Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The "Spooky Science" of Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Over at Track Your Plaque we are always pushing the envelope on heart disease prevention and reversal.  I have been in the program so long that (barring another ground breaking find of which there have been many over the years) I am near the end of what I can do physically.  However, I have always been intrigued by how the mind might be used to alter the body.

Throughout history there have been many wild claims of yogis and mystics doing incredible things with their minds and living to ripe old ages disease free so I have always kept on the look-out for some hard science to back it up.  But I am a skeptic and, like Houdini, skeptical of whether there was any scientific truth to the wild claims - until recently.

I started to read about findings that the heart and other organs have clusters of neuronal cells (rudimentary "brains") and independent nervous systems that interact with the brain.  In fact, the heart has been reclassified in some precincts as an endocrine organ because of research that indicates it produces hormones.  Sound a little spooky?  Hang on, it gets even spookier.  I have begun to uncover literature that suggests these "brains" in conjunction with the "master brain" in our heads can even alter the transcription of certain genes.  It does not change your DNA but the suggestion is that these "brains" can "order" the body to either up-regulate or down-regulate the production of specific proteins created by DNA, proteins that literally govern how our body behaves.

So where does HRV come in?  Recent research has revealed that the beat to beat variation in heart rate (the time between "T to T" peaks in the QRST waveform of a typical EKG) is an exquisitively sensitive measure of the functioning of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the two major components of our body-wide Central Nervous System (CNS).  In a nutshell, when all the body's "brains" are communicating coherently they exert minute variations in the heart rate.  However, in situations of stress or disease the heart essentially runs on auto-pilot with little beat to beat variation.

We were so intrigued at Track Your Plaque over the possibilities we approached the HeartMath people, the leaders in HRV monitoring, to provide us with their HRV product so we could put it to the test - and it did not disappoint.  Once again, I was the guinea pig.  The next few posts will chronicle my personal experience with the basic PC Desktop version of the HeartMath emWave HRV monitor and training device.

The graphic below illustrates my baseline HRV waveform and it is very instructive of what most people will experience.

Notice how choppy and irregular it is which is exactly how the HeartMath people said it would be for a "noob" like myself.  A "coherent" nervous system, with the brain in your head in coherence with the rest of the body's "mini-brains" produces a smooth, sinusoidal trace.  The HeartMath "emWave" device is essentially a training tool with a built-in "coherence coach" to help you practice reaching a coherent state )with multiple challenge levels (kind of like resistance training for the body.

After several sessions and a little frustration at not be able to instantly master it (what can I say, I'm impatient) I did indeed improve coherence - but that will be the subject of my next blog!

Looking out for your heart health,


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Miracle Pancakes: No Wheat, No Rise in Blood Sugar (as in zero, nada, bupkus)!

The real challenge in going wheat free is to find suitable food alternatives.  I've had little problem with lunch or dinner.  I love sub sandwiches and Jimmy Johns make the UnWich (lettuce wrap instead of bread) and a good Cobb salad always works for me.  Dinner is even less problematic with lean red meats, chicken, fish, and any number of vegetables which I love anyway.

But breakfast?  What to do about toast and pancakes and hashbrowns.  And let's face it, bacon and sausage ain't exactly health food despite being low carb.  Doc Davis convinced me (I was a doubter and an affirmed Ornish low-fat guy at the time) to go low-carb long before his Wheat Belly book burst onto the scene (the numbers don't lie - see this post).  In the process we both began working on recipes just for ourselves (many ended up in his new book and also the Track Your Plaque program cookbook).

But, the low-carb Holy Grail for me was a "miracle batter" that could replace wheat and allow me to eat things like muffins and pancakes.  Well, after months of testing and tasting, back and forth between Doc Davis' and my kitchen I think we may have it.  Doc D's Miracle Batter as I like to call it (although I tweaked it plenty it was still Doc D's basic recipe - and really - Doc D's Miracle Batter is much catchier name, don't ya think?).

So, where am I going with all this, seeing as how the "recipe" is not quite ready for prime time just yet?  Now that it passes my basic taste test it is ready for the real test.  What would it do to my exqusitely sensitive blood sugar.  Sound the horn please, as I have just completed the first test and the results blew my mind.

Fasting Blood Sugar at 10AM: 87mg/dL (not too bad for a pre-diabetic)

Prepared one serving of pancakes consisting of

1/2 cup of "miracle batter"
1/4 cup almond milk
1 Grade A Jumbo egg
1/4 cup artifically sweetened maple syrup (sweetened with sucralose)

I added the syrup just to "push the envelope" and, well, that's the way I used to eat pancakes as do many others.

Post-prandial Blood Sugar 11:15AM (one hour after consumption): 86mg/dL

WHAT?!  I couldn't believe it so I tested again.  The retest results: 87 mg/dL !!!


Now, one test on one person does not a miracle make.  But it looks awfully good so far!

Looking out for your health,


P.S. Did I mention they taste fantastic?  Pictured above is one test recipe made with blueberries.  Man, like a long cool drink of water to man thirsting in a low-carb desert!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bride of Franken-Wheat: New Wheat Protein Kills Aphids, Attracts Parasites

This just in!  A new strain of genetically modified wheat ("GM Wheat" as they euphemistically call it in the industry) is about to hit the fields for testing.  You can read more here.  But, let me synopsize the report for you.

I kid you not, a new genetic modification is being introduced to wheat that will allow it to "release a chemical which will deter aphids, and attract the insects' predators and parasites."

Now, I gotta tell ya, I've had this small personal problem with aphids for a while now.  Little critters don't really eat that much but they are kinda itchy.  So my first thought was, "Heck, why not give this new wheat a try?  Switch to Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast,  ham sandwich on whole wheat for lunch, kick back with a pizza, a few pretzels, maybe a honey-wheat lager or two for dinner and, BAM, say good-bye to my "aphid dandruff!"  But, wait a minute!  Attract predators and, gulp, parasites?  No thanks, I already have too many lawyers, politicians, and aluminum siding salesman chasing me.

But seriously, is it just me or does anyone really think it's a good idea to eat a plant that exudes a chemical that will "deter aphids, and attract the insects' predators and parasites?"  Keep in mind that this is not the first genetic modification to be made to wheat.  It already has 3 times as many chromosomes as what good old mother nature intended (42 versus 14).  With every bite we consume a plant with special genes designed to kill fungus and other bugs.  I mean, c'mon, where does it end?  Frankly, I wouldn't spray myself with bug killer let alone eat it!

Looking out for your health,


Franken-Wheat: My Own Mad Genetic Experiment!

The numbers don't lie.  Nature's own original wheat has 14 chromosomes.  Modern wheat has 42!  Those extra 28 chromosomes are all genetic codes cross-bred and genetically engineered to produce proteins to kill fungus, bugs, bacteria, make wheat shorter, faster growing etc.  We all know abouts the devasting effects of the wheat protein gluten on celiacs - but what the heck are all those bug-killing proteins doing to you when you eat wheat?

Dr. William Davis presents some provocative theories about what disease conditions wheat may provoke in his new book "Wheat Belly."  However, the ones that caught my are are the the effects about things like blood sugar and lipoproteins - the things that affect the heart profoundly and cause heart disease.  So I did my own test.  Here are some numbers from a test I did on myself - personal numbers before and after wheat - that blew my mind!

I see myself as the perfect test subject because, up until then I had been on a low-fat “Ornish” diet and was taking 3g of prescription niacin daily to lower my LDL Cholesterol and raise my very low HDL Cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). Here are my lipids before doing my own wheat-free test.

LDL Cholesterol: 84 mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol: 55 mg/dL
Triglycerides: 24 mg/dL
Total LDL Particles: 598 nmol/L
Small LDL Particles: 290 nmol/L

Here are my numbers after six months on the low-carb, no-wheat diet where I added back a significant amount of fat (including a fair amount of saturated fat) to replace the carbs. Note that I also STOPPED talking the prescription niacin during those six months.

LDL Cholesterol: 76 mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol: 55 mg/dL
Triglycerides: 26 mg/dL
Total LDL Particles: 550 nmol/L
Small LDL Particles: 92 nmol/L

Just look at those eye-popping numbers. My LDL Cholesterol went down while my HDL Cholesterol and Triglycerides stayed virtually the same. Most importantly, not only did my total number of LDL Particles drop, my dangerous Small LDL Particles dropped a whopping 68%! That was all accomplished with nothing but dietary changes that also allowed me to eliminate one of my prescription meds to boot! Not a bad day’s work for doing little more than giving up bread, noodles, and pretzels (although I must admit I still miss the pretzels)!

The numbers don't lie.  When Franken-Wheat's stalking, dont waste your time talking, just keep walking, or better yet, run!
Looking out for your health,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wheat-Zilla Conquers the World! Rampaging Monster Kills Every 7 Seconds!

Just yesterday, the Associated Press reported that, "An estimated 366 million people world-wide now suffer from diabetes, and the global epidemic is getting worse ..."  This is according to the International Diabetes Federation which described the situation as "staggering" with one person dying from diabetes every seven seconds.

It is widely acknowledged that obesity rates and the chronic ingestion of high-glycemic index carbohydrates are a major factor in the development of diabetes.  It is the amylopectins in plants that carry the bulk of the carbohydrates of which their are three, amylopectin A, B, and C.  Amylopectin A, the form found in wheat, is the most easily digestible and therefore raises blood sugar more than the other forms.  In fact, two slices of whole wheat bread can spike blood sugar higher than two tablespoons of sugar.  It is also believed that these high surges in blood sugar coupled with the high insulin response they provoke are involved in the epidemic in obesity, especially the creation of visceral "belly fat" that is considered the most dangerous kind.

Other chilling data and statistics regarding Wheat-zilla were revealed in the groundbreaking book "Wheat Belly" recently released by author and cardiologist Dr. William R. Davis.

Looking out for your health,


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The "Big-Wheat" Empire Strikes Back: Attack Begins on Dr. Davis and Wheat Belly

The Grain Foods Foundation, Wheat Foods Council, Go with the Grain, GrainPower, SixServings, you know them by many names but they all have one goal.  To fatten you you up with wheat before the slaughter - by your own bagel-laden hand - while making a buck in the process.

This collection of dubious organizations has recently gone after Dr. William R. Davis and his new book "Wheat Belly" in what I believe will be a vain attempt to discredit him before the truth gets out.  A truth that could cost them billions of dollars.  Judging by the overwhelming online response and support of Doc Davis they may have bitten off more than they can chew.  Here is the link.


After reading it I thought I would do a quick investigation into their so-called "Scientific Advisory Board."  It ain't pretty.  This is what passes for independent scientific advice?  Yikes!

Glenn Gaesser, PhD: Author of "Big Fat Lies" a book that promotes the concept that actual weight (how fat you are) is not as important as (surprise) dietary fat.  Not surprisingly, the book recommends a diet of complex carbohydrates. Most humorously, it rails against the so-called "experts" who produce healthy weight/height charts. Gee, isn't it the Grain Foods Council who admonishes us to believe the "experts?"

James R. Gavin III, MD, PhD:  This disclosure gem is precious. "Served as an advisor or consultant for: sanofi-aventis; LifeScan, Inc.; Eli Lilly and Company; Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.; Abbott Diabetes Care; AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP; Served as a speaker or a member of a speakers bureau for: Novo Nordisk; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP; sanofi-aventis: Owns stock, stock options, or bonds from: Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Served as member of the Board of Directors for: Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc."  Care to guess on what ALL the above drug companies have in common?  Surprise, surprise, surprise, they make diabetes drugs!  LifeScan, Inc. makes blood glucose monitors.  Hmmm, does it seem that ANY of these companies is particularly interested in reducing the number of diabetics?

Ronald Kleinman, MD: Yeah, it gets better!  Kleinman, who is known to accept compensation for his opinion, "serves on scientific advisory boards for General Mills, the Grain Foods Foundation and Burger King. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Project Bread in Boston; a member of the Board of Directors Global Child Health Foundation; and a consultant for Mead Johnson Nutritionals."  Hey, guess who owned Mead Johnson for 42 years?  Bristol-Myers Squibb!  Guess what the first item is in the Mead Johnson Food Pyramid For Pregnant Women.  If guessed "grains" give yourself a gold star!  And whats with: General Mills?  Burger King?  Project Bread?  LMAO!  You're kidding, right?

Robert S. Rosenson, MD: The beat goes on. He "Served as an advisor or consultant for: Abbott Laboratories; Amarin Corporation plc; Amgen Inc.; Genentech, Inc.; LipoScience Inc.; Roche; sanofi-aventis; Received grants for clinical research from: Amgen Inc.; Genentech, Inc.; Roche.  We covered some of the other drug makers.  Amarin is finalizing development of drug to treat high triglycerides.  Guess what one of the leading causes of high-TGs is.  Roche make anti-diabetes drugs and the famous Accu-Check blood glucose monitor.

Shelley Case, RD: Can't say much about Ms. Case.  Her financials are clean but her laser-like focus and expertise is restricted to the gluten protein and celiac disease.  What about all those other proteins manufactured by the extra 28 chromosomes in the cross-bred and genetically engineered "Franken-food" we call wheat.  To quote Ms. Case, "Patients should be thoroughly tested for Celiac if they present with conditions such as anemia, bone issues, thyroid and liver dysfunction, and arthritis."  Hmmm, any chance those conditions -  as mentioned in Wheat Belly - could be due to one of the other proteins in wheat?

Julie Miller Jones, PhD, LN, CNS:  This quote from Ms. Jones and a group of her cronies enlisted by grain growers in response to the USDA altering the food pyramid logo says it all.  " ... we will provide input on the science behind the new icon and ways to achieve the key goal of getting consumers to eat more healthfully, ensuring they are getting their six servings of grains daily, making at least half their grains whole and the rest enriched grains."  Does that include celiacs?  Do you suppose Ms. Case and Ms. Jones ever talk?

Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, MS, RD, LD: From Ms. Klingers corporate website, "Ms. Klinger is also culinary consultant to food and beverage companies such as The Coca-Cola Company, Kellogg’s, Hormel Foods, Ross Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Dannon, AztraZeneca, Uniliver, Mc Neil Nutritionals, and Weight Watchers International were she completed numerous administrative and communications projects."  I think that just about covers Ms. Melendez-Klinger's credentials as an "independent" expert!

Bruce Young, MD: Dr.Young is an obstetrician and gynecologist with credentials in programs for mid-wifery and fetal medicine but I have no idea what his standing is as a grain expert.  Best I can tell "Big-Wheat" wants so-called experts to push wheat from conception to our untimely and miserable deaths.

Yeah, if this is an "independent" board then I'm Batman (I'd settle for Bruce Wayne, hell, I'd settle for Adam West).  But what did you expect?  Let the battle begin.  If this is the best the competition can offer I'm betting on Doc Davis!

Looking out for your health,


Saturday, May 7, 2011

The 89 Cent Heart Attack?

While I was driving down the highway this billboard happened to catch my eye and gave me a chuckle (the added text and arrows are mine, of course).

This burrito looks exactly like the cross-section of an artery in the midst of a heart attack.  The similarity is absolutely uncanny!

Remember, you are what you eat, lol!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Healthcare Industry is Hopelessly Behind the Customer Service Technology Curve

One of the great things about technology is that it has vastly improved customer service.  I can order products, pay, track shipments, get support, do just about everything from my laptop to smart-phone.  So, why is it that some medical facilities are still hopelessly behind the technology curve?

Mind you, not all are.  For example, I can get all my test results online which is far faster and more convenient than it used to be.  But this post is about simple, run of the mill, customer service - the sweet spot if you will - of this blog.  Although it has been awhile, alas, I come with yet another story of healthcare customer service gone awry!

I practice Informed, Self-directed Healthcare (ISH).  I take responsibility for my health! I consider doctors as specialized consultants I pay to keep me informed and help me make decisions - not dictators who tell me what I MUST do.  This is not unlike the way I characterize lawyers.  I see a lot of doctors, take their advice, do a great deal of independent research, and render my own opinion.

Recently, I saw a functional medicine doc.  He did a fecal analysis test to delve into my stomach problems (after my GI doc threw up his hands and could not provide a diagnosis) which came back with suspicious results for heavy metals.  We followed up with a Urine Toxic Metals test that revealed high levels of mercury and lead and an elevated level of arsenic.  I thought, in the interest of continuum of care, that I should share these results with my hematologist (I have macrocytotic anemia), gastroenterologist (for my stomach problems of unknown etiology), and my GP.  This is where the "fun" starts.

I contacted my hematologist's nurse who asked if I could fax the results.  "Fax?," I said, "Who uses a fax anymore?  How about if I scan the results and sent it to you as a PDF via e-mail?"  She promptly provided an e-mail address and said she would print out a copy and enter the file into the electronic system (they have a completely digital records system but some docs STILL like paper).  Then I contacted my GP's nurse who is at the same facility.  She would not even consider an e-mail and refused to provide an e-mail address (which I could have guessed since they use the first initial and last name "at" the center name ".com."  She had to have a fax.  Keep in mind that this is the same medical center with all the same systems.  Seems to me that she would have to scan the paper fax to create the electronic record I was willing to send her.  What, is she trying to protect, someone's scanning job?  My GI's nurse did not even have external e-mail!  How in God's name can you run ANY business without the ability to accept external e-mail?  Yikes!

Now, you may be thinking this is a HIPAA issue so I checked with a lawyer.  Since I am sending the info willingly by e-mail it is a de facto waiver of any expectation of privacy.  I explained that e-mail is actually more secure!  The e-mail goes ONLY to the person I send it to when a fax just sits on a machine for ANYONE to see.

The bottom-line is that I am e-mailing to the hematologist's nurse who offered to make a paper copy for my GP's nurse who will turn around and scan it into their digital system.  Ya, that's REAL efficient.  Since my GI's office is just down the road from my cardiologist's office (Doc Davis of Track Your Plaque fame) I will drop it off the next time I am at his office (which is thankfully frequent as we talk often).

And people wonder why healthcare is so expensive!  Sheesh!

Looking out for your health,


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