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Food Allergies, Food Sensitivities and a Rotation Diet

Food allergies and sensitivities can wreak havoc with your body. The symptoms can run the gamut from nausea, hives, diarrhea, bloating, weight gain, and mood swings up to and including death. If you are allergic to shellfish or peanuts, you already know about it and know how serious exposure can be. But what if your allergy or sensitivity isn’t that obvious? What if you’ve never had a problem before and now you do?

You might begin to suspect a food sensitivity if you notice that after eating a certain food, you have indigestion, belch more often, have diarrhea or just don’t feel quite right. Fatigue, irritability and congestion can also be symptoms of food sensitivity.

If this happens, the best course of action is to remove the offending food from your diet for 30 days. Monitor yourself to see if you have those symptoms once you remove the food. Then try adding the food back to your diet, in a small amount, after 30 days. Do the symptoms re-appear? If so, you’ll need to eliminate the food again. If it’s something you’d like to be able to eat again, extend the removal period to 90 days and try again. If it’s something you don’t care that much about, drop it permanently.

For example, if you’ve been eating eggs every morning and suddenly you start noticing gastro distress or other symptoms every morning after breakfast, you should eliminate eggs from your diet. If you no longer have symptoms after dropping the eggs, you’ve likely pinpointed the problem. You might be able to add them back to your diet after 30 days, but only if you rotate them with other morning protein. Of course, if after a few days of eliminating eggs from your diet you still have the same symptoms, you should investigate further as there might be another offending food.

It is possible to develop a food sensitivity due to over-exposure. Chicken breasts day in and day out can cause a sensitivity to all things chicken including eggs and soup. I personally have to watch my powdered protein exposure as I will develop a sensitivity. If I continue to drink the protein shakes in spite of the symptoms, I can possibly push that protein powder into the never again column.

As with most things in life, not all people will develop sensitivities and some will develop them to such an extent that going on a rotation diet is the only alternative. A rotation diet is one where you divide foods into families and only eat from each family once every four or seven days.

The websites below go into great detail about rotation diets including offering a sample four-day rotation.

Description of Rotation Diet

4-Day Rotation Diet Example

Principles of a Rotation Diet
Food Allergy Rotation Diet

Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss, Wellness and Longevity

There’s a growing army of people who fast during the day, or part of the day, depending on their goals and personal circumstances. Calorie restriction and fasting are thought to contribute to wellness and longevity, weight loss, beneficial blood lipids, decreased inflammatory markers, diabetes control, arthritis, possibly even lowered incidence of deadly illnesses like cancer. Short-term, intermittent fasting is a simple, almost enjoyable way to achieve this.

I thought fasting was done for spiritual purposes, or, honestly, something the outer wing of wellness seekers did for a sort of beyond-reasonable self-denial. I’m all for self-discipline and its practice, wish I were even better at it, but consideration of muscle wasting or even accidental anorexia caused a nearly automatic mental shutdown when the topic of fasting arose.

Today I’m solidly in the opposite camp: It sounds more radical than it is. From the physical and mental point of view, there’s something to emptying the stomach and the associated blood chemistry changes, and from what we’ve been able to find, muscle wasting simply doesn’t happen under short, intermittent fasts. Just another entry in the “tall gym tales” book, apparently.

While I’m only today finishing week two of a limited version of daytime fasting, beginning by extending the overnight fast from about 10 hours to 15, the report so far is extremely positive. I feel terrific, energetic, clear-thinking and absolutely enjoy the lighter feeling of an empty stomach. The weight loss has slipped into place, even just a little, at about a pound-and-a-half, but it’s notable since the past two months at 1,350 daily calories really made no budge in the scale weight.

Not yet prepared to file a report, but since Dave wrote about it this week left me needing an overview spot to drop you off, I’ll recap a bit from our recent forum thread, and leave you with a link to the wiki page where you’ll find material for your own research.

About the idea dieters will burn off muscle tissue by fasting, Byron Chandler helps us get over some issues:

“If you are ever going to lose any fat, you’re going to have to burn some stored energy! So you have to get over the muscle mag mentality that running off stored energy is a bad thing because you’ll burn muscle. Also, you have to believe that what muscle gets used for energy is rapidly replenished; it is only a very temporary loss. I have spoken to a fair number of people and really there just doesn’t seem to be a problem losing muscle when eating this way. I personally am convinced that burning stored energy sources is a good thing. I think it will lower blood sugar (even on the non-fasting regular-diet days), improve insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, lower LDL and improve HDL, and burn bodyfat. This to me says that fasting would improve the use of fat as an energy source, improve insulin sensitivity, and prevent spare protein from gluconeogenisis, which would all be good.”

To the question of improved cholesterol blood lipids, he goes on to explain:

“Crude version of cholesterol metabolism: You make LDL out of excess calories. You make HDL to bring the LDL back to the liver and use it. This is normally a slow process, takes like maybe five DAYS. Probably because if you’re already feeding your face, your body never really needs to get around to burning off LDL — it is never a priority. LDL is associated with feast and rest; HDL is associated with work and fast. If you make yourself hungry, your body will get after that LDL, make some HDL and burn it.”

More links and further information (scroll down a bit for the new stuff; the wiki page was written for those who hadn’t necessarily seen this blog post): Intermittent Fasting

EDTA Chelation for Heart Disease?

Let’s start with the facts, what’s known to be true about chelation, before we move to the possibilities and the rumors of quackery. Chelation (pronounced “key” rather than “che”) is the process of bonding metal or mineral, and in medical terms can be done either via intravenous (IV) or orally by pill to remove excess metals or toxins from the body.

EDTA chelation is approved by the FDA to treat lead poisoning and for heavy metal removal; different chelation chemicals are used for various purposes. In fact, multiple agents are used in each treatment, such as adding magnesium and potassium, and perhaps bicarbonate to reduce acidity.

Its first documented use in treatment of atherosclerosis was in 1956, but it’s still not approved to treat cardiovascular disease, nor does insurance pay for it in that instance. Still, the anecdotal evidence is accumulating, and that may get more solid next year when the results of an on-going National Institutes of Health (NIH) study are published. This is a 5-year trial that began in 2002 to determine the efficacy and safety of EDTA IV chelation therapy on coronary artery disease, specifically adults who have previously had a heart attack.

At this point, there are only guesses at how this works for reducing blood vessel stress, if it works at all. Researchers don’t yet know if it actually pulls the calcium from the plaques blocking the arteries or whether by reducing the metals in the bloodstream, arterial oxidative stress is decreased along with inflammation. Or something else entirely, no one knows; the majority have never heard of the treatment or those who have doubt it works at all.

But heck, let’s just make the jump from skeptic to curious — it’s easy enough to see how such a process would benefit us all. Arsenic… lead… cadmium… now mercury: metals are known to be toxic to the human body, some of us more susceptible than others, yet all affected somewhat by metal poisoning. Chelation is acknowledged even by the AMA to work for removing metals, and is covered by most insurance companies for treatment of metal poisoning, so why wouldn’t it work to treat people like Dave who may have problems with oxidation causing arterial disease?

Neither of us is convinced this will work. In fact, even Dave’s new doc (Warren Klausner, D.O.), who has seen IV chelation work time and time again in his own patients, tells us the success of chelation is varied. Some of his patients have remarkable results; some have moderate success and others can’t tell much of a difference.

It’s a gamble, really, of time (each of the 20 or 30 treatments takes nearly three hours) and of money (the treatments are $125 each and, in Dave’s case for cardiovascular disease, are not covered by insurance). But it’s not an unreasonable gamble. We paid more than that for our portion of Dave’s by-pass operation, and that was more of a targeted patch than a permanent fix. If chelation works, it’s a systemic solution to clear the circulatory system throughout the body, rather than replacing arteries of the heart that may again get blocked… and all this without major surgery.

While it’s only an experiment of one, we’ll make notes and provide an assessment, pro or con — and truthfully, we have no preconceived notion other than a positive but faint hope — for others who have arterial problems such as heart disease or peripheral arterial disease and are heading for radical medical options.

Most chelation doctors are registered with the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and you can search out a local physician on their site if you find yourself interested in a consultation.

For the rest of us, the average aging adult with no apparent health issues who may be wondering about taking EDTA pills, Dr. Klausner says he hasn’t seen any research showing the effectiveness of oral chelation. However, Dr. Garry Gordon, perhaps the most well-known modern chelation practitioner, says in this article, “In our toxic world, oral EDTA offers potential benefits as diverse as those seen with some of our most powerful essential nutrients. I believe it has become as essential today for optimal health as any essential nutrient.”

There are plenty of skeptics, way lots. For a collection of opposing viewpoint material, spend some time at Dr. Stephen Barrett’s Chelation Watch site, where you’ll find much of the anti-chelation pages organized. At first read, it appears the major gripe is that the studies done to date were inconclusive or not done using the double-blind protocol, and secondly, that there are chelation scam artists at work, no big surprise there.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 medical doctors use IV chelation in their practice here in the US, and it’s even more commonly used in Europe. Literally hundreds of thousands of patients have been “chelated,” perhaps even millions. Problems — side effects — of IV chelation include kidney pain, scary indeed, yet when patients who have kidney damage are pre-screened and dissuaded from treatment, problems are virtually eliminated if the chemical drip is slowed down and if adequate water is consumed by the patient. Conservative chelation doctors tamp down the drip to take at least two hours, even up to four, while monitoring the patient during treatment. Slower intake seems to prevent side effects.

Additionally, not everyone is a candidate. Blood tests should be done prior to beginning treatments, and the doc should review the patient’s prescriptions and supplement intake to determine the safety of the chelation chemicals in combination with the person’s other medicines.

Wild speculation here, coming from complete ignorance: I wonder if ineffectiveness has anything to do with using the wrong chemicals. That is, since it’s *known* that chelation can clear out metals, would chelation have worked on heart patients who felt no benefits had a different solution been used? It’s quite a time and financial commitment. Patients who don’t feel better are unlikely to take another run at it with a different doctor using other agents.

This article by Dr. Ward Dean discusses chelation as an underutilized treatment for heart disease and overall wellness, and is a good place for me to drop you as we wait for Dave’s treatments to begin or good, bad or null results to report.

Finally, we’re both hopeful, and Dave’s willing to invest a couple of months’ trial. Just the same, we’re completely aware that we may be back a month or two from now with a dismal report, and a laugh at ourselves for jumping, however briefly, off the traditional medicine treadmill.

Inflammation, Heart Disease and Aging

Dave’s open-heart surgery was February 23, and since that time we’ve gone a little deeper into our search for wellness in longevity, in particular relating to heart health. We looked at the known and suspected causes of clogged arteries (actual names: arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis), a few of the better known alternative treatments to decrease heart disease, lab tests for heart health, excess iron in the blood, and supplementation for a healthy heart.

To wrap up the overview, let’s consider inflammation, a common link between not only heart disease, but nearly all diseases of aging, autoimmune diseases and many cancers. Add to heart disease the following list, and you’ve got a full pallet: diabetes, arthritis, gum disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Alzheimer’s, asthma, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), stroke, depression, chronic fatigue, allergies and many more.

Now, I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I’ll bet a good number of you didn’t even read the invitation, so let’s do that now.

Inflammation is a vital part of both our nervous and immune systems; you know it as redness, heat and swelling. Internally it protects us from viruses by raising the heat to eliminate infections. But what happens as we age or pile on the excesses? Our inflammation system gets out of whack, our pro-inflammation outworks our anti-inflammation chemicals and inflammation begins to build up.

This hit home with me, and maybe you, too: I’ve noticed how little it takes to stress me out these days when compared with the volume of stresses I could handle easily in years past.

Now then, remember our discussion of C-Reactive Protein earlier this month? C-RP is a blood marker of all-source inflammation. That’s what the test is looking for: elevated levels of inflammation. If your last blood test showed elevated C-RP, it’s a bleeping alarm that needs your attention.

And another clear indication of systemic damage: gum disease. If you have gum disease and your dentist didn’t refer you to a cardiologist, you need to ask why not. And should the answer not be wholly satisfactory, you need to find not only a cardiologist, but a new dentist as long as you’re out scrounging up referrals.

Now let’s get to work and tease out some anti-inflammatory remedies.

  • Stop smoking.

  • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

  • Add olive oil to your menu, and work to balance Omega 3s and 6s.

  • Eat fish a few days a week, and take fish oil (Omega-3) the other days.

  • Exercise daily.

  • Decrease red meat and dairy products.

  • Increase your time between meals, and lower your calorie intake.

  • Identify food or environmental allergies and eliminate them.

  • Identify stressors (work, family, money, anger, frustration, commute) and work to smooth these.

  • Take a baby aspirin daily, for life.

  • Drink hot tea, black or green, although green may turn out to be a little better.

In looking at wellness and longevity, we’re a bit at odds with ourselves as healthy and aggressive weight training enthusiasts. Aging well is about keeping inflammation, immune reaction and stress in balance. Yet in our training we’re all about vigor, aggressive lifting and putting ourselves into continuous inflammation. We’re running our immune system at full tilt, and it’s backfiring as we hit our 50s, 60s and beyond.

In fact, excessive workouts cause inflammation. When you look a little closer, pursuing muscular development too far is not as healthy as we like to think. Over the long term, it’s just another excessive stressor that will more than likely decrease our healthy longevity. I’d say, more than anything, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to during this past couple of months of research into Dave’s arterial disease.

Looks like Mom was mixed up when she said moderation is deadly.

Supplements for Heart Health

Are there food supplements that will help build cardiovascular strength, prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce the probability of a heart attack or stroke? You betcha.

Let’s take a look at the options.

Numero Uno is not a supplement, but since it tops the list of every known fix for heart disease, we’ll take another sec for the laggers. It’s this: Quit smoking. Seriously, if you’re even half-heartedly reading any part of this website for health reasons, there’s simply no excuse for not taking control of this weakness in your life. Whatever it takes, make this the absolute top priority each and every day until you’ve beaten the cig master. Look, you’re not going to have a magical, life-changing moment that will make this one easy. Just… be done with it.

Top tier of the supplement list, beneficial for wellness features across the board:

# 1 — A good quality vitamin/mineral with no iron, cold-processed, time-released and micro-encapsulated will supply the nutrients lacking in our never-perfect daily diet. A top quality multi is hard to find, so if you review the multi-vitamin you’ve been taking and find it lacking, no sense spending hours searching out a vitamin you’re still not sure you can trust. We trust, take, recommend and sell Super Spectrim.

#2 — Omega 3 oil (especially fish oil and walnuts) is shown to lower resting heart rate, improve nervous system, control heart rate, and lower blood pressure, bad blood fats and inflammation. Your joints will thank you, too, as will your brain a few decades from now.

# 3 — Aspirin lowers inflammation, reduces platelet stickiness and clotting. Take half a regular aspirin or two low-dose baby aspirins (162 mgs daily), unless you have a history of gastrointestinal bleeding, take a blood thinner or have otherwise been advised against it by your doctor. This is a forever thing; it takes three years to get to the full benefit of aspirin therapy. A daily dose of aspirin may also decrease the risk of some cancers.

# 4 — Increase dietary fiber to reduce inflammation, control cholesterol levels, improve blood pressure, blood sugar and weight control. Suggested dietary fiber intake is 20-35 grams per day, yet most of us get about half that, or less. Add up the fiber in an average day’s food and if it’s not topping the 25-gram marker, use a daily psyllium supplement such as Metamucil or Fiber Choice.

# 5 — CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance beneficial for overall heart strength; it improves heart muscle function and cellular oxygen uptake. It’s VITAL if you’re taking a cholesterol-lowering statin because statins block the production of CoQ10 in exactly the same way they work on cholesterol. If you’re taking a prescribed statin, take 300-400 mgs daily for as long as you stay on the medication. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that positively affects blood pressure, and is also supportive for those with diabetes and cancer.

Second tier for those with a larger supplement wallet or those with known heart disease or higher risk factors:

Many of these supplements are useful for a variety of wellness and heart health issues, but as we delve a little deeper into the individual supplements, it’s helpful to have your blood labwork report handy. Some of these are specific to certain heart disease markers, yet are a waste of money for the rest. Once you know your blood panel, you can zero in on your needs and make a commitment to precise supplementation to counter any inherited or lifestyle problems.

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is useful across the board for what’s now called Metabolic Syndrome, a red flag for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and peripheral vascular disease (PAD). Metabolic Syndrome includes the risk factors of low HDL, elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), excessive abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, high LDL, and elevated blood pressure. ALA is known to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and free radical oxidation of other cells.

Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) is a powerful antioxidant that can protect against the development of heart disease as it protects against arterial damage.

Vitamin C works in conjunction with Vitamin E to promote heart strength, and may raise HDL and lower LP(a); use at least 1 gram.

Folic acid (Vitamin B-9) lowers homocysteine and reduces plaque, while modifying cholesterol (raises HDL, lowers LDL), lowering LP(a), fibrinogen and triglycerides, although a full complement of B vitamins may be even more useful.

Calcium assists in heart function among other health benefits.

Magnesium stabilizes the heart’s electrical system; deficiency is common and is linked to elevated CRP and heart disease. You’ll also sleep better if you take magnesium before bedtime, especially on an empty stomach.

Vitamin D lowers inflammation and insulin resistance, and deficiency is also linked to heart disease.

Selenium promotes a healthy heart through better circulation.

increases energy production in heart tissue.

Hawthorn berry
improves all functions of heart muscle.

Anti-inflammatory herbs including ginger and turmeric lower CRP and improve circulation.

MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane), a sulfur, lowers inflammation throughout the body, and is also beneficial for joint pain.

Policosanol lowers LDL and may increase HDL at 20mg daily dosages.

Green tea lowers LDL, aids in blood vessel health and lowers triglycerides.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) reduces LDL and raises HDL when used in higher doses. However higher doses — the 1,500-2,500 mgs needed to make a serious difference — usually cause uncomfortable flushing that’s hard to tolerate. The flushing may be lessened by taking the niacin about 20 minutes after eating or after your daily aspirin. If you decide to try high-dose niacin and discover it does the trick on your LDL/HDL cholesterol, you’ll need to add regular blood tests for liver function and need on-going medical overview.

Pomegranate juice or extract promotes a healthy cardiovascular system via its antioxidant activity, by building nitric oxide, normalizes blood pressure and, apparently, even decreasing clogged arteries. There’s also new research ongoing in cancer prevention with pomegranate.

Beta Sitosterol, known more for prostate health than for heart health, may lower cholesterol and inflammation. The use for prostate relief is well known and researched; its use in treatment of heart disease has not yet been well researched.
Lutein, known to prevent macular degeneration (keeps your eyes healthy as you age), is the newest vascular protection supplement shown to protect against arterial damage. New research is now under way, however as a sure-fire eye health protection, you may as well add this to the mix now and enjoy dual benefits.

Guggul Lipid is an ancient Indian extract from a resin that may reduce cholesterol and inflammation, act as an antioxidant and reduce platelet aggregation to make blood thinner. It also reduces insulin resistance and is used as a modern-day fat burner. However, there’s also some negative press about this one; some of the studies have not been repeated successfully, and, in fact, some have shown negative lipid profiles by actually increasing LDL cholesterol. About 10% of guggul extract users develop skin rashes almost immediately after beginning with the supplement. There are enough negatives on this one to inspire caution; don’t try it unless you’re planning to do blood work both before starting and at about the six-week mark.

There’s one more I’d be remiss if I left it off: red rice yeast extract. It’s a natural statin that works just like the prescription your doc probably gave you during your last checkup. The thing is, it’s not regulated like pharmaceuticals and you need to be certain of the manufacturer. Some of the red rice yeast extract products are less precise in production since supplement manufacturing may not be as standardized as prescription drug manufacturing. If you decide to try it, beware of its use because it works the same as statins — that is to say, you MUST use supplemental CoQ10 with it. That said, it’ll almost definitely lower your LDL cholesterol.
That’s quite a long list, and not fully fleshed out. The purpose here is to outline a starting point for your research, rather than document the pros and cons of every heart-healthy supplement.

Your take-home message is this: Start at the top and make haste slowly, getting your bloodwork done several times a year to determine your progress or setbacks. Review your lab results, make careful notes and adjust your supplement regime to match your needs. This is truly the only way you’re going to find the precise ingredients that will keep your blood pumping for your long, healthy life.

And say, it’s personal. Your spouse needs to do it, too, as does your mom, or your dad. And each will probably need a different plan than you. Luckily, the top tier works for all of us.

Iron poor blood? Possible, but not likely

Excessive iron intake from Dave’s higher-than-average beef consumption is one of the elements that keeps popping up in my continuing search for the cause of Dave’s arterial blockage. There’s some cause for concern, but the good news is the testing is easy and the fix simple. In fact, I almost hope this is the cause, because it means the search for the origin of his heart disease is over and the long-term solution at hand.

Here’s what I discovered. You’ll find variances here, and as with the other heart health markers we’ve discussed, you’ll need to uncover your own place in the findings.

First and what I consider most important: Don’t over-react to hyped-up media reports. Most of us are completely safe because our bodies absorb what’s needed and no more.

The problem arises when there are excessive amounts, over-absorption or a defective metabolism caused by a genetic disorder that affects approximately 10-15% of the population. Absorbed iron does not get excreted like most other vitamins and minerals, and is instead stored forever in body tissue and organs; the only way to get rid of a toxic amount of iron is through blood loss.

We’ve all heard of anemia, and who doesn’t remember Geritol, the old-guy treatment for “iron poor blood”? But the fact is, too much iron is more common than too little, and, amazingly enough, there are multiple types of anemia, most of which are caused not by too little iron, but by too much. Who’da thunk?

Too much iron causes fatigue and joint pain, and increases the risk of arthritis, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, cirrhosis of the liver and Type 2 diabetes.

The usual first symptom, fatigue, is the same whether too much iron is the cause or too little, a clear signal that we need a blood test before we self-treat.

Let’s add iron to the blood tests to request during your next physical, specifically, serum iron, TIBC (total iron binding capacity to check saturation) and serum ferritin. These results will tell you and your doc whether you have high iron absorption and need to be concerned with your dietary habits — or indeed need to get aggressive with your blood draws — or, on the other side of the spectrum, need to up your iron-rich foods.

Note: if you have high iron absorption, it’s likely your blood relatives do, too. Give ’em a clue.

Recommended dietary intake (RDA) of iron
, assuming no anemia and no excessive absorption, is 7-27 mgs per day, around 7 mg for children to a high of 27 mg for pregnant women, the average being 8-10 mg for men, and for women 18 mg for menstruating, down to 8 mg after menopause.

Now, if you take a look at that, you’ll see it’s pretty easy to get that in an average Western diet. For instance, nine ounces of beef about does it; your daily iron needs are met right there — everything else is excess.

For certain this means men and menopausal women do not need iron in our vitamin/mineral supplements, and we don’t need iron-fortified breakfast cereal, either.

A couple of people have asked about the iron in their beloved liver tablets, and I think the answer should be (you’re gonna hate this)… it depends. If your iron absorption is normal, there’s no cause for alarm — you get to keep your splendid supplement. However, if you happen to be one who over-absorbs iron or your iron level is high, this is seriously bad juju and I’m sorry to say you’ll be going off liver, fresh or tablets doesn’t matter, at least until you get the iron in your body reduced. Blood donations are in your future, and, in fact, you may need a doc’s prescription for blood-draw overkill to speed up the process.

Regular blood donations are allowed once every 56 days. This gives the body time to replace the red blood cells. However, in people with excess iron this process takes less time, and for them more frequent blood draws are in order because the iron will continue to accumulate with regular food intake. The idea is to draw often enough to deplete the iron, which may be as much as weekly for a few months in extreme cases. As long as the red blood cells replenish that quickly, the iron is still too high.

Let me say again, excessive iron accumulation is not rare. But it’s not altogether common either, and in any case, it’s easily fixed. The trick is discovery (through a simple blood test), followed by treatment (blood draw and attention to lowering iron-rich food intake).

Dave’s got an iron test coming up next week, and I’ll ask to get mine tested with the labwork for my next physical exam.

Take home message for you: Get a blood test; don’t use a vitamin/mineral with added iron unless you’re pregnant or menstruating; give blood a few times a year to reduce iron, mercury, pesticides and other toxic chemicals circulating in the bloodstream. Vitamin C increases absorption of iron — separate your Vitamin C from your meals unless you’re under-absorbing iron.
And, of course, if you’re diagnosed anemic, disregard all the above.

Alternative Treatments for Heart Disease

Over the past few weeks we’ve fleshed out the thin mainstream cholesterol hype and discovered a thing or two about heart health in the process. Now, for the benefit of the early adopters, let’s get a bit edgier and move off the range, if only just a little.

Both of Dave’s docs said there’s currently nothing that clears blocked arteries roto-rooter-style available now or even close on the horizon (other than starvation, which apparently does work), but in today’s blog post we’ll do a drive-by glance at some of the alternative solutions that may be gaining traction.

I’ve mentioned before my appreciation for our sharp-as-a-tack Now Foods rep, Ed Fry, a guy who’s been in the health supplement industry for about 40 years. He tapped me on the shoulder again this week after reading an earlier blog entry wherein I blamed the iron in beef for a significant portion of Dave’s heart disease woes. Ed points out that while the iron is definitely a factor that needs to be addressed, it may be the arachidonic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid, (yes, I know it sounds like something spidery) found in conventionally grown grain-fed beef. We’ve talked about grass-fed beef any number of times, but then it was for the omega oil variance, up to 20:1 omega 6 over omega 3 in the conventional vs the healthier 1:1 found in the grass-fed meat. Apparently some of us are ultra sensitive to arachidonic acid, also known as the pro-inflammatory fat, exactly what we don’t need circulating around our arteries. Solution to this one? Grassfed beef.

As early as 1992 Linus Pauling’s “unified theory of cardiovascular disease” pointed to a vitamin C deficiency as the main cause (and alternatively, easiest cure) of heart disease. Now, of course we’re not surprised; wouldn’t we expect this from him? Still, what if it’s that simple? His prescription: high dose Vitamin C (6-18 grams), plus 3-6 grams of the amino acid L-Lysine.

Here’s an odd one that may have merit. There’s a *chance* a couple of ounces of pomegranate juice a day may reduce arterial blockage. It’s still a tiny bit out there, but gaining traction and at least the scoffing isn’t as loud as would be expected. The studies were funded by POM, the main growers of pomegranate orchards here in the United States, hence a grain of salt bit.

There’s another one that’s farther out there — but heck, who knows: EDTA (Ethylene-Diamine-Tetra-Acetate) chelation. Chelation therapy — intravenous infusion — has been around for decades, used to treat lead poisoning and for the removal of metals. It’s one of the examples Dave’s surgeon used to reference quack treatments, yet after Dave’s surgery we did get a few email messages from people who had positive experiences with it, in particular improved circulation and heart function.

We see some talk about a pneumonia strain (Chlamydia) that’s often present in heart disease, and that an antibiotic taken early enough may prevent future problems. Particularly for people who fly a lot, where dead air is reused (gross as that sounds), I guess that could be an issue.

When heart disease runs in a family, there’s now discussion of genetic variations, not simply a family tendency toward high Lipoprotein (a), or whatnot, but actual mutant genes. Wow, that’s a million miles over my head, but still, it’s interesting to know this work is being done, and that it’s probably not too far off before each one of us really will be able to self treat for heart disease.

One more thing? And this isn’t off the range at all, really, and there’s no question that it’s true: Stress causes heart attacks and heart disease. You really have to find ways to lower your stress reactions if any of this reading is going to do a lick of good. Reducing stress will go farther in keeping heart disease at bay than all our various mainstream and offbeat suggestions combined.

Get ‘er done.

Let’s finish with a link to a very thorough, well researched article from National Geographic called Mending Broken Hearts, where much of our recent conversations are addressed.

Heart Health: Testing for Heart Disease

If you get nothing else from this post, take this: Determining your heart health takes more than a cholesterol test. That one well known test is just not enough, and since for some reason the general medical profession seems to be behind the curve, it’s probably going to be up to you to keep your heart and vascular system pumping at full flow.

We’ve been discussing clogged arteries for the past few weeks, since Dave’s quadruple by-pass surgery February 23rd, and to wrap things up for this round, let’s look at the routine tests we should all get, and for those with heart failure symptoms, let’s take a glance at the path Dave’s heart treatment took.

There are too many variables between all of us to make an easy checklist. We each — individually — need to walk through the process and stick with it until we’re satisfied with the answer. Your doctor, assuming you even have one, does not have time to monitor your compliance, and, in fact, may not even know some of what follows.
Here’s how to get started.

The basic fasting (fasting… this is important) lipid panel includes cholesterol, LDL/HDL and triglycerides. Interesting, but not nearly enough.

Add to that:
VDL cholesterol
Cholesterol subparticle size
C-Reactive Protein

The specifics of the above are developed more in this post on inflammation and oxidation. I know this looks like a bunch of gibberish, but it’s likely only one or two will be elevated, and you’ll only need to research those. You don’t need to become a lab tech to understand the basics that effect you.

Also check:

Blood pressure

Glucose (fasting)

Insulin (fasting)

Iron (serum iron, TIBC & serum ferritin)

You’ll want to specifically request that a copy of the the lab report be sent to you; this isn’t automatic, for some reason that I can’t imagine. The point of the entire effort is for you to have the results to comb over (don’t fret, the report will show both your results, plus ratings for low, desirable or high ranges to gauge them against), and to have for later comparisons. Don’t simply get the blood test and count on your doctor to call you to tell you to take a B vitamin. That probably isn’t going to happen; you have to follow through.

While Dave’s clogged arteries were fixed by the surgeon, the underlying problem remains. Bottom line: the replacement arteries will clog if his blood oxidation and inflammation are not lowered.

There were only two dings on Dave’s blood test results over the years: ultra-dense LDL subparticles and an elevated CRP of 4. He took high-dose niacin for several years to address the LDL subparticles, but unfortunately, we didn’t understand the C-Reactive Protein elevation and didn’t research or tackle that. In hindsight, there’s no way to discover if changes over the past few years would have kept him off the surgeon’s table.

He’s now backed off the milkfats and lowered his beef intake to see if that will bring the CRP back in line. Because he’s coming off artery by-pass surgery, we both feel it’s warranted to protect the replacement arteries by taking a statin, Vytorin, which he hasn’t taken in the past since his earlier cholesterol readings have always been quite low. With his doctor’s knowledge, I suspect he’ll test his cholesterol without the statin sometime later this summer to see if his new fish-over-beef diet changes things.

If you do take a statin, please please please take a high dose CoQ10 supplement. Throughout this recent process I haven’t heard a doctor or nurse mention that, so I suspect yours hasn’t either. Statins blunt CoQ10 in the same way they work on cholesterol, and if nothing else, lack of CoQ10 will sap your energy and make your muscles ache. Bad juju.

Dave takes 450mg of Now Foods CoQ10 daily, without fail, and he takes an NSP B-Complex to lower oxidation and clotting.

Tip: Donate a pint of blood quarterly to lower your fibrinogen and remove excess iron.

Your doctor can order these blood tests, but in some cases you’ll have to be persistent. In fact, many of these tests aren’t on the lab sheets, and your doc will have to look up the codes to get the orders right. Here’s a further discussion of these lab tests at Genova Diagnostics.

You youngsters may feel immortal, but I’ll betcha in 20 years you’ll be real happy to have a baseline report for comparison, assuming there’s nothing drastically wrong that needs life-extending attention.

Now then, let’s get serious. Are you having trouble right now?

If you have shortness of breath regularly, which is what got Dave moving toward his recent surgery, or find you need to elevate your upper body more in order to sleep, get yourself to a cardiologist and walk through the test procedures. (If you have chest pain, use the emergency room instead!) The full gamut took Dave about two months — go here, go there, come back next week — just put your head around it and get ‘er done. It may save your life. Well, I mean, you’ll still die eventually, but hopefully when you’re closing in on a hundred instead of next year.

Exercise Stress Test (basic or advanced if possible)

Radionucleide Stress Test

Echocardiogram (ultrasound view of the heart chambers, valves and lining)

Electrocardiogram (EKG) (looks at heart rhythm)

Holter Monitor (24-hour EKG used to watch heart during normal activities)

Chest X-ray (checks for heart size, fluid in the lungs, pneumonia and other causes of shortness of breath)

Cardio Catheterization — angiogram (the most invasive of the tests, uses a thin catheter tube into blood vessel to inject dye seen on an x-ray — stents may be inserted at the same time if needed)

Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) (used to determine if you have heart failure)

Signing off for this session. That should be enough to get you started on your path to good heart health and cardiovascular immortality.

Dave’s Heart Surgery — An Overview

There’s sure to be confusion over Dave’s upcoming heart surgery (the Jim Fixx syndrome, am I right?), topped with a dollop of internet turmoil. I’ll do my best to explain what we know, and wherever possible, provide links to information that you can apply to your own goal of a healthy heart.

Dave’s surgeon will be repairing two distinct problems, one caused by alcohol abuse decades ago, the other from arterial blockage accumulated over time.

You probably already know part one: Years of excessive alcohol caused congestive heart failure — he flatlined in 1983. Every cardiologist Dave’s seen in the intervening years has commented on his remarkable recovery, and all have said, “Keep doing whatever you’re doing, Dave.” Still, while the heart muscle recovered to near perfect, a valve is loose, doesn’t close properly and leaks. This the surgeon will fix by sewing a ring around the valve opening to tighten it.

The second issue concerns the artery replacement — bypass grafts done using arteries from other parts of the body. This is needed when blood can’t flow well through arteries clogged by plaque. He’ll come home with three replaced arteries, but because one has a fork in it, it’s counted twice (we just have to assume the surgeon is smarter than this implies), bottom line: quadruple bypass.

One twist that’s still to be discussed — the elephant in the room: steroids. Steroids are known to cause heart problems, notably heart attack and stroke, as well as increasing LDL cholesterol while lowering HDL cholesterol. Dave did not have a heart attack or stroke; his cholesterol regularly rests in the 130s total (at the time of his first stent work in 2000, his total cholesterol was 118); and his cardiologist said under no circumstances did steroid use decades ago cause his problem today.

Next, let’s talk some more about cholesterol and blocked arteries, what we think caused Dave’s problem and how you can use this information.

Clogged Arteries : Cholesterol, Inflammation and Oxidation

Many of the forum members and IronOnline site readers are in the 50-year-old age bracket, making heart health, specifically cholesterol, a common topic around here. It’s a difficult one, too, because not only is there a good deal of money-making advertising going on, there’s honest disagreement among the research scientists.

Yet the Framingham Heart Study documenting patients since 1948 reports that 80% of cardiovascular disease patients, those with coronary arterial damage, have normal cholesterol numbers. Secondly, at least half of all clogged arteries don’t fit the standard risk factor mold. There’s simply more to this than those 30-second tv spots can tell.

Here’s an overview of cholesterol testing and treatment, and here’s a reminder how vital cholesterol is to our functioning bodies.

Several things we do know that we didn’t know just a few years ago:

~There’s a lot more to the cholesterol story than the two numbers (LDL, the low density lipoproteins, aka lousy cholesterol) and HDL, the high density lipoproteins, aka the healthy cholesterol). There are sub-particles of LDL and HDL, and it’s partly those elements that may contribute to problems. Still, the most current research conflicts with the common cholesterol thinking, and there’s more to be done before we can have confidence in medical recommendations.

~There’s some controversy over the importance of lowering cholesterol, even fairly high cholesterol. This is not to say dietary changes are not important, but it appears it’s more important for some than others; in some very important, others not important at all. You’ll have to do some research, and you’ll have to get some blood testing to find out in which category you fit. And then you may have to experiment, test and try again. This is sometimes a long process that can take a couple of years to sort out.

~Inflammation may be more damaging than cholesterol, and inflammation plus high LDL cholesterol might be the triple play. Stress inflames, bigtime, and this refers to all types of stress, stress over money and relationships, work and overwork stress, and, what I believe to be true in Dave’s case, overtraining — decades of pushing himself to the limit. You can’t go back for a do-over to see which method would have worked better, but there it is: It’s likely the demands Dave placed on himself, those that made him a champion athlete, combined with the next element to jam him up.

~The next element: Oxidation caused by iron, bad juju. Think rusty pipes. Iron causes oxidation that not even a cornucopia of anti-oxidant diets can neutralize. The main lessons here: Make sure your vitamins and food supplements do not have added iron (unless you’re a vegetarian or a menstruating woman); if you eat beef, commit to donating a pint of blood quarterly; and oh, don’t get any older. Age doesn’t help with the oxidation thing.

~High triglycerides contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries. Get a blood test and find out if this is a concern for you. High triglycerides is another danger marker when combined with high LDL cholesterol.

~High blood pressure gouges holes in the arteries by excessive force. It’s imperative to keep your blood pressure within optimal levels (120/80 or lower), either with exercise, food choices or medicine if those don’t work.

~High blood sugar damages arteries, causing more areas to be damaged by the deadly combination of inflammation, oxidation and cholesterol. Best way around that one is the Zone diet.

~Homocysteine: There’s a clear connection between it and atherosclerosis — arterial blockage — but the reasons are as yet unknown. Regardless of the whys, the fix is easy: B vitamins, specifically B6, B12 and folic acid. A B-Complex tablet should bring down homocysteine levels in the blood; plan to take a B vitamin daily for the rest of your life. Stick with the complex, individualizing the B vitamins is not recommended. Bonus point: B-complex may also lower fibrinogen and C-Reactive Protein, both factors in arterial inflammation and clotting.

~Lipoprotein(a) is a pretty clear marker for heart disease potential. There’s not a lot you can do about this genetically determined risk factor, but since it’s a good predictor — possibly the best — it does tell you of the importance of other controllable heart-health criteria. LP/a is highly susceptible to oxidation, causes blood clot problems and, in combination with high levels of LDL or even low levels of dense LDL sub-particles, is deadly.

~Menopausal women and hormone replacement: We used to take estrogen partly for heart health, we thought at the time, because pre-menopausal women are somewhat protected from heart disease. As it turns out, taking estrogen didn’t bring menopausal heart health up, and the thinking now is that iron is building up in women who don’t have a monthly period. Post-menopausal women need to do quarterly blood donations, too. Do it as a gift of life, and save your arteries as a side benefit.

~Stress causes inflammation; there’s no longer any question. Reduce all stresses. Whatever you have to do, do it. Change jobs, reduce debt, sort out troubled relationships, take a walk, pray, do yoga. Pick the one that hits home hardest and get to work. And if you train as hard as Dave does, well, either stop, get an extra day of rest between workouts, or find a way to relax fully. I dunno, get a hot tub?

~Trans fats we know to be deadly. Period. Saturated fats, that’s becoming a little less clear. At least, we’re not as sure as we used to be.

~Depression also causes blockage. If you’re depressed, do something about it, either try 5HTP for low-level, occasional or winter depression, or get a doc’s prescription for an anti-depressant. Stress and depression are absolutely, unquestionably linked to cardiovascular disease.

~Exercise, top of the list normally, but left to a lower position here only because you wouldn’t even have seen this if you weren’t already getting in your weight workouts. Still, the volume of weekly exercise seems to be preventative, 5-6 hours a week is optimum for heart health. Those of you doing shortened 30-to-45-minute training sessions or those on three-a-weeks (or less) may need to bring in more exercise. To keep overtraining at bay, cardio may be your answer… please accept my apologies in advance.

~I left off quitting smoking, which would otherwise have been at the top of the list as numero uno. You don’t smoke, do you?

We’re going to look closer at all of these puzzle pieces over the next weeks to make certain we’re each doing what we can to limit our individual risk.

Testing for heart health, how to get started

Further study material here:

More cholesterol research and commentary

More on heart health

A Forgotten Training Principle

I was reading the various posts in the IronOnline today and a post by one of our moderators (Bill Keyes) caught my eye. Bill was responding to something that Eric (Erkmax) had posted earlier…the exchange went something like this:

…It has been my experience that people are too focused on getting results than taking the journey….

The equivalent of, “Are we there yet?” My observations are the same as yours. So many folks train and don’t enjoy it. Achieving a goal overrides all other considerations and many miss the wonders of the process. Too bad.

Quick weight loss

Quick weight gain

Quick strength

The “quick” achievement of a goal

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Roger Daltrey’s Big Arms

40 years since Roger Daltrey began hurling his microphone across the heads in Section A, and the 62-year-old still sports a striking pair of throwing arms.
The Who in concert

You can be certain I know the difference between biceps busting out of a shirtsleeve and physical conditioning, so when I say Daltrey’s got some biceps going on, you know there’s a bit more to it. And that shot below? Not even close to the pumped-up version that appeared later in the show.

Roger Daltrey 2006

Stuff like, well, pretty thick across the shoulders for a jumpin’ rock star. And a general thickness throughout his torso and upper legs — a toughness, not the thickness of, say, the Russ Limbaugh of old.

Wait. I gotta pass on a laugh. I couldn’t think of a hefty rock star off the top of my head, and it’s getting late, so I jumped over to Google and typed in “fat rocker” (hey, I was in a hurry, okay?). Up popped an ad for a “600 lb User Office Chair.” Ha! Pay-per-click advertiser alert.

  • Read more…

Bill Pearl and Dave Draper on Aging

Between Dave’s newsletter, that old Flex Magazine article I found and commented on and various thoughts in the forum triggered by new AARP-referred visitors, age considerations have been on my mind and in the blog a lot lately.

In fact, it’s starting to make me feel old. I may have to move on after this post.

Then again, I listened to the very energetic Leroy Colbert on the phone today, 73 years old I think he said, and I’ll tell you, if you and I can stay that hearty a decade or two — or four — from now, I suspect we’ll be real, real happy.

Anyway, all this thinking reminded me of the conversation Dave and Bill Pearl had last fall, transcribed to become the Pearl/Draper Seminar DVD insert booklet. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Read more…

Exercise Video Demonstrations on the AARP Site

Dave’s video clips are online at the AARP site, but a good percentage of viewers have had trouble playing the files. I’m not yet sure why. Someone suggested we need a Realplayer plugin, and if that’s the case, you can grab that right here, no charge. I’ve written to my contact in the video department over at AARP, and if she sends me the files, I’ll convert them and re-post the links.

Clocking in at a minute and a half, these are introductions to the exercises; there isn’t enough time for Dave to get into the subtle aspects that make his style special. One thing I did want to point out: The leg-on-bench technique is not how Dave does or as far as I know has ever demonstrated one-arm dumbbell rows. Instead, Dave leans the non-working arm on the dumbbell rack and spreads his feet to make a sort of tripod base to pull from. This provides for a much longer and more satisfying pulling position for the working side, and offers a greater feeling of stability than when pulling with only one foot on the floor.

I’ll get you the inside scoop on why he let the video crew talk him into a technique he doesn’t use. Maybe he simply gave up after nearly eight hours of filming for these 14 minutes of video. Nah. That couldn’t be it.

Say, I’ll bet Wayne Shaffer, the victim in the clips, was one sore puppy the next day. I heard he and his training partner did their usual Wednesday workout before the AARP session. Then the guys had him doing literally hundreds of reps per exercise while they had Dave repeat the commentary several times in order to film from all angles. When you factor in actor goof-ups, that could have ticked the total to thousands of reps before tear-down at 8 o’clock that night.

Training in the years between 40 and 65

Here’s one way you can tell we’re all getting old around here: The link to Dave’s Over 40 article in Flex Magazine got more clicks than any link in the history of our newsletter, all seven and a half years of it. It seems we’re the choir and we want to know if the preacher changed the sermon over the past 15 years. And if it’s the same as his oratory now, heading toward Medicare next year when he hits 65.

Taking a slower read of the article, a few things stand out. Maybe you noticed.

Here’s my Top 10 list of notables:

1. Dave didn’t write this. These are his thoughts, but not his style: It’s an interview-based article. I’m guessing (educated, because I know who did most of Dave’s interviews through the late ’80s, early ’90s) Julian Schmidt.

2. When the topic of overtraining tops the list, which it does pretty much whenever people discuss Dave’s training, the article says he stopped that negative behavior. Well, we know what that is: nonsense. It may take him a little longer to get all that work done, but believe me, it’s still getting done.

3. He tells of increased cardio work in his 40s, and yet today (when he needs it more, but hey, that’s a different post) that area’s an gaping, unmined cavern.

4. I doubt if he’s bench pressed since the day that article was scribed.

5. He hasn’t had a training partner since Doug moved not long after this article appeared.

6. Dave talks about the plateaus one hits after ages 40 and 50. Today I think he’d tell of another after age 60, maybe one that’s a little more resistant, at least for a guy who’s logged tens of thousands of workouts.

7. The gym ownership that spurred him on in the ’90s has been replaced by you, readers of his weekly newsletter and forum participants who look toward him to see what you might expect from your training in the years ahead.

8. There’s not much coverage of food intake in the article, but I can tell you that while his consistency in eating is solid, his appetite isn’t. Dave’s dedicated to eating well, whole foods, still heavy on the meat — he fires up a Foreman Grill at least once a day in addition to whatever protein’s for dinner — plenty of raw vegetables… and this is the same as it’s been the entire time I’ve known him, round about 22 years. But I can’t say he enjoys eating; for him it’s a chore.

9. Bomber Blend has for the most part replaced amino acids as his protein supplement of choice. He’ll still use aminos when traveling or if otherwise away from easily available quality food, but because he’s trying to hold weight, for the calories he’ll go with a protein shake over free-form amino acids.

10. The skin thing. There doesn’t seem to be any magic fix to the skin problem.

Bonus point:

11. The hair thing. He doesn’t have the solution to that either.

What’s the same? Intensity, consistency and dogged pursuit.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade since 1950.

That has not changed.

Positive and negative comparison

This is a little topic that has been increasingly on my mind. I firmly believe that comparing ourselves with anyone but ourselves is generally negative. Here’s how my mind works:

I’ve been involved with the Iron Game for over thirty years now. I’ve spent more time with the various lifting sports, strongman competition and bodybuilding than I have with almost anything else, whether it be through print, electronic media or actual participation. Doing so nearly destroyed me mentally…from comparing myself with the people that participate in these events. I was (and still am) immersed in this sport and it has affected me somewhat negatively…until I “straightened out” my thinking.

Harsh words, you say? Read on and I’ll try to clarify.

Most of the individuals and events about which I’ve read and surrounded myself are unusual. Either they are unusually muscular or unusually strong. To garner the press or media coverage that they do…they have to be the “elite” or the “strong among the strong.” Grimek, Goerner, Anderson, Sipes, Eder, Brookfield, Reeves, Draper, Zane, Kaz, Arnold…you name them, these are not “normal” individuals. By making them my constant companions and my role models, I was doing myself a disservice. Any of my accomplishments paled in comparison and it skewed my perception of what normal was and what I could/should/would achieve. I felt like I had to be “the best of the best” in order to count myself as worthy, being somewhat stronger than the “average” man wasn’t enough. For example, I recently dunked with 200 lbs. for three reps on my PowerTec Leverage Squat machine…but that isn’t worthy of consideration since Dr. Ken has done 23 reps with 400 lbs at 165 lbs bodyweight or Tom Platz has bobbed up and down with 500 lbs. some twenty odd times.

That, (like Zig Zigler) would say was “Stinkin’ Thinkin’.”

I’m emphatically NOT saying that we shouldn’t have people that inspire us or goals and passions that drive us. I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t document and compare our performance. What I AM saying is that this comparison needs to be with ourself in order to remain healthy. Strive to be a better you today than you were yesterday. Friendly competition with others can spur your training but when the rubber meets the road, the only thing that matters is “are you better than you were yesterday?”

It happens to men, too, you know

It took Gail Sheehy’s book, Passages, to shoot menopause concerns to the forefront back in 1976. Women who didn’t have an open relationship with their mothers to walk them through the changes were stuck guessing at what was happening, unless they were lucky enough to have an older friend to guide them.

These days it’s the men who are getting the education. Those of you involved in fitness and weight training have been reading about dropping hormones for years, but your buds in the neighborhood, they still don’t have a clue. To them, they’re just getting older, too bad. Yet decreasing testosterone is becoming a media discussion, and we’ll see more and more of that, witness this week’s article in Forbes, Don’t Call It Male Menopause.

The unfortunate part (and this is leaving aside what research may discover in the years to come about male hormone replacement, as happened with estrogen replacement): Some of you guys are going to have a harder time stepping forward for testosterone replacement. The stigma of steroids in our industry is going to be too hard to overcome in many cases, and the testosterone gel that’s simple to apply will be scorned.

Say, I’m glad you’re talking about it, but I sure hope it doesn’t become the new Cialis. I really can’t take any more men’s issue tv ads. Bring back incontinence, even that’s better than what we’re suffering through between segments now.

Gail’s got a men’s edition out, Men’s Passages, and you can learn more from Dr. Karl Ullis in his book, Super T.

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