Friday, February 27, 2009

Organic Hero or Bioterrorist?

I got some email from Slow Food Boston. They are doing a film screening series. Their next film is called Michael Schmidt: Organic Hero or Bioterrorist. It is about a man in Canada who dared to try to sell raw milk. His farm was surveilled by 25 police officers, and was ultimately raided. As we know these days, the difference between a terrorist and a freedom-fighter is often a matter of perspective. More about the film: More about the screening: Theodore Parker Church 1859 Centre Street West Roxbury Sunday, 03/08/2009 3:30PM $5 (scroll down to 03/08/2009) An organic dairy farmer and a representative of the Weston A. Price Foundation will be there for Q&A.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Fourfold Path to Healing Conference, part 3: Milk: The Raw Story

Let's talk about raw milk. The "experts" have told us confidently that raw (unpasteurized) milk is bad. Just like they've told us confidently that butter is bad, and margarine is, I mean, bad. (They change their minds every so often.) So what is the real story of raw milk? The short version: Once upon a time, all milk was "raw milk". That's how it comes out of mammals. As the industrial revolution surged forwards, and milk started to be produced on an industrial scale, it became uneconomical for large dairy conglomerates to maintain hygienic conditions. So they stopped trying. After selling unhygienic milk for a while, sickening and killing people, they decided to start pasteurizing their milk to kill off pathogens. Due to their political clout, they were able to convince governments and the medical establishment to support compulsory pasteurization for all milk producers. This put all dairies, large and small, on basically an even footing. So what's the problem? Who needs raw milk, anyway?
  • First of all, nowadays, it is now quite easy and practical to deliver healthy raw milk from animals to consumers.
  • Raw milk contains vitamins, enzymes, and other bioactive components destroyed by pasteurization which are very likely to confer benefits to the immune, reproductive, and digestive systems [reference]. (Lactase is one example. Lactase is the enzyme necessary for the digestion of lactose, a component of milk. Roughly 75% of adults worldwide [reference] are not able to produce adequate lactase on their own. Thus, for most people in the world, raw milk is more digestible than pasteurized milk.)
  • Raw milk contains a dynamic balance of bacteria that actually makes it less prone to spoiling than the sterile pasteurized milk, which is like an unpeopled frontier waiting to be overrun.
  • Because of this balance of bacteria, raw milk is more versatile when making cultured milk products (cheese, yogurt, kefir, etc.).
  • etc.
For more of the story, visit In particular, check out the various reports they have linked there. I don't normally recommend or even condone the use of Microsoft PowerPoint, but it's worth it to view this excellent and well-researched presentation. See also: Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon; The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, by Sandor Ellix Katz; and Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, by Anne Mendelson. The "raw milkists" don't want to take away anyone's right to drink pasteurized milk. They simply want everyone to have access to healthy raw milk, and to unbiased information about it. Is that so much to ask?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Fourfold Path to Healing Conference, part 2: Tom Cowan

Tom Cowan's health, healing, and wellness landscape is dominated by anthroposophical medicine and other holistic health paradigms. He is also comfortable navigating among allopathic (orthodox "Western") medical models and tools, and uses them when appropriate and/or necessary. His nutritional thoughts are in line with those of Sally Fallon, and ultimately with those of Weston A. Price. To this rich, bone-broth-based stew, Cowan adds bits and pieces of other things he has picked up over the years via his unconventional, inquisitive, and open mind (for example, the SuperSlow workout). Here is an example of his iconoclasm. He quotes Rudolf Steiner, who says, "The heart is not a pump," and then goes on to make a pretty good case for this claim. In brief, as I understand it, he believes that rather than causing the blood to flow, the main function of the heart is stopping the blood, thus creating the pressure necessary to keep veins from collapsing, and creating the pressure to force the blood up to the head, among other things. Water is a by-product of cellular metabolism throughout the body, and especially in the large muscles of the lower body; as this water enters the circulatory system, it increases venus volume and pressure. This metabolic consequence is the actual "pump" that causes blood to flow. Cowan considers the case of a house with a pump in the basement and a shower on the third floor. If you are not getting enough water flow at the shower, how do you address it? Widening the pipes will decrease the pressure, and increase the weight of the water column that must be moved, thus resulting in less water flow. If you can't get a more powerful pump, then narrowing the pipes may be a viable short-term solution. Cowan continues: When your body has high blood pressure, it is evidence that your body has narrowed the pipes, trying to get your blood circulating better. In this scenario, conventional medical wisdom would have us take medication to dilate the blood vessels, "making the pipes wider", thus lowering the blood pressure. But in fact, in the context of the pump/shower metaphor, the high blood pressure is the body's stop-gap solution, rather than the problem. Cowan claims that decreasing blood pressure through medication is in this case the wrong approach. The right approach is to strengthen the pump. One does this by increasing cellular metabolism, and in particular by eating foods that create more water as a by-product of metabolism. It turns out that fats create much more water in this way than do carbohydrates or proteins. And the fats that promote health the most are animal fats and coconut oil. To summarize: If you have high blood pressure, eat more animal fats and coconut oil! (Isn't that what your doctor tells you?) For a longer, more complete exposition of this theory, check out Chapter 3 of The Fourfold Path to Healing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Fourfold Path to Healing Conference, part 1: Overview


This past weekend, I attended the Fourfold Path to Healing Conference in Westford, MA. I heard about the conference last week when I attended a dinner at Haley House at which Sally Fallon was the featured speaker. I'm very glad I went.

The Fourfold Path to Healing is the name of a book co-authored by Tom Cowan, a San Francisco-based MD; Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation; and Jaimen McMillan, creator of Spacial Dynamics. All three authors were at the conference, along with perhaps 200 attendees and 10 or so vendors.

Each author presented to one tutti session; for the rest of the weekend, all three presented simultaneously in different rooms. I won't say much about Jaimen's work here, because I didn't go to any of his individual sessions—I was too interested in what Tom Cowan and Sally Fallon had to say. You can read about Jaimen's work in the book or on his website.

As a starting point, I'll say that Rudolf Steiner's work has provided a grounding for much of Tom, Sally, and Jaimen's thinking. Steiner is well-known in some (small) circles for having founded the biodynamic agriculture movement. Biodynamic agriculture is sort of like organic agriculture on steroids (!). Beyond that, Steiner founded several other movements, including anthroposophical medicine, a holistic paradigm which is part of Tom's practice; and Eurythmy, a movement system that informs Jaimen's work.

Weston A. Price has been another inspiration to Tom and Sally, particlarly his 1939 book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. In fact, he has been enough of an inspiration to them that they have started the Weston A. Price Foundation, of which Sally is the president and Tom is a founding board member.

In his book, Price advances the hypothesis that a traditional diet plays a key role in physical development and health, and that the modern "white man's" diet leads to underdevelopment and disease within one generation. He supports this claim with impressive evidence taken from his travels to hundreds of cities in fourteen countries, in which he compares the physical health of the "natives" eating their traditional diets with the physical health of offspring of the same peoples whose mothers ate a "modern" diet during pregnancy. In every case, he finds among the latter group increased cavities, crooked teeth, arthritis, deformed facial structures (sometimes to the point where nose-breathing becomes impossible), and a low immunity to tuberculosis. He documents all of this with, among other things, extensive photographs of people with their mouths wide open. (Price goes further, in fact, and makes connections between facial structure and moral development; these claims were not discussed at the conference.)

In the context of the work of Fallon and Cowan, building on the work of Price, a traditions-based diet is one that is rich in:
  • saturated fats, including animal fats, eggs, butter, ghee, and coconut oil
  • coconut, in any of its other forms
  • organ meats, including cod liver oil
  • shellfish and fish
  • full-fat, raw and/or fermented dairy (yogurt, crème fraiche, kefir, buttermilk, etc.)
  • lacto-fermented vegetables (lacto-fermented types of sauerkraut, pickles, relishes, salsas, and so on)
  • pretty much anything else fermented
  • broths from animal bones, fish bones, and shellfish
  • soaked, sprouted, and fermented grains (including sourdough bread)
  • vegetable and fruits
and that avoids:
  • vegetable and seed oils, hydrogenated or not
  • industrially-processed foods and ingredients of all kinds
  • white sugar
  • unfermented soy, and soy of any kind in large amounts (eg., soy milk)
  • white flour and whole wheat flour (unless soaked, sprouted, or fermented)
(to be continued)

R.I.P. Joe Ades

I had the privilege of buying a vegetable peeler from this man. Vanity Fair wrote about him a few years ago. Here's a pretty good video of him doing his thing:

(Click here if the video above won't play.)

The peeler he sold is called the Star peeler. Contrary to his sometime claim, this same peeler is available for purchase on the Internet.

Jellyfish Alert

For years I've been eating jellyfish (another link), and recently I've been encouraging others to do so, arguing, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that if we don't start eating them, a lot of them, really soon, they're going to take over the world. To make matters worse, in the 1990s, it was found that some species of jellyfish are immortal. Unfortunately, there's a problem. The process generally used to prepare raw jellyfish for packing or consumption, a process necessary to prevent the jellyfish from dissolving into a big pile of goo, involves alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) and can leave non-trivial amounts of aluminum in the finished product. So: When you get raw, untreated jellyfish, and process and prepare it yourself without using alum, using some other alkalizing agent, all is well. Under other circumstances, I'm afraid that I can no longer recommend eating jellyfish.