Tips on self-experimenting with nutritional therapy

  1. Don’t worry about proving anything to anyone. If you’re hoping to demonstrate to someone else the validity of nutritional therapy, or prove that your health complaints were not imagined, don’t bother. Save that time and energy and use it on yourself instead.
  2. Evaluate a trial not just on how you feel, but on what you find yourself doing. More than a few times when I assumed a new supplement regimen was having no effect, I later realized I had run twice the number of errands that week, or checked three-year-old items off my to-do list.
  3. Evaluate a trial based on how you feel when you stop a supplement, too. It’s valuable info. You might consider repeating the stop-and-start a few times.
  4. A bad reaction to a supplement is also good info. If vitamin B6 makes your fingers go numb, your vitamin B12 levels might be too low. If zinc makes your sinuses swell up, your vitamin B6 levels might be too low, etc.
  5. Remember that your deficiency symptoms might change over time. Low zinc levels might give you acne now, but next year it just might make you irritable.
  6. Heed that feeling that if you take one more supplement you’ll explode or go insane. It’s your body/brain/liver’s way of saying “enough.” Take a break. (Remember, you gain info from stopping a supplement, too.)
  7. Do what you can and don’t worry about it too much. This advice from one of my acupuncturists has served me well. If you find you can’t tolerate a lot of supplements, if you’re getting nowhere, or if you’re overwhelmed by all the conflicting info or frustrated by the lack of it, join the club. We’re all flying blind, really.
  8. Don’t feel pressured to self-track. By self-tracking I mean choosing a certain number of parameters — e.g., mood, suicidal to ecstatic, or hair loss, none to fistfuls — and assigning a value to each on every day of your experiment. (As distinguished from just writing down your observations so you don’t forget them.) If you don’t feel like doing it, don’t. Whether or not you can illustrate day-to-day progress with a line chart has no bearing on the validity of your experiment. If anyone gives you crap about this, tell them to go back to their Dungeons & Dragons game.

    Other reasons not to self-track:

    • If you have a longstanding, distressing health issue, it might be a psychological drain to focus on it every day. Writing down “15 minutes” on a sleep chart every morning for weeks will suck you dry.
    • If you’re experimenting to see what effects a supplement has, you won’t have parameters. What you discover might be completely unexpected.
    • In theory, self-tracking (aka quantified self) apps can be hacked and your data used against you by insurance companies and employers.

ANT - Nutritional therapy tips

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Image: still of John Barrymore in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” 1920. {{PD-1923}}. Found on the Internet Archive’s Silent Films site.

It’s time to wrap this up

After 2 1/2 years of blogging I am ending my regular posting schedule. After September 30, 2013 I will only post sporadically, to document any earth-shattering results I elicit from my self experiments. I will continue to welcome comments and emails, however, and will respond ASAP.

The New World Outhouse requires that I cobble together several part-time jobs in order to feed myself, and I’ve been struggling with my already-modest publishing and social media schedule. Just keeping up with the back-end is a chore: I lost 90% of my traffic before I noticed that a vital WordPress plug-in had stopped working. And don’t even talk to me about $#%^@ Feedly.

Like a lot of health bloggers I have been constrained by worries about discrimination by potential employers who read this content. Not being able to say everything I need to is a real drag, especially since I have received so much helpful info from my readers. I just know that someone out there has a tip about coping with cannibalistic urges and parasitic twins that could change my life.

Eventually I hope to condense all the site’s content into e-book form and post it on Amazon for $.99. Thus will my media empire be founded and that Oprah chick knocked off her high horse.

Many thanks to fellow bloggers and biohackers Steph Strand and Seth Roberts for reaching out and letting me know that someone was actually out there reading. And a million thanks to everyone else who contacted me.

All the best to you.

ANT - Ciao!

Six links for August 2013

Here’s a selection of articles I’ve tweeted/facebooked/google-plussed about this month. I jumped off the social media hamster wheel for a few weeks so the list is shorter than usual.

  1. More applications for hallucinogenic mushrooms
  2. Another condition to investigate if you’ve been chronically, mysteriously ill: high oxalates
  3. Prickly pear for jet lag. Hangover & high blood sugar, too. (Available as juice or tablets.)
  4. Why the 3,500 calorie daily diet of 19th-century Victorians is better than ours
  5. How chicken feed led to discovery of vitamins
  6. Nurse practitioners offer patients more non-drug approaches than doctors

Adventures in Nutritional Therapy

Specious invocations of the placebo effect argument

Usually for the sake of my mental health I try to tune out the many, many misuses of the placebo effect argument I see online, but after running across a few prime examples I’ve decided to collect the best of them here. I’ll add more as I go. Here are two to start. (Emphasis mine).

1. Comment on a Bulletproof Executive post by Dave Asprey on his off-label use of the narcolepsy drug Modafinil to enhance concentration and alertness.

Commenter: “I take modafinil on a semi regular basis (prescribed for a sleeping disorder) – i’m not sure how much effect it has, and neither can you be….It could possibly help, but we’re not sure, your experiences using it are not a reliable guide as to whether it ‘works for you’ particularly for such a subjective and unmeasurable outcome such as sleepiness – if you take a drug believing it is going to be a wonder drug you’re almost certainly going to feel like it is, when you could in reality just be wasting your money and exposing yourself to side effects…I’m a medical doctor, UK…

2. Comment on Daily Strength Insomnia Support Group in response to this posting titled “I’m CURED! Finally!”:

“… I’d take a bunch of supplements that would boost all my [nutrient] levels to normal. When I stopped, those levels would slowly drop and a week later, I’d have insomnia again. I’ve been going through that up and down cycle for a long time…I finally found out why I couldn’t maintain adequate levels of anything and why the insomnia keeps kicking in…The problem was, I was very low on an essential amino acid called L-Lysine…Low Lysine levels lead to body stealing nutrients from muscles to feed brain which lead to fatigue which depleted nutrients from body which meant w/o enough nutrients, not enough fuel to produce brain chemicals to perform sleep cycles which lead to insomnia.”

Commenter: “Mmmm, there might be another explanation Galvatron. One of which might be your belief that you would crack it. Trying to crack it has provided such a distraction that finally something else has taken place instead of fears around insomnia etc. Also, insomnia from the literature does seam to run its course.”

Adventures in Nutritional Therapy

Can’t tolerate a supplement? Try an alternate formulation

Updated August 19, 2013

If a trashed liver, freaked-out nervous system, or fried digestion makes you super-sensitive to various supplements, you might try another delivery method or formulation. These are the ones I know about, although I do not have experience with all of them. Let me know if there are others. See also the post on badly-designed supplements.

  • iron –> lactoferrin. This doesn’t seem to require as much processing by the liver.
  • magnesium –> magnesium spray or epsom salt baths. Absorb it through the skin and bypass those pesky organs.
  • vitamin B6 –> P5P. You’ll read all over the place that 1 mg of P5P equals 50 mg of vitamin B6, but that never helped me at all in figuring out dosage. Nor did taking a small amount of P5P make the rest of the (regular) vitamin B6 dose work better. Just try all of it in P5P form and be done with it.
  • vitamin D –> a vitamin D lamp. Or just go outside, duh. Do not use tanning beds for this.
  • arginine –> citrulline. Low-oxalate dieters will be familiar with this one. Some people who react badly to arginine do better on citrulline.
  • niacin –> niacinamide. If you can’t stand the flush, or have had too many embarrassing moments caused by misjudging the timing of the flush, use niacinamide. However, I think this form does not have the cholesterol-lowering effects that plain old niacin does.
  • thiamine –> Authia cream. This topical application reeks of garlic, but if you’re desperate, you’re desperate. Some users say that taking 10 mg (10,000 mcg) of biotin solves the odor problem.

Injections are also available, vitamin B12 being the most common. I’ve also heard of vitamin B6 injections. Traditional doctors will in dire cases give iron injections to patients not responding to iron supplements, but you might end up with a little gray dot on your arse for the rest of your life. The B12 injections are very easy to do yourself — you don’t need to find a vein, just a well-padded area. I found it very difficult to find an alternative practitioner who would give me the high dose I wanted, though.

Intravenous (IV) treatments are pretty much the arena of alternative medicine clinics. Usually a whole mess of other nutrients are also included in the drip. Vitamin C is very popular with this application. I had several IV treatments of thiamine, but it turned out not to be any more effective than the tablets for me.

DMSO is a chemical available at health food stores that will carry anything it’s mixed with through the skin. So far I’ve heard of it being used to deliver vitamin C and B12 transdermally, but there might be others. I believe you have to be careful with preparation to avoid absorbing any random insect parts or dirt. And that is the sum total of my knowledge on DMSO.

Geisha holding Rx pill by Kris Barnes

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Image of geisha by Kris Barnes.