Day 40 on my new approach to a keto diet

There is no one ‘keto diet’. It has many variants that appear more or less the same to the outsider but are very different to someone deep in the thick of it – like Protestantism.

And like Protestantism, each of these variants interpret the same documents that underlie the practice, apply them differently, then follow, or try to follow a certain high-level dogma that results.

Like any set of competing belief systems, there is a necessary infighting between the variants about details. Just one of the many differences is the use of ‘exogenous ketones’. This is a product that most often contains beta-hydroxybutyric acid, which is the ketone fuel your body creates and runs on when on a keto diet. Some people have put this into a supplement and sell it.

Some variants of the keto diet think this is fine. Others will remove your post from their Facebook group if you even mention them.

Another controversy is: how much protein? Some groups recommend a lot less than others – and both scoff at the other’s interpretations of the documents that support their position.

The same goes for fat. All the groups want you to moderate it, but some make this central to their belief system – others seem to pay lip-service.

Lastly (though by no means the last), there is what I would call the position on what I would call ‘Keto food porn’. To me, this is the intricate and tortured attempt to create keto meals that resemble their high-carb inspiration, or inventions like a bacon-weave taco shell, or a round meatloaf with cheese in the center, wrapped in bacon.

Keto is very trendy right now (which will probably pass as it did before) and people are bringing enormous creativity to foods and recipes.

Some people love this. Some people think this encourages consuming extra calories, and the first group replies: who cares about calories? Just eat to satiety.

On this 2018 version of a keto diet, as usual, I came up with my own road to follow. While this time I have immersed myself in the most current thinking, joining over a half-dozen Facebook groups and listening to at least 50 hours of keto podcasts to learn what the current state of keto is.

One thing it does NOT seem to be is ‘Atkins’. While I believe that none of these people would be talking about keto if it wasn’t for Dr. Robert Atkins, who died in 2003, few people discuss him, and the current products the company he started are not held in high regard.

While you might be forgiven for using these products, you would not be applauded.

Another worrisome thing is just how dangerous this diet can be if you do it wrong – and most of these people climbing aboard the keto bandwagon do not understand the seriousness involved in altering your body fuel source and the serious medical problems it can cause. I will leave the authoritative research to others – and to you to dig up – again, I have nothing to sell and nothing to convince you to believe. These are the things I’m concerned might happen to people who achieve nutritional ketosis but are ill-informed about the pact with the devil you sign:

  1. Alcohol. If you are deep in ketosis, too much alcohol can lower that threshold for alcohol poisoning. Having a ready supply of carbs in your body can help mitigate a bout of binge drinking that ketones cannot, apparently.
  2. Pancreatitis. If you are unknowingly predisposed to this, a massive cheat can push you into this condition
  3. Gallstones. I had read that fat is necessary for the prevention of gallstones. Fat-phobic people predisposed to gallstones who try a high protein and lower fat version of keto might set themselves up for this. There could be other reasons as well.
  4. You can get dehydrated easily and your relationship to water needs to be watched. Too little OR too much can be bad
  5. Electrolytes. One thing normies eating a standard diet don’t tend to worry about is their electrolytes. People doing a keto diet do need to be careful about this because your need for sodium, magnesium, and potassium change. This can screw up the electrical system in your body – and you know what your electrical system does? It controls the beating of your heart! OK they say, I’ll just take supplements. Not so fast. TOO MUCH can be as bad as TOO LITTLE. People are messing with system not only they don’t understand, but that their doctors don’t understand.

It is for these reasons I DO NOT RECOMMEND A KETO DIET! The science surrounding this diet has been my primary hobby for more than a dozen years. To the regular person who comes along with no interest in learning the intricate details, I would not recommend this to them unless they had medical supervision by a doctor who knew the ins and outs of a ketogenic diet – and good luck finding one!

Stop reading yet? No? Ok – the rest of you left, let’s continue.

So what am I doing differently this time?

The first thing is that I have simplified my diet considerably. I have given up almost all artificial sweeteners (except sugar-free ketchup – not ready yet), dairy, nuts, cheese – and of course all grains and carby foods like potatoes. I now drink black coffee and plain water.

A partial list of what I’ve been eating for the most part?

  • Ground beef (moving toward New Zealand raised grass-fed beef)
  • Chicken thighs (moving toward organic – and I’d love to find pastured but haven’t yet)
  • Steak
  • Pork belly
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes and green chilies (for my chili)
  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Organic chicken broth
  • Lettuce (iceberg for now until people stop getting sick off of romaine which is a ‘thing’ as I write this)
  • Beefsteak tomatoes
  • Acocados
  • Asparagus
  • Organic celery
  • Eggs (organic and pasture-raised when possible)
  • Bacon
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut flour
  • Mushrooms
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Organic hot dogs from grass-fed cows
  • Sauerkraut
  • Psyllium husks

And I am planning to try experimenting with adding:

  • Ghee (aka clarified butter – considered OK in a dairy-free diet by people not eliminating dairy for religious or ethical reasons)
  • Broccoli florets
  • Nutritional yeast (a powder that sorta kinda of tastes cheesy, is full of nutrients, and might be good sprinkled on my broccoli)
  • Cabbage

I did not start here 40 day ago. It took a while to convert from my diet prior to April 2 where my primary food group was McDonald’s. What prompted the change was a sudden, worrisome trend in my blood glucose. I was seeing numbers up to 140 in the AM and they would stay elevated – even with taking metformin.

In less than 2 weeks I was able to get that number down by 20-40 points. In the mid afternoons I can see numbers in the low 80s – and this is with my stopping the metformin over 2 weeks ago.

Carb withdrawal at first was miserable. I comforted myself with an abundance of American cheese – God, I love the stuff! I also guzzled down seltzer loaded with Orange-Tangerine artificial sweetener in the evenings.

I also had Greek yogurt in work and Kerry Gold butter in my coffee. That was after the coffee and heavy cream I had in my coffee at home. I usually didn’t eat solid foods, though I would grab an Atkins shake and have some chicken broth with extra salt at lunchtime. This seemed to help with the mild headachy feeling I would get – but otherwise I felt good. Here and there was 2 squares of dark chocolate.

I gave up on the Greek yogurt because it seemed to trigger hunger during the first week.

There were some trashy, though low carb choices, along the way. Oscar Mayer bologna as well as bologna’s more refined cousin, Mortadella. Kielbasa. Pork rinds. These didn’t impact my blood ketones, which I measured obsessively. I got as high as 3.5.

I stopped negotiating with myself in the second week. I no longer thought about ordering McDonald’s and not eating the bun. I could watch people in work and at home gobble up carbs – even pizza – and it not bother me. It wasn’t willpower – it was that I had detoxed myself from carby foods and no longer had an interest. While I would not say even now that I don’t miss pizza, I don’t have this terrible craving for it, either.

Besides – I had substituted a bunch of junky keto-friendly foods to take the place of the high-carb junky foods.

To be clear: I started this particular go at the diet primarily for my health. And that worked: I lowered my blood glucose and stopped taking metformin. I also pulled off 10-12 pounds in 2 weeks. That was nice – but not the primary goal.

After the first 2 weeks the scale did not really budge, however, and while I was still committed to the diet for health reasons, I did want the weight loss to be part of it.

Finally, on day 34 I decided I might be strong enough to pull off eliminating all dairy and artificial sweeteners.

Boy oh boy, did this suck!

The cheese got replaced with more calories from meat and tomato slices with my burgers. While I still continue to use sugar-free ketchup, the amount of artificial sweetener is trivial compared with how much of the orange-tangerine stuff I would blast into glass after glass of seltzer on ice.

I started eating avocados more regularly. They can be tricky as they go bad so quickly but I’ve been able to manage. Once almost ripe, they keep in the fridge for a few days. When you take one out, eat it that day. Mostly works well.

I don’t drink the Atkins shakes. I’m drinking my morning coffee with coconut milk – and recently nothing. I no longer put butter in my coffee at work – and find that a little coffee goes way farther than it used to. I sometimes find myself not drinking any coffee at work – and when I do, it’s black. I don’t really drink fats anymore.

While not every day, on some days I find myself only eating one large meal a day. This happened quite by accident, but then I found out it was a ‘thing’ – OMAD (One Meal A DAY) or 23/1 Fasting. It seems there’s this notion called an ‘insulin holiday’. Here’s how I understand it. It is not only sugars that trigger insulin: proteins trigger them almost as well. So while your blood glucose might be low, your insulin might still be high – and as you have insulin resistance if you’re like me, eating nothing for a while gives the body a chance to not have to produce insulin as if you were snacking all day – and this might lessen insulin resistance over the long-term – at least that’s how the thinking goes.

There is a trick to this, however: eat too little and you put your body into ‘Starvation Mode’. Do this and your body can do all sorts of things – like make your hair fall out while holding on to every last calorie like a miser – and make you feel quite crappy – and there are voices on the Internet that don’t think this can be done without putting you into starvation mode.

So what I am doing is counting my macros more closely. I used a calculator I found here, and it gave me these ranges:

Calories:     1200 – 1892

Carbs:        20

Protein:    94-124 (104 is ideal)

Fat:        77-155

So the lower end is my target – and that ends up being one very satisfying meal per day. I don’t do this on all days – sometimes I have an avocado at work, and/or chicken broth. Sometimes I just have salt in water – depends on how I feel.

But you know the weirdest part of this: my narrowed food choices are liberating!

My diet seems easier. I’m not futzing around with food or thinking about food all the time. Diets can make you obsess about food more than not being on a diet. The simplicity makes things easier to track – and I hate tracking. The overhead of the diet is a lot less. I have more time for other thoughts than what I am going to eat – and amazingly enough – I don’t feel deprived.

That was the last thing I ever expected to say.

I could go on – like about what supplements I am taking – but I’ll stop here for now.

 

 

 

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Review: A Jawbone fitness tracker for a dirt-cheap price UPDATE

UPDATE 05/27/18: While my tracker still works at tracking steps, it now tells me that it ‘Can’t connect to the network.’ I think that’s because they liquidated the company last week and they pulled the plug on the server and the Jawbone.com site has apparently been taken down. The app is still in the IOS App Store (who knows for how long), but I’m not sure that you would be able to set up a new device – so I *DON’T* recommend buying it anymore. The device is useless without the app, so I’d say the party’s over…

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 7.16.14 AM

Years ago I had what I think was the original FitBit. I tracked your steps, told the time, and claimed it could track how many stairs you climbed. It also needed to be changed frequently and was a pain in the ass to sync to the app. It cost $99.

Then it got lost.

The FitBit One was the replacement. It was slicker in design – but I could never get the damn thing to work reliably. It cost $99.

In total, that was $200 I would never see again.

Fast forward to April, 2018. I wanted a cheap clip-on fitness tracker to just count steps. Instead, everything is now on a wrist band – which I didn’t want as I hate wearing anything on my wrists and can’t even wear a watch – and tells the time, tracks heartbeats, tracks sleep, etc.

I didn’t want all that – I just wanted to track steps, but I couldn’t find anything that simple. There also seemed to be only 2 options: buy a well-known brand for $100 and up, or buy a no-name brand with crappy reviews. Clip-ons were almost impossible to find.

I did a lot of looking and, almost hiding on Amazon was this Jawbone clip-on tracker ranging in price from about $9.00 to $15.00, depending on how ugly a color you are willing to tolerate.

I got one. I have been very impressed.

It has a battery that they say does not need replacing for 6 months – so no hassle charging it all the time. It syncs with the iPhone app pretty flawlessly. It has a whole bunch of features I don’t use – like sleep tracking – that don’t get in the way if you don’t want to use them, though if I do choose to use them someday they seem well-designed.

I believe these are discontinued models. While I think it’s a great design, it probably just couldn’t be found among all the other models – or maybe clips are so like 10 minutes ago.

My primary worry is that the device will outlast that app. If it is really a discontinued model, will they keep the app updated? Balance that question with: is it worth the risk at $9 bucks?

You make that decision for yourself.

Please note: I bought and paid for this thing myself. Nobody asked me to write this. I don’t get any money for this. Buy it – don’t buy it – no skin off my nose.

Here’s a link: http://a.co/inCFnhw

 

 

 

Keto is the Bitcoin of Diets

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 9.11.18 PM

For all you folks who do not spend their lives reading charts, a little explanation. This chart is from Google Trends, a tool that lets you see how often search terms are entered into Google. You can also compare one search term to another.

Now what the above chart shows is that the term ‘low carb’ (in blue) has been chugging along and has been steadily been gaining interest. It’s a far cry from the obscurity after the ‘Atkins Craze’ of 2003 popped and people moved on to the next trendy diet.

An interesting thing to note: see those little spikes in interest regularly spaced on the blue line? That happens every January when people decide to go on a diet as a New Year’s resolution.

Now take a look at ‘keto’ (blue line). Back when I started this blog, nobody would have known what Keto meant.

Well, things have changed. Look at that spike – keto is the Bitcoin of diets right now. It used to be called ‘Atkins Induction’ but after Atkins died the term was dropped because it seemed too harsh. Atkins himself recommended a diet of 20 grams of carbs or less, moderate protein, and high fat only for the first two weeks – then you were supposed to begin adding more carbs back in.

I ignored that advice back then and instead tried to stay in ‘Atkins Induction’ indefinitely.

I was ‘keto’ before ‘keto’ even existed.

Today, keto is everywhere. People who’ve only learned about the diet a year ago prop themselves up as experts, start Facebook pages, and build businesses around this diet. I got nothing against free enterprise, but it seems to me some of these folks are going off half-cocked. There’s one guy who advocates eating nothing but bacon for 30 days. Compared to him, this blog expands your choices to meat in general – and water.

The bacon guy is trying to build a nice little business off of this – you can join his special insider program for about $100. I bet he’s doing OK – it’s pretty easy to separate desperate obese people from their money.

I don’t want to imply anything bad about the guy. He seems sincere, came up with a trick that worked for him, and figures he can make a buck off of it. It also seems to work for a bunch of people – so who am I to nay say? Nothing wrong there.

The only problem I would have – and a big reason I have never tried to sell anything nor claim that I am right about anything (read my disclaimer here) – is that I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending *any* diet to *anybody* because I ain’t no doctor.

Anyway, ‘keto’ – like Bitcoin – is in a bubble. I have spent a lot of time in the past year on these Keto Facebook pages and there’s a lot of hopeful folks who stream in, asking the same questions asked the day before, unwilling to read the pinned posts, who just want a magic bullet. These people don’t want to do the work – they just want to lose weight fast. I don’t blame them, but as more and more people stream in, try the diet without doing their homework, get bad advice from people on the page as ignorant as they are, they will give up, tell their friend that keto doesn’t work – and the bubble will pop and we’ll be on to the next diet fad. This happened in 2003 with Atkins – and has been happening with great regularity for over a century.

The thing is: I believe keto works for a lot of people. I think, like most diets, it can be hard. I think you need to do your homework, and be able to tease out the good information from all the bad information out there.

I will even go so far as to say that there is probably a lot of bad information on this blog. I’ve been writing for 11 years and my thinking on the diet has changed.

If I plan to start posting regularly, I think I also need to go back and either edit old posts or delete them entirely.

So moving forward I’ll be ‘The keto blog with the low carb name’.

Hey – AT&T stands for ‘American Telephone and Telegraph’ – and a telegraph hasn’t been sent in the US since 2006.

My Crappy Diet So Far 11-07-2014

Here’s another missive from the trenches. Where was I?

I was on day 3, where I had KFC chicken thighs for lunch.

For dinner that night I made the kids pasta. I was going to make burgers for myself – or maybe have more of my leftover kale soup – but had leftover pasta, meatballs, and Halloween candy instead.

The only consistent success of the diet so far has been the elimination of booze. That’s something, at least.

I’ve been feeling slightly better and have not had the GERD that wakes me in the middle of the night. I suppose a good night’s sleep is another benefit as I ease myself into a better routine.

Day 4 – Thursday, November 6, 2014 – showed still more, though slight, improvement. My weight continued to inch down. Now it was 237.4 – down 3.8 from that 241+ that shook me. My blood glucose also peeled off a few points, going down to 112 – 26 points lower than at the start.

Despite an awful, blunder-filled start, at least I’m stumbling in the right direction.

I had coffee and cream in the morning – perhaps too much – but I’m trying to go light on the unnecessary rules until I have a better grip on myself. We had visitors in work and that meant copious amounts of bagels and pastries – which I ignored. I did have 2 roast beef sandwiches – I should have stopped at one – and ate the meat off the bread and threw the bread away. Afterward I was uncomfortably full.

As there was plenty of free coffee, I drank still more of the stuff.

When I got home it was announced that I was going to take the children to their evening class. Typically when I do that I get pizza for the kids while I wait for them to finish their class. I thought this might be a good test of my resolve (fool that I am).

I ordered a large pizza with mushrooms and onions as per my older daughters peculiar tastes, and drove home pizza and kids.

My resolve lasted all of 10 seconds. I tore into two slices of pizza with my kids and enjoyed it greatly. A little later looking for something sweet I had a bit more of the candy corn. My younger daughter said: “Awwww”.

Fear not my little love, there is still plenty for you to rot your newly emerging adult teeth with.

This might be a good time to mention what I’ve been drinking the past few days. It hasn’t been alcohol. While I might miss the buzz I feel a lot better. Dieting is all about giving up things now for something better in the future. I am sorry to say that perhaps I’ve drunk enough alcohol for one lifetime. The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, alcohol just doesn’t agree with me anymore. When drinking alcohol, even hours and hours later, every meal feels like I am swallowing fire. The Tums consumption is keeping factories running three shifts in order to supply my needs. Without alcohol, this changes almost overnight.

So what have I been drinking? Well, Mary Dan Eades ruined almond milk for me with a post about the polyunsaturated fat in almonds. Thanks, Mary Dan! I don’t like to get to sciency in this blog anymore but I try to avoid polyunsaturated fats and keep my remaining fats to either saturated or monounsaturated. I don’t want to go into the science because we end up going down a rabbit hole of studies and then contradictory studies and endless debates and all sorts of arcane fine points that I would frankly like to avoid.

The result is that I might have almond milk on occasion but as a regular drink I’m going to try to avoid it. I’ve tried the coconut milk sold as a replacement drink for regular milk and I find this stuff or a horrid thing.

My liquids have been:

  • A daily pitcher of water at work. I bought one of those PUR water pitchers and it does a fine job of stripping the chlorine flavor out of the tap water at work
  • Coffee with cream at home, and coffee at work with Atkins shakes as creamer. I’ve seemed to lose my taste for black coffee. Perhaps I need to get used to it again just to keep the calorie count down.
  • Seltzer from my SodaStream (one of the best and most-used gadgets I’ve ever bought) with ice and MiO soda flavorings. Too much artificial stuff in that MiO stuff? I don’t care.

Day 5 – Friday, November 7, 2014. Down over a pound from yesterday to 236.2 – 5 5 pound total weight loss so far. My blood glucose is essentially the same as yesterday at 113.

Considering how crappy I’ve been doing over the past 5 days, the weight loss and blood glucose management shows just how spectacularly awful I must have been prior to that.

I can’t say I’m not pleased with the reduction, nor the reduction in Tums use, and not waking up in the middle of the night coughing and choking from GERD. I can still say, however, I am still in a crap mood overall.

So grumpy dieters, take heart: you can still have a crappy and cynical attitude and lose weight. You don’t have to be all positive and cheery if you don’t feel like it. Keep your grump on and still lose weight – and fuck those people who say you must have a positive attitude first before you can have any success.

A positive attitude has nothing to do with weight loss. Nice to have, it helps – but it’s optional. Your weight regulation mechanism doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your positive affirmations.

If I lose enough weight and notice enough positive changes that my mood starts to improve – great – I can’t wait – but long-term weight loss and maintenance will NOT be a result of maintaining a perpetual ‘blissed out’ Tony Robbins positive attitude. Your life, like everyone else’s, will have its ups and downs. If you can’t manage your diet when life gives you lemons and you don’t want to make lemonade, then it’s going to be hard to pull it off long-term.

To be continued

Zucchini Pasta in Creamy Italian Sauce – and Gizmo Review

Gizmo with bit of zucchini left over. Bloody finger not shown.

I bought this thigamijig a few weeks ago while picking up pasta for the kids. I don’t remember what the darn thing is called as someone tossed the blister pack it came in, but it allows you to take a zucchini, twist it in this contraption and make zucchini noodles. This is one of those types of things you see advertised on infomercials where, if you act now, they send you Ginsu knives or something else you really don’t need but sounds cool.

It looked like a piece of crap. I bought it anyway.

The ‘why’ seems reasonable: I already have a mandoline, a kitchen device which allows you to create zucchini noodles, but mandolines is large, come in a box with multiple pieces, feels like work, and has caused blood loss as mandolines are designed so that the user slides their fingers towards razor-sharp knife surfaces.

This thing is small and can be tossed in a drawer. It just seemed like so much less of a commitment to use it.

Today I finally opened the package and tried it with the following impromptu recipe:

  • 1 medium zucchini, twisted into the gizmo to make noodley strips.
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup pasta sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch or two of oregano

This took all of 5 minutes to make:

In a frying pan, I melted butter until it was close to burning, then turned down the heat. Next, I twisted the zucchini into noodles over the pan. Then I added the cream cheese and the pasta sauce and smushed the cream cheese until it melted. Next, I added parmesan cheese, oregano, and cayenne pepper. A few minutes of cooking – and more blood spilled by tempting fate and twisting the zucchini too far – and it was complete.

More sauce than noodles, the small amount of pasta sauce with the cream cheese made it look like a vodka sauce.

I went to eat it and my daughter wanted a taste. She loved it – so much to the point that I gave it to her and she finished it herself. She told me that it wasn’t good – it was excellent. I made a second batch – double the amount this time. While the twisting of the zucchini in the machine is simple, my hand started to get tired after the third zucchini, so while good for whipping up a quick dish for one, the mandoline still has its usefulness for larger volumes (and potential for greater blood loss).

My older daughter had some of the next batch, and while not effusive in her praise, did finish the bowl that she took.

the recipe is a keeper – and the gizmo isn’t such a piece of crap – though let’s see how long it lasts before it breaks.

Until Next Time…

“In the absence of clearly-defined goals,
we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia

until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

– Robert Heinlein, American Novelist

As regular readers know, the ‘ol diet thing has not been going particularly well. I’ve decided that it’s something bigger that needs to change in order to make the diet work.

As part of that change I am taking an extended vacation from the blog.

I’m not giving up on low carb, but I want to experiment in a different direction – and part of that experiment is giving up the care and feeding of this blog.

I will continue to write, but I’ll be keeping it to myself for the time being.

I am going dark for at least 6 months. Check back then.

Good luck to you all.

Does Fluoride In Your Water and Toothpaste Make You Fat and Screw With Your Brain?

[Update: I got one comment: “What does this have to with low carb??? Do NOT send this crap. And… I disagree with your logic.”]

I am old enough to remember the 60s when crackpots were labeled as such because they thought water fluoridation was some sort of government conspiracy. I don’t consider myself a crackpot, though your opinion might differ.

What I AM doing is taking the tack that modern science, particularly when it comes to our complex biological processes, really has little clue what is good for us and what only appears to be good for us, so my only defense is to minimize the number of ‘modern marvels’ – processed foods, man-made chemicals and the like, and try to eat as little of them as possible. For me, that means eating organic as much as I can afford it, avoiding the household cleaner aisle – or at least staying away from the nastier stuff that lies there and using more old-fashioned cleaners, using glass containers for food rather than plastic, not drinking bottled water that comes in plastic, and putting a water filter on my tap water to remove the God-Knows-What that is contained therein.

It is not that I am convinced beyond a doubt that these things matter – it more that I believe the jury is still out on, say, if the plastic in plastic water bottles leaches into the water and screws up our internal chemistry.

I don’t know – so I’ll avoid it as much as I can.

So I went to purchase a new replacement cartridge for my Pur water filter the other day. When I got it home, I just happened to read the box, which listed it’s features. One jumped out at me (here it is on their website – search for ‘fluoride’):

  • Removes 95% of mercury, while leaving beneficial fluoride in the water.

Beneficial flouride. Hmmm… I did a little digging, and came across a website named Flouridealert.org. I found this on their page ‘50-Reasons to Oppose Flouridation‘:

In the first half of the 20th century, fluoride was prescribed by a number of European doctors to reduce the activity of the thyroid gland for those suffering from hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid) (Stecher 1960; Waldbott 1978). With water fluoridation, we are forcing people to drink a thyroid-depressing medication which could, in turn, serve to promote higher levels of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in the population, and all the subsequent problems related to this disorder. Such problems include depression, fatigue, weight gain, muscle and joint pains, increased cholesterol levels, and heart disease. It bears noting that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (1991) fluoride exposure in fluoridated communities is estimated to range from 1.6 to 6.6 mg/day, which is a range that actually overlaps the dose (2.3 – 4.5 mg/day) shown to decrease the functioning of the human thyroid (Galletti & Joyet 1958). This is a remarkable fact, particularly considering the rampant and increasing problem of hypothyroidism in the United States (in 1999, the second most prescribed drug of the year was Synthroid, which is a hormone replacement drug used to treat an underactive thyroid). In Russia, Bachinskii (1985) found a lowering of thyroid function, among otherwise healthy people, at 2.3 ppm fluoride in water.

The above was written by a Paul Connett, PhD – a Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University. He appears to be a legitimate professor (at least he was when I first wrote this 6 years ago – it appears he has since retired).

Oh, Jeez – here’s another thing I know nothing about. Another thing to make me seem even crackpottier than I already am. There is a huge crackpot element that opposes fluoridation. Here’s a comment from Yahoo Answers that shows the kind of nuttiness that gravitates to this subject:

Fluoride is accumulated in your pineal gland. This gland absorbs more fluoride than any body part and in very large quantities; it is now thought it has a lot to do with many of our health problems like early onset puberty in girls. As i have been able to awaken my pineal gland in the past thus access the crown chakra I will use my own self for the control. I do not know another person who has accessed the crown chakra or achieved christos. The feeling of oneness with the Creator and of travelling as if in deep space is gorgeous. The feeling of unconditional love and of peace makes me want to be able to do it or go there more often. Once awoken it is always awoken but you can fine tune it.

After the first two sentences, utter and complete New Age nonsense. But because whack-jobs gravitate to it, does that mean that it’s untrue? So now I’m led to the question: how did the notion that fluoride was so good for us that it should be put in most water supplies in the US come about? Think about it – that’s a massive health experiment – making everyone, young and old, with a vast spectrum of health concerns, all take a mandatory medication – that’s essentially what it is, isn’t it? So a visit to Wikipedia gave me an answer:

Community water fluoridation in the United States is partly due to the research of Dr. Frederick McKay, who pressed the dental community for an investigation into what was then known as “Colorado Brown Stain.”[8] The condition, now known as dental fluorosis, when in its severe form is characterized by cracking and pitting of the teeth.[9][10][11] Of 2,945 children examined in 1909 by Dr. McKay, 87.5% had some degree of stain or mottling. All the affected children were from the Pikes Peak region. Despite the negative impact on the physical appearance of their teeth, the children with stained, mottled and pitted teeth also had fewer cavities than other children. McKay brought this to the attention of Dr. G.V. Black, and Black’s interest was followed by greater interest within the dental profession. Initial hypotheses for the staining included poor nutrition, overconsumption of pork or milk, radium exposure, childhood diseases, or a calcium deficiency in the local drinking water.[8] In 1931, researchers from the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) concluded that the cause of the Colorado stain was a high concentration of fluoride ions in the region’s drinking water (ranging from 2 to 13.7 mg/L) and areas with lower concentrations had no staining (1 mg/L or less).[12] Pikes Peak’s rock formations contained the mineral cryolite, one of whose constituents is fluorine. As the rain and snow fell, the resulting runoff water dissolved fluoride which made its way into the water supply. Dental and aluminum researchers then moved toward determining a relatively safe level of fluoride chemicals to be added to water supplies. The research had two goals: (1) to warn communities with a high concentration of fluoride of the danger, initiating a reduction of the fluoride levels in order to reduce incidences of fluorosis, and (2) to encourage communities with a low concentration of fluoride in drinking water to add fluoride chemicals in order to help prevent tooth decay. By 2006, 69.2% of the U.S. population on public water systems were receiving fluoridated water, amounting to 61.5% of the total U.S. population; 3.0% of the population on public water systems were receiving naturally occurring fluoride.[3]

So it seems that dentists and an aluminum company thought it would be a good idea for everyone to take unmeasured and varying amounts of a toxic element because it appeared to prevent tooth decay. I have nothing against dentists, but they are tooth-centric, and aren’t exactly the health professionals I want to advise me about a substance that might impact other parts of my body. And why ALCOA, the aluminum company, would be involved is beyond me. This question puzzled me, so I thought to look at who supplies the fluoride. I found this page on the CDC website, which talks about shortages of fluoride, though it mentions. If you read the CDC page, it makes it appear that lack of fluoride is an immediate health crisis – enough to make you panic:

Adjusting the fluoride content of water is a safe and healthy practice that provides significant oral health benefits for a community. For the greatest benefits to occur, it is important to consistently maintain optimum fluoride levels. The three fluoride additives used for water fluoridation are derived principally from phosphate fertilizer production. Although shortages of fluoride additives for water fluoridation are infrequent, they do sometimes occur.

[You will note that some of the links referenced above don’t lead anywhere. Perhaps the CDC has quietly had a change of heart on the ‘safe and healthy’ practice?]

I wrote the above maybe six years ago and never published it. I thought it a bit too crackpot – but during that time I’ve eliminated as much fluoride as possible from my diet and my family’s diet. We still get dosed with the stuff – I still use the water filter that lets through the ‘beneficial fluoride’ but I don’t get fluoride treatments from the dentist for my kids and don’t buy fluoride toothpaste.

Then an article hit the news cycle  about common everyday chemicals that are affecting our brains – and fluoride was one of them.

I don’t consider The Atlantic to be a crackpot site, so I thought maybe I can be comfortable in letting this post see the light of day.

Here’s a link to the article – The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains.

And here is a recent bit of writing I did on the topic. It interweaves with the first part and a good writer would integrate the two to craft a single, coherent article.

But since I don’t have the time nor inclination to do so – nor do I feel the burden of wanting to be seen as a ‘good writer’ – I’m just going to put this out there:

Imagine this. Allergists, in conjunction with a technology company, find that a poisonous industrial waste, when given in very very small quantity, prevent people from developing allergies. Sometimes even severe allergies. What these groups decide to do is lobby the government to have this chemical put into the water supply so that everyone can benefit from the allergy eliminating effects of this substance. Now it is known that it does not work 100% of the time. It is also known to have some side effects. Additionally, depending on how much water you drink you might get a lot or a little so dosing would vary across different people. Children, adults the elderly, the very big, the very petite would all be getting essentially random doses of this chemical. It is also known that not everyone has allergies and so people who have no need for this chemical would also be getting it.

Would you think this is a good idea?

Believe it or not this more or less has already happened. The only difference is instead of allergies its cavities and the chemical is fluorideFluoride has a bizarre story. In the early 1900s a group of people were discovered to have spots on their teeth. These people also had no cavities. Investigations show that the water that they drank had a very high level of fluoride. This caused the speckles on their teeth as well as their lack of cavities. Then the story seems to get a bit murky. Somehow we went from a situation where it was found that a particular chemical could prevent cavities to putting a unregulated dose of a chemical that essentially is like a medicine with side effects and indications and potentially contraindications for people who shouldn’t be taking it and putting it into the water supply. How the hell did that happen?

My understanding of the events in so far as I feel like researching it at the moment has to do with World War II. During the draft of World War II so many potential soldiers were rejected for service because of bad teeth that a decision was made to add fluoride to the water.

This is also a time where we decided to take American citizens of Japanese nationality and lock them up in prison camps. Not every decision that we made because of World War II was a smart one.

The problem with labeling fluoride as somehow bad for you or the results of poor thinking suffers from one big problem: crackpots love this. Dissing fluoride has become a sure fire way to label yourself a crackpot fool. You can’t even question this without people immediately labeling you as slightly unhinged. Why is that? Why can’t we revisit this without being labeled a crockpot? We know a lot more now than we did then and we even know things now that were known then that but weren’t brought up as part of the discussion.

Remember: World War II was a war like no other. Hitler’s plans for America was to essentially turn us into a slave colony. There was a real potential that this could happen. We haven’t had a war since that mobilized the entire country to focus like we did then. We can be excused for the excesses of that war because it truly was a war of good and evil. Studs Terkel the famous author wrote a wonderful book about World War II with that exact thesis: The Good War.

Perhaps almost 70 years later it’s time for us to revisit some of the assumptions without being labeled a crackpot.