J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Tag: magnesium (Page 1 of 2)

Bone Healing Nutritional Protocol

Mineral-rich nuts.

I broke the middle three metatarsals of my right foot on the evening of December 9th (that will be the last time I skateboard at night on a poorly paved road). The foot doctors initially thought I would need surgery (pins and/or plates), but after a week in a compression splint my remedy was revised to seven weeks in a cast.

That was tough (especially on my family, who had to pick up slack around the house), but now the cast is off and I’m walking around with a velcro boot/splint while the healing completes. X-rays show much improvement and my podiatrist seems pleased with the rate of healing. There’s still some pain and swelling, and I’m out of shape and will probably need some chiropractic adjustments down the road, but I’m thinking and hoping I’m over the worst of it.

I’ve been consuming more of the following foods and supplements in an attempt to accelerate my bone healing. I have no idea if it’s helping or not, but I figure it can’t hurt to supply an abundance of the necessary building blocks. The list, for what it’s worth:

Kefir: good source of calcium and phosphorus, and most brands provide the additional benefits of l. rhamnosus, the incredible GABA-enhancing friendly bacteria. Great for mood and resilience when I need it most. I’ve been eating more of other calcium-rich foods as well: cheese, yogurt, canned salmon and sardines (with bones), broccoli, and almonds.

Oats: high in silica, which enhances bone and connective tissue health. I’ve also been taking a horsetail supplement for additional organic silica. Some nuts (brazil, almonds, walnuts) also contain silica.

Fat soluble vitamins: I’ve increased both my vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 intake from supplements to increase calcium absorption and get that calcium into my bones. I’ve also reduced my vitamin A intake, as there is some evidence that excessive vitamin A intake can increase risk of fracture.

Citrus: I’ve been craving citrus and eating a lot of it. Vitamin C is needed for collagen production (a component of bone), so that’s probably a good thing.

Magnesium and zinc: I take supplemental magnesium as part of my asthma protocol, so I assume I’m getting enough. I’ve increased my zinc intake to support the healing process (from both food–mostly oysters–and supplements).

Bone broth: I’ve had some bone broth lately. More probably would have been better, but when it comes down to it I don’t like the taste of most of the store-bought stuff. On the other hand I love the broth we make at home from chicken bones and vegetable scraps. We usually add some white wine vinegar to help leech the minerals out of the bones into the broth (and to improve the taste).

Avoiding potential antinutrients: Ideally I would have quit drinking caffeine and alcohol, as both can reduce calcium absorption and/or slow down healing. But I kept drinking coffee and red wine in moderation (both for health benefits and also to not feel like I was depriving myself–life has been hard enough with reduced mobility). I’ve been just OK about avoiding sugar–I was strict during January but I’ve indulged in ice-cream a few times, and I eat dark chocolate pretty much every day. I’ve eaten fewer beans due to phytates reducing calcium absorption. I don’t drink any cola, so I’m not worried about excess phosphorus. I’ve also reduced my turmeric intake–it’s a great healthful spice, but in large doses it’s as powerful as over-the-counter NSAIDs and I don’t want to inhibit my inflammatory response.

I’ve still got some healing to do, so feel free to chime in with your nutritional suggestions below!

Which Supplements I Take, and Why

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Supplements are confusing. Research supports both taking and avoiding them.

In this post I’ll cover the case against supplements, why I take a select few supplements anyway, which high-nutrient foods I eat, and how I design my supplementation program and introduce new supplements.

I’ll also disclose which supplement I take that is also used as a psychiatric medication, and the herbal supplement that makes me go a little nuts if I take too much.

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To Protect Your Heart, You Need to Bleed

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Photo courtesy of Gordonator.com via Creative Commons license

This post is about why you should let someone stick a needle in your arm, take your blood, and sell it (in exchange for a cup of juice and some cookies).

If you’re over thirty and male, or a post-menopausal woman, you should probably be donating blood every 2-4 months. If you’re not eligible to give blood (due to a recent tattoo, international travel, illness, needle use, medication, or being a gay man) then you should take steps to reduce your iron intake and absorption.

Why? Reducing iron stores in the body (though blood donation or reducing iron intake) is probably one of the easiest things you can do to sharply reduce your chance of heart attack, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. Those three categories of disease account for over 50% of deaths in the U.S. (link to PDF, see page 5 for chart).

People prone to anemia probably shouldn’t give blood, but it’s worth noting that anemia can also be caused by B12 or copper deficiency. Usually doctors just prescribe iron supplements when anemia is diagnosed, which can result in iron overload if the cause of anemia isn’t iron deficiency.

If you’re a premenopausal non-smoking non-diabetic woman, you have a much reduced risk of heart disease, probably due to lower iron levels (though estrogen levels may also be a factor). But after women stop menstruating, heart disease becomes the leading health risk (women are especially prone to vascular dysfunction; blood flow decreases even when the major arteries are clear).

Donating blood on a regular basis (and thus reducing the amount of stored iron in your body) improves your health in three ways:

1) Reduces chance of heart attack, reduces hardening of the arteries

High serum iron levels immediately constrict blood vessels, reduce blood flow, and in the long term lead to hardening of the arteries. “Iron loading impairs endothelial function, mostly due to oxidative stress,” says Hidehiro Matsuoka, MD, PhD (lead researcher and chief of the Kurume University School of Medicine’s hypertension program).

Donating blood, even as infrequently as once or twice a year, reduces iron levels in the body (by as much as 250mg per donation), and markedly reduces the chance of heart attack.

 2) Reducing iron stores improves insulin sensitivity, thus reducing the chance of Type 2 diabetes

This post from Stephen Guyenet discusses the relationship between iron and insulin sensitivity in some detail.

This study looked at insulin resistance in Type 2 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and found that iron reduction via phlebotomies (removing blood from the body) significantly improved insulin sensitivity.

This article from the American Diabetes Association discusses the glucose-iron relationship in depth, and reaches a similar conclusion. From the article:

Phlebotomy was followed by decreases in serum glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and apoprotein B (14), and by improvement in both β-cell secretion and peripheral insulin action in patients with type 2 diabetes (15). A significant impact of tissue iron excess on systemic effects of diabetes is suggested by recent reports in which iron appears to influence the development of diabetic nephropathy and vascular dysfunction.

Excess iron is a killer — get rid of it!

3) Reducing iron stores decreases cancer risk

This study followed up, years later, with patients who had undergone iron reduction therapy in order to improve vascular health, and found that the iron reduction group had significantly lower cancer risk and mortality.

This older but quite large study found an inverse relationship between iron levels and cancer risk, especially in men.

This study found that high iron stores are associated with a higher risk of death from cancer in postmenopausal women.

Hemochromatosis

I recently learned through 23andMe that I am heterozygous for the gene that causes hemochromatosis. If I had both copies of the mutated gene, I would have a very high chance of absorbing and retaining too much iron, resulting in serious health problems. According to this study, heterozygous carriers of this gene also tend to accumulate iron in the body as they age at a faster rate than the normal population (especially when the gene is inherited from the father). I inherited this particular gene from my mother (she also did the 23andMe test, so we can compare), but I am cautious with iron intake nonetheless.

Modulating Iron Levels Via Diet

Iron is an essential nutrient, and many people don’t get enough. If you are a growing child, a menstruating woman, or have digestive issues that reduce iron absorption, you might need to boost your iron levels in order to feel energetic. You can do this by:

  • eating iron-rich animal foods like beef, chicken liver, oysters, clams, and mussels (all very good sources of heme iron which is easily absorbed and utilized)
  • eat iron-rich plant foods like beans, tofu, and pumpkin seeds (all good sources of non-heme iron)
  • eat iron-rich foods with vitamin-C rich foods, or a vitamin C supplement, which increases iron absorption (taking vitamin C with each meal can triple total iron absorption)
  • taking iron supplements (non-heme iron), which most includes multivitamin-mineral supplements and many breakfast cereals
  • cooking with cast iron, especially if the recipe includes an acidic ingredient (like tomato sauce, wine, or lemon juice)
  • consume beverages high in tannins (like coffee and tea) in between meals instead of with meals; tannins reduce iron absorption
  • don’t consume calcium supplements or calcium-rich foods (like dairy products) with iron-rich foods; calcium also reduces iron absorption
  • don’t consume foods rich in phytates (most grains and legumes, especially oats) with iron-rich foods

If you want to reduce iron absorption, follow the opposite advice. Avoiding iron supplementation is especially important. I wouldn’t recommend drinking coffee and tea with every meal, or trying to eat a lot of phytate-rich foods, as you could end up reducing absorption of other nutrients that you do need.

Heart Health Summary

I’ve written before about how to prevent heart disease, highlighting the importance of sunlight and not smoking.

But what’s most important, in terms of lifestyle changes? The idea that saturated fat and cholesterol intake lead to heart disease has been largely discredited, but that doesn’t mean diet isn’t important.

Genetics may protect some individuals against specific risks factors (everyone knows someone with a grandmother who smoked like a chimney and live to be 100). But it may be possible to group lifestyle factors into “very important” and “somewhat important” (in terms of protecting against heart disease). Here’s my attempt:

Very Important Lifestyle Factors to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

  • don’t smoke, avoid extreme air pollution
  • prevent iron overload (oxidation) and sodium overload (high blood pressure)
  • get regular sunshine (convert nitrates in skin to nitric oxide)
  • avoid too much sitting, move around every day
  • control weight (especially abdominal and visceral fat) by limiting total carbohydrate (especially refined and high glycemic foods)

Somewhat Important Lifestyle Factors to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

  • exercise vigorously several times a week
  • reduce chronic stress (acute/brief stress is not harmful)
  • eat well (low processed/refined foods, high nutrient, fresh food)
  • take helpful supplements (vitamin K2, magnesium, fish oil, coenzyme Q10)

I could be wrong, but that’s my best guess. A multi-vitamin and jogging a few times a week isn’t going to protect your heart if you’re overweight, you sit a lot, you smoke, and you don’t get sunlight on your skin on a regular basis.

On the other hand, simple lifestyle changes like getting more sun exposure, converting to a standing desk, giving blood regularly, or losing a spare tire might mitigate other risk factors. If you do all of those things, you’re probably in good shape even if you don’t exercise vigorously and eat perfectly.

Another benefit of giving blood is that it feels pretty good. You’re probably saving a life every time you donate! And it’s weird, but kind of amazing, to think of your blood circulating in another person’s body. We are all connected, but the blood donor and receiver more than others.

Good health to you — may you live long and prosper!

 

Follow-up to "Watch and Wait" Approach to Two Small Cavities

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What happens when you ignore your dentist’s advice?

Back in April I wrote about my decision to take a “watch and wait” approach with two small cavities that my dentist recommended getting filled. My plan was to follow a home treatment plan including dental hygiene, nutrition, and supplements. This is a follow-up post to fill you in on the results.

Compliance

I did a decent but imperfect job in terms of complying with my own home treatment plan. I intended to do a fluoride rinse three times a week, but I slacked off over time, probably averaging only once a week. In most other areas I did well, including taking supplements on a regular basis (vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium), and eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin A. I modified my diet to include more vegetables and somewhat less protein (I still eat meat, but my diet would probably be better described as “low-grain Mediterranean” rather than “paleo”). I continued to not drink soda, which as far as I can tell is the most destructive and dangerous habit in terms of dental health (I could link to pictures of “soda teeth” but I will spare you the gore). I continued to brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. I chewed xylitol gum on most days.

Results

On my most recent visit to the dentist, my dentist observed that one area where the enamel had been soft had hardened up, and she no longer recommended drilling and filling that tooth. The other small cavity, though apparently not worse, had not improved. Otherwise, my teeth and gums were in great shape.

At this point I will take her recommendation and get the one cavity filled.

Takeaway

I’ll continue with my home treatment plan, as it seems to be doing some good in terms of dental health. I’m glad I took the watch and wait approach, as it seems to have saved me some money, done no harm, and saved a tooth from being drilled.

Advice

If your dentist says you have a cavity, ask for details. How big is it? Is there any chance that the enamel could harden up over time with good dental hygiene, home fluoride rinse treatment, and excellent nutrition? Within private healthcare systems, it’s not in your dentist’s financial interest to recommend delaying treatment, so they may not present this as an option. Dentists may also be reluctant to recommend delaying treatment of observable cavities because of their training, and/or the expectations of their patients.

Remember that the final decision is yours (as well as the ultimate responsibility for your dental health).

Why I Am Taking a "Watch and Wait" Approach re: Two Small Cavities

In the kisser!

In the kisser!

Recently I went to my new dentist in Oakland. While going to the dentist is rarely much fun, everyone at this office is friendly and professional, and you get good dental advice with very little guilt-tripping. They are also amenable to my treatment preferences, such as getting X-rays every two years instead of every year.

My dentist pointed out two small cavities while I was there. She showed me the cavities with a small mirror, and also had me listen to the sound of metal pick touching my teeth. “Clanking” is good, indicating the enamel is hard. When the instruments sticks and doesn’t clank around, that can indicate the enamel is soft.

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How To Get a Good Night’s Sleep (7 suggestions, and a map)

The real sleep experts.

The real sleep experts.

Hello readers! Sorry for the lengthy absence — I went on vacation for awhile, and have been nose-to-the-grindstone on various projects since I returned.

The vacation was a blast — five families went in on a mansion rental in Truckee and we all played around in the snow. Five families under one roof leads to some interesting conversations — both frivolous and serious. One topic that came up a few times was sleep. Not everyone was getting some. Why is it that so many adults sleep poorly? In our case maybe it was the copious amounts of booze being consumed, but even teetotalers sometimes sleep poorly.

Chronic sleep deprivation is one of the worst states of consciousness. Insomniacs are wide awake at night, groggy and irritable during the day, and miserable most of the time.

Insomnia can be triggered by any of the following:

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