Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Revenge of the Trillion Samurai

  J   apan crushed me. It took everything I'd worked for for almost a quarter of a year and turned it  upside down and inside out.

Me, who's been ranting and raving about sugar demons and gluten fasts, me, who's been prebioting and probioting and vitamining and fightamining, me, reduced to eating four cakes a day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a night-night treat, but not neglecting a sugared "Kwasson" or a "Fruits Bar" in between. All that punctuated with four or five lattes, six teas and bottomless glasses of fuzzy water, pasta or pizza for dinner and what you have is a very, very angry Biome.

The Trillions were up in tiny arms, waving their ciliae and pilli and filaments and flagella and other maddened microbial mechanisms of movement in vehement protest.

My Trillions decided not to give me the hint by making me nauseous, as they knew I might retaliate by downing a particularly disturbing morsel of sushi, so in order to punish me they conscripted their  Japanese brethren, who gave me honourable gallstones as a housewarming present.

The gall!

Upon returning to Montreal, it was not possible to just resume my previous diet straightaway. In fact, I had become so conditioned to the sweet routine in Japan that I have found it almost impossible to dump the sweet stuff, even trying to imitate the drink they made me at one of my favourite café haunts: Honey-lemon sparkling water.

I've been chowing down on the glutenous junk as well: croissants for breakfast (not whole wheat, because I can't find them!) and even regular durum-wheat pasta, because Brigitte doesn't particularly like the whole wheat version.

And the third gut-biome test I sent in, in July, has not come through yet, so I only have those two first tests to go on. The day I got back from Japan I took a sample and sent it in, and I'll be very interested to see what THAT honourable result will be.

But it's definitely time to be ruthless and return to The Diet, in all its tree-hugging, granola-crunching, Save The Whales glory.

But this time, a little more is at stake. Gather round, my merry band of conspirators, because i have some news for you: this will not all be in vain.

Because now there is disturbing proof of what all those doomsaying dieticians and chart-waving scientists have been telling us for decades now: if we pursue healthy lifestyles, we live longer. 

No, not the couple of years you'd expect.. Not even the ten years you might grudgingly concede.

No, if you pursued a healthy lifestyle—whatever that might be—you could expect to add seventeen-point-nine years to your life.

That means croaking at age 88 instead of kicking the bucket at 70. Seventeen years is your reward for all those cakes uneaten, those glasses of single malt undrunk, all those florets of broccoli and cassoulet de wheatgrass sprouts

That is not an unsignificant number, and if you will excuse the choice of words, it's extremely sobering.

And let's not forget, that's seventeen years not being sick, presumably being in the prime of exuberant health, able to take cruises to Reïytvïkken or Tromsø or get in those extra games of shuffleboard at the Residence when all around you are glued to The Price Is Right. I mean, Shady Pines, here I fucking come, dudes!

So when I finally cast off these sugary shackles and re-enter the world of slow, deliberate, Biome-friendly food, it will be in the knowledge that it is for a good cause, that there will be a tangible reward, and that the Trillions will be able to continue having children, and grandchildren, and great grand-children, and great great grandchildren, and great great great grandchildren, and great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great great grandchildren, and great great great great great great great grandchildren,

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hell Is a Mosburger

At the bus stop, after saying goodbye to Tai-chan

Yes, Misery is a place. I've done this trip drunk, but that never helped—I lost too many laptops.

One saving grace is the Wifi at Kansai airport—ever since I can remember, going back to even 2005 or so, they always had free, fast and easy-to-log-on Wifi—bearing in mind that back then, 864K Jpegs were actually quite large.

But here I am, in Miseryville.

It would be better except for this persistent abdominal pain—very worrying. It's unnatural. I just can't figure it out, but it's not going away. Right below the sternum, mostly, but sometimes radiating out to the right, right where the upper lobe of the liver would be—or the pancreas, I'm guessing. Oh, and the esophagus. Oh, and the stomach. Fuck!

Well, can't say as how I'm maltreating it, except for the CRAP I AM FORCED TO CONSUME.

In Japan, there is NO SUCH THING as healthy food—unless you're heavily into Japanese food, and that's expensive. If you're forced to eat on the run all the time, in restaurants or from convenience stores, you are royally FUCKED. There is no such thing as whole wheat here, no such thing as a plain croissant. Everything is soaked, spiked, painted, dusted, glazed, SLABBED with sugar. I mean, how can you actually INSERT A CUBE OF BUTTER INTO A PASTRY so it explodes bizarrely into your mouth? Yet they have done that very thing; I am a living witness.

It's just sick—so I'm sick. I'm sick of trying to decipher their katakana—the phonetic way they convert foreign words, so "croissant" becomes "ku-a-sa-n." And it becomes "su-ii-to" (sweet). Then there is the ubiquitous "ku-ri-i-mu ku-a-sa-n" (cream croissant) and hundreds of variations. Whole wheat, unsugared is not one of them.

So fuck knows what this is doing to my biome—if it is indeed my biome.

Last night I was dragged, unhappily to a quite upscale "sushi boat" restaurant, except the fare is not $1 a piece, it's $4 a piece. You are charged by the colour and pattern of the plates you get your food on, and then they count the plates.

I had two maguro sushis and one stick of ebi tempura (shrimp tempura) but the bill for all five of us—three children and two adults—came to around $105. Tai-chan did most of the devouring. I counted 12 plates in front of him . . .

Regrettably, not anticipating this  authentic Nipponese feast, I didn't bring my camera gear, so it is left to your imagination . . . middle-aged men wearing white chefs' hats slicing, patting, assembling dozens of glistening sea creatures, some alive just seconds before, and putting them atop clumps of sticky white flecks of bright white endosperm-wrapped rice, middle-aged women in asceptic white frocks orchestrating the mayhem in a cacophony of fishy, raucous Japaneseness.

It's quite insane.

So as I sit here glumly at a fast food counter at Kansai Intl., my flight a yawning four hours away, some James Taylor Swift songs shrieking on the loudspeakers around me,  I beg you to whisper a sliver of happiness to my quavering, wavering trillions, as they anxiously await the next ugly surprise that is going to plummet down amongst them.

I have to move now—I've been practically squatting here for two hours, charging my Devices. they're going to kick me out pretty soon.

See youse in Vancouver.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tennō Heika, Biome Banzai

Rising Son
  G   reetings from the land of the Rising Son.

I've blogged about my trip extensively here, but I haven't really written anything about where it is that I am dwelling and puttering.

What is this Nara place like, and how is The Biome getting along?

I've shown you movies and pictures, but I haven't described what it is like to step out of my hotel on a typical day in August.

First of all, the temperature hits you. In the hotel, it's a very comfortable 70°F/21°C. When you step into the sun-drenched street, the temperature suddenly jumps to 98.6° / 37°C—coincidentally, human body temperature.

But that is only the temperature of the air. In the full force of the sun's rays the temperature must jump to something approaching 113°F/45°C.
Sunset from hotel window, courtesy Tai-chan

It's stupendously, staggeringly, unbearably hot. All your body wants to do is to get the hell out of there.

I would honestly say that of the hundreds of people streaming down the street at 11 a.m., fully 5% are carrying umbrellas. (All of them are women, strangely.)

Some women even have long black sleeve hoses made of what looks like thick wool; why they insist on black is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. That however, is not wrapped in a conundrum; it's obvious that they took a clue from the Arab burqa.

And the streams: the street my hotel is on leads directly from the Japan Railway (JR) station to the park and all the temples and deer. Along the street are dozens. if not hundreds of shops. Convenience stores (Lawson, 7-11), "drug" stores, which roughly correspond to our super-drug marts, minus most of the drugs (these are usually dispensed directly from the hospital under strict supervision, if I recall my aberrant drug usage correctly), small specialty stores, even gambling dens (ostensibly lottery, but probably more).

And among these are dozens of un-describable places, there are some so old-looking that you expect samurais to jump out with swords drawn. Their doors are always closed, it seems, so indeed, there might be samurais hiding within. Nara is impossibly old; one of those cities that goes way back past the Dark Ages and into the era of Rome and true antiquity.

A typical side street in downtown Nara
And the people: well, fully 10% are foreigners, sometimes travelling in gaggles of 20 or more. They all regrettably look just  your stereotypical image of a Western traveller: sunglasses, baggy shorts, backpacks, scraggly beards (men only, thankfully) and I swear that on the first day I came there were two women in full hijabs (head scarves) but in their defense, they looked like they may have come from the Malayan Peninsula. Still, wearing religious garb in Japan is frowned upon, if not met with outright suspicion.

And streaming they are. Lately Tai-chan and I have noticed that quite a number of the Japanese are wearing traitional kimonos—men wear them too, but in dark, unadorned shades of purple or grey. And some of them wear those uncomfortable traditional wooden platform shoes, the geta.

Mike and Kathy (just kidding)
I asked around and it seems that they;re going up to one of the temples to light candles for good luck—it's the Obon season.

I remember that when I lived in Bentenchō, around this time of year there would always be some kind of matsuri, or street festival, with all the traditional stalls and games and foods of yore.

Perhaps that is going on somewhere deep in the bowels of Nara Park, to which I have not yet ventured (yep, been here fifty times and never gone to that famous park. I'm definitely not a tourist.)

So that's roughly what it's like on a typical day here in Docteur Neeque-land. I'm fairly well known by the denizens in the shops I frequent so we all have our various funs and games as I pervasively shatter the myth of the Western schlub, gawking at everything and carrying 100-yen-shop Rising Sun folding fans—awkwardly. My Japanese friends are grateful for the respite of trying to stammer their few known words of English; they treasure being able to talk to a gaijin on their own terms.

And the Biome? Fuck the Biome! I've been recklessly subsisting mainly on cakes and tea and cafe lattes, with a pasta or pizza chaser.

That regrettable repast, Oden
There are no, repeat no, Japanese-style restaurants around here; at least, none that serve recognisably Japanese food. It's all that strange proto-Western fare; deep-fried chicken (kara-age), noodles of many kinds, odd vegetables (oden) and curry-rice (kare raisu) which resembles more a sticky white mountain topped with curry-powder-and-turmeric-drenched perfect rectangles of mystery meat.

These are not all, mind you; there are coffee shops and dessert shops where the only thing on the menu is various sorbets and sundaes (and coffee, of course) but my only vice is the cake shop, to which I Buddhistly go every morning, as they tend to run out of my varieties by the afternoon.

And my Biome is . . . unhappy. I've had a persistent abdominal pain since I've been in Japan. Sometimes it gets pretty bad, but I can't pin it down to any cause—it isn't "triggered" by things I eat or drink. It just seems to come and go as it pleases. I call it "Nara Stitch", as it resembles that pain you get (used to get!) when you ran far with little conditioning.

Never mind; Japan is what it's always been, and the Biome is indifferent. I brought a testing kit along with me but Tai-chan is reluctant to do the test, probably from the Ick Factor, although there really isn't one.

But I shall take the test and see what this strange diet of cake, tea, coffee and white flours (all delicious!) has done to my microbial trillions.

Helllooooo Prevotella! Goodbye Firmicutes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Japanese Microbiome Calls: 共生生物どうぞう!(Welcome, Symbionts!)

  T   he Japanese microbiome must be vastly different from the Western one.

Contrary to popular Western beliefs, the Japanese don't dine on sushi for breakfast, have sukiyaki for lunch and then grill a nice Steak Teriyaki for dinner, all accompanied by their sticky rice.

What they actually eat is so vastly different from us (but catching up, no doubt about that!) that I can't even describe it to you. It involves lots of vegetables you've never heard of and treats that would make you puke.  And yes, there is lots of rice.

The thing is, they do eat rice often, but not in large quantities. Their microbiomes love the extra sugars and carbohydrates, but they're extremely complex carbohydrates with multiple compounds that benefit the microbiome in ways vastly different than our slice of all-dressed pizza.

But yes, I'm going to make my two-week stay in Japan yet another experiment—because I live to be a guinea pig. (Moru-motto in Japanese—their fucked-up interpretation of the word "Marmot." They use this to talk about all lab animals, irrespective of species.)

I will take a sample the day before I leave—conveniently on a Sunday again—and then eat my "Japanese" diet while I'm there for two weeks. The day I come home I'll take another sample.

Regrettably, I won't be eating sushi and ramen every day. Because the area around my hotel, in downtown Nara, is populated by Italian and hot dog places.

This chain café is everywhere in Japan and serves great hot dogs. I won't be eating them, but my son, Tai-chan, loves them. I might ask HIM to take a sample. Now that might be interesting! I think I'll take a kit with me to Japan . . .
There are no places that serve the so-called Japanese food that everyone is familiar with. There is no steak teriyaki—there is something called teppan-yaki (鉄板焼き) but it's frequented by high rollers and you'd better be ready to flash a wad before entering. Sushi places are also for high rollers. The average Japanese go to places like robata-yakis which are fairly cheap and you can drink like a fish.

I will not be drinking like a fish. In fact, I will not be drinking at all—and my biome cheers.

But back to my biome, and my test results. It's all very curious—and unsettling.

Let me explain: I did my first test at the second week of the grand experiment—for two weeks I had been eating my regular diet, allowing all sorts of things like whipped cream and cake and Clamato, all sorts of other things I don't consume any more. It was meant as a control—in other words, went my thinking, this will be the bad test, the one which will show how fucked up my diet really is.

So when I went to do the sample, I actually used two test "kits," which actually are small vials containing some sort of preservative clear liquid. The idea is, you swab a small tissue (provided) with your "contribution sample," and then swish the tip of the swab in the vial containing the liquid. You screw back on the top, shake it up, and voilà. It's ready to ship.

Thing is, they provide a "spare" vial—I guess just in case you screw up the first sample.

Well, I didn't screw up the first sample, but I contributed to the "spare" vial, with a swab from the same sample on the tissue that I had used for Sample One. So if you're following, the Spare vial should have contained roughly exactly the same quantities and kinds of bacteria that the Main vial contained.

Except it didn't.

When I got the results of my first test, I kind of ignored the fact that they'd done a complete test on my Spare sample as well—when I finally came to the realisation that I actually had two sets of results from the same test, I was naturally expecting the results to be identical. I mean, the swabs had come from the exact same sample on the tissue. How different could the results be?

Well, take a look. I'm not sure which one is the Main sample and which is the Spare, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is how different they are from each other. (Right-click to open the images in a new window; then magnify.)

For example, look at the "Diversity percentile." It differs by an incredible 8%. If that is the case there, how much should I trust the figures on all the other pages?

Then, I got the results from my second test. When I did the second test, it was three weeks after the first test, to the day. The first of those three weeks, I had radically eliminated everything from my diet. No sugar—at all. No dairy, at all, No gluten, at all. I was truly deprived, for a week.

The second and third weeks before Test #2, after the week of the Great Purge, I started with the pre-and probiotics—Prebiotin powder in kefir for breakfast, with a probiotic pill containing 50 billion bacteria, and the rest of the day with very careful and measured reintroduction of only the healthiest comestibles that I could come up with. Viz. lots of broccoli, lots of fruits and nuts and no added-sugar anything. At the end of those three weeks I did Test #2, in exactly the same manner I had done the first test.

So I was expecting radically different results.

What I got, however, was just a puzzle . . . (remember, the dates on these tests are not the dates I took the samples—they're about a month delayed).

Notice how my "Diversity percentile" has plummeted—exactly the opposite of what I thought would occur. Even my "Wellness match" is disturbingly reduced.

How can this be?

But don't take my word for it—take a look for yourself (link and password in my mass email of this post. (Email me here if you want the link and password).

I took Test #3 a couple of weeks ago and am waiting for the results. But it takes a keen eye and a head for figures to analyze the results—a degree in microbiology wouldn't hurt, either.

But the Japan trip opens up a new realm of possibilities. Can I really radically reshape my microbiome just by being in another country?

Results at juu-ichi-ji!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We're Surrounded

  I   t's always puzzled me: these scientists on this rabid quest to find life on other planets. What are you gonna do, guys, when you find the life? You're gonna fuck it like you've fucked the life we have.

And we have so much life! We have life on every square millimetre of this planet—and all the way to the edge of space and to the bottom of Earth's crust, there is life. In fact, you could say that Earth is just one huge organism, which it is—in the Great Oxygenation Crisis cyanobacteria came along and produced oxygen, which killed 99% of the life that was living at the time, because they were all anaerobic. In other words, the bacteria destroyed the lungs of the planet and changed them into oxygen-loving lungs.

And then, the life adapted. The huge amounts of oxygen in the air enabled giant life forms to evolve; giant dragonflies the size of small eagles.

So why don't the scientists turn their attention to the enormous amount of life we have right before our very eyes—in fact, ALL OVER our very eyes.

I was cleaning some cilantro just now and thinking about what I was holding in my hands: a magnificent edible plant with its own unique character that evolved over millions of years to be this way, to taste this way. And only this plant tastes like this; for reasons that no one can possibly know.

And what will they find on Mars? They won't even find the smallest protein or amino acid, and they surely won't find a bacterium. But why do they care? Why not study Earth and all its magnificent progeny?

All life came from bacteria, billions of years ago—and viruses.

People, even knowledgeable people, seem to get very confused when confronted with bacteria and viruses. They really don't seem to know the difference, so they ask for antibiotics when they get a cold. This is ridiculous, as is the notion that if you're wet in the cold, you'll catch a chill. The cold does't give you a cold; viruses give you a cold.

So what is the difference? If I had to qualify bacteria and viruses, I'd have to say that bacteria are tiny animals with no brain that are simply surviving for one purpose: to reproduce. Collectively, they form a brain, like a vast beehive. They're aggressive, but careful. They want only to live, to reproduce.

Viruses, on the other hand, are simply brainless bundles of proteins that are wrapped in bad news. There are actually disputes as to whether or not they can even qualify as being alive. Perhaps they're more like vitamins, or minerals. Non-living but reproducing nonetheless.

But they aren't too concerned about protecting their hosts; they don't care if their host dies; they just want to reproduce until they can't reproduce any more.

Bacteria and viruses survive side by side, but they're like the Irish and the Italians in 1920s Chicago. They agree to disagree, but they divide up their turf peaceably, because it's business.If they went around just killing each other, they'd all starve.

I've just received the results from my second biome test, and they're extremely puzzling. They're not at all what I expected.

But that's for next time. Do the study on the difference between bacteria and viruses, and remember: you are literally swimming in an ocean of invisible life. Don't worry about aliens.

They'e already here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Deadly New Virus Warning

Asparagus Syndrome victim
  I    rarely comment on things that are not biome related, but I feel the need to point out a dangerous new virus that seems to have originated in Japan.

It goes under various names, among them "TinyHead virus" and "Head-shrinking virus" but with a bit of sleuthing, I have identified the true culprit to be a cellular-phone virus originating from something called "PokemonGo v.1.0."

I have, for the sake of pronounceability, renamed the virus "Asparagus Syndrome."

Asparagus Syndrome is characterized by the rapid fashion in which victims are overwhelmed with spontaneous microcephaly (shrinking of the head) and an  overpowering urge to keep a cellular communication device six inches from their face at all times.

The main risks from Asparagus Syndrome are not caused by the disease itself but rather by injuries sustained from walking into stationary illumination installations (SIIs), more commonly known as lamp-posts.

If you suspect you have had any recent contact with a Japanese person, Japanese people or products originating in Japan, the CDC recommends either avoiding the usage of all cellular communications products, or as a last resort an emergency head transplant, available at most witch doctors' nationwide.

Monday, July 11, 2016

What Osama Bin Laden Taught Me About My Microbiome

  O  nce, a long long time ago, I had a Great Job.

I'd get up mornings and shuffle from bed into the living room and over to my computer.

I'd drink my coffee (or a beer—I wasn't choosy at the time) and play with my mouse all day, putting pretty pictures on the screen, writing giggly things and then digitally crumpling them up.

Then, occasionally, I would summon The File, and carefully erase the figures entered in it with new figures, save it as a PDF and then send it off in an email.

There. I might have just sent off an invoice for $12,764.54.

No, really. Happened all the time.

Maybe not $12,764.54, every time—maybe just $453.21, or $76.87, or $5572.83—you get the picture.

I usually just made up the figures out of thin air. How much aggravation should I bill them for this time? And then I'd type out what looked to be a very carefully calculated number—except that it wasn't. I'd just make it up, right there, right then. The only calculation I did was how many jackets, or stereos, or TVs, or cameras, or restaurant dinners I'd buy with my winnings.

I was, from 1996 to 2001, the sole graphic designer for the entire company of Air Canada Cargo. Not Passenger, you understand—Cargo. But Cargo was pretty big. It occupied an entire floor at The Base, at Dorval Intl/YUL, or in the unmarked Air Canada building in Vendôme, where it moved later on.

I did all their ads, all their newsletters, all their posters. All their brochures, all their business cards, all their logos, all their calendars. And finally, I singlehandedly designed Air Canada Cargo's first-ever website.

All out of my home, in my slippered feet, with a beer or a coffee at hand, day or night, day in, day out, for five glorious years. And I raked it in. They had dumped the ad agency they had been dealing with before me in disgust, and I had somehow stumbled onto the job because a friend was the son of one of the top managers there.

It was a great partnership—I dealt with a tiny group of Air Canada Cargo people and they told me roughly what they wanted and I made it happen.

I was having the time of my life, making more money than I'd ever seen before, looking forward to a rosy, $$$-filled future.

And then Osama Bin Laden brought it all crashing down.

Air Canada's recent run of profitability—one could say profligate profitability, since they seemed not to care too much whether I charged $8,762 for a calendar or $12,987—ceased right then and there on September 11, 2001.

The towers fell on Tuesday, and I was out of a job by Friday. "You understand," my boss said regretfully, "there's no way we can continue to spend like this now. We're going to bring all this in-house."

So what was the problem? Get another job!

Not so fast! During the time I had spent with Air Canada I has scrupulously avoided moonlighting—I hadn't wanted anything to get in the way of The Job. I didn't even want rumors of my having other interests to reach their ears—I created in complete secrecy while I was working for them.

So my job diversity had been limited to one, and now that was gone.

And what, you might ask, does that have to do with my microbiome? Diversity, diversity, diversity.

This article points out, rightfully, the perils of removing whole categories of foods from your repertoire.

Remove gluten, for example, and the bacteria that prefer gluten—bifidobacter, for example—might diminish and let other bacteria, say, prevotella, move in.

Since the jury is still lunching at McDonald's about all of this, we have no idea what a gluten-deficient diet will actually do to your microbiome, especially if your normal state has always been glutenous.

It's been reconized that a healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome, and that makes sense. In lean times, when a particular food, say, sugar, was off the menu for the hunter-gatherer dudes that the Paleo Diet so wants to emulate, the diversity of their repertoire swallowed the gap quickly and with little overall effect. When the honey suddenly became available again, the population adjusted quickly, as a smaller segment had to be moved around; the prevotellas didn't particularly mind being reduced from 1.75 trillion to 1.24 trillion.

And one notable characteristic of the Western diet compared to more primitive diets like the Hadza tribe, is a severely curtailed repertoire of bacterial diversity.

So if your microbiome's diversity is small to begin with, as is the case with most of our western diets, then the removal of a whole food group—gluten, say, or fats—will have far more signifcant consequences on the population as a whole.

Looking back now, I was a fool to put all my cards into the Air Canada pot. I had nothing to fall back on, and no alternatives waiting in the wings. It would take years for me to regain my earnings levels—years that continue to this day.

The lesson I learned, in work as well as diet, is keep a lot of options open. The more cards you have on the table at a time, the less you're going to miss it when a few—or all—are removed from the equation.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


  F  inally, my results have come back from uBiome.

Click here to open the basic first screen of my results (in the new window, click on the image to magnify it).

I haven't had time to analyze it all quite yet, but from what I can see, it's all completely unexpected.

One reassuring result is that I'm in the top ten percent of "healthy" human beings . . . that is reassuring to know (you will recall that this sample was taken after two weeks of eating my "normal" diet, before I started cutting my fats, sugars and carbs and adding pre- and probiotics).

Someone more qualified than I is taking a look at the results and will be back to me shortly.

I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Plus Ça Change

Docteur Neeque: at the frontiers of medication
  I   n case you don't speak French, that means "Plus that change," which is referring to the extra coins in your pocket in addition to the coins you've been using to feed the parking meter.

All Froggy lessons aside, it has come time to examine where I am in the Grand Biome Experiment of 2016.

Where, indeed!

You will recall the following:

I spent two weeks eating my normal diet.

I took a sample and sent it in to be analyzed by uBiome.

I spent a week consuming no meat, gluten, dairy, sugar, and pretty much everything else that Makes America Great. This was the longest week since weeks have been recorded—since the third week of Hatshepsut IIV, 5976 B.C. (="Before Coke")

This phase was called, in case you have forgotten, "Phase II."

At the end of this phase, I remarked upon the seemingly dramatic remission of my psoriasis.

During the fourth week, confusingly called Phase III, I began introducing pre- and probiotics (in the forms of pills, powders and elixirs) began a daily vitamin regimen and cautiously reintroduced my old diet (minus a few questionable items such as the Doritos Mammoth-pak Chipstravaganza), with the sole exception of one item per week absent; the first week, for example, I did not reintroduce dairy, the second, I removed gluten etc. in a bid to see which, if any, had impacted my psoriasis.

In case you have not been counting, we are now at the first day of Week 8; on this day, seven weeks ago, the entire experiment commenced.

So what is my conclusion at the end of all this?

Well, there are several.

The first one that I came to was that starting from scratch with a diet based on exclusion—no meat/wheat/dairy or sugar was not doable, at least where these products are sold. However, it was never my point to eliminate any of these foods from my diet permanently; my goal was merely to clear them from my system in order to allow the next phase of the experiment to proceed relatively uncontaminated.

One major disappointment from this phase of the trial was the lack of actual perceivable differences from the regular experiences of my hitherto day-to-day existence.

I did not suddenly have seven times more energy, sleep twice as long, or remember all the lyrics to "One More For The Road." I could not suddenly play the guitar faster, I did not have amazing, colourful, flower-filled dreams. I did not lose ten pounds in two weeks—it was more like ten days (but that was not one of my goals, either).

On the other hand, no memorably ill effects resulted whatsoever during that period. I felt, for the most part, perfectly fine. My energy levels were very good. I slept fairly well; that is to say, with no unusual insomniacal episodes.

I had no gastric adventures whatsoever, apart from some mild constipation. No bloating, gas, reflux . . . well, 'nuff said there.

But now, while not exactly the bad news, the unexpected news: after my initial, amazed perception that my psoriasis had been going away, I discovered that it certainly had not been. It had merely retreated, in one of its timeless cycles of boom and bust.

Thinking that it might have been the reintroduction of one or the other things I had removed, I again took out dairy for a week and then gluten for another week; yet the psoriasis came back with a vengeance.

I'm disappointed, but not discouraged. The goal of this entire project really had no aims to remove my psoriasis; if it had happened, great, but that was not the point. I will have to do some other, more specific experiments to deal with that.

The point of the project was to see what was going on with my gut biome, to see if it could be altered for the better, and indeed, if my overall health could be improved in a noticeable way.

Well, I will say that one of the most important takeaways from all this has been that it can be done.

It can not only be done, but it does not have to be an ordeal; you can improve your diet ten-fold and still not feel like a granola-crunching spirulina-vegan tree-hugging homeopsychopath.

No; one of the most important things this whole experiment has taught me is to be mindful of the things that I put in my body.

What goes in today may not matter very much today; indeed, in the larger scheme of things, it does not.

But we are not merely solitary human beings going about our solitary business, eating our solitary meals and at the end of the day, left with our solitary selves.

We are accumulations, as we have seen, of trillions upon trillions of constantly interacting tiny organisms that are entirely dependent upon our "solitary" decisions upon what to feed and what not to feed them, in order that they may work to make us function at the top of our games, for, without us, they do not exist either.

Everything we do has consequences; today's Happy Meal becomes tomorrow's pound of ugly, yellow,  greasy adipose tissue, oozing its inflammatory toxins into the river in which all of our organisms must swim; polluting the very powerhouses that enable us to digest, to breathe, to feel, to think, and to be healthy.

Out of sight, out of mind, but not out of body.

That Diet Coke, that Dino-Pak theater popcorn serving with extra fake butter/polysorbate 60/FDC Red #5/guar gum, that packet of Splenda in your Lipton Iced Tea mix . . . perhaps not today, not even tomorrow, not even next year, but ten years down the line, when all the good guys have folded up their tents and gone home in disgust, that's when all this crap will be sitting up, taking a look around, and declaring the All Clear.

I hate to bring up that new buzzword of the day, "mindful," but I have learned, if anything, to be mindful of every single thing, big or small, that I consume, every single hour of every single day.

I never eat something I know to be unhealthy without pausing, asking myself if I really want to do what I am doing, or otherwise thinking about it, and that is something that I tended never to do before.

But perhaps most eye-opening of all is the realization that this project is not over. In fact, it has barely just begun.

I will keep on experimenting, being mindful, tinkering with this mix and that mix, and keep reporting back from The Biome.

Phases I-IV are over. But I have no even received back even one of my Biome samples, so when I do . . . get ready for Phase V—the Reckoning.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Biomechanic Calling: My Strawberriness be Upon You

  I   s there anybody out there?

Here, it's just Biomechanic and my quintillion pals, parsing the gravitons and hunting and gathering amidst the microbial mangroves.

I bought this.

It's a start—I may yet make it to medical school. Or rather, my quintillion pals might make it to medical school (on a gurney).

Honestly, graduating from med school—probably McGill—I'd be about 65 years old and raring to become a resident in some country clinic in Nunavut. Better brush up on my Cree! I don't think my Japanese will come in handy up there, どう思いますか?

The quintillions are restless.

I've been sticking to my regimen of prebiotics and probiotics and vitamins
The vitamin-mineral regimen started on Day One, Phase 2
every day. I haven't skipped a single day of feeding the Quintillions, but I can't say as how they're exactly happy.

Because I quit gluten last Sunday.

Yep—just wiped it out. Not a molecule of whole wheat, cracked wheat, whole grain, rolled grain, fried grain or boiled grain has passed my lips.

So my convenient pita dinners—*poof.* My convenient pita chips and salsa: *shazam.*

I've been scrambling to adjust.

It's just another Nixperiment—by now you'll know what that means—and it's gonna take time. Time to establish whether or not it's gluten that's exacerbating my psoriasis or not.

You might recall that on May29th or so I went cautiously back to my old diet, but with the twist of adding the prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins and keeping down the sugar to fruit/honey only, but allowing both dairy (kefir, 2% goat's milk—for no other reason than it's goat's milk and that sounds cool) and gluten (aforesaid whole wheat pita snacks, whole wheat pita dinners) but shortly thereafter the psoriasis exploded.

So for one week after, I quit the dairy, except for the kefir (which I have with the Prebiotin and Baobab powder in the mornings with my vitamins)(stop laughing, you hounds!) and . . . the psoriasis did NOT go away.

It just got worse. Fingers bad, spreading to my face—very bad.

So The Quintillions had spoken. *DiTch the gluten, dude, that's what everyone*else is doing!*

(You have to speak Quintillion like I do—just think of a quintillion voices all saying the same thing in a trillion different languages and you're making progress. My translation above is the best I can do; sorry.)

How's it going?

Very badly. I can't seem to find a replacement for the pitas.

It must be easy to make, satisfying to eat, repeatable without boredom, not be overly messy or create too many dishes or require many steps (microwave, sauté pan, toaster oven) and still be able to be relatively long-lived when stored in the refrigerator.

See the conundrum? I'm not out to make a dinner for today, or even tomorrow. I'm out to make a dinner that I can make again and again without fear of what I'm doing to my body—too much salt/sugar/fat/acid/blahblahblah and I have not even come close to finding anything that fits the bill.

I tell you, I had it in the pita thingie—it fit all the parameters—except for the fucking gluten in the pita.

I tried corn tortillas; horrible. Too fucking small, they break apart very quickly with anything hot and you end up with a mess in your bowl that you have to eat with a fork.

I know, I know. My nickname is ChefFuckingNick. I'm supposed to be able to whip up creations in a zippy. But YOU try no gluten. It's impossible!

Still, I have to stick it out. Maybe . . . two weeks? Just to see if the psoriasis stays or goes.

I can see the Quintillion, making 'markable analyzations in The Trial of The Millennium . . . does the glove fit? If not, you must acquit!

My go-to saviour has become the strawberry. I put them on everything except dinner. I put them in my water, on my gluten-free crackers, I put them where the sun don't shine.

Strawberries to salve the anxieties of The Quintillion, strawberries to soothe their hundred billion little souls so they can live out their frantically brief existences in relative Strawberriness . . .

StrawberryWorld has become their universe!

I monitor Brigitte and try to bless her quintillions with my Strawberriness, and it seems to be working.

I did my second sample and will send it in presently. Jennifer of uBiome has extremely graciously offered me the extraordinary deal of five (5) tests that normally cost $399 for only $89.

This is an incredible opportunity to see just what is going on with The Quintillion; it's possibly more valuable than an MRI. CT scan, X-Ray, biopsy and colonoscopy ALL ROLLED INTO ONE PAINLESS TEST.

All you need to do is email Jennifer, mention me and if her Quintillions are in StrawberryWorld, she might just *adjust* your tests to be all gut tests (instead of skin, oral and so on) if your Quintillion asks her Quintillion nicely.

Meaning, just mention me and Wizardess Jennifer will wave her wand and change your order for you . . . if she's been Biomechanicking nicely and she's in a good mood.

That's where it stands.

Tests are boring. Tests are long. Tests are stressful and results are always . . . soon.

But I must be patient; not become a patient; maintain my Strawberriness for at least one more week, and the gavel will come down in the Court of the Quintillion King and judgment will be passed.

Gluten or no gluten?

I breathlessly await.

I bless your Quintillion with my Strawberriness.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Weeks 1-5: The Sequel

  T  his is a chart of the five weeks I was documenting this experiment. The first two are me on my normal diet. The third is my "Week of deprivation": no wheat, no dairy, no sugar. The last two weeks are my per/probiotic rebuilding (limited, structured wheat/dairy/sugar).

Right-click image to open in new window (fine print still will not be legible)

Notes: The light blue blocks are sleep. The light green blocks are naps.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Great Learning of 2016: Part 2: Do I, Or Don't I?

  Y   ou come to a point in your life—you'll know it when it happens—where you basically have a decision to make. Do I want to live to be 90? Or do I just want to resign myself to just let Nature takes its course, get the usual diseases like heart problems or diabetes or COPD or, gods forbid, The Big C?

It's basically at that point where you either change your ways, or you don't. There really are only the two choices, but you have to make them now; you can't wait until those diseases have actually gotten you in a stranglehold, because there will be a point where nothing you belatedly do matters any more—it won't work because it's too late.

The hospital bed is too late.

Look at us. We're actually the first generation of human beings who've lived most of our lives with the Western Diet: in 1940 there were no McDonald's, there was no Swanson Frozen Dinners—hell, there were hardly any freezers!

In 1963 there were no M&Ms or Lay's BBQ potato chips or Häagen-Dazs Country Road or Denny's Double Bacon 'n' Beef or Maison India or salads in a bag. There was no instant ramen, for fuck's sake.

There were no discussions about obesity in America or hypoglycaemia except by obscure physicians running obscure clinical trials for soon-to-be multinational beverage corporations.

Sugar was good. Smoking was better. Mad Men was real; have three martinis at lunch and watch Richard Burton slur his words hilariously on the Jack Paar Show.

We—you me, and pretty much everyone who was born before 1980—have been guinea pigs in the greatest diet experiment in the history of human civilization, and the results are just coming in.

They're not good.

The chemicals that preserve, enhance, brighten, stiffen, soften and fatten have now been in the dietary food chain for nigh-on half a century. These are chemicals that our gut microbes have never encountered, have no strategies to deal with and are basically completely defenseless against.

But there's more: exotic mixtures of bizarre concoctions of sugars and starches, like Krispy Kreme or Eskimo Pie that are held together with emulsifiers, flavor enhancers and coloring agents.

We've been raised to think so many different ways about food: fat is bad. Fat is good. Eat your pasta. Pasta kills. Sugar's bad, sugar isn't bad, it's calories that are bad.

We swallow all this bullshit whole and choose Diet Coke instead or regular Coke, thinking somehow that that's healthy.

Think about that for a second: there are actually people who drink Diet Coke instead of regular Coke and they think they're being healthy.

Human beings were never designed to drink ANY Coke and it's only in the last half century that Coca-Cola has become the most recognized two words in the planet after "OK."

Coca-Cola is the most recognized two words on the planet after OK.

I know, I know: so the fuck what?

Well, consider your microbiome.

Consider the utter confusion that reigns inside your digestive system, day in, day out, as you feed it with bizarre food after bizarre food, shovelling in sugars and lard and chemicals that completely overwhelm any semblance of a healthy ecosystem—just like clear-cutting your digestive tract and planting vast fields of corn and palm oil trees, then burning down the rest of it to build condos and amusement parks.

You know deep inside yourself that all this is not going to end well.

Okay okay, you get it, you get it, but what are you gonna do about it?

You're at a crossroads.

Like I told you, you have the decision: do I want to live till I'm 90, or do I just say Fuck it, I'll take my chances and keep eating and drinking the stuff I've always eaten and always loved.

It's up to you. Are you going to put that bullet in the gun and spin the chamber, or are you going to put the gun away in a place no one will ever find it and forget it ever existed?

I just received an email from a good friend who's been following this project. Here's what he says:

Je remarque que dans les dernières semaines, tu as énormément travaillé sur ton corps et ça semble donner d'excellents résultats, et que ta santé s'améliore. Tu devrais penser t'ouvrir une école de santé, avec participants "sérieux" seulement !  

J'ai toujours trouvé bizarre que les gens, en général, n'hésitent pas à dépenser de grosses sommes et beaucoup de temps pour s'occuper de leur voiture. Mais quand c'est pour leur corps et santé, ils sont hésitants à prendre du temps et à dépenser... Ça n'a pas de sens !

Thanks for that, Mario.

NEXT TIME: Getting Your Shit Together

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Great Learning of 2016: Part I

  T   his past thirty days has taught me a lot—I told you from the outset that I was doing this so you didn't have to—so now you can just pass Go and go straight to the Gold.
So what is my advice to you? What are the conclusions that I have come to after cogitating 200% every single day of the past thirty days—recording, I'll remind you, every single relevant thing that happened to my body: what I ate, when I ate it, what I drank. My blood sugar levels, sometimes six times a day, how I napped and how I slept.

I made charts of every single day; I will post them on this blog in due course, in addition to the test results from uBiome and my blood tests.

If you have the logical mind and the discerning eye, you might be able to make sense of the patterns on my charts, especially the hours that I slept and the duration of the sleep, because I regard the quality of sleep to be the defining marker of your overall health. (After all, if your sleep is fucked up, *you* are liable to be fucked up. It is, after all, a third of your healthy lifetime, and, I think, a kind of dark matter to your life: unseen, unappreciated, but absolutely crucial to existence.)

I didn't record my exercise, but that's because it should be such an innate part of your lifestyle, like sleep, that you should somehow work it into your daily existence and *leave it there.* Don't think of it as a drag that your "diet doctor" is admonishing you to do; think of it as . . . well, all that in a minute.

So here goes. Here is the Wisdom that I will impart from the "Great Learning of 2016."

Be Smart.

EDUCATE YOURSELF. The Internet is the biggest library every created. At your fingertips is almost every speck of human knowledge ever accumulated. Want to know what Louis XIV ate for breakfast? No problem. (Beef madrilène with gold leaf spangles?!)

Avoid obviously spurious websites. There are a LOT of people out there spouting nonsense that almost sounds credible. These people work hard to spread their dangerous gibberish-ideas that are often based on conspiracy theories and other typical lunatic-fringe hysteria.

You will learn to spot these places; usually, but not always, they will be flogging some book or "system" that will be based on science, but then will veer wildly into nonsense territory, the better to differentiate themselves from the other charlatans who infest the cybersphere like Emerald Ash Borers.

Avoid obvious pseudo-science hucksters who call themselves anything like "Chiropractor" "Reflexologist" "Integrative medicine doctor""homeopath/naturopath/insert fraudulent pseudo-science here" and just *use your common sense.* How do you spot them? *They usually want your money in some manner.*

It's not hard, d'oh: USE YOUR BRAIN!!! It's not rocket science.

A great place to start that tries its best to expose these quacks and the bizarre and sometimes dangerous theories they espouse is right here. Type your keyword in the search box and get ready to see the chicanery massacred.

DON'T FEEL PERSECUTED. This is not something someone is forcing you to do because you've been a naughty, idiot loser who's been stuffing your face all your life with complete and utter junk, even if you ARE a naughty, idiot loser who's been stuffing your face all your life with complete and utter junk.

For an analogy, just think of your car. You love your car, right? You want your car to run the best it can; it may be old, but it works, and you want it to work really well. You don't want to put the lowest-priced-lowest-grade Chinese oil into its engine so it sputters and coughs clouds of Beijing smoke.

You don't want to ignore that clattering sound until it finally quits and you have to have it towed to a mechanic who tells you it's blown its fraximillik and will now cost you your paycheck-and-a-half.

*You wouldn't do that to your car, so why would you do it to yourself?*

YOU ARE LOVING THE BIOME. You don't seriously think that there is some magic life process going on in the background that enables you to eat, sleep and, err, use the toilet in a comfortable, pain-free and happy manner, do you?

*This is not magic.*

There are very real, very living creatures inside your gut that are *totally dependent* upon you to feed them right so they can do the essential jobs that evolution has spent millions of years crafting in order to enable walking, talking, two-legged biological machines of the highest order of superiority in the entire observable universe that we know of.

Be mindful of everything that you put into yourself; there are consequences. You may not pay much attention to that bag of M&Ms but believe me, your gut bacteria are paying attention.

In all likelihood, entire genomes of bacteria that are specifically attracted to all the sugar and chemicals inside those M&Ms are racing to the scene, like Crips and Bloods and Mexican drug cartels, to wipe out all the normal bacteria who are there, patiently trying to clean you up and make you efficient, these bad guys wreaking havoc as they usually do, not caring whom they kill and what the consequences will be to the Biome.

That's what these vermin do; it's their jobs. And you're enabling them.

Next time you get the urge to stuff your face with that Costco hot dog and french fries, just imagine the consequences to all your little friends, and by extension, to yourself. That one hot dog may not seem like a big deal—you work hard, you're on the go, you need food, you deserve it—but that one hot dog turns into ten hot dogs and all the garbage accumulates, poisoning every working organ in your body with the utter shit, the dregs of leavings from the slaughterhouse floor that is cursorily inspected by bored meat inspectors and handled by unhappy carcass slingers. THAT'S what that hot dog is. You just don't want to admit it.

EVERY TIME you choose the junk option instead of the easily obtainable, healthy option, you're poisoning your little friends who are trying to take care of you. Trust me, they don't want to be fed that shit. So what do they do? They just GIVE UP AND DIE. The bad guys move in.

Cluster of fucking carrots
DRESS IT UP. Who the fuck wants to chew on a fucking carrot stick? I sure don't. Yet that's what all these advice sites basically tell you to do. "For a noontime snack how about a nice healthy serving of carrots sticks with a fat-free yogurt dip!" Fuck you.

They put a nice happy photograph of a cluster of carrots in a Martha Stewart bowl. Hey! It's not legumes de conteneur en porcelaine fusée à la Chine. It's a cluster of fucking carrots!

And we're supposed to space out our meals to five times a day, chopping little carrots sticks or celery sticks, only to have to eat them with some bland Dr. Weil-approved fat-free-gluten-free-fair-trade-probiotic yogurt that just happens to be available to order on his website?! Recurring subscription for a monthly $39.95!

I knew that I would never be able to survive on a regimen like that. So I changed it. You like shrimp? You can buy them, already cooked, at the grocery store, or you can sauté a batch one lazy day and put them in the refrigerator for snacks. They're very healthy, contrary to the fallacious claims by health mavens in the 80s that they had too much cholesterol.

I just made my noontime and 6 o'clock snack a few shrimp, cold and dipped in a homemade soy-ginger-garlic sauce (recipe on request).

It was delicious, super-fast, pretty healthy (beats chips and a fucking Coke; if I see you drinking one of those, I'll never speak to you again) and it fills you up nicely. If you're extra-hungry, just add extra shrimp.

MORE IDEAS and conclusions coming up in The Great Learning of 2016: Part II