Friday, June 27, 2014

My Plant-Based Meals 6-25-14

Some people commented on the fact that I get my B12 from fortified foods and supplements, and have suggested that the assumed lack of B12 in my plant based diet implies that I should be eating animals.  I have previously written about the various fallacies used to suggest that humans should or need to eat animals to obtain B12.

The idea that humans should and can reliably achieve B12 sufficiency by eating animals or their products faces one important problem: Tufts University researchers have reported that up to 40% of meat-eaters have low serum B12 levels.[1]

Katherine Tucker, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, conducted the research that found that among offspring of residents of Framingham, only consumption of B12 supplements and fortified foods predicted B12 sufficiency, whereas meat and fish intake did not.[2]  The USDA reported on this research:
"Oddly, the researchers found no association between plasma B12 levels and meat, poultry, and fish intake, even though these foods supply the bulk of B12 in the diet. “It’s not because people aren’t eating enough meat,” Tucker said. “The vitamin isn’t getting absorbed.” [1]
Moreover, "Many people over age 50 lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods." [3]

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science recommends that all people aged more than 50 years eat foods fortified with B12 or take a B12 supplement. 
"Because 10% to 30% of older people do not absorb food-bound vitamin B12 efficiently, those over 50 years should meet the RDA by eating foods fortified with B12 or by taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Supplementation of 25-100 mcg per day has been used to maintain vitamin B12 levels in older people."[4]
To reiterate, this applies to everyone, not only people eating plant based diets.  I belong to this age group.

Makes one wonder why so many people don't efficiently absorb B12 from animal products, doesn't it? Does this provide evidence that we aren't biologically adapted to extracting B12 from animal flesh.?

Some people have made comments about the Vitamin D2 I ingest from D2-fortified soy and hemp milks.  Vitamin D2 occurs naturally in some foods (e.g. mushrooms).

"Some mushrooms provide vitamin D2 in variable amounts [13,14]. Mushrooms with enhanced levels of vitamin D2 from being exposed to ultraviolet light under controlled conditions are also available." [5

I have so far seen no evidence that the doses of D2 obtained from drinking one to two cups of fortified plant-based milk daily (about 200-400 IU) have any harmful effect.  Vieth reports that subjects given vitamin D2 doses as high as 100,000 IU daily over the course of 4 days did not find any significant change in serum calcium levels.[6]  That dose is 500 times more D2 than contained in one cup of these beverages.  Although D2 does not raise serum 25(OH)D levels as efficiently as D3 and on this basis is not the optimal form for supplementation or fortification [7], I presently rely on sunlight, not oral supplements or fortified foods, to obtain vitamin D3. 


2. Tucker K, et al. Plasma vitamin B-12 concentrations relate to intake source in the Framingham Offspring Study.  Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 71:514–22.
6.  Vieth R.  Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety.  AJCN 1999 May;69(5): 842-856.
7. Houghton LA, Vieth R.The case against ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) as a vitamin supplement. AJCN 2006 Oct; 84(4): 694-97.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Plant Based Meals 6-18-14


On this day I ate no soy products, protein supplements, kale, or cabbage family vegetables at all.  My fruit intake has been lower than in past videos and I ate more brown rice.  

News media and conventional dietitians frequently assert that people eating plant-based diets have trouble getting enough protein, calcium, omega-3 fats, iron, and zinc.  My meals supplied 103 g protein (1.5 g/kg, almost double the RDA for my body mass), 196% (almost double) of my omega-3 requirements, 1052 mg calcium, 37 mg iron (4.65 times my requirements), and 21 mg zinc (almost double the 11 mg requirement for an adult male).   I also got plenty of B12 (more than double the RDA) and I got iodine from sea vegetables cooked with the lentils, although Cronometer does not account for iodine due to inadequate data in the USDA food nutrient database.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vegan Pregnancy and Birth Defects

I have heard the claim that women need to eat animal products in preparation for and during pregnancy in order to prevent birth defects. Some women who abstained from all animal products during their pregnancies have given birth to babies with birth defects, and based on this, some people have concluded that this proves that eating animal products prevents birth defects or that women need to eat animals during pregnancy in order to prevent birth defects.

This blog refutes that reasoning.  There is a lack of evidence that eating animal products prevents the most common birth defects.  There is also a lack of evidence that dietary omnivores have a lower overall risk of birth defects than vegans.  In fact, in the U.S., the vast majority of birth defects occur among babies born to women who are dietary omnivores.

Prevalence of Birth Defects

The CDC states that "Major structural or genetic birth defects affect approximately 3% of births in the United States."[1

According to the CDC, the U.S. fertility rate is about 63 births per 1000 women, and 3,952,841 babies were born in the United States in 2012.[2]

Since the rate of birth defects is 3%, that means that about 118,585 babies were born with birth defects in 2012 in the U.S..  Does anyone believe that these birth defects are a problem unique to people who eat plant-based diets?  

Vegan Population

According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 2% of respondents identified themselves as "vegan." [3]

However, in the Gallup Poll the question did not define "vegan."  This means that the Gallup Poll relies on personal definitions of "vegan" which are notoriously variable.  A 2006 poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 1.4% of respondents agreed that they never eat meat, poultry, fish/seafood, dairy products, or eggs.[4]

According to a Vegetarian Times poll, 59% of vegetarians are women.[5

For the sake of argument, I will assume that 59% of vegans are women as well.   If 1.4% of the U.S. population is vegan (i.e. about 4 million people), then there are about 2.36 million vegan women.
Source: Mother's Delight
 We have no reason to believe that U.S. vegans have a higher fertility rate than non-vegans; it may be less since it is possible that more vegans may prefer not to have children due to concerns about human population growth.  Nevertheless I will assume that vegan women have the same fertility rate as non-vegans.

This would mean that the total number of births annually to vegan women in the U.S. would be 148,680.

This means that vegan women are producing only 4% of all U.S. births.  Yet 3% of all U.S. births have birth defects.

If the rate of birth defects among vegans equals that of the general population, this would mean that 4505 vegan births will have birth defects. 

If birth defects only occurred among vegans, then 118,585 out of 148,680 babies born to vegans would have birth defects.  That would be a birth defect rate of 80%!  But that is not what is happening.  Just as the vast majority of people in the U.S. eats meat, the vast majority of babies born with birth defects are born to women who eat meat, eggs, and dairy.

Birth Defects Among Meat-Eaters

Based on some small studies contaminated with confounders, some people have claimed that the removal of animal products from the diet causes women to give birth to baby boys with a penile defect cause hypospadias.  However, according to the largest study conducted so far, hypospadias occurs just as often among children of meat-eaters as it does among children of women who abstain from eating meat.[6]   In this study, only one percent of case mothers ate no meat nor fish (but still consumed dairy and eggs), and only one case mother and one control mother ate no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products (a proxy for vegan diet).  Based on this, the odds are even.  The number of 'vegan' mothers giving birth to boys with hypospadias was identical to the number without, giving evidence that one can prevent hypospadias without eating animals during pregnancy. 

But I want to emphasize this point: In this study, about 97% of cases of hypospadias were born to women who were eating meat, fish, dairy, and eggs.[6]  That is, neither meat-eating, fish-eating, dairy-eating, or egg-eating during pregnancy served as a universal preventive for hypospadias. 

What if I put a headline above:  "Animal Products Associated With 97% of Hypospadias Cases."  It is a true statement.  Would women then decide to abandon the consumption of animal products during pregnancy? Why do people ignore this fact, and decide to try to blame "the vegan diet" for hypospadias?

People trying to scare women away from vegan diets during pregnancy are blinded by and blinding others with the carnist ideology.  Since hypospadias occurs in babies born to dietary omnivores, we can conclude that eating animal products does not prevent hypospadias.  In addition, since not all vegan baby boys are born with hypospadias, we can conclude that if there is any nutrient that can prevent hypospadias, it is available in plant foods.  If hypospadias does have a nutritional deficiency as a cause, it lies in the absence of some plant-based nutrient that both some meat-eaters and some vegans fail to consume.

Since in fact one is just as likely to have a baby with hypospadias on a meat-rich diet as on a vegan diet, there is no rational basis for taking up meat eating during pregnancy in order to prevent this defect.  It may be just as likely that by replacing some plant foods with meat, you will be deficient in some plant-based nutrient necessary for preventing this defect. 

According to the CDC, Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome, is one of the most common birth defects in the U.S., with more than 6000 cases per year in 2004-2006.[7]  Advanced maternal age is the only generally accepted risk factor for this disorder, with no established nutritional link.  People who eat diets rich in animal products give birth to babies with Trisomy 21 every single day of the year. 

There is some evidence suggesting that inadequate intake of folate could contribute to Trisomy 21.[8, 9]    Folate is a plant-based nutrient named after foliage, i.e. leaves.  Green leafy vegetables and legumes provide abundant folate.  One can obtain the recommended 400 µg of folic acid/day by consuming 1.5 cups of legumes (about 400 kcal), or 1.5 cups of cooked spinach (about 60 kcal), or half a head of romaine lettuce (about 50 kcal), or some combination daily.  Actually, many plant foods contain folate.  I typically obtain more than 900 mcg folate daily from my plant-based diet.

One of my folate-rich meals: Lentils and Romaine Lettuce

Larsson and Johansson reported that teen-age female vegans consumed an average of 473 mcg folate daily, whereas age-matched omnivores consumed only 226 mcg.[10]  Schüpbach et al reported that among Swiss omnivores, 58% did not consume adequate folate.[11]

Orofacial cleft (OFC) is also a more common defect, with cleft lip or palate cases totaling about 7088 per year.[7]  Folate deficiency may be a risk factor for this defect.[12, 13]  However, some authors contend that the evidence for a protective effect of folate was inconsistent as of 2008.[14]

Krapels et al. [15] studied maternal nutrition and orofacial cleft (OFC) defects and reported:

"The energy-adjusted intakes of vegetable protein, fiber, beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol, iron, and magnesium were significantly lower in cases compared with controls. Increasing intakes of vegetable protein, fiber, ascorbic acid, iron, and magnesium decreased OFC risk. In conclusion, a higher preconceptional intake of nutrients predominantly present in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of offspring affected by OFC..."[15]
Imagine that:  Eating fruits and vegetables may prevent birth defects.  Who would have thought?  Apparently, not the folks at Weston A Price Foundation.

Krapels et al. found that in both cases and controls, the geometric mean dietary intake of energy, fiber, and iron were below the RDA.[15]  Adequate energy intake is very important for gestation and necessary for growth and development.  In this population, women with increased fat intake would likely have greater energy intake and this alone may explain the positive association with fat. 

 Krapels et al. found that women with greater vegetable protein and specifically soy consumption had a lower risk of giving birth to babies with OFC. [15]   Iron was also protective, but only at the level of the RDA, which is easily achieved on a plant-based diet.[16]
"The most important risk reductions were observed for ascorbic acid and magnesium above the RDA and for fiber and iron equal to the RDA."[15]
Krapels et al. also found a link between increased intakes of cholesterol and saturated fats and a decreased risk of cleft palate only (CPO), but they considered the number of CPO cases was too small to provide any basis for strong conclusions.[15] That probably wouldn't prevent the WAPF crew from making a mountain of this molehill.  However, a look at their data on cholesterol and saturated fat intakes in the case and control populations reveals no basis for any claim that these nutrients prevented birth defects in this population.

In this population cases and controls both consumed an average of 15% of energy as saturated fat. Cases consumed and average of 35 g saturated fat daily, controls, 37 g. [15] There is no biological mechanism by which 2 grams of saturated fat would make the difference between cleft and no cleft defect.  Moreover, cases had a saturated fat intake range of 19-53 g, and controls, 24-58 g. [15] The ranges overlap to such an extent, that their saturated fat intakes are practically indistinguishable.  Some women who had saturated fat intakes of 50 g per day had babies with OFC, some did not. Some women who consumed as little as 24 g per day did not have babies with OFC, while some did.

Cases consumed an average of 191 mg cholesterol daily, and controls 208 mg, a difference of only 17 mg, which could not by any plausible biological mechanism account for the presence or absence of clefts.  Further, among cases, cholesterol intake ranged from 112 to 311 mg/d, and among controls, 131 and 360 mg/d.[15] This means that some women who consumed as much as 311 mg cholesterol daily gave birth to babies with clefts (while some did not), and some who consumed as little as 131 mg daily did not have babies with clefts (while some with that intake did).  This makes it very unlikely that saturated fat and cholesterol were the actual protective factors.  Probably these nutrients were associated with some other protective factor, such as taking multivitamins.

In this study, cases consumed an average of 47 g animal protein daily (range, 27-74), and controls, 49 g (range, 31-76). [15] There is no plausible biological mechanism by which these small differences in animal protein intake could account for the presence of clefts.  Some women who ate 74 g animal protein daily had babies with OFC, some did not; some who consumed as little as 31 g per day had babies with OFC, some did not.  

Regarding animal-source vitamin A (retinol), in this study, cases had an average intake of 583 mcg/d, and controls, 616 mcg/d, a difference of only 33 mcg/d.  Moreover, the cases ranged from 238 to 1660 mcg/d, and controls, 266 to 1505 mcg/d.[15]   The people with the highest retinol intake were among the cases, but the average difference was practically insignificant.

I just want to emphasize here that in this study, 182 women who were consuming large amounts of animal protein, cholesterol, and retinol vitamin A gave birth to babies with orofacial clefts.  Again, people are claiming that women need to eat animal products to prevent birth defects, but women who eat large amounts of animal products do in fact give birth to babies with serious birth defects.

According to the Teratology Society, orofacial clefts are among the birth defects observed in animals given excess vitamin A in the form of retinol, the same as provided by animal products.[17]

According to the CDC, about 1460 babies every year are born with spina bifida.[7]

Spina bifida can be prevented by a diet rich in folic acid and B12.
"In September 1992, the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) recommended that all women capable of becoming pregnant should consume 400 µg of folic acid/day on an ongoing basis to reduce their risk for having a pregnancy affected by spina bifida and anencephaly (i.e., neural tube defects [NTDs])...

" 1998, the Food and Drug Administration began requiring the fortification of enriched cereal grain products with folic acid at the level of 140 µg/100 grams of grain (fortification was optional during March 1996--December 1997). This level of fortification was chosen to assist women of reproductive age in increasing their folic acid consumption by an average of 100 µg of folic acid daily."[18]

Why was this fortification made mandatory?  Because, as shown above, many meat-eaters don't consume enough folic acid to prevent spina bifida.  In contrast, again as shown above, even teen-age vegan girls consume more than the recommended 400 mcg/d.  

Meat is touted as a source of B12.  However, despite widespread consumption of meat, eggs, and milk, B12 deficiency may be prevalent in the U.S..[19] Tufts University researchers report no association between meat consumption and B12 status:
"Oddly, the researchers found no association between plasma B12 levels and meat, poultry, and fish intake, even though these foods supply the bulk of B12 in the diet. “It’s not because people aren’t eating enough meat,” Tucker said. “The vitamin isn’t getting absorbed.”[19]
Vitamin B12 is not an animal product.  All the vitamin B12 in the world is produced by microbes, not livestock raised for animal products.  Since B12 is not an animal product, and we can get what we need by cultivating microbes, no one needs to eat animals to get it.

In fact, authorities are now calling for mandatory microbial B12 fortification of grain products to prevent neural tube defects:
"There was almost a tripling in the risk for NTD in the presence of low maternal B(12) status, measured by holoTC. The benefits of adding synthetic B(12) to current recommendations for periconceptional folic acid tablet supplements or folic-acid-fortified foods need to be considered. It remains to be determined what fraction of NTD cases in a universally folate-fortified environment might be prevented by higher periconceptional intake of B(12)." [20]

"Mandatory vitamin B12 fortification of enriched grain products is long overdue in the United States and Canada. Fortification would help provide the 2.4 mug of synthetic vitamin B12 that the US Institute of Medicine recommends for all persons 50 years and older. The findings of Ray and colleagues in this issue suggest that B12 may also help to prevent neural tube defects."[21]
If animal foods are such awesome sources of B12, why would a population that consumes an average of 195 pounds of meat annually (22, USDA data) – one-half pound daily – need to fortify one of its plant foods (grain products) with B12 to prevent deficiency and neural tube defects?  B12 in animal products is second-hand.  Why not get this nutrient directly from the primary source which is according to research the most effective at serving human needs, and in addition the most economical choice?  I am not going to settle for second hand, second best sources of B12.

A 2010 study found that low dietary levels of fructose and glucose and a low dietary glycemic index were significantly associated with anencephaly.
"For anencephaly, we observed reduced risk with high glycemic index and increased risk with low intake of fructose and glucose."[23]
Let me state this finding otherwise: Those women with high intakes of high glycemic carbohydrates were less likely to have brainless babies. Interesting, eh?  Except for a very small amount of glucose in whole milk or yogurt, animal foods completely lack fructose and contain only negligible traces of glucose.  If meat and animal fat are so good and necessary for building brains, why didn't these researchers find that meat or fat consumption was protective against being born brainless?

This same study reported:
"Some nutrients that contribute to one-carbon metabolism showed lowered risks (folate, riboflavin, vitamins B6 and B12); others did not (choline, methionine, zinc). Anti-oxidant nutrients tended to be associated with lowered risks (vitamins C, E, A, β-carotene, lutein)."[23]
The authors also reported an increased risk of anencephaly with "high intake of thiamin, zinc, and iron."[23]  Proponents of meat-eating for pregnant women – such as the Weston A Price Foundation – usually claim that these women need to eat meat to ensure adequate iron and zinc intake to prevent birth defects, but this study actually reported an increased risk of neural tube defects among women with high intakes of zinc and iron.  Could excessive intakes of these nutrients due to meat-eating (as opposed to the adequate intakes that can be provided by whole foods plant based diets) actually be promoting birth defects?

Except for vitamin A (retinol) and B12, every one of the nutrients that this last study found associated with lower risk of birth defects occurs abundantly in whole plant foods.  As already noted, it appears that everyone in the U.S. is best served by dietary B12 supplements or fortification, regardless of meat intake.  With an adequate intake of ß-carotene, pregnant women do not need dietary retinol, and in fact, the Teratology Society states:
"Women in their reproductive years should be informed that the excessive use of vitamin A shortly before and during pregnancy could be harmful to their babies....It is important to determine the type of vitamin A consumed, since beta-carotene has not been associated with vitamin A toxicity in animals or man."
 Further, from the Teratology Society again: 
"5. Is it biologically plausible that high doses of vitamin A may cause birth defects in the human?
Yes, isotretinoin is a known human teratogen. Since isotretinoin and vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) induce similar patterns of malformations in animals, it is probable that similar pathogenetic mechanisms are involved in inducing the malformations. Currently there is no evidence to suggest that vitamin A should act differently than isotretinoin in the human conceptus. Beta-carotene, a provitamin A, does not produce vitamin A toxicity nor does it produce teratogenicity in animals. All of these data are consistent with a specific vitamin A-related teratogenic response."
Looks like the society devoted to the study and prevention of birth defects has determined that plant foods are the best for preventing vitamin A-related birth defects. 

In Powered By Plants: Natural Selection & Human Nutrition I have a chapter devoted to discussing evidence regarding the effect of consumption of animal products on human fertility.  To sum it up, we have evidence that consumption of animal products impairs ovulation in women and sperm production and quality in men.[For example, 24, 25, 26]  Prior to the introduction of hormonal birth control, populations consuming diets low in animal protein had significantly greater fertility than those consuming diets high in animal protein, and it appeared that diets high in animal protein reduced fertility in a dose-response fashion.

We also have evidence that diets high in protein and EPA/DHA consumption are toxic to embryos.  High protein intake increases embryo exposure to ammonium and this impairs implantation and fetal growth [27], and high protein intake has been found to increase the risk of neonatal death and small-for-gestational-age infants [for example, 28]. Regarding the omega-3 fats, Wakefield et al reported:
"...the exposure of oocytes to an environment high in n-3 PUFA during in vivo fertilization adversely affected the morphological appearance of the embryo and decreased developmental ability to the blastocyst stage. This study suggests that high maternal dietary n-3 PUFA exposure periconception reduces normal embryo development in the mouse and is associated with perturbed mitochondrial metabolism, raising questions regarding supplementation with n-3 PUFAs during this period of time."[29]
Could these findings help to explain the undeniable fact that in the U.S. population dietary omnivores give birth to a rather large number of and the vast majority of babies with birth defects? 

1.  In the U.S. and European nations, the vast majority of birth defects occur in babies whose mothers ate meat, fish, non-human milk, and eggs during their pregnancy.
2.  We lack consistent evidence that omnivores have a lower risk of birth defects than vegetarians or vegans.
3.  For some birth defects, there is a lack of solid evidence for any nutritional cause.
4.  Where nutritional causes for birth defects have been studied, it appears that dietary omnivores are no less (and possibly more) prone to the relevant deficiencies than people who eat plant-based diets.
5.   Retinol, the form of vitamin A found in animal products, has been demonstrated to cause birth defects in experimental animal studies and there is reason to believe these nutrients would also cause birth defects in humans. 
6.   For the most common birth defects, the nutrients that provide protection can be obtained from a plant-based diet supplemented with microbial vitamin B12.
7.  For the prevention of neural tube defects, experts have recommended mandatory B12 fortification of all grain products sold in the U.S. despite the fact that per capita consumption of meat theoretically supplies adequate B12.  
8.  There is no one universally followed vegan diet.  Some people who avoid animal products eat nutrient-dense diets, some do not.  Therefore, it is to be expected that among any given random population of vegans or vegetarians, some will have nutrient deficiencies, while others will not.   This is also the case with dietary omnivores.
9.  So far, it appears that a conscientious vegan dieter can be at least as successful at preventing birth defects as any dietary omnivore, and may in fact have an advantage, as the nutrients most clearly associated prevention of birth defects can all be obtained from non-animal sources.   

Therefore, if a vegan woman does give birth to a baby having birth defects, this does not provide evidence that the defects were caused by avoidance of animal products.  Since the vast majority of birth defects occur among dietary omnivores, and many vegan mothers give birth to healthy babies, it logically follows that if there are any nutrients essential to prevention of birth defects, they are available from non-animal sources.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Achieving Alignment of Mind and Body: My Calisthenics Journey

Although I have had an interest in learning to do handstands since late childhood, I did not start working systematically on developing this skill until late 2012/early 2013 at the age of 51.  In the course of years of lifting heavy things and doing martial arts, I had injured myself a number of times, and, in retrospect, didn’t have adequate rehabilitation after the injuries.  Consequently, I had restricted range of motion in my left shoulder, my lower back, and both hips.  Also, I was prone to left elbow tendonitis, left knee pain, and repeated lumbar strains.

These photos, made in 2010, show the misalignments that I had before I started my calisthenics journey.

In the anterior view, my left arm looks a little shorter than my right, even though in fact they are the same length.  If you look at my left shoulder, you can see that it is rotated forward; this makes the arm look shorter and also reflects in my left hand, where more of the back of the hand is visible, compared to the right.  This imbalance results in excess transmission of force into the left elbow, making me prone to left elbow issues. 

If you were to drop a plumb line from my neck to my umbilicus, you would see that the latter is to the right of the centerline.  This occurs because the left pelvis is rotated forward and the right, backward.  See how the right hand side of my abdomen looks shorter than the left?  Also, my left thigh seems to be ahead of the right, but the left foot is in fact a little behind the right (when I stood or squatted, the left heel was always a bit behind the right).  This is caused by deep tension in the right psoas and other pelvic muscles, which I feel as restriction of range of motion in the right hip, and weakness in the left hip and piriformis area pain in the left buttock especially when seated in a chair.

Looking from the rear, you can see that the right shoulder is a little lower than and posterior to the left.  More of the palm of the left hand is visible, and again, the left arm looks a little shorter.  The waist band shows the right hip higher than the left.  This is due to tension in the right lumbar and psoas muscles.  The excess tension in the right lumbar muscles (erectors, quadratus lumborum) is revealed by the shorter space and deeper crease between the rib cage and the hip.  This imbalance results in lumbar instability, hip pain, and transmission of excess force into the left knee, resulting in left knee issues.

Looking from the side, my waist band is lower in the front than the back, and allthough I am lean, my belly sticks out further than my chest.  This reveals excessive lumbar lordosis due primarily to tension in the lumbar muscles along with weakness in the abdominal muscles. 

In my case, the misalignments seem rather minor, and most people would not see them without guidance, but these central imbalances radiate to the periphery much like a wobble in a hub is magnified in the wheel.  I worked in a bicycle shop as a mechanic for a number of years in college.  Just a small slop in adjustment of a hub can produce a large wobble in the wheel.  In the same way, a small imbalance in the central torso muscles can produce a large imbalance in the alignment of the elbows, knees, wrists, and ankles. 

Over the years, I have worked on the imbalances with various modalities.  I did Feldenkrais work, including getting private Awareness Through Movement Lessons from Jeff Haller, who was at the time the head of the Feldenkrais guild.  I got Rolfed twice, but that didn't help much; the first Rolfer couldn't do much work on my right psoas because it was too painful and sensitive.  I did yoga and other therapeutic exercises.

At one point in my early 30s, I did achieve a release of the pattern for a couple of weeks after a 3 month period of intensive yoga, Feldenkrais movement training, tai ji chuan and gong fu hip and leg training, a strictly plant-based diet, very deep tissue self-massage, and acupuncture treatments.  However, only a short time after that, I moved about 1000 pounds of boxes in one afternoon, and when I put the last box down, my back went into spasm and I reactivated the pattern.

Over the next two decades, in spite my efforts to replicate the corrective process that occurred in those three months, I did not achieve re-alignment.  Through my process of working through this, I now see that during those two decades, I spent a lot of the time living out of alignment with my purpose, values, and heart.  I lifted that half ton of boxes in order to get my belongings into a train, because I was moving my residence across the country, for an educational purpose, and with a woman, and I had conflicting feelings about both commitments. I had other goals that would have been better served by staying put.  I have a sense that my body was expressing my inner opposition to the move.  I did not have my thoughts, feelings, and actions in true alignment, and it seems that this manifested in my body.

In addition, working on the core muscular issues took a lot of time and patience and, due to the depth and duration of the imbalance (see below for a little more history of it), it would change very slowly.  I would get impatient with working on 'simple' things like training postural muscles in Mountain Pose, or doing the painful work of deep psoas massage.   I would work on it just long enough to get a little better function, which I deemed "good enough," then shift my attention to other fitness goals.  I rationalized that my alignment was "good enough" because I was able to do some things like front splits and sit in lotus posture for a half hour at a time, despite the imbalance and restriction I felt.  I let my impatience get the best of me.

In late 2012, I decided that I needed to change this, largely because I was experiencing more upper back, shoulder, and hip pain in activities of daily living, more issues with my left knee, and also started experiencing numbness and tingling in my left foot after I did a day-long meditation retreat during which I sat in lotus posture for many of the rounds.

I decided that I had to drop barbell training and adopt the mission of getting my body in correct alignment.  I chose to switch to gymnastic strength training –  aka calisthenics.  Also, since I had already had success using some of the exercises in Pete Egoscue’s book Pain Free to address acute muscle spasms I got from lumbar strains, I obtained a copy of his earlier book, The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion.  This book is in my opinion superior to Pain Free, as it lays out a menu of exercises designed specifically to address the type of misalignment seen in the above photos.  I adopted this menu as a daily discipline since early 2013. 

Working with my body in various calisthenics has been quite enlightening.  To achieve my goal of a gymnast-quality handstand – the one in the center of the photo below – one must have the hands, shoulders, hips, and ankles in alignment.  I have that as my aim and currently use the standards of Coach Sommer of as my guide.

Photo: #throwbackthursday

The GB way is to always strive for the highest standards.  Refinement is an ongoing process.  Refuse to settle for less than your best.
Source: Gymnastic

Before I started this path, I could execute basic barbell exercises (squats, deadlifts, presses, weighted chin ups, etc.) without the same level of attention to the details of body alignment that is required in gymnastics.  Basically, I – or, more correctly, my body – had found ways to function ‘well enough’ to carry out basic movements despite the limitations imposed by the misalignments and muscle imbalances.  In contrast, I find that some basic calisthenic movements are simply impossible to achieve with incorrect body alignment and full joint range of motion, so, unlike barbell training, calisthenics training makes me clearly aware of where and how I am out of alignment and what I need to do to achieve my goals. 

I have for been using the Egoscue method, deep tissue work with tennis balls and foam roller, basic calisthenics, and Iyengar yoga postures to correct the muscular imbalances that underlie my misalignment.  Since I started this program, my alignment has improved considerably, but I have a ways to go.  This pattern has been holding for more than 20 years, so it is going to take some time to unravel it and re-educate my nervous system to accept a new alignment.

I find it an interesting process.  Working on the areas of tension and weakness frequently brings up memories tracing the emergence of the pattern, as if the memories are stored in the stuck tissue and released by working on it.  I have remembered having trouble with my left knee when sitting prolonged periods or stimulated by barbell squatting as far back as high school, and that was before I had any lumbar strains.  So the pattern is very old, probably stemming in part from an injury I had in childhood.  One day I was playing hide and seek with some other kids in the loft of a barn.  I jumped off a stack of hay bales onto the slatted loft; my right foot landed on a slat, and my left foot went through the space between two slats and my fall was stopped when the head of my left tibia slammed into the two slats.  I limped for a while after that. 

Moreover, I see how I in past years have not been patient enough or kind enough to myself to devote to the tedious work of undoing this imbalance, and instead indulged my ego in attempts to move forward without establishing a solid foundation. That also was an expression of the general misalignment of thoughts, feelings, and actions that I already mentioned above. That failure to establish an alignment between my thoughts and actions and my long-term goals and my short-term needs just complicated my condition.  So I see that my physical misalignment was perpetuated by a spiritual misalignment. 

I will be posting more about this as I journey farther down this path.  In the meantime, if you want a woman’s perspective on the process of self-discovery through calisthenics training, visit Tracy’s blog posts on this topic.

From Break Down to Break Through~Learn To Ride The Waves

Fitness, Alignment, and Putting Your Butt To Use!

Releasing A Big Pain in the Neck! | My Healing Journey Continued



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

FBI Reports More Homicides By Knives Than Rifles: Why Don't We Regulate Them?

I get tired of people cranking emotion about guns. 

According to the FBI:

Total murders by firearms steadily declined from 10,225 in 2006 to 8,775 in 2010, during which time people have been purchasing defense rifles (aka "assault" rifles). [1]

In the same time period, murders by rifle have declined from 438 to 358. [1]

Also, in 2010 more people where killed by natural weapons (hands, fists, feet, pushing, etc.) than by rifles (745 for natural weapons, 358 for rifles). [1]

Do we need a license to openly carry our hands, fists, feet, head, all of which can be deadly weapons?

Should we literally dis-arm – i.e. remove the arms and legs from – anyone who is in someone's opinion "psychologically imbalanced"?

Who gets to define "psychologically imbalanced"?  

In 2010, murders by rifle and shotgun totaled 731, whereas murders by knives or cutting instruments totaled 1704. (1)  More than twice as many people were murdered by knives as by all types of rifles. 

So, why do people want to ban or regulate access to rifles, but not to knives?

Who benefits from rifle regulation, but not knife regulation?

Democide, Anyone?

Would the people who call themselves "government" benefit from rifle regulation?

We do have some evidence that politicians are prone to killing sprees conducted on disarmed populations:

"Governments have murdered hundreds of millions of their citizens and those under their control. The questions are, then, how is this democide defined, is genocide included, how many have been killed, how do we find this out, and what sources can be used?"(2)
Here's a body count; deaths due to democide:


Notice that includes 13,778,000 American Indians killed by agents of the U.S. government ("Just following orders, sir").  But the U.S. government would never turn on its own citizens now, would it?

Ask the Japanese Americans.

Does anyone remember Kent State?

I spoke loosely above.  The "U.S. government" does not exist apart from the politicians and their employees.  Could any of these people get power drunk?  Could any of them do something stupid? Are politicians and police particularly saintly in comparison to non-politicians and non-police?  What kind of people are attracted to politics?  Politicians play what De Ropp called the Moloch (seeking victory) and the Hog in Trough (seeking material wealth) games.  If they didn't like power they wouldn't engage in politics.

Suicides and Accidents Compared to Firearm Homicides

In 2010 when 8,775 people were murdered by firearms, according to the CDC 38,364 people committed suicide, and 120,859 died from accidents.[3] 

So 4 times as many people died from suicide as from firearm homicide, and 14 times as many people died from accidents as from firearm homicide.

According to the CDC, 61% of all firearm deaths are suicides.[3] 

Let's outlaw suicides and accidents!

Automobile Mortality Compared to Firearm Homicides

In 2010, motor vehicle injuries killed 33,687 people, about 4 times the number of total firearm homicides and 94 times the number of rifle homicides.[3]  This is in spite of universal licensing for motor vehicle operation.

A high velocity automobile is a lethal weapon, but we let hormonally charged teenagers, depressed and anxious adults drive them around daily.

The math says we would save more lives by greater automobile control than by greater gun control.  Why don't the gun control advocates turn their attention to taking automobiles off the road, or limiting everyone to golf carts?  Why doesn't Obama express outrage at the carnage done by assault vehicles?

Heart Disease and Cancer Mortality Compared to Firearm Homicides

In 2010, nearly 600,000 people died from heart disease, and 575,000 from cancer.[3]  The number of people who die from heart disease and cancer combined is 134 times greater than the number of firearm homicides.

Many heart disease deaths and a significant portion of cancer deaths are preventable by removing animal products from the diet.  Conservatively, the CDC says that 34% of heart disease deaths, 21% of cancer deaths, and 39% of unintentional injuries are preventable.[4]

This means there were about 180,000 unnecessary heart disease deaths, 120,750 unnecessary cancer deaths, and 47,135 unnecessary accidental deaths in 2010.  These numbers are 21, 14, and 5 times the total number of firearm homicides in 2010.

There is pretty overwhelming evidence that the unnecessary heart disease and cancer deaths are the results of eating a diet high in animal products.

The math says that gun control advocates would save more lives promoting plant-based diets than they ever will by promoting gun regulations.

Why do people concerned about the very very small risk of being killed by a random gun man continue to eat animals or feed them to their children?

This reminds me of a passage in the Tao Te Ching:
Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength. 
Tao Te Ching Chapter 33, Feng & English Translation
And one from the Bible:
"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? "  Mathew 7:3-5
Why does the current administration subsidize the meat industry, while trying to restrict public access to defense rifles?

Think about it.  You can't defend yourself with a T-bone.


1. FBI.  Murder Victims By Weapon, 2006-2010. 

2. Democide: Murder by Government.

3. CDC.  Deaths: Final Data for 2010. National Vital Statistics Reports 2013 May 8; 61(4).

4.  CDC.  Up to 40 percent of annual deaths from each of five leading US causes are preventable.