Honoring Genetic Variation

Use of the word honor in this case should be read as having a high degree of respect. The path that your ancestors travelled is built into you in mysterious ways molded from the challenges they received from the environment. These crafted you in perfectly unique ways, such that you are unique and beautiful.

Epigenetic influences from the environment can turn genes on and off like a switch. There are however, certain genes that code for enzymes that are your unique fingerprint and don’t change. The funny thing is that while CURRENT influences (food availability and choice, stress, hormonal levels etc) won’t significantly change some of these in your life, over many generations they can change. Let me explain with an example.

There are enzymes, FADS1 and FADS2 that convert plant based fatty acids to become long chain fatty acids found naturally in seafood, what you might know as omega 3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA found in an omega 3 supplement. It is hypothesized that as populations started eating more plants genetic pressure led to individuals who could convert better, the plant based fatty acids into the long chain fatty acids. Certain Inuits in Greenland who were eating nothing but seafood and land animals had the opposite pressure. They didn’t need any more of these long chain fatty acids as they were already getting the final product without having to convert plant based fatty acids to long chain fatty acids already found in the seafood and organ meats they ate.

Ancestral cultures even had some knowledge of supplemental importance of these for pregnancy and brain development. Reference needed but I was told by a mentor of mine that there were certain tribes that would send the young men hundreds of miles to the sea to gather fish eggs for the women of the tribe who were pregnant. The basic science of brain development demonstrates the critical need for DHA and is the reason why DHA is incorporated into baby formula.

Similar adaptations, of course, can be found in the genes responsible for processing dairy, which arose due to the need by some communities to rely on dairy as a critical source of calories in certain historical periods. Unfortunately, due to the diet wars, I have to state the obvious, that even if you have the gene to encode for digestion of dairy, doesn’t mean it is healthy for you, it just means that you can digest it better than someone who doesn’t. If you lived a thousand years ago and didn’t have access to Whole Foods and you had to rely on dairy and didn’t possess lactase, it is likely you would have been quite ill. The main difference is of course, that DHA and EPA are what are called conditionally essential nutrients meaning you do need to have them in your body whereas there is nothing in dairy uniquely needed for the body.

As I have discussed at length on my youtube channel and briefly here, there is a very specific difference in physicians like myself who love personalized medicine catered to the beautiful uniqueness that is you and those physicians who advocate for a specific diet for the the masses. As an example, there are doctors who feel that since there is no common absolute disease state from avoiding seafood or omega 3 supplements, that there is no need for even the discussion of supplementation. (Of course, an Greenland Inuit on a vegan diet would absolutely need an omega 3 supplement) One flaw with that logic among many is that as we have learned thus far in other posts, while an overt disease state with a specific ICD-10 code and a chapter in an internal medicine textbook to describe it might not exist for the common individual with even poor conversion rates and a low omega 3 index, failing to thrive, depressive symptomatology, and not functioning at your optimal capacity is also a disease / dis-ease state that can be seen as a result, even if it is not in the majority.

It is why I love personalized medicine and love the evolving field of genomics and advanced diagnostic blood testing. You need to become your own authority in health and for the advanced thriver getting a genomic analysis done (or in this example, an micronutrient analysis also that includes essential fatty acids) and having a sincere conversation with someone who has guided others in understanding the results can be so wonderful. Incidentally, I do these for free, maybe when I hit 300 or 400 of these genomic analyses and feel myself an expert I might charge for the time 🙂 This knowledge can turn for example, non thriving vegans into thriving vegans due to this analysis and yes, one of the many interventions could just be a DHA supplement based on genetics and symptomatology. There are other genes that impact beta-carotone and vitamin a as well as genes that would influence the choice of which specific type of b12 supplement to take and many others. The field is growing by the day and data shows that changes made as a result of this analysis “stick” more than kind hearted suggestions from a well meaning doctor 🙂

And yet, those with a population wide mindset will look at these suggestions and say, you are working with such a small population as to be insignificant!! And that even I state that the suggestion for supplemental omega 3’s is very narrow! And to that I would say, each individual needs to be honored, and one person who goes from merely feeling good to great and now thrives can change the world! When you can take a person who is feeling fine and is now feeling great, most never realized that they could feel the way they feel now. There are levels of wellness that most people have no clue about. This, of course also pertains to people who are omnivores like myself. A vegan poster on twitter influenced this post and so I am using this very narrow example to illustrate a point. Population wide suggestions are very important but they intend to move people over the finish line but they often fall short even if major societal health statistics improve. To bring a person over the finish line, though, they need to be empowered to work with their own uniqueness and it is my job to empower them. This is where the magic of medicine starts in my opinion. Once they pass that finish line, new horizons of wellness and achievement open up and quite frankly they start empowering others. Being a part of this process is my path in life.

When Tolerance is a Vice

How could tolerance be a vice? Isn’t tolerance a virtue?

Let’s start with the definition :

Tolerance – “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

When one uses it as a way to feel superior since one is showing “tolerance” and continues to look down on another, it is clear that it is a vice.

What we see here is the tyranny of conclusions. When one “tolerates” another, he has often ceased the act of trying to understanding the other. He has made a conclusion that he will merely tolerate the other. Following this act, either indifference follows or festering hate or superiority.

In this case, raising the practice of tolerance to the highest value in society can have the complete opposite effect. It can stop understanding in its tracks through the act of a well meaning person feeling as though through the act of tolerance he is acting in a civilized manner, meanwhile internally conflicted or completely apathetic with no further desire to actually understand the other. The opposite of tolerance in our day is probably not intolerance, but sympathy, understanding between people.

And what about when it comes to health? What about the role for the rebuke? Do we merely tolerate those who we know are making poor health decisions? I’ve been taught that people are free to make their own decisions about their health but that it is my task to report to them what could be harming their health. It is not about tolerance, it is about preserving the freedom of the other to not listen. In ancient Hebraic teachings it is clear, one is not allowed to hate the person making bad decisions, nor avoid, nor disparage, nor harm, but it is allowed to rebuke and as the great medieval sage Rashi said commenting on the biblical verse about rebuke, it should be done in private.

In the archetypal sense, the healer / doctor should not be tolerant by our societies definition, but should strive for sympathy all the while reporting / rebuking in a healing way what needs to be corrected in the context of a private doctor/patient relationship. At that point, it is out of your hands and you must realize that the patient can choose to do otherwise and no judgement is needed. If you do not rebuke you have failed at your sacred duty. Use your heart and creative mind to learn how to do it with the most sympathy possible.

As for the healers of society who we lack, we shouldn’t look to those in politics who are motivated by ideals and power, not sympathy and healing. Nor should we look at those who strive for more and increased tolerance as it has been described above which results in internalized hate, lack of sympathy, and in many indifference. What I think we really crave is people who love us who aren’t afraid to rebuke us with sympathy and caring.

Competence Downshift

“Be careful about the government, as they approach a man only when they need him. They seem like good friends in good times, but they don’t stay for him in time of his trouble.” Ethics of the Fathers 2:3.

Competence downshift describes the change in language that white liberals use when talking to minorities. White liberals “presented less competence to Black interaction partners than to White ones.” (Dupree, 2018) Reading the whole article is enlightening. I am not questioning their motives, I am more concerned with this phenomenon and what it means for health and the information presented to you.

I have frequently seen this downshift occur based on race, education, and socio-economic status in the medical profession.

Dr. Robert “Rhondell” Gibson taught that there are 4 games being played in the man-made world and this downshift happens in all 4. They are :

  1. The organized religion game – this one tells you who is “good “and who is “bad.”
  2. The power policies game – this one tells you who is “in” and who is “out.”
  3. The healing arts game – this one tells you what is “normal” or “abnormal”
  4. The big business game – this one tells you what is “ugly” or “pretty.”

Competence downshift is not just an isolated peculiar phenomenon of white liberal politicians speaking to minorities, it is rampant throughout society and appears to be more common in liberal minded people. The reasons don’t matter. Be aware of which game is being played and how you are being spoken to / lectured to based on what might be perceived to be your identity regardless of the reality of it. It matters because to become our own authorities in making decisions health or otherwise, we seek to not be caught in these games and not held to abnormally low expectations based on the high priests of these 4 games.

What we seek and sometimes need to demand is what has been taught in all traditions, the presence of a real world interaction and connection where each person is unique and each acknowledges the spark of the Divine in the other and makes them neither higher or lower in terms of their ability to make decisions on their own. Yes, there are experts and mentors that we should seek for help, but the great teacher is one that doesn’t downshift and doesn’t hold expectations. They are the patient teachers our great traditions have spoken of for thousands of years. We sure need more of those! With the above in mind, it certainly isn’t a wonder, is it, that these teachers were held in contempt by those playing the 4 games.

The End of Hobbies?

Well, maybe not the end but how many people now use all of their extra time on social media instead of cultivating a new or existing hobby? Do you think that you will ever regret not spending more time on social media? Let’s look briefly at some of the benefits of a hobby.

1. Sense of mastery and mystery. Hobbies can elicit both. Awe at how good someone’s skills can get and how it is never-ending. Hobbies that involve mastery of skills or competition like chess or game playing. Then there is mystery, where you struggle to understand something that is very hard to understand, but you know in that struggle is benefit to the mind and maybe soul. Things like Talmud study in my tradition, which is an obligation but for many is also something that is done daily in the spirit of a hobby that fosters growth. Gardening, for example, can be both mastery and mystery. Reading can also be both. Meditation, also can be both.

2. Connection with like-minded people. Anytime one aspires to a great skill or knowledge, one needs to connect with others to gauge skill level and make connection.

3. Elevating consciousness. Like it or not, we are not meant to live in one active mode of consciousness and are meant to go between various states of higher consciousness.

I used build small model cars as a child and the concentration like consciousness of those hours I look back very fondly on. Why? Nothing else mattered, time become non-existent, I felt centered completely in my body and in my movements and craft, I craved even harder and harder challenges as my skills increased, and my mind and body was pursuing an aim that was beautiful to me. Maybe, our Creator would want most of life to be this way?

Now it is religious texts and medical literature that does that for me. I also study qigong now which is definitely in the mystery and mastery category as the movements elevate my consciousness to another level of seeming unending progression and discovery. I also now do hydroponic growing at home which also is a mystery and mastery hobby as I engage with the lives of my plants. This is time well spent and though my work during the time of seeing patients and running my food business doesn’t spur in me the benefits of the above as often as I would like, it is the time spent in my hobbies that give me the strength to pursue the goals in this other arena of my life. I feel a definite lack when I don’t engage in my hobbies.

And what among many things is it that detracts from this? Time wasted on social media, in gossip even if true, and on gluttony of the senses which also includes overly indulging in entertainment. There also seems to be guilt in some that you are being selfish by taking on a hobby. You aren’t!! So don’t crucify yourself on someone else’s ideal who sees pursue of mastery or time devoted beyond work as useless. Filling your life with knowledge, skill pursuit, and connection makes you have a richer life. Nuff said.

Photo by : https://www.pexels.com/photo/art-artistic-arts-and-crafts-background-1153895/

The 4 Errors of Experts

Here are 4 main problems you should know about when it comes to the conflicting advice one finds on nutritional and disease in the modern media.

  1. Emphasis on public health vs personalized health. You can’t generalize public health suggestions down to the individual. Each individual is different and has different needs. Public health suggestions are only a starting point even if very valuable for overall health statistics.
  2. The “experts” the media brings out are usually medical doctors, who are only reading the medical literature. Often, they are not familiar with the nutritional literature. Doctors are busy, they read the medical literature that comes across their desks. There is a whole world of nutritional literature that has nuance, depth, and remarkable work in it. This doesn’t necessarily contradict the medical literature but its emphasis is different. Doctors usually rely on a review article on the impact of nutrition and draw firm conclusions from that. I can’t tell you how often, I have read a review article and then looked into some of the studies they quote and find remarkably promising lifestyle or nutritional suggestions that are disregarded.
  3. Genetic variation can be an explanation for varying results of trials. In the near future, very specific genetic marker testing (snp’s) will be used to tailor medication and even supplement suggestions. When that field enters the mainstream which will probably take another 10 years, everyone will see the folly of making public health recommendations the end point instead of the starting point.
  4. The final error, is either from pure graft, protecting an opinion that the expert has held firm to throughout the years, or funding from various biased sources.

    So next time, you hear conflicting health advice, you can be sure, that one of the 4 above errors is being made.

    Image by gotcredit.com

The Devil Starts at 40%

I am a big fan of workout videos with great teachers. The reason I like them is because we all need mentors and variety when it comes to exercise and it is important, in my opinion, we seek them and their workouts out. These creations can be works of art in my opinion. Intentionally, they are a well thought out, precise combination of body movements, and motivations with an end goal in mind. My latest exercise mentor is Hannah Eden for a program called FYR 2.0 on bodybuilding.com. Great exercise mentor’s always have some amazing things to say that can be generalized to life in general because exercise, indeed any pursuit for change, has analogies and lessons to daily life.

I am near 2 weeks into her 8 week program and she said something that I loved. I can’t quote her exactly but it went something like this, when your mind starts telling you to stop, you are only about 40% of the way to your max ability. I think if you ponder this, for new pursuits we have really wanted in the past, the timing of that negative inner voice truly is around 40%. As you get more acquainted with the new activity, that increases in my experience, but as to our max capability, very few of us can say we get there without that negative inner voice speaking.

That first inner negative voice, that little devil on your shoulder from cartoons, the ancient “yetzer hara” (negative inclination) of ancient hebraic teachings, all tend to start early in new pursuits. On top of that you have the natural resistance of change in life. It’s no wonder then the difficulty people have making changes, as we have on top of our negative inner voice the natural resistance that comes with life in a physical world.

So, what’s the lesson here? I think it is a great reminder of 2 very important things. 1. On all new pursuits, your negative inner voice is lying to you when it comes to telling you what your ability or capability or endurance is.
2. Finding yourself a mentor can help you to raise that limit and learn to embrace and even enjoy the natural resistance that comes

Now it’s time for me to do my workout . . .

Drunk with the Divine

Each year, the holiday of Purim comes around the Jewish Calendar to celebrate the amazing Scroll of Esther. It is today. It is by far the most impactful holiday of the year for me. It is on this holiday that we wear costumes and become intoxicated so much that we can’t distinguish between the hero and the villain. My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD taught me that we should interpret this seemingly difficult command to mean that we should become intoxicated with the Divine.

But what does intoxicated with the Divine look like? It conjures up images in my mind of holy saints in altered states of consciousness or even Sufi whirling dervishes. Yet, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, gave an even better definition in discussing this holiday from a Chassidic perspective He said we should be “joyous beyond reason. ” When we push ourselves beyond reason and decide on being joyous, we become intoxicated with the Divine.

When I first heard this, I was taken aback : Be joyous even though you have no reason to be! Absurd! Yet, if we let our rationale minds take a back seat and look at it from a physiological perspective, it makes sense. Our body becomes healthier when we are joyful, this has been studied extensively. Let’s face it, our aim here on Earth is to bring more life, more positive energy, more and more, to take things and evolve them to another level, this is our purpose, to elevate the world.

Let not the haze of negativity or depression stall you from finding joy. The message of this holiday is that you do not need a reason to feel joy!! You have a spark of the Divine in you. Joy is your birthright, we don’t need external circumstances to allow us to feel joy.

It is said that when the messianic era comes around, Purim will be the only holiday that we will continue to celebrate. At that time, when everything is clear, and we can see the Divine in everything, joy will be our default, because we will see the Divine in everything. Right now, it might be hard to, so on this day where we get a taste of a future time of unbound joy, let’s all work together to break through the haze of negativity and be joyous! Your body, your spirit, and your loved ones are waiting – it’s your natural state as a miraculous Divine creation!

Photo by neroo2010 on Flickr

The Weight of Animal Food Consumption

I think everyone has come across the video’s online that show animals being mistreated at concentrated animal feed lot operations. It is sickening and if doesn’t cause you discomfort you are either putting your head in the sand or are a psychopath.

Nonetheless, most of us, including myself, consume some animal products. Which begs the question? How can we consume these products without participating in cruelty?

Let’s face some facts, at least as they are in my mind.

  1. CAFO (concentrated animal feed lot operations) which account for most of conventional store bought meat are cruel, negatively impact our environment, and yield meat that is not healthful
  2. Most dairy operations are the same as above, and when the animal is done producing meat, enter a similar fate as the animals above
  3. Most egg operations are equally cruel where they immediately kill the male chicks usually through cruel methods, not to mention crowd the chickens into unhealthful spaces. Cage free and other nomenclature often delude us into thinking that it is more healthful when often it is not.

Most successful societies start eating more animal protein as they get richer much to the detriment of their health. The consumption of animal protein comes with negative outcomes I have addressed elsewhere especially on my YouTube channel. The natural and historic consumption of animals was associated with maximizing all of the animal, including organ meats. The isolation of muscle meat is a perversion of ancestral food patterns which emphasized the whole animal including the animal, it is also disrespectful if you have just slaughtered an animal to throw away near half of the animal. There are probably health benefits to eating some of the organs.

So, you may be asking how it is that if I acknowledge the above, that I consume some animal products. Some vegan activists argue that killing an animal for food is never something that is ethical and I can respect that worldview. My worldview is different.

Some rules that I follow :

  1. I never buy routine store bought meat
  2. I never buy farm raised fish
  3. I investigate and question the egg farm I buy from
  4. I buy only 100% grass fed, grass finished regenerative beef from family farms where farm workers and the animals are treated with respect
  5. I only eat Kosher animals which are herbivores (I include this because, I do believe that these animals are in a different class when it comes to be slaughter) Incidentally, I almost exclusively now buy my meat from kolfoods.com

It was told to me once by a Rabbi, though I have never found a source for this statement, that the Talmud says that stupid people shouldn’t eat meat implying that one should be very cognizant, intentional and respectful about the sacrifice of the animal for your food and if you can’t be, don’t eat meat.

That being said, I eat very little animal products and go days and sometimes weeks without eating meat. The cornerstone of a healthy diet for everyone is to maximize plant intake. Your goal is to determine which plants make you thrive and which don’t. Not all plants are the same and you need to determine the ones that work for you. People often give up on vegetables and variety before determining the classes of vegetables that help them to thrive. This can take time and patience.

To buy the above animal products is notably more expensive in comparison to buying store bought meat. But the real truth here, is that animals should not be that cheap. We have made efficiencies that are by nature unethical to get to these low prices and when you buy into it, I believe you are supporting a deeply flawed system that results in significant moral consequence for yourself and for our society.

Some might not be able to afford the quality animal products I suggest. I think at the quantities that I eat or with careful selection, most people can. Nonetheless, eating an exclusively plant based diet is an option, you just need to be very careful to make it one that you maximally thrive on. I have helped many patients do this after they have made the decision to choose it as a disease reversal diet.

Don’t participate in the diet wars going on. It’s toxic. Find the diet that works for you that yields results that can be measured with blood work, body fat percentage, energy level, and maybe even select scans, something we can discuss perhaps in another post. Don’t focus on just one of the above and assume that it is working for you because just one of those is better. It must show improvements in all and this can take time and work for you to determine. It is my life’s work to help people on this path to become their own authorities in this. As always, reach out to me on my facebook page if interested.

Photo by Nate Steiner on Flickr.

Second Order Prayers

We often pray, wish, plan for outside events to change for the better. I was taught by my teacher, of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD, so often mentioned on this page and in my thoughts as we come to his yarzheit (anniversary of death in Judaism) next week that our prayers should be “second order” prayers. Meaning that instead of prayer for things or events, we pray to have the strength, insight, creativity etc. to make those things happen.

To be sure, in the Hebraic tradition, there have been sages who have emphasized that we should pray for others that they should have all their material needs met according to what they are accustomed to, but for us, we should pray for our spiritual welfare.

Yesterday, I felt a great deal of sadness for a man I know and as I started to pray for him that he have the strength and insight to come through the challenges that he faces, it had reminded me that though I have people in my prayers all the time, I had not expanded that with “second order” prayers.

That prayers work is beyond question in my opinion. Those who regularly pray especially as part of community are healthier. And the remarkable studies on what the literature uses as intercessory prayer (IP) as the terminology, show numerous studies that even when people don’t know they are being prayed for, they get better.

The benefits of this for yourself are given a beautiful metaphor in ancient Hebraic teachings. It says that when you pray for another a channel from God is opened for that person but since you opened it, you become a channel for that light to be then given to that person. That, of course, means that you are receiving more Godly light into your life as a result of these prayers for others.

In our ever pessimistic world, we often resign ourselves to the fact that nothing will help given the immense problems we all face both in our lives and in our society. We are commanded in Western traditions not to ever give up hope. Classic Jewish tradition says that even if your enemies sword is upon your throat, you must never give up hope. Maybe now is exactly when we need to think “second order” thoughts and prayers that we and those around us should be strong enough, resilient enough, creative enough to make the changes required to improve our world for all of us. Start small and local and expand your vision outward. You can make a difference, it’s proven scientifically, if you need that proof. The remarkable thing is that in doing so, you end up helping yourself. And that is exactly where the seed of hope can find fertile soil. Nothing good happens in this world until a positive thought or intention finds a place in your mind to grow and reach outward. It can be a prayer that starts it all.

Photo by Carlos Cuesta

Name not Blame

The above refrain, I have heard as almost a cliche in psychology but it occurred to me that it pertains to many aspects of your overall health as well. Weight loss information and products often use the common marketing tool of taking blame away from the person with the marketing copy of “It’s not your fault.” We might realize that this is not only unhelpful, but also causes there to be the un-necessary additional issue that the person feels the need to contend with another problem. Now they have to deal with larger issues beyond themselves and now they need the help of a product or service to deal with.

The radical truth is that while there are larger societal forces that we have no control over some of which we sometimes struggle to understand, the overwhelming majority of significant factors in your health can be named and identified. As I have stated before from my teachers, this pursuit of health is a pursuit of wholeness. In becoming whole you can start by naming the pieces of the puzzle and this you are fully capable of doing for yourself.

So what about blaming something when you identify it as a stumbling block in your health? This next statement also feels like a cliche, but what you blame you give power to and the same goes in your pursuit of optimal health. It’s of course much worse that that because it can become a never ending pursuit of blame for some folks. They start to see everything from mass media to corporations to sometimes government all doing things that are hurting your health. They see a never-ending battle.

Let me offer you another option. We live in a material world, a world create by man. That man made world assesses you by standards and ideals. The real world where no two people are alike holds little sway in the material, man-made world. While civilization is amazing for its culture and technology and ability to organize and advance the material aspects of life, let’s remember that the biblical ideal was the life of the shepherd who existed outside of cities and was more consumed with compassion and contemplation such as was afforded by the life of the shepherd.

The material world by its nature does not recognize you as possessing a soul, a piece of the Divine. As such it is never going to be able to provide you with wholeness and when the pursuit is something less than wholeness, well, there is sickness and the need for healing. How can you blame the man-made material world? That is its nature and every spiritual and healing tradition of antiquity recognized this without assigning blame. They concentrated more on naming it and trying to teach people to recognize its nature.

So, coming back to your situation in regards to optimizing your health. Well, obviously, I am not suggesting you leave civilization and become a shepherd 🙂 What I am suggesting is that some of the things you may blame for your predicament, might in fact just be their nature, and you are much better off focusing on those things that are in your control which with education are vast and infinite.

It’s all cliche in psychology books but when you don’t blame but concentrate on naming it and focusing on things you do have a control of, you empower yourself and instead of seeing a world stacked against you, you see options and paths for improvement, learning, and the path to wholeness.