Calcium retention, a lesson in economics?

In The Paleo Diet, Cordain advocates a no dairy diet (correct me if I’m wrong here).  Probably the first thing that pops into your mind, and Cordain prepared for this reaction, was “Hey, what about my calcium?!  Won’t my bones disintegrate like Kevin Costner’s fictitious father when he walks into the corn fields in  “Field of Dreams” if I don’t drink my milk?!!”  No need to re-invent the wheel here, I’ll let Cordain rebut this one:

  • “Most of us have gotten the message about consuming calcium.  But the other part of the equation –how much calcium you excrete– is just as important.  It is quite possible for you to be in calcium balance on a low calcium intake if your calcium excretion is also low.  On the other hand, it’s easy for you to fall out of calcium balance –even if you load up on cheese at every meal– if you lose more calcium than you take in.”

Cordain goes on to explain that an out-of-kilter pH balance will send calcium excretion off the charts, and will require you to consume huge amounts of daily calcium to make up for this loss.  The alternative is to keep your pH in balance by consuming large quantities of fruits and vegetables, and luckily enough those same fruits and veggies contain enough calcium to more than adequately exceed your now very low calcium excretion rate.  In a sense, when you are pumping yourself full of milk in order to keep up with your ridiculous calcium excretion rates, you are likely treating the symptoms, and not the actual cause of your real problem.

Picture trying to keep a bucket with a pin-hole leak full by filling it with a dixie cup instead of trying to keep a bucket with the bottom missing full by filling it with a garden hose!  Wouldn’t it make sense to try to plug up the hole, or at least make it as small as possible, instead of running up your water bill using the hose?

So how does economics come into play here?  Well in a sense, we have just talked about the economy of body calcium levels, so now we’re just going to talk about the economy of money.  What if, just like with calcium, there was a way to bring yourself into monetary balance not by making more money, but instead by “excreting” less?  Now this is hardly a new concept.  Take Thoreau in Walden Pond, Jesus sending out the disciples, the Buddha, Ghandi, etc. for examples.  But the reason I bring this up today is because of its possible implication for the US economy!

I don’t really want to go into this in all that much depth, so I’ll just ask a few questions:

What if, instead of trying to get us out of this economic recession by increasing our monetary intake…. [wait for it, waaaait for it]… we tried to get ourselves out of this recession by decreasing our monetary excretion rates?!  Please bring back that mental image of yourself trying to keep that bucket full with a hose, now pretend there are trillions of dollars coming out of that hose instead of water.  Is the only answer to this recession to create new jobs which create new products and services that we didn’t know we needed, and then create demand for these new products and services by telling people that they need them?

For myself, I’m going to experiment in both realms, physiological and economic.  My guess is that just like the calcium, in money not only will I be able to be in balance by lowering my excretion rate, but I’ll be healthier and happier to boot. What about you?

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More is Less, and Less is just right?

This whole diet thing has apparently been firing nearby brain cells, and I think i’m starting to narrow in on what the epicenter of this neuro-party is.  Forgive me, my oh so wise bible teachers who i ignored growing up, but I think they were on to something with the concept that Less is More… although i’m wondering is “less” isn’t necessarily “more”, as the “more” we can come to think of as normal is just “too much”, and “less” would actually be “just right”.  I like lists, so the following are the examples from totally different walks of life that seem to be surfacing the same central theme:

  1. Diet
  2. Footwear
  3. Bedding
  4. Possessions

Now each of these topics actually corresponds to a book, or several, that I’ reading. So I’ll expound.

1.  Diet.

I’ve stumbled upon the Paleolithic Diet (The Paleo Diet, The Primal Blueprint, The Atkins Diet?).  The basic philosophy of this diet is as follows:  If human beings evolved to live on hunted game and gathered fruits/veg, and then thived for around 2 million years, then that is the diet under which the human being will perform optimally. Flipped around, the agricultural revolution and all of its spawn (seed-eating, grain-eating, sugar-eating) are the cause of many of modern mans ailments.  But wait! You say.  Wasn’t the agricultural revolution an improvement?  Didn’t it free us from the burden of hunting and gathering?  Well… yes… but it probably is what gave rise to diabetes,heart disease,obesity, 80 work weeks on a farm and 40 work weeks in a grey cubicle.  Sounds like out of the frying pan and into the fire to me.  Or maybe more-so out of the garden of Eden and into the fields to toil and sweat and die of a heart attack.

2. Footwear?

Yes.  Footwear.  Came across this when I thought I should buy new running shoes… thought about Nike Frees, and then ran across a Tim Ferris review of the Vibram FiveFingers.  Bought a pair immediately.  Again, the premise, if human beings evolved to walk on their two bare feet, and then thrived for 2 million years (without plantar fasciitis or heel spurs), then might the modern running shoe be the cause (not the solution) to our modern running injuries?  Then I read Born to Run and was blown away.  Yes… yes it appears that you come out of the womb with the most high tech running suspension system ever created.

3. Bedding

Actually, i haven’t found more than a sentence or two on the whole internet (yes… the whole googlenet, and i fancy myself a pretty quick on the draw googler) regarding simple bedding. [*Update 🙂  Found this link from MDA] But this is more of a personal experiment, taking the less is more idea and trying to apply to other places.  And actually, I’ve had this knot in my back that recurrs whenever I become active over the last 5 years… and after 1 month of sleeping on a futon on the floor, its gone!  Could be a result of diet + exercise change, but who knows!  Anyways, my hypothesis in this area is the same as the others,  if people slept on minimal bedding for two million years… yeah you get the point.

4.  Possessions.

I just cracked open Walden the other day, and I wager to think that it would have been fascinating to discuss a Paleo diet and barefoot running with him.  The man is dead on.  I’m not very far into this book, but already he is comparing the “modern” man of his time to the “savages” he actually had the great pleasure of being able to interact with and observe (at the very least through second person). So far he has spoken to the issues of clothing and housing and how modern man has become a slave to those things which in reality are supposed to liberate him.  “But lo! Men have become the tools of their tools.”  So again I wonder… if man lived and thrived for 2 million years with minimal clothing/possessions (no tvs,bikes,football,sports cars,books)/lodging, did we perhaps take a wrong turn somewhere.  Is it possible that like the carbs, and like the shoes, many/all of the other experiments on improving the human “condition” are also failing/failed?

So thats the question to ponder now.  What other things in my life are  just like the carbs and the shoes in that CV (conventional wisdom) has told me I cannot live without, but reality has demonstrated that not only can I live without, but I can live better without?