Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tidepools at Montana de Oro

The very high surf and tides of the morning were coupled with very low, slightly negative tides in the afternoon during my recent trip to the Morro Bay area. How lucky can you get? So on the second day of hiking at Montana de Oro State Park, I climbed down the steps into Corallina Cove to check out the tidepools. It was weird looking back towards the cliffs from the beach because all of it had been underwater in the morning.

Walking out on these rocks was not easy. The rocks formed ridges and on top were wet seaweed, aggregating anemones, and tar, all of which were very slippery. The marine animals tended to embed themselves in the ridges, too, making photographs difficult.

True to its name, the cove had an abundance of coralline algae. There was also an abundance of black turban snails. In fact, there was a general abundance of sea life. Everywhere you looked, there was something.

All of my old friends from Abalone Cove were there including the aforementioned aggregating anemones, ochre sea stars, and sea urchins. At first, I thought there were no urchins but when I took a closer look at my photos, I saw them hiding deep in the crevices of the rocks. Perhaps they were hiding from the sea otters which now range along the California coast from San Francisco to Santa Barbara County. This large anemone is a giant green anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) that lives in the cooler waters of Central and Northern California. It does not have the radial lines on the center disk that the starburst anemone does.

I did find one bat star all by itself close to the shoreline. There were probably others, hiding.

For most of the afternoon, I was by myself although several small groups of people came and went while I was there. Many birds joined me as well and they came quite close to me. (Except for the photo of the Oystercatcher which is a smaller bird, none of these photos has been cropped.) They seemed to know that I couldn't move very fast on those rocks and they were hungry. They probably had been waiting for low tide all day and I was just an inconvenience. Above is one of several Snowy Egrets that came to feed.

This one Great Egret I had found in the morning clinging for dear life to a rock when the surf was crashing all around it. Later it was up on the mesa searching for something to eat in the grass. And finally, here it was down on the rocks at low tide. This is probably the real reason it hung around the shore.

A few other birds showed up that we do not often see in Southern California. One was this Glaucous-winged Gull and another was the Black Oystercatcher below. Here's a fascinating photograph of the Western, Thayer's, and Glaucous-winged Gulls clearly showing the differences between them. In fact, this site has an amazing number of photos showing gulls in their various phases (it takes the larger gulls four years to mature and every year they look different making identification very difficult).

The Oystercatchers were very noisy, making screeching sounds as they flew. That fluorescent red-orange bill and eye is unmistakable.

Our local Abalone Cove will be having negative tides through February. Bad Mom, Good Mom has an excellent post giving the dates and times. Here are the Los Angeles tide tables for all of 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Montana de Oro State Park

Time for some pretty pictures. Two weeks ago I was walking the Bluff Trail at Montana de Oro State Park. It was an absolutely glorious day! Even the locals that I met on the trail were remarking about how beautiful it was, mostly because of the very high surf. And to think that this was one of the parks that our governor wanted to close! Luckily, they found it would cost more to close it than to keep it open. I might mention that the cost for my day at the park was $0. Not even a parking fee.

I had been to the Morro Bay area many times but not since my husband died. I wanted to treat myself for my birthday, and I wanted to test out and learn to use all the new camera equipment I have bought. So I settled on Morro Bay. (It's warmer than the Sierras in December!) As many times as we had been to Morro Bay, however, we had never taken the time to visit Montana de Oro which is just south of the bay. These photos were taken on my first visit to the park. I lucked out! I don't know if I will ever see it like this again.

I have to say that the entire California coastline is gorgeous, but the stunning rocky shores don't really start until you get north of Lompoc and the Nipomo Dunes. I left the people in the top photo to give you an idea of the scale. It turns out that this couple are professional photographers and they were taking video footage of the waves. That sign to the left of them says, "Danger Keep Back," because all along the bluff, the land was falling into the ocean. I thought they were nuts!

And the surf was spectacular! I couldn't take enough pictures (ask my family).

I found some of the same rock formations that I have seen at Abalone Cove. It's interesting that the rocks break off in squares and then get edged with other colors. I wish I knew more about the geology of the coastline.

There was just one cove after another with the rocky cliffs like fingers reaching out into the ocean. The sea foam was so great that in the narrow cove below, the foam looked like whipped cream.

Just one more...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cheadle Complete

I finished and wore Cheadle on Christmas Day. When I posted on it in November, I said that the sewing up would be easy. Was I ever wrong! The pattern never mentions this, but the bands of the braided section have to be sewn together or else the sweater stretches down and you get holes—big holes. And it's not easy sewing because of the way the bands loop together. I just sort of played it by ear leaving the sleeves open because they appear to be that way in the photo in the magazine. I checked the Rowan website and nobody has mentioned this as far as I could tell and the bands don't look like they were sewn together in the photo, so how did they solve the problem?

The Cocoon yarn is lucious and a dream to work with. Even sewing with it was easy. I was afraid that tucking in all the tails at the end would create a big bulky mess, but it worked out OK. And all my worries about not getting guage were unfounded. The sweater is plenty big enough for me.

To my horror I ran out of yarn at the very end. I was about 8 rows short on the ribbing on the sleeves. I toyed with the idea of making the ribbing shorter on both sides than the pattern calls for, and I had to use scraps to do that. (More tails to tuck in.) I didn't like the result, so I ordered another ball of yarn from Sakonnet Purls (aka where I had bought the yarn originally. I put a note on the order asking if they had any of Lot whatever-it-was left, I would appreciate them sending that. I was prepared to get yarn that was a slightly different color from another lot, but, bless them!! They sent me what I needed. It's great doing business with a small company.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oil Pulling

I mentioned oil pulling at the end of my last post and feel it needs an explanation. I am always willing to try new things healthwise if they don't cost much and have no side effects. And I find that many of my fellow musicians are likewise more open to alternative medicine practices than others. The name oil pulling intrigued me and also the claim that it could help arthritis so I searched the web and found that Bruce Fife had just written a book on the subject called, Oil Pulling Therapy. I have read several of Fife's books on coconut oil, palm oil, and a good compendium of detox therapies and knew him to be a reliable source of information, not that I agree with everything he says. After all, he is a vegetarian.

Let me preface any further remarks with the fact that a low-carb diet a la Eades, Protein Power Life Plan with a dash of Paleo (no grains or dairy except butter) from Loren Cordain are the basis of any other attempts to improve my health. Low-carb is a given as far as I am concerned and anything else is extra.

So what is oil pulling? Sounds wacky, but it is actually an ancient Ayurvedic practice going back over 2000 years. You simply put 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil in your mouth (I use coconut oil, natch), swish it around for 20 minutes, then spit it out (not down the drain but into a plastic bag for disposal). Rinse your mouth out and that's it. What could be easier? The oil will mix with your saliva and the resulting solution will be milky white. If it gets to be too much, just spit some of it out and keep going or spit it all out and take a new teaspoon or so of oil. Swishing for the full 20 minutes is important.

So what's it doing? There are other websites and people promoting oil pulling with various explanations of how this can help to relieve all kinds of symptoms, but I like Fife's.

The oil acts like a cleanser. When you put it in your mouth and work it around your teeth and gums it “pulls” out bacteria and other debris. It acts much like the oil you put in your car engine. The oil picks up dirt and grime. When you drain the oil, it pulls out the dirt and grime with it, leaving the engine relatively clean. Consequently, the engine runs smoother and lasts longer. Likewise, when we expel harmful substances from our bodies our health is improved and we run smoother and last longer.
He explains that the reason the oil has this "pulling" effect is because the fatty membranes of the tiny organisms, bacteria and viruses, are attracted to it (oil to oil). Our mouths are full of bacteria all the time and some of it gets deeply imbedded in our teeth and gums. These are "sucked out of their hiding places and held firmly in the solution." Even antibiotics may not get at these hidden bacterias in the tubules of your teeth.

How does it help something like arthritis? "Mouth bacteria, once they get into the bloodstream, tend to collect and cause infection in the weakest areas of the body. Certain bacteria apparently have an affinity for the joints. Joints that have already been weakened by disease or trauma are primary locations for secondary infections... Mouth bacteria readily attack these locations."

The most obvious result of oil pulling which almost everyone who tries it relates is that their teeth get noticeably whiter and their breath smells fresher. Tongue and gums turn a healthy pink and incipient periodontal disease is stopped in its tracks. Many also report a tightening of loose teeth. Loose fillings can fall out, but Fife says this is a blessing in disguise because the filling probably needed to be replaced anyway. Another almost universal effect is clearing of the nose and sinuses—good news for asthma sufferers. The nose-only breathing that Buteyko recommends is a lot easier to do if your nose is clear!

I have experienced all these effects (except for losing a filling) and have even been enjoying freedom from my severe arthritis symptoms. Only time will tell if this is a premanent change or just one of those times when my arthritis isn't flaring.

I do have walking pneumonia right now which I have no idea where I got or exactly when. But I am pretty sure it started before I started the oil pulling. I have had no symptoms except for a slight cough and shortness of breath when climbing uphill. The cough I thought was do to my asthma starting up again although that should have been a warning since the only time I have a problem with asthma now is when there is an infection somewhere like bronchitis. I even went on a great vacation to Morro Bay and spent two days hiking in Montana de Oro State Park (another post) giving new meaning to the term "walking pneumonia" and felt better at the end of the week! The walking and the salt sea air seemed to do me good. Did the oil pulling keep the infection from getting worse? I think so although I was swishing only once a day in the morning. If I had known I was sick, I might have done it twice or even three times a day. I do know that the oil pulling has kept the thrush due to the antibiotic I am taking under control.

If you search the web, you can find demonstrations on how to do this technique and many sites with first-hand experiences. Your effects may be different than mine because as I stated earlier I have been a low-carber for several years. Carbs increase the bacteria in your digestive system and even the good bacteria enters the digestive system through the mouth. Not only can oil pulling help with oral hygiene, asthma, sinus problems, and arthritis but some people have found it helps with diabetes, digestion, headaches, skin problems, and sleep and energy issues. Sounds amazing doesn't it?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Asthma, Apnea, GERD, and Wheat

...almost every medical and mental health condition seems to be linked in one way or another.
It’s refreshing to hear a doctor of modern American medicine who has the imagination to think outside of the box say what practitioners of alternative medicine have always postulated. I have just finished reading Sleep Interrupted by Steven Y. Park, M.D. I heard about his theory of a cause of GERD from reading the comments section of one of Dr. Mike Eades’s posts.

But his theory goes way beyond just GERD. It encompasses snoring and sleep apnea, panic attacks, heart conditions, depression, hormone problems, migraines, tinnitus, and even mononucleosis. There used to be a television show called Connections with James Burke. In this and other science documentaries that he did he would connect various seemingly disparate items and tie them all together in a spellbinding story. I loved that show and I hope that by the end of this post I will have made clear to you how the four things in my title connect and you may be surprised that the connection is not what you think.

Basically, Park deduced that one possible cause of all the disorders I mentioned is lack of sleep or interrupted sleep. OK so far, but he goes further to state that the sleep problem is due to narrowed airways caused by things like enlarged tonsils, flimsy nostrils, and tongue collapse. And he acknowledges the work of Weston Price who discovered significant jaw structure narrowing in people who ate a western type diet. The jaw narrowing creates crowded teeth and may be the reason almost none of us has room for our wisdom teeth any more. But more about Price later.

Park’s GERD theory is that when we relax in a deep sleep, our tongue may sink back in our throat enough to block the airway completely causing a vacuum that sucks up the acid from our stomachs. He also mentions a condition called LPRD (laryngopharyngeal reflux disease) which is mostly silent causing throat clearing, post-nasal drip, hoarseness, cough, etc. This happens when the acid reaches the throat. For those of us with the type of insomnia that causes early morning awakening (3 or 4 AM), his explanation is that at that time of the night, we are in REM sleep and not such a deep sleep as earlier, and the obstruction of our breathing naturally wakes us up. Sometimes we awaken so briefly, we are not aware of it. Other times, we wake completely and have trouble getting back to sleep. Do you dream anymore? If not, this may be an indication that you are not getting enough REM sleep.

Dr. Park’s remedies include sleeping on the left side instead of the back, dietary changes, relaxation techniques, following your circadian rhythm and many others we have heard before. Alas, he also offers expensive tests, devices, and of course surgery.

Although I started reading Park’s book because I wanted to find out more about his theory of GERD, I ended up being more fascinated by the connection I found to Buteyko breathing techniques which I have had to go back to recently due to contracting walking pneumonia. The pneumonia infection set off my asthma which caused me to return to my breathing exercises and to re-read Dr. Paul J Ameisen’s book Every Breath You Take finding new connections and ideas there.

Buteyko was a Russian doctor who discovered that a major cause of asthma and other breathing related disorders was over-breathing or hyperventilation. This chronic hyperventilation is not enough to cause panic attacks, although it can, but it does cause the body to defend itself by closing down the airways with inflammation and mucous discharge. Why such a defense? Buteyko believes that our bodies actually need more CO2 not more oxygen, that life formed when the Earth’s atmosphere had much more CO2 in it than it does now. Through evolutionary changes that took place as the atmosphere lost its CO2, our bodies adapted by retaining CO2 in the avioli of the lungs. When we over-breathe, the balance is upset and our body reacts to slow down our breathing to retain the CO2 by blocking the airways. Furthermore, through the Verigo-Bohr Effect lowered CO2 levels can cause the oxygen in our blood to get more “sticky” and actually deprive the cells of oxygen!

Oxygen enters the lungs, goes into the blood and is trapped by the haemoglobin molecule. How easily it is released, to feed the body cells, depends on the levels of carbon dioxide.

I haven’t been able to corroborate Buteyko’s thesis about the need for more CO2, but if he is right, this has implications for a number of diseases and many of them the same ones that Dr. Park mentions—asthma, emphysema, allergic rhinitis, sleep apnea, hypertension, angina, anxiety, and eczema.

One reason for this over-breathing that Ameisen doesn’t mention are the narrowed passageways that Dr. Park does describe, specifically narrow jaws that are the result of our parents and grandparents consumption of refined wheat, sugar, and processed foods. Who can forget the before and after pictures that Price shows in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration showing native peoples with wide mouths and straight teeth (and no periodontal disease) when they consumed their traditional diets, compared with the children of those natives who were born after the introduction of western foods. Narrowed jaws, besides other problems, forces us to let our tongue sit too far back in the mouth thereby partially obstructing our throats. My theory is that this causes us to feel oxygen-deprived and as a result to over-breath to compensate.

And that’s also my connection to wheat. I picked wheat out of all the other foods that cause Price’s description of physical degeneration because, to me, it seems to be the worst offender. If you select wheat on Dr. William Davis’s blog, you will find that he has nothing good to say about wheat.

Another dentist who has written about this subject is Raymond Silkman, D.D.S. Silkman offers one easy remedy for those of us who suffer from this problem and it again involves the tongue. Silkman states that the proper placement of the tongue is up and forward with the tip of the tongue just behind the front teeth. A narrow jaw specifically a narrow upper palate and crowded teeth will prevent the tongue from resting in its proper location. I tested myself for the tongue blockage that Park described and found that while lying on my back and with my tongue up and forward, I could breathe more easily. When I let my tongue go back to its normal position for me, which is about half-way back, my throat was blocked partially. If I relaxed my tongue completely, then my throat was blocked completely.

The most important orthodontic appliance that you all have and carry with you twenty-four hours a day is your tongue. People who breathe through their nose also normally have a tongue that postures up into the maxilla. When the tongue sits right up behind the front teeth, it is maintaining the shape of the maxilla every time you swallow. Every time the proper tongue swallow motion takes place it spreads up against maxilla, activating it and contributing to that little cranial motion, that cranial pumping that we discussed earlier. Individuals who breathe through their mouths have a lower tongue posture and the maxilla does not receive the stimulation from the tongue that it should.

So to put it together, I was born with a narrow jaw (the dentist gives me a child's toothbrush as a parting gift) with some crossed teeth due to my mom eating wheat (and other processed foods), which causes my tongue to sit too far back in my mouth, which causes me to mouth breathe and over-breathe, which is one source of my asthma, and have total tongue collapse at night which causes me to wake in the early AM and not get as much sleep as I would like and may be the cause of my GERD as well. Remedies: Buteyko breathing, i.e. light, shallow breathing, taping my mouth shut at night to keep it closed thereby forcing me to breath through the nose, sleeping on the left side, consciously moving my tongue up and forward, and oil pulling. Yes, oil-pulling. I’ll have to explain that last connection in another post. This one is long enough.