Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

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Real Work

I started bodybuilding a few years ago, when I saw a possible divorce coming down the pike.  I reckoned that if I was going to have to manage my farm — including stacking 25 tons of hay annually, breaking ice on troughs, repairing fences, rototilling, hauling feed and salt, etc. — singlehanded, I’d better get busy getting strong.

I started out with 6 pushups, no pullups, and only bodyweight to work with.  So I worked with it.  Five days a week.  Hard.  I pushed the pushups to 35 on a decline and pulled the pullups to 9.  I added a backpack full of sand to get me through most of a year before I could afford a barbell set.

By the time hay season rolled around, I was able to stack thathose bales.  And break the ice.  And repair the fences.  And rototill.  And all the rest of it. 

Take yesterday, for instance.  I trimmed all four hooves on each of six horses, one after the other.  If you’ve never trimmed hooves, just trust me — it’s hard work.  It leaves a body sweaty, bruised, and sore.  But it’s real work, my favorite kind.

For all that I love getting under the bar, real work is more satisfying.  Farm labor is the fruit of my gym labor.  The bar is the means; the hooves and hay are the ends, and I can make them meet.  I am farm strong.

I often wonder what city folk do for real work.  There must be options.  What are they?

PBC Day 6

Fuel:  Coffee with heavy cream.  Eggs over easy with grilled tomatillo salsa, bacon, coconut-roasted plantain, and blackberries.  Grilled gassfed beef burger (no bun) with grilled tomatillo salsa, sauteed onions, and cotija; grilled asparagus; sweet potatoes roasted in bacon fat.  Whiskey.

Workout:  Nothing official.  Nothing needed!  Those six sets of hooves were plenty.  Ironman and I also took a short walk after dinner


Flashback Friday: A Tale of Oregon Elk

Here’s a 2009 post that deserves another turn.  I’d rather pay for my food in effort and affection than in dollars and denial.

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When I was in high school, my family owned a whitewater rafting company. Our offerings of four- to seven-day expedition trips down wilderness rivers attracted mostly outdoor-types from the West, but we also booked the occasional city slicker.

 Mary Jo, a hefty and good-natured soul with glossy, black curls and florid cheeks, was one of the latter. She hailed from Boston and was startled to learn that there really wasn’t any point in packing her alarm clock in her waterproof gear bag. (Nope, not even with an extension cord.)

 Along about Day 3 of Mary Jo’s trip, we were floating through open range, where cattle spend the summer feeding on the vast acreage of public lands. Mary Jo, spotting a pair of Herefords drinking along the bank, exclaimed, “Look! Wildlife! What kind of animals are those?”

 Sure Mary Jo was kidding, the nearest guide joked, “Oh, those are Oregon elk. They’re very rare!” Imagine his surprise when Mary Jo pulled out her camera and started clicking away. He did some fast talking to spare our guest the embarrassment of hauling out her photo album and showing all her friends back home the elusive “Oregon elk,” which almost anybody would recognize immediately as garden-variety cattle.

That night in camp, we served up an Italian feast of wine, garlic bread, salad, and spaghetti with marinara and meatballs. Mary Jo ate with her usual gusto. Watching her from across the circle of canvas chairs in the fading light, I wondered if she had even a passing thought connecting her “wildlife” sighting with the meal rapidly disappearing from her plate. I was saddened to conclude, probably not.

Saddened, I say, because although Mary Jo may have been an extreme case, she is far from an anomaly. Too many people these days believe that food comes from the grocery store. I once heard of a woman who, listening in on a discussion about the danger a single plant disease could pose to our inadequately-diverse food supply, said “Oh, I’m sure they’ll always have flour at the store.” She, like Mary Jo, clearly had no concept of the sacrificial exchange that fuels our bodies.

We the People, with our fast food joints and deep freezes, are so far separated from farm life that we rarely consider that from the T-bones we gnaw once hung the loin of a cow with a swishing tail and liquid eyes. That neat mound of poultry breast was made to nestle warm about a clutch of eggs. Those egg yolks formed to nourish chicks ’til they grew large enough to hatch.

I’m not saying I have a moral problem with eating meat or eggs, any more than I have one with tearing carrots from the soil and scattering my salad with their precious roots. Zucchini grow to ensure there is seed for the next generation, not to be sauteed in my breakfast hash, but saute them I do.

To live is to take other lives. Any farmer knows there’s no escaping the fact, no denying it, no point feeling guilty about it. But I do believe there is benefit in understanding it — not just believing it intellectually, but experiencing it firsthand — for in understanding there is value, and in value, gratitude.

 Those of us who were fortunate enough to be reared in agricultural country should be at least halfway there. We visited U-pick orchards every fall, plucked wild blackberries from their vines, perhaps retrieved eggs from the nests of disgruntled hens. Some of us even fattened stock for slaughter.

I was eight the first time I observed the death our annual beef cow. The man from the packing plant shot her three times, right there in our barn, before her sway turned to a topple and her topple to utter collapse. He hooked a chain to her hind legs and winched her outside to his truck, where he peeled away her chestnut coat and spilled her foul-smelling offal among the weeds.

My mother worried that I, an empathetic child who had bottle fed that animal as a calf, would be put off our daily meals of hamburgers and steak. But I was untroubled. Somehow, with the innate wisdom of the very young, I understood.

Not all children have such opportunities. One of my best friends grew up in the jungles of Chicago. He claims once to have stumbled over a pile of milk bottles and thought he’d found a cow’s nest.

Does that mean he shouldn’t be permitted to eat meat, because he hasn’t paid his dues? Of course not. But I do think those in his position should look for opportunities to connect with the lives and deaths that feed them. From farmers markets to bookstores, there is plenty of recourse for those who wish to understand their meals.

A number of authors have addressed the concept of late, all from different perspectives. Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), and most recently, Lierre Keith (The Vegetarian Myth) come readily to mind.

For the most adventurous — and wisest? — more creativity could lead one to a farm on butchering day, to feel the blood from chickens’ throats run hot across trembling fingers, see the feathers float on scalding water and stick like rain soaked leaves to pluckers’ wrists. To pull the trigger that ploughs a painless path through the brain of a hog, or gut a fish from the neighbor’s pond, or simply gather the bosoms of ripe onions as they press up from the soil, strip peas from their pods, sever the stems of living herbs to rub beneath a turkey’s freshly-denuded skin.

I remember one blustery day in early spring at In the Night Farm. A freshly-slaughtered lamb had hung for several days from the north deck, aging beneath its burlap wrap. Meanwhile, out beyond the horse paddocks, lambing had begun.

I spent the entire day running between the kitchen, where I rinsed and packaged chunks of carcass for later meals, and the lambing jugs, where I knelt in the hay to draw colostrum from ewes’ udders and coax it down the silken throats of newborn lambs.

I ate lamb that night, with the smell of sheep’s milk still strong upon my hands. The following winter, I butchered the wooley babies whose lifes I had saved. Come spring, I nurtured several more.

Death. Life. Death feeding life feeding death feeding life. The unbroken circle.

Don’t feel guilty. But please, don’t forget. Real food costs more than pennies for pounds.


Down, But Not Out

If you follow In the Night Farm on Facebook, you’ve heard the grisly tale:

Last Sunday, I decided to take a short ride on my endurance horse, who has been enjoying 2 months of almost complete rest, thanks to icy footing and generally nasty weather conditions in my corner of Idaho.

The ride was short, all right.  Almost as soon as I mounted, my mare took off bucking and leaping.  This uncharacteristic behavior took me quite by surprise, and I went flying.

You know how the world slows down during moments of crisis?  I remember coming off at the top of a buck (adding a few feet to my fall), watching to make sure my left foot came free of the stirrup, and noting miserably that the ground I was about to hit was frozen solid.

Very, very solid.

I landed on my left lower back and hip.  In the resultant explosion of pain, I coiled up and rolled onto my right side thinking something along the lines of, “Oh shit, this is a bad one.”  (Any equestrian knows that if you ride enough, you’re going to fall occasionally.  Most falls are relatively harmless.  Some are serious.  A few are fatal.  It’s part of the game.)

I pulled my cell phone out of my vest pocket.  Who to call?  Ironman was several hours’ drive away.  All my other friends were at least 30 minutes’ drive from here.  Besides, I’d landed on my spine.  And it hurt.  A lot.  Decision made:  beep-boop-boop.

I didn’t move, except to make sure I could wiggle my toes, in the 15 minutes it took the ambulance to arrive.  The hard backboard against my screaming lumbar region made the ride to the hospital an, ahem, adventure, but it was bearable so I declined pain medication.  Repeatedly.

Sidebar:  I wonder why the (very nice) EMTs were so eager to administer drugs.  Wouldn’t it be best for me to be able to assess, with unblunted accuracy, the region and level of my pain? 

X-rays indicated that I was free of dislocations and breaks.  Blood and urine tests confirmed that, bruised kidney notwithstanding, my organs were happily intact.  But when I tried to walk (4 hours post-injury, still sans painkillers), I nearly vomited and passed out.

Due to this unexpectedly high pain reaction given my “stoicism” thus far, the doc ordered a CAT scan to check for hairline pelvic fractures.  None.  Just massive soft tissue damage that was officially labeled “pelvic contusion” but definitely extends to my left hip.

At that point, I finally agreed to some IV and oral painkillers, because there was simply no way I’d get out of bed — let alone out of the hospital — without them.  I also accepted a prescription for Vicodan, which I took for 12 hours and then ditched in favor of ibuprofen.

The first couple days were sheer misery.  I was almost completely immobile, unable to roll over in bed, stand up, get dressed, or do pretty much anything without help.  Don’t even ask about my mental state.  NOT. HAPPY.  Since then, however, I’ve improved dramatically.  I can walk, albeit stiffly and without twisting, and even feed the livestock twice daily.

Sadly, I’m still a long way from being able to resume workouts.  I’m guessing it’ll be weeks — 6 or more? — before I can deadlift, backsquat, or sprint.  If my shoulder (which has recently featured a cranky rotator cuff) cooperates, I may be able to return to pullups and pushups somewhat sooner.

So, what’s a girl to do?  My main goals right now are:

  1. Heal as quickly and thorougly as possible.
  2. Maintain leanness (approx 18% bodyfat) despite inactivity.
  3. Preserve as much muscle mass and strength as possible despite inactivity.

How?

Get extra sleep.  Sleep is difficult when painless positions are hard to come by, but I’m doing my best to get 10 hours nightly.  Extra magnesium supplementation helps.

Take it easy.  This is the hardest one for me.  Inactivity drives me insane.  I hate losing ground on strength gains, and I get terribly bored when unable to simply move.  But, I’m being good and doing everything I safely can, but not more.  (Staying off the painkillers — even Advil — helps with this.  I need the pain as as “cast” to tell me where my limits are.)

Eat real food.  Low-carb paleo.  Paleo for optimum nutrition and low-carb for leanness.  Basically, I’m eating meat, veggies, and natural fats while avoiding inflammatory foods like grain and sugar, as usual.  However, I’ve adjusted my macronutrient ratios as follows:

  • Maintain high protein consumption (1g/lb of total bodyweight daily),
  • Reduce fat consumption from high to moderate (to decrease energy intake due to lowered activity level, while still getting plenty of essential fats), and
  • Reduce carb intake from low to very low (down from 80g to 50g or less daily).

So far, so good.  I’m at least as lean as I was a week ago.

Supplement.  I’ve made the following modifications to enhance tissue repair:

  • Increase fish oil (Carlson’s lemon flavor) to combat inflammation.
  • Increase magnesium to aid sleep and calm mental agitation.
  • Add MSM to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation.
  • Increase whole food multis (Juice Plus+ Orchard Blend and Innate Response Formulas Maximum Food) for additional antioxident and micronutrient intake, including Vitamin C, which enhances collagen repair.
  • Maintain Vitamin D, E, and B complex intake.
  • I’d use homeopathic arnica both internally and extrenally, if I had any, but I don’t.  Arnica is believed to speed healing of damaged soft tissue.
  • I’m looking into a recent recommendation for some Chinese formulas, Dit Dat Jow and Yunnan Biao (brand name) to aid soft tissue healing.

Ice and Heat.  Ice only for 72+ hours, alternating heat and ice thereafter.  This is a nuisance, but I’m spending 4+ hours daily on it.  It’s worth the trouble.

Sidebar:  Why on earth didn’t the ER nurses get me an ice pack or three?  It’s well known that icing is one of the best ways to minimize inflammation and promote healing, and that the sooner ice is applied, the better.  Ice is cheap and easy.  So why did I spend my first 8 hours post-injury without it? 

Exercise.  Very gentle exercise.  Right now, that means walking and a bit of stretching, plus some “weightless weight lifting” (i.e. bicep curls and delt raises in which I use my own, opposing muscles to add resistance to the movement).

Staying busy.  Have I mentioned that I hate hate HATE sitting around?  I’m trying to keep myself busy reading and researching, and I’ll also be dedicating some time to dramatic expansion of the Nightlife Library.  Keep on eye on it, and feel free to suggest your favorite resource links in the comments.


Yule Tidings

If this moment were all I had, it would be more than enough.

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Many thanks, dear readers, for the time and thought you’ve shared here.  I’m honored to have you reading.  Merry Christmas to you all.  ~  Tamara


An Obnoxiously Caps-Ridden Rant and Updated Fitness Photo of Yours Truly

I just visited yet another so-called “health and fitness” website, and it made me flaming mad.

“To lose weight, eat-low-fat and jog more.  Burn more calories than you consume.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Has nobody noticed yet that THIS DOESN’T WORK?  The short-term, fickle weight loss that results from that kind of program is not bodyfat loss!   It is unsustainable, detrimental, uncomfortable loss of water and muscle.  Not only that, but it actually increases bodyfat and degrades health over time.

Why doesn’t it work?

Because the calories-in/calories-out theory ignores the critically important HORMONAL effects of  macronutrients and sleep, which are what drive the body’s storage or burning of bodyfat.

I offer as one, tiny, “n=1” scrap of evidence a fitness-photo update I took yesterday.  Sorry about the poor quality — photos and smudged mirrors don’t mix, but you get the point.

Now, for crimney’s sake, don’t start with that crap about how “You’re lean because work out so much.”

Let me be clear:  My muscle size and strength is courtesy of heavy lifting and bodyweight work.  BUT, the leanness that lets you see the muscles is not.  I could be strong as a horse and still fat.

My leanness isn’t from miles of jogging, either.  I haven’t run so much as a mile in recent memory.  Furthermore, I’m only 6 weeks back into strength training after taking a couple months off over the summer.

Exercise is not the key to leanness.  (To be more technically accurate:  Burning calories via exercise is not the key to leanness.  Strength work and sprints — but not constant cardio — do have beneficial hormonal effects that encourage bodyfat loss.)

I am lean primarily because I eat what my body needs:  Fat.  (Omigod!)  Protein.  And a limited quantity of well-chosen, nutrient-dense carbohydrate.

How much fat?  60-70% of my caloric intake.  You read that right. 

How much protein?  25-30% of my caloric intake.  To satiety.  Easy.

How much carbohydrate?  5-15% of my caloric intake.   Mostly vegetables.  Occasional fruit.

This diet provides plenty of the ESSENTIAL fats and proteins I need to survive.  The NON-ESSENTIAL carbohydrate (none is necessary for survival) contributes the micronutrients I need to thrive.  In fact, the amount of vegetable matter I consume provides enough fiber and micronutrients to make my daily nutritional intake look like the label on a high-quality multivitamin pill.

I make no effort whatsoever to limit calorie consumption via diet or burn calories via exercise.  None.  Zero.  I eat as much as I want, whenever I want, and it tastes fantastic.  And I am lean.

And before you ask, my bloodwork is fantastic:  https://inthenightlife.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/bloody-marvelous/  (Sorry, WP is having issues with hyperlinks today.)

And I’m far from the only one:  http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-book/success-stories/ 

So.  Why don’t the healthy-whole-grain-low-fat-cardio-bunnies look like this?  Why do they still have high bodyfat, blood pressure, and triglycerides?

Because it’s about the hormones — not the calories.

Look.  I’m not asking you to agree with me.  But I AM asking you to do your homework.  Ask the hard questions, examine the hard evidence (remember to check who paid for the “research”)…and THEN decide what to believe.

Don’t know where to begin?  I have resources plastered all over this blog, and if you want more references on specific topics, just ask in the comments and I’ll get you some.

Okay, rant over.  For now.  Class dismissed.


Short-Circuit: Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally

[Earlier posts in this cancer prevention series:  Cancer for a Fortnight, Before Early DetectionIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation, and Supply Lines:  The Importance of Angiogenesis.  See also Crap for the Cure.]

If angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is necessary to the development or metastasis of a cancerous tumor, it stands to reason that we can thwart tumor development by enhancing our bodies’ ability to inhibit inappropriate angiogenesis.

Here are some daily choices you can make to short-circuit cancer’s supply lines:

1.  Understand Specific Foods.  As it happens, there is an extensive list of natural, consumable angiogenesis inhibitors that are easy to enjoy on a regular basis.  Here are some of the most accessible:

  • Green tea.  Japanese varieties such as matcha and sencha are best.  Steep the tea for 8-10 minutes to ensure maximum release of the anti-angiogenic polyphenal epigallocatechin gallate, and drink 3 or more cups per day.
  • Berries.  Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries contain astonishing quantities of ellagic acid, which slows blood vessel growth.  Choose organic, because conventional berries are notoriously drenched in pesticides that contribute to cancer development.
  • Stone fruits.  Peaches, plums, and nectarines have been demonstrated to contain as many anti-cancer agents as berries.  Again, choose organic.
  • Herbs.  Members of the labite family (oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, basil, etc.) get their fragrance from terpenes, which adversely affect cancer’s ability to spread.  Parsley is abundant in apigenine, which inhibits angiogenesis.  Add fresh herbs to everything from meats to salads.  Generally speaking, you can use fresh herbs wherever a recipe calls for dried; just triple the quantity to account for water volume.  In soups or sauces, simmer most of the herbs throughout the cooking time for depth of flavor, then add a bit more just before serving, for brightness to both eye and palate.
  • Cruciform Vegetables.  The cruciferous family of vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, etc.) discourage cancer in many ways, including angiogenesis inhibition.  Steam or stir-fry them, rather than boiling, to avoid destruction of the beneficial sulforaphane and I3C molecules.
  • Dark chocolate.  The quantity of antioxidants, polyphenols, and proanthocyanidins in dark chocolate approaches those offered by green tea.  Consume in reasonable amounts (20 grams daily), and be sure it’s dark chocolate (85% or more cocoa) because the dairy in milk chocolate interferes with cocoa’s beneficial molecules.
  • Turmeric.  This bright yellow component of curry powder is available in ethnic sections of supermarkets or specialty stores.  Its slightly bitter flavor virtually disappears when added to salad dressings.  You can also stir it into curries, stir fries, stews, omelettes, etc.  Consume 1/4 tsp daily, always in combination with black pepper or ginger, which make the relevant phytonutrient, curcumin, bioavailable.
  • Red wine/red grapes.  Yes, the resveratrol in red wine and grapes really does inhibit angiogenesis.  Limit consumption, however, because more than one serving of alcohol daily increases cancer risk, and sugar (abundant in grapes) is cancer’s favorite food. 
  • Other foods.  Additional anti-angiogenic foods include oranges, lemons, apples, pineapple, soy (not recommended for other reasons), maltake and other mushrooms, olives and oil, tomato, pumpkin, garlic, nutmeg, kale, and more.  Eating a variety of foods enhances their benefits because the nutrients are synergistic.  In the case of fruits and starchy vegetables, take care to consider the carbohydrate/nutrient bargain you’re making; some fruit is fine, but unlimited non-starchy vegetables are better.

2.  Reduce Carbohydrate Consumption.   You might recall from this post that the danger isn’t carbohydrate per se, but the insulin that is released by the pancreas in order to control the increased blood sugar that results from carbohydrate consumption.  When we eat too much carbohydrate, too often, chronically elevated insulin levels set off a cascade of damage — including inappropriate angiogenesis.

According to a 2003 study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, insulin increases vascular endothelial growth factor (remember that stuff?) in the smooth muscle cells of mice.  A 2009 article in Diabetologia notes the authors’ findings that several types of insulin “may stimulate tumor growth by enhancing local angiogenesis.”  A 2008 bulletin by R&D Systems observes how the hormonal effect of obesity (caused by insulin/leptin resistance related to excessive carbohydrate consumption) contributes to inflammation and angiogenesis.

Furthermore, insulin resistance leads to increased sense of hunger because even when we’ve taken in plenty of energy, said energy is unable to enter the cells that need it.  Our bodies signal a need for more food (specifically, carbohydrate), so we eat carbohydrate, release more insulin, perpetuate the progression of insulin resistance, and increase bodyfat.  Unfortunately, one of fat tissue’s less attractive features is the fact that it contains angiogenic stem cells.  This is one of the reasons that obesity increases cancer risk.

If we choose to eat most of our calories in the form of proteins and healthful fats, limiting carbohydrate to diverse vegetables and some fruit, we decrease insulin and bodyfat levels, thereby aiding our bodies’ ability to inhibit angiogenesis.

3.  Reduce Stress.  When we are under stress, the body releases hormones, such as neuropeptides and catecholamines, that promote angiogenesis, contributing directly to tumor growth.  Forms of intentional relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, or prayer, demonstrably reduce levels of these hormones.  As little as 15 minutes per day of quiet, focused breathing makes a difference.

4.  Reduce toxin exposure.  Carceniogins, notably those in cigarette smoke,  increase cells’ production of vascular endothelial growth factor.  Read that again.  VEGF promotes vascular growth, that is, angiogenesis.

Additionally, estrogen-mimicking substances in plastics, pesticides, fertilizers, and hormones in conventional meats, eggs, and dairy products wreak havoc on our all-important hormonal balance.  I doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that estrogen promotes angiogenesis.

Quit smoking and be as rude as necessary to escape secondhand smoke.  Avoid heating foods in plastic containers, and be sure foods have cooled to below 87 degrees F before putting them into those containers.  Better yet, replace your Tupperware with glass or stainless steel.  Spend the extra cash on organic produce and animal products, and limit household chemical use.

5.  Sleep more.  One of the side-effects of getting too little sleep (or even enough sleep but at unnatural times, such as going to bed in the wee hours and waking well after sunrise) is significant hormonal disruption.  Just one example of this is decreased melatonin, which results in decreased leptin, which results in increased feelings of hunger — particularly for carbohydrate.  Look back at #2 above to see how that midnight slice of pumpkin pie affects angiogenesis.

Insufficient sleep (that is, fewer than 9 hours per night, particularly during the winter months) also increases cortisol at the wrong times, which mobilizes blood sugar, which results in insulin production, which leads to bodyfat storage, which contributes to inflammation and angiogenesis.

See how all this fits together?

Obviously, cancer is a complex disease that must be attacked on many fronts.  Inflammation and angiogenesis are two of these fronts; next we’ll consider starvation — that is, curbing cancer by depriving it of its favorite food.

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Fight Cancer with Natural Angiogenesis Inhibitors, Scientific Living

Halting Blood Vessels Key to New Cancer Treatment, TED Talks 2010

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My Food, Medicine:  black coffee; baked ham; green tea; salad: red leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, red cabbage, onion and clover sprouts, red onion, carrot, avocado, roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and garlic, tuna, with dressing of fish and olive oils, balsamic vinegar, turmeric, black pepper, potassium salt, and Italian herbs; Earl Gray tea; jasmine green tea; roast leg of lamb, wasabi, roasted butternut squash, beets, and garlic with olive oil, salt, and pepper; red grapes, coconut cream concentrate.

Workout:  Primal Blueprint Fitness bodyweight progression


Before Early Detection

Perhaps the greatest advances made in cancer research over since Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971 have been in the realm of “early detection.”  This is a good thing.  The earlier a cancer is detected, the better the patient’s chances of survival. 

But what if we could detect a pre-cancerous state?  What if we could see the body setting itself up for cancer before — even years before — a tumor grew large enough for detection by mammography or physical exam?

As it happens, we can.

Medical infrared imaging, or thermography, measures body temperature to detect locations of excessive heat, which is the earliest sign of an impending disease state.

[Note:  I’ve researched this mostly in the context of breast cancer, thanks to my recent experience, so I’ll speak in that context here, but it’s my understanding that thermography can also be useful in detecting and tracking other types of cancers.]

Most people are familiar with the leading theory that cancer develops when a faulty cell division results in a cell with altered DNA, which then spreads unchecked.  Sometimes.  Such replication errors occur thousands of times in all humans, but most of us (the lifetime statistic is 2 of 3) don’t get cancer because our immune systems kill or contain the rogue cells.

The immune system’s attack results in inflammation, just as you’d see on your skin when your body is fighting infection in a wound, and the byproduct is heat.  Thermography can detect this heat, identifying inflammation that is invisible from the outside but serves as an early warning:  Change something!  Reduce toxin load!  Support immune function!  This is the time for action!

When abnormal cells begin to overcome the immune system’s efforts, they essentially confuse the white blood cells, including natural killer (NK) cells, so they don’t even try to do their jobs.  This sets up the body for stage 2 of cancer’s attack:  angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis is a normal process of building and repairing blood vessels.  Normally, the body builds the needed vessels, then angiogenesis stops.  Cancer, however, hijacks this process and turns it to its own advantage.  Very early in the disease process, well before a lump can be detected, thermography is able to “see” the abnormal formation of excessive, new blood vessels leading to the potential cancer site, bringing it food.

Once again, this is a phase at which many cancers can be halted through lifestyle changes alone.  No chemo, no surgery, no radiation.  (Use your heads, people — work with your doctors.  But remember, most doctors won’t “see” the gathering clouds of disease at this point, so your preventative treatment may be up to you.)

Nearly every piece I read on the topic of thermography noted two things:  1) Thermography complements mammography but does not replace it; and 2) Thermography is safer and more accurate than mammography.

Draw your own conclusions.

I’ll say this, though — I, personally, am suspicious of mammography.  Not only does it miss a lot of cancers (about 20% of them), but it subjects the tissue to radiation, a known carcinogen whose effects are cumulative over a lifetime.  Some people also worry that compression of abnormal cells may contribute to their ability to spread.

Here are a few, fun facts for those of you who want to give thermography a try:

  • Your medical insurance probably won’t cover the scan.  Fortunately, at $150-250, it’s not terribly expensive.
  • Medical infrared cameras and certified thermographers are few and far between.  You might have to take a long drive, like I did.  It was worth it.  See the links below for websites that include lists of certified thermographers.
  • All thermography is not the same!  My first scan (the alarming one) was done with a device made by Eidam Diagnostics Corporation.  The Contact Regulation Thermography (CRT) device measures skin temperature at 119 points.  You then get a computer-generated report that looks like this (scroll down to page 4).  Even the naturopath who took my readings could scarcely interpret the thing!  My second scan (the reassuring one) was done using an infrared camera (which costs roughly 35 times as much as the CRT device) and gave me actual pictures like these, from which even an amateur can get the jist of the results.  The point is, find a thermographer with extensive experience and good equipment!
  • Finally, note that, like mammography or ultrasound, thermography does not diagnose cancer, but rather detects suspicious changes.  If an existing cancer is suspected, biopsy (or possibly a BT blood test) is necessary.

In my view, one of the greatest values of thermography is that it can detect a pre-cancerous state at a point where lifestyle changes can often halt the disease in its tracks.  Please see the links below for information from the experts, and stay tuned for upcoming posts regarding those all-important “lifestyle changes” that any of us can choose to make.

[More posts in this cancer prevention series:  Cancer for a FortnightIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent InflammationSupply Lines:  The Importance of Angiogenesis, and Short-Circuit:  Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally.  See also Crap for the Cure.]

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What is Thermography? by Ingrid Edstrom, CFNP

Breast Thermography with sample infrared images by Dr. William Amalu

More thermography basics by Dr. Jeremy Kaslow

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My Food, My Medicine:  black coffee; matcha green tea; salad: spinach, red leaf lettuce, carrot, red cabbage, red onion, salmon; dressing: fish oil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, turmeric, black pepper, garlic, oregano; roasted vegetables: turnip, beetroot, cauliflower, broccoli, yellow onion, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme; red grapes; coconut cream concentrate; lamb meatballs in marinara: ground lamb, egg, oregano, basil, thyme, red pepper, garlic, yellow onion, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, olive oil, salt; baked spaghetti squash; lavender mint tea.

Workout:  5x rotation of back squats, renegade rows, bench presses, and dips.


Just Peachy

Some husbands bring home takeout chow mein and a movie on Friday night. Travis brings things like this.


Turns out our friends are putting in a riding arena, and they don’t want a peach tree in the middle of it. We just happen to want a peach tree — badly enough to wrestle it out of the truck in a frigid rainstorm.

From what I hear, this was nothing compared to the fun they had getting it into the truck in the first place.


Still, the tree would hardly budge. Travis enlisted me to add a few horsepower.


It worked.


I went back inside to finish making the Friday night special, a Sundried Tomato & Artichoke Heart Pizza. Travis tucked the tree in and added water from the hose to supplement the pouring rain.

Just as the pizza came out of the oven, the wind kicked into high gear. At about 35 mph, it was a pretty typical “big wind” for the area. Travis hustled out to give the tree some extra support. As of this morning, the trunk remains straight.


Only time will tell whether such a large tree can survive the move. Either way, it’s already provided more fun than they sell at Blockbuster.