Monday, August 24, 2015

Health & Nutrition - Nutrition Overview - Neil's Take

Macro Nutrients; Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates; even these seemingly common dietary elements spur debate in some circles. I TRY to balance each meal at about a 1/3, 1/3 & 1/3 respectively. Protein gets the most attention only because it is more difficult to work into a diet than the ubiquitous carbohydrate. Fiber, the arch nemesis of high protein diets, never seems to come in large enough supply – psyllium husk fills the gap.  

I view macro nutrient management as an endocrine challenge, the insulin – glucose axis is better regulated when protein is both present in sufficient quality and at the right time so as to “anchor” carbohydrates. The book the Zone addresses macro nutrient management in detail with a fairly complex block system for ensuring the right combination of each, I find the 1/3, 1/3 & 1/3 easier and I believe it achieves about the same thing. One concept from the Zone I like, is the Glycemic Index ascribed to each food type, with white bread as the benchmark at 100.

Once the macro nutrient mix is in place, then I turn to managing the “micro” nutrients; thinking about how to get the right amino acid mix, vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants etc… I attempt to reduce fruit intake relative vegetables in view of the Glycemic Index realities. When I am serious about getting the right balance I avoid bread altogether, all grains are rich in readily digestible carbohydrates so I look to other sources for the “B” complex – I do find a small amount of grain seems to help with “B” absorption, I’m guessing there is some sort of a synergy there in the uptake. 

Protean I get primarily from Meat (New York Strip, paired with a robust Syrah), Chicken and Fish. I am a red meat advocate and I view it as an important part of my diet, as I do Chicken and Fish. I also eat eggs, too infrequently, more regularly would be better; and then there are lintels and beans when I am looking for a fiber augmentations, normally try to add a more dense protean to the mix – tuna etc.

I drink whole milk, I leave a little fat on my steaks and I buy full fat yogurt – I am less afraid of saturated fats than I am Carbs.  There is clear evidence that trans fats are unhealthy so I avoid them, except for the odd sausage roll the farmers market – and the blueberry basket thing – one needs one’s vices. I supplement for all the healthy oils, supplementation here is imperative from my perspective – unless you are a member of an traditional Inuit Band and you eat mountains of raw fish, whale blubber etc. you will never get enough essential oils. Cooked fish fails to provide help here, once you heat unsaturated oils to cooking temperature there is a molecular change and they become saturated. 

Carbs are a bug bear, as yet, I’ve been unable to find a protean balance for my nightly bump of Rum or Scotch, I like to point out to the nutritional puritans out there, that rum is not only a source of carbohydrates but an excellent source of Alcohol as well. For the most part though, veggies are the carb focus. As a rule, one wants the upper digestion to go slowly and lower work to happen quickly.   
To supplement or not to supplement – SUPPLEMENT. Firstly, it is just easier, secondly, there are nutrients that just fail to come in sufficient volumes for optimal health – essential oils for example. Yes there are issues with “unknown” synergies with respect of absorption, or synergies that only whole natural food can supply – so eat what you can and supplement the rest. The anti-supplement movement seems to forget we want to seek optimal health; no single population’s natural diet has filled all the gaps. 

I always like to point out that Winston Churchill saved the free world on fat food and a near constant flow of various types of liquor, incurred massive stress, went six years without sleep and I lived well into his eighties. He once quipped “Stilton and Port, what god has brought together let no man tear asunder”. If you were to listen to the nutrition puritans you’d find these facts impossible to believe. Perhaps liquor offers a mitigating effect against the rigors of the traditional English diet. The key is to think about what works and eat accordingly, and exercise – the modern complex of media and the overwhelming need to for people to ask their doctor about everything has many fretting instead of living.        

Health and Nutrition - Neil's Take


It is a constant fixture in the Canadian medical system that prevention is left by the wayside; it’s no wonder that nutrition as a health promoter gets little play in our “health” system. It is also a constant fixture that Nutrition and environment as causal agents for disease are over looked. There is always banter about shifting the focus from treatment to prevention, then funds get limited and the “health” system goes back to chasing symptoms and putting out fires.

I think my present stage of life could be described as middle aged, as much as I hate to admit it. It is amazing to me that; 1) I have never had a physical 2) I have never had nutritional direction from anyone in the system 3) I have never upon picking up a prescription from a pharmacist been asked if I am taking other medication or what my diet is  4) I have never had blood tests done for heavy medals or other “contaminants” that accumulate over time 5) I have never had testing done that assesses health as it relates to nutrition. The point here is that nutrition is key to health and interface with medications, no other life style choice affects quality of life over time more than nutrition, save perhaps exercise. So why is it so neglected?

I had the good fortune of taking Animal Nutrition for two years, I was fortunate that many of my mammalian pals have a simple stomach like mine – if you’re a horse nutritional person, you’ll be happy to know my dysfunctional cecum is still intact. I am an avid reader on the subject my favorite books The Zone, Fats that Heal and Fats that Kill and Prescription for Natural Healing; I have spent some time thinking about the subject and have my opinions – if you’re interested. You can talk to me about nutrition without a judgmental tirade, I get that everybody has their take on it. It is amazing to me however the deep commitment people get to a way of eating, there are few subjects that can provoke more impassioned debate – save perhaps religion – although, for some, nutrition is religion.

I have a difficult time understanding the dichotomy between the generalized fever related to nutrition in the general population and it’s near absence as a treatment aid or prompter of health in our “health” system. It is really odd, when you consider that people need to eat so there is really no incremental cost to changing diet to the patient, no cost to government save perhaps a comprehensive website and a little preventive spending on testing.

I like the topic so I thought I would post a few blogs – another opinion may be helpful.


Stephen Harper – Progressive - NOT


What has raised the ire of the progressives in the way that Steven Harper has governed the country? What key concerns related to the progressive movement has he attacked – I mean really. There is a mountain of partisan rhetoric about the “the death of science”, or “the killing of the press” or “the gutting of the environmental review process”, but look around, is there science, is there press, is there environmental review – the answer in all three cases is of course YES and in spades.

Here is an important fact, the present Supreme Court is the most progressive in Canadian history, they read the charter and they are applying it; the majority of whom are appointed by Stephen Harper. So far it seems the only death that is apparent during Steven Harper’s tenure is “death” with dignity – an event I’m most grateful for. Did Mr. Harper do this, NO, but the product of some of his efforts in the Justice Selection process contributed; whether he agrees with it or not has no relevance.

When I peruse the progressive agenda and Mr. Harper’s record, the progressive agenda is intact, unscathed, forwarded in fact. The reason is in no way anchored in Mr. Harper’s affection for the progressive agenda, it is anchored in his ability to be practical and respond to political reality.  The political reality is the progressive agenda’s proverbial horse is out of the barn and there is no closing the door in Canada ever – we are a progressive nation FULL STOP. So now I posit to you, with the progressive agenda ensconced what is there to worry about.

There is plenty to worry about, the key element for Canada is an element the government has only a small influence over, the economy. Mr. Harper’s tenure as PM came at the end of the largest economic expansion in human history and, as expansions do, it ended in a contraction – a contraction of massive scale, unprecedented ever; even by the great depression. The causes of the 2007-08 collapse are many and complex, it suffice to say however, there was only one thing left to do for the Harper Government, react. React they did in a very effective way, granted they had the support of a strong petro sector - yet,  under the late Mr. Flaherty's lead this government responded appropriately to maximal effect. Canada weathered the worst downturn in a long time, better than most of it’s cohort.

Has the Harper’s government been a little over zealous in some areas of intelligence, to a degree I would grant you – Yes. Has Mr. Harper’s early experience as PM with the press and managing a few train wrecks molded the inclination to control strongly his government’s interface with the press – Yes. Has Mr. Harper responded to bureaucrats who got political with their mandate with some heavy handed action, YES – would I have done the same thing – probably, would have Mr. Chretien, certainly.

The point is, the key things that Canadians hold dear are, for the most part, unchallenged and or enhanced by Mr. Harper. The real determining factor for the near and middle term is the management of the economy, Mr. Harper is an economist. He has shown himself to be both tactical and strategic in his efforts on the foreign front; trade agreements have expanded greatly under his tenure. Government accountability still has a ways to go, but Mr. Harper has brought some advances. It is important to note, what he has done in his own interests, he can do for Canada’s interests.      

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Islam & the West – Contemplations on a way forward.


It is difficult to improve human action if you’re totally attached to a fixed set of beliefs. The migration of destructive human action to constructive human action requires the ability to manage innate human modality, it is innate in us to adhere to the “program set” we’ve been handed and to the people that share it.

One of the most constructive elements of a free market is the presence of “creative destruction” and the resulting “disruption” in the market place – it winnows out decadence, permits change and feeds dynamism. This phenomenon has advanced the material well-being of western society more than any other, its existence has been contingent on the acceptability to change course. The stasis that is effected by the dogmatic adherence to scriptures of any kind, precludes this important force to come to play in the advancement of human relations. This is in no way a call for a nihilistic bent in the approach to religions, but rather, a call to allow approach to modify in view of new knowledge while in pursuit of improved outcome.

Inherent in all advancement is heuristics, here again; the stasis that is effected by the dogmatic adherence to scriptures of any kind precludes this important force to come to play in the advancement of human relations. The rigidity placed on populations by religion tends to generate inertia, inertia of actions that are both good and bad. There has been inability on all our parts to break the cycles that are causing discord. 

Religion tends to want to “silo” human existence, in this way it fractures us and erects territorial boundaries, which become barriers to harmonious coexistence. Clearly defined and material territorial boundaries can normally be addressed with tit & tat, metaphysical territorial boundaries  bore of religion are ephemeral, ill-defined and come with a complex of beliefs and morays that reside nearly at a sub-conscious level – when these boundaries are breached, our identity and or state of being is challenged.

“Because religion seeks to give meaning to our lives, it’s bound up with all the components of our understanding of who we are; as individuals, as members of families, of communities, of nations, peoples; even as part of the whole cosmos. And when, in those contexts, we feel threatened or under siege, or lacking in respect or alone and humiliated, then we will utilize that which seeks to give meaning to defend ourselves.” Rabbi David Rosen

The challenge is to bring all parties to a place of commonality, to identify a common substrate on which human interface can take place, a means by which to leave erect the silos that religion has  built, but reach through their walls in a non-threatening way. There are many commonalities in the human condition, safety and security is one, the advancement of the one’s we love another. The one point of commonality that all are dependent on is the assembly and collection of material goods – this is the one point of commonality that religion strives to separate us from. Many in the peace movement see materialism as the enemy, the mere satiation of human desire, theirs’s is a pursuit to rise above the physicality of it all, to avoid being sullied by material want; there maybe or may not be merit in this as a personal pursuit, but it scales poorly and worse, it ignores the reality of the majority of earths inhabitants who scratch to subsist.

“Every day we are reminded of our differences and the reasons why there is confrontation and violence in the world. But what is truly needed is the opposite: to emphasise what unites us. Once we realise that every human being has the right to lead a dignified life our differences become less important. On this common ground we can work out how to live with our differences and take advantage of the positive opportunities that reside within them.”  HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway

Perhaps a commitment to a general state of dignity for humanity is the answer. Dignity is offered here in contrast to a largely a comparative assessment, but rather, as the human right to a “quality of being worthy of honour or respect”. It is certainly the case that in an intracultural circumstance a sense of dignity tends to be derived by a comparative assessment and absent a compelling rationale to see otherwise this is true of an intercultural assessment of dignity as well. So when addressing a negatively affected population, it is critical to provide a compelling rationale for a reduced state of being on their part; this is achieved by offering recognition for the sources of the negative outcome being endured.

Dignity is rarely present when material needs are unmet. We, in the west, live in a state of relative prosperity when contrasted to most of the world and certainly the majority of the Muslim World. This reality is a by-product of historical occurrences that brought European prominence to the world and much of the Muslim World. In many ways, the management of Europe’s withdrawal from the Muslim World at the fall of the Ottoman Empire left discord and marginalisation in the region and fear by the west of a resurgent Muslim World precluded the fair remuneration for resources extracted from Muslim territories. If a component of dignity is rooted in the material well-being, perhaps the provisioning the means to prosperity would focus human action on the acquisition of material well-being and away from violent action; thus harmonising the human enterprise and neutralising  theology a source of antagonism. 


Ottawa-shootings rational response please  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gun Control - No Thanks

As a Canadian interested in firearms, I am often dismayed at the anti-gun culture that has been cultivated in Canada. There has been an intentional effort, by primarily liberal federal governments, to actuate an anti-gun culture – under the rubric of public safety, but mostly as a cultural differentiation with the United States. The issue has been successfully, but inappropriately, attached to women’s issues and negative events associated with crime. One expects that any issue is subject to distortion in a competitive political situation, as competing factions fight it out attempting to sway the public and government; it seems this issue heightens this phenomena. I find myself, a person who prides himself on being balanced and rational, getting very impassioned when I enter in to discourse; I have concluded it really is “cultural” – culture, like morals, comes with your mother’s milk, you just believe. So I’ve forced myself through the process of exploring the “other side” on numerous occasions, to attempt to understand better the anti-gun movement – I come out of the process convinced that guns are okay, they come with some risk, but when the risk is contextualized to daily life it is minimal.

“Research suggests that about 70,000 patients a year experience preventable, serious injury as a result of treatments. More shocking, a landmark study published a decade ago estimated that as many as 23,000 Canadian adults die annually because of preventable “adverse events” in acute-care hospitals alone.” National Post

”About one in five (21%) firearm-related deaths in Canada is the result of a criminal offence, while the majority (79%) are the result of suicide, accident, or legal intervention (Statistics Canada 2012).”

Part of the challenge of addressing this issue is that it has been so political in Canada. At one side of the issue are the Conservatives who have used the issue as a vote getter from the more conservative rural voter, and on the other side, Liberals, using it as a vote getter from the urban and largely female population. The attachment to women’s issues has most Canadian women wanting gun control or the removal of guns from private hands altogether.

The cultural divorce between Canada as a nation and guns is a divergence from nearly our entire history. Canada since first contact, has had firearms at the heart of its development; the fur trade was facilitated in large measure by firearms and their trade. I find the history of firearms as they have interfaced with our history in Canada a fascinating thing, as Canadians built Canada, firearms were a critical element of the process; since our inception people have had and used firearms. There is no merit in ignoring this reality and it is a political red herring to whitewash an important aspect of our history or to loose it to an attempt to build a cultural firewall around Canada in a way that is adversarial to gun owners.

There have been several occasions where I’ve attempted to “enlighten” a person from the anti-gun lobby as to what my attachment of firearms is; to have them understand what resides in me that makes them important. For me, firearms have an interesting history, they are fascinating in function, form and action and they are a useful tool. They are a cultural icon for self-reliance. They offer security in so much, that if things ever get tough I can always go get something to eat. I spend a lot of time in the wilderness and take comfort in having a firearm along for protection in bear country and the like. Some of my firearms were my father’s, there is a strong inter-generational appreciation – and once again, a cultural inclination to share a weapon between generations. You can in one way or another rationalize various aspects of my culture away with any number of “arguments”, but for me, I feel better knowing I have a firearm for these reasons - I "believe" in them. It is okay for other to rationalize away my reasons for having them, it is unacceptable that government legislates away my right to have one when there is very little risk in my or other law abiding people having guns.

In the context of the United States a portion of the “gun culture” holds firearms are a means of domestic protection. I believe there is a constitutional argument in Canada as well for the retention of firearms as an instrument for personal safety. Section seven of the Charter offers as a human right, Life, Liberty and Security of person. In the same manner as the Canadian Supreme Court held that if the state is unable to see to the health of an individual as readily as the individual themselves, the individual them self has the right to deploy personal resources to purchase or seek treatment independently. It is clear that while the police services are exemplary in Canada, police are unable to respond as readily as an individual to a serious immediate threat; it is an imperative then that the state support self-protection.   

The right to bear arms is granted in the constitution of the Untied States to protect the authority of people, the concern that drove the inclusion of the second amendment by the founders of the country was the history that showed, that a disarmed populous was without means to assert itself and generated the hundreds of years of oppression that preceded the founding of the United States. There is a cost to the second amendment in the United States, one needs to keep an eye on the benefit - take a look at history and tell me that people have never been exploited or suppressed - then tell me that the rationale for the second amendment is invalid.  Scotland, a country that many of the founders of the United States were from or were educated by, was forced to servitude for generations. We have evolved to where we are in the modern world, with the enlightenment's values growing; in large measure due to the influence of the United States in the world, we need to be mindful of what the values of the enlightenment have brought us and by what means they have progressed.

The Canadian leadership’s desire to provide a national identity separate and apart from the United States is necessary, we want and must build a strong and independent Canada. In the process however, we should retain from all places cultural artifacts that serve progress and that protect documents like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Freedom has never been a “free” or “no risk” venture, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the advancement of enlightenment values it represents holds as equity 500 years of toil, hard fights and massive confrontations – we sit at the pinnacle of human existence today because people accepted risk for progress.

Many in the Canadian intellectual “bank”, our academics particularly, rail against firearms partly out of fear, (note I said fear and as opposed to public safety) and partly because they are influenced by the manufactured and recent culture that was introduced as a means of to differentiate Canada from the United States. There is a strong resistance to the culture of “self-reliance” and independence by many in our “governing elite”, a cultural element that is strongly represented among firearm owners, this is partly residual from our history of governance and partly because it is antithetical to the culture of dependence that shores up the collectivist agenda. The rift over firearms in Canada is a cultural rift, it is my sincere hope we can reconcile it in a way that will let me do a little bird hunting in the fall and a little time in the bush with the comfort of having my rifle along.