experimentation when I decided to see for myself if the acne medicine my doctor had prescribed was working. I found it wasn’t, a possibility the doctor hadn’t mentioned.
Thanks to Steve Hansen.
Thanks to Claire Hsu.
Thanks to Allan Jackson and Bob Levinson.
Probiotic fermenting bacteria only work in the upper part of the gut, not in the colon. The anaerobic bacteria that work in the colon must be slowly acquired by persistent eating of diverse veggies to provide diverse polysaccharides and uncooked veggies to provide the bacteria.
I agree and disagree. It’s an excellent point that the bacteria near the stomach are quite different from the bacteria deep in the colon. So you need different sources of each. I don’t know what “probiotic fermenting bacteria” are (I was under the impression that all bacteria “ferment”), but, yeah, bacteria that live on lactose (e.g., in yogurt) are going to be quite different than bacteria that live on more complex sugars that are digested more slowly than lactose and thus pass further into the intestine.
To me, this explains why I like vegetables. I have no trouble avoiding fruit, bread, rice, pasta, and so on, but I hate meals without vegetables. Why? This line of thought suggests it is because they supply complex polysaccharides needed for deep-colon health. As Ayers implies, you wouldn’t need a lot. This line of thought suggests how you or nutrition scientists can decide what fermented foods to eat (some for each part of the digestive system).
I disagree about raw vegetables. Like most people, I don’t like raw vegetables. I like the crunchiness but the taste is too weak. That most people are like me is suggested by the fact that raw vegetables are almost never eaten without dip or dressing (which add fat and flavor) or something done to make them more palatable (e.g., sugar and liquid from tomatoes). If raw vegetables were important, even necessary, for health, the fact that they are hard to eat would make no evolutionary sense.
I do like pickled/fermented vegetables of all sorts, such as kimchi and sauerkraut. I believe they are a far better source of the bacteria you need than raw vegetables (they have far more of the bacteria that grow on raw vegetables than ordinary raw vegetables).