Unrelated Things I Want to Write About

Talk about your literal blog post titles, eh? Okay, couple things.

First off, you should check out the Paleo Summit. It’s an online paleo lifestyle conference, if that makes sense. You sign up and then every day that it’s happening, you get links to some videos. I’ve been watching as much of it as I can every day, and it’s great. Tons of fantastic information from a lot of the big names in the field. There are some new people who I’ve heard about in passing, but haven’t actually listened to or read directly, and it’s neat to get their perspectives as well. I think a lot of people think of the “Paleo Movement” being a pretty consistent, dogmatic thing. That’s really not the case. Everyone has their own take on it, and there’s at least a dozen MDs and PhDs who each have very good reasons for believing what they do, and explaining why they don’t necessarily agree with the others. It’s a young movement, and a lot of things haven’t been entirely hashed out yet. I’m still learning, and the more information I get, the more I feel like I have to learn. It’s fun, and exciting, but also a little intimidating. I feel like I’ve got a pretty solid handle on the basics at this point, and on some of the reasons behind the basics. I even have a decent grip now on some of the good and bad arguments that are commonly used to advocate for or against a paleo-type diet. If you’re interested in the paleo thing, the Summit is a great way to get a lot of information in a short period.

Okay, there’s that. Also, last night, I made a new dish for the second time, and it’s awesome. It’s going to become a big staple for me, I can already tell. The funny thing is that it’s essentially taken straight out of Robb Wolf’s Paleo Food Matrix, but I didn’t realize that until after the second time I made it. Okay, here’s what I did. I took some coconut oil and melted it in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Then I added some sausage cut into small chunks. I cooked that until it started to brown a little for me. Then I added chopped broccoli, stirred everything up and put a lid on it. I left that for a few minutes, then came back to stir it around a little. I repeated that a few times, until the broccoli was bright green and cooked through. Then I added a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Not strictly paleo, I know. Whatever. I effing love cheese, and it doesn’t make me feel sick or achy or anything else. Anyway. I put the lid back on, let the cheese melt for a bit, then stirred it around to get it mixed in. I added some salt and pepper and stirred a little more. Scoop into a bowl and eat immediately. That’s about as easy as it gets. The nice thing is that it really works with just about anything. Same method would work for bits of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, or really just about any meat. And a lot of different veggies, too. I’m partial to broccoli, especially when paired with cheese, and I get big giant bags of it from Costco so it’s good to have ways to plow through large quantities of it. The only problem is that I keep making not quite enough of the sausage/broccoli/cheese mix. There’s enough for one serving, but it’s so good I really want to eat more of it. So since I’m still a little hungry, I end up snacking on other things. Not the best. So I think I’m going to get out my giant electric skillet and make one super huge batch, and then eat that for lunches or whatever over the next few days. I’ll also take some pictures next time.

There’s another thing that’s been kicking around in my head. Backstory first. I haven’t had a regular physical checkup since college. I haven’t really felt the need, and I didn’t have a primary care doc I was especially attached to. But when I turned 30 and had a baby on the way, I figured it was time. I’ve been doing some pretty crazy stuff the past few years, and had gained and lost quite a bit of weight at various points, so I was definitely curious about how I was holding up. Okay, end of backstory. So I needed to find a primary care doc, right? Here’s the question. Do I choose a doc at random out of the phone book, get a recommendation from friends/family, or do some research online? Secondly, do I try to find a doctor who I know will be friendly to my low-carb/paleo ideas, or do just go to a doctor and not worry about his nutritional philosophy? What I chose was to talk to my friends and look online, and I found a paleo/low-carb friendly doctor named Jeffry Gerber near Littleton Adventist Hospital (where my wife and I are having our baby). I had my physical with him, and we really got along well. It was nice to know we were coming at the issue of health from a similar paradigm, so I didn’t feel like I had to hide or be defensive about my dietary choices. It also just so happens that his office is in the same building and even on the same floor as our midwife’s office. So that’s kinda cool.

Here’s the question: Did I do the right thing in picking a doctor who agrees with me about a few fundamental health concepts? I think so, but I can definitely see the arguments on the other side, too. Did I just put myself into an echo chamber, where my doctor, who would otherwise be the voice of medical reason, will now cheer me on as I drive myself into an early grave? Am I just seeking out counsel from those who agree with me so I don’t have to ask myself the hard questions? What happens when my high fat diet inevitably gives me some sort of major health problem and my doctor refuses to admit that the fat is the problem? I was asking myself those questions before I went in, believe me. I feel like I’ve done a lot of research on this whole gig, and I feel confident that the people I’m listening to know their business. But there’s always that little voice of doubt, isn’t there? What if I’m wrong? What if it was a fluke? What if I dropped 40 pounds but put a giant hole in my heart in the process?

I think it really comes down to faith, in the end. It can be informed faith, but it’s still faith. I don’t have any formal medical training beyond First Aid/CPR, and I think my card’s expired. I don’t have a PhD in biochemistry. Heck, the only college science courses I took were Astronomy and Psychology. I probably can’t even adequately explain the Krebs cycle without looking at my notes. Any doctor I visit is going to have knowledge that far surpasses mine in a wide variety of areas, and I’m basically putting my faith in his or her training, education and experience. I’m not going to know if the recommendation he gives me is really the best thing for me. I won’t know whether it’s based on a complete understanding of my medical history, or whether the guy is just frazzled and in a hurry to get home, and he skips a key line on my chart. Maybe the prescription medicine I’m on has just recently been found to have a negative interaction with the new prescription my doctor wants to put me on? I don’t know this stuff. I’m trusting that my doctor will. I’m banking on the fact that the doctor I visit has been keeping up to date with all the relevant journals, so s/he is using the very best information to treat me, not what was written in the textbook 30 years ago.

That’s another problem. Science changes by its very nature. As new research is done, new methods are adopted, and new standards of care are established. This is a very good thing. If medical science didn’t advance, we’d still be bleeding people to cure them of syphilis. But because science advances, and because it is advanced by people, there is the possibility for error. Not just errors on the doctor/patient level, but even errors in the medical research itself. Experiments can be poorly designed, or designed with an unconscious bias. An experiment can be designed, run and published in a peer-reviewed journal and still give us erroneous conclusions. This is a great article on that subject: Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science Do I think that medical errors are common? The statistics indicate that they’re more common than we’d like, but I don’t think most of those are serious. Do they happen? Certainly. And I don’t think that individual doctors should be crucified for making errors, either. Everyone makes mistakes and has to learn from them. Medicine is a high stakes game so the cost of a mistake can be incredibly high, but it still doesn’t mean we have to demand perfection. This is an interesting talk on the subject: Doctors Make Mistakes. Can We Talk About That?

That’s a bit of a tangent. It’s another thing that’s been kicking around in my head, so I wanted to share it, but it’s not the real point here. We all need to be aware that doctors aren’t infallible, because they’re human. That should be a given, but some people think white coats are magical. They’re not, and there’s a reason we have the phrase “Get a second opinion” in our cultural lexicon. I’m not saying this means you shouldn’t trust your doctor, though. Far from it. I think that level of dedication and education is worthy of respect, and anyone willing to go through it should get the benefit of the doubt. I’m just saying that we need to be realistic about the limitations of the medical system and the people within it.

Okay, but beyond that. Beyond the possibility for error, which we all accept when we go to a doctor (or any professional, really) for help, what if there’s more? What if the doctor is just plain wrong? What if the standard of care for your situation isn’t the best choice for you, personally? What if your total cholesterol is at 205 and your doctor wants to put you on statins to try to bring it down as a “preemptive measure”? Do you just take the drug without asking any questions? Do you seek out a second opinion? Do you seek out an opinion from an alternative medicine doc? Do you just go read up on the literature yourself, and hope you can get a good enough handle on the science to make an informed decision? Different people make different choices in that situation, and I’m not here to judge. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own health choices. Your doc is giving you the benefit of his education and experience, but you aren’t physically or legally required to take his advice. At least not in most cases. So anyway, what is your choice in this situation? For me, I’ve learned enough to know that I’m not afraid of total cholesterol being above 200. Certainly not enough to take a drug with as many nasty side effects as statins. I’d look at my HDL, my triglycerides and my LDL subfractions and see if I thought there was a real problem worth worrying about. But that’s me, obviously. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m betting my life on the work of a bunch of idiots and charlatans. Maybe I’ve put my faith in the wrong people. It’s a risk I have to take, though, because I have to put my faith in someone. I’m just doing the best I can with the intelligence and information I have. That’s really all any of us can do.

So when it comes down to it, I feel better about seeing a doctor who is on the same page with me. If there’s a benefit to seeing a doctor who is going to tell you things you know going in you’re not going to agree with, I don’t know what it might be. Maybe for someone less stubborn than me, it might give them reason to question their understanding of the situation. But for me, if my doc tells me to take the statins, I’m going to ignore his advice anyway. I may go talk to another doctor, but if he gives me the same advice, it’s still not going to change my mind. That kind of sounds crazy and extremist, but let me put it to you another way. It wasn’t all that long ago that doctors would strap laboring women down to a bed, knock them out with ether and literally pull the baby from their unconscious bodies with forceps. Parents weren’t even allowed to hold their babies until days after delivery in many cases. That was the standard practice. We figured out how horrible that was, thankfully. But if I went to a doctor now who said that he was going to do that to my wife, I would punch him in the face and then go talk to another doctor. And if that doctor said the same thing, I would punch him in the face as well and keep looking until I found a doctor who agreed with me that maybe my wife shouldn’t be strapped to a table and knocked out. Does that make me an extremist? Does that mean I have no respect for the medical profession or for the principles of science? Does it make me a bad person for denying my wife and unborn child the very pinnacle of modern medical care? I don’t think so. I think sometimes, the medical establishment gets it wrong. When that happens, I have a responsibility to myself and to my family to figure out the best option and pursue it, even if it’s not what the conventional wisdom would recommend.

I’m not alone, either. Tom Naughton and others are actually working on a presentation about the current trend in regular folks losing faith in the traditional authorities, and turning to the internet to do their own research. There’s a teaser here.

Okay, that ended up being a way longer post than I thought it would be. Sorry for rambling. I’ll wrap it up with a few quick links.

Do Calories Matter– More from Dr. Attia. He really breaks things down in a great way, as usual. There are so many obvious things that refute the over-simplistic “calories in/calories out” mentality, and he really nails them all.

PaleOMG – I’m really liking this blog, and all of her recipes look really darn good.

Enjoy Eating Saturated Fats – This is another talk given by a doctor, explaining why he has lost faith in the lipid hypothesis. These talks are becoming more and more common, but there are a few tidbits in here that I think make this one stand out from the others.

For reals now, I’m done. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

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2 comments on “Unrelated Things I Want to Write About

  1. Carla says:

    I know what you mean about doctors. I have known some who have been absolutely fantastic, life-saving heros basically and some who didn’t even seem to give a shit!! It’s so hard to find the right one!

    • Septimus says:

      I’ve mostly had good luck with mine, and when I find a good one I stick with him forever. I’ve only ever been to one dentist in my life, and will keep seeing him until he retires. I also have an eye doc I absolutely love. But with regular primary care docs, I just never found anyone I really connected with. Until now, at least. It feels good to find a regular doc I’ll be happy to go see every year!

      Have you heard of the Paleo Physicians Network? It’s not super extensive yet, but it’s a great way to find local docs who are paleo/low-carb friendly.

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