I’m not happy if I don’t feel like my body is operating at peak efficiency…yet sometimes it’s hard to figure out why things seem off. If you have the time and patience, scheduling a trip to the doctor is always the best option. For a quick peek into the systems of your body, there are at-home tests you can do to test an amazing number of things. The company I’ve been trying out is EverlyWell, and they offer a really large variety of tests, depending on what conditions you’re trying to debug:
Food sensitivity test
Women’s fertility test
Breast Milk DHA test
Men’s health test
Women’s health test
Vitamin D and Inflammation test
Vitamin D test
Cholesterol and lipids test
Heavy metals test
Sleep and stress test
Ovarian reserve test
You get the idea! These tests aren’t covered by most insurance companies, but depending on what you want to test and why, that may be the case anyway (or if you’re on a high deductible plan, it’s all out of pocket anyway, and you can at least use an HSA or FSA to pay for these). It’s cheap, quick, and easy…well sort of easy…some tests DO require some drops of blood so you need to be able to handle that! Just remember…whatever your results, don’t play internet doctor and go crazy over this…but DO use the results to determine if you need to schedule an appointment with a doctor to investigate further!
I’m such a coffee geek, I’m surprised I don’t write about coffee here more! I’ve maintained a separate blog called Coffeeopolis where I used to direct that attention…but in the interest of simplifying life I’ll be favoring this one instead. Today’s coffee fascination is with a new coffee drink called Bulletproof coffee. When I first read about this, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, and I quickly moved on to other, more pressing matters (like, you know, work!). It seems to be popping up more and more though.
So, what is Bulletproof coffee? It’s designed by Bulletproof Exec, one piece of the puzzle to upgrading ‘your performance in every aspect of life.’ Noble ambitions. Why mess with coffee though? This coffee drink is part of a larger diet that gets pretty complicated…so click that link if you want to know more, but for now, just know that it’s designed to be more of a breakfast replacement. So, how do you make it? You start with one cup of coffee, brewed with 2 1/2 heaping teaspoons of low-toxin coffee (I hear that any wet-process coffee meets this criteria, though you can of course buy special Bulletproof Coffee Beans…). Add 1-2 tablespoons of a medium-chain triglyceride oil, 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted grass-fed butter, and mix it all in a blender for 20 seconds (you can buy a starter kit of ingredients for $50). Click here for a printable instruction card.
So what’s it like? I wish I could tell you. Or not. I haven’t decided if this is something I want to try…I love coffee…and this sounds…weird. What’s gotten me thinking more about it, though, is this article at Fast Company. The author drank Bulletproof Coffee every morning for two weeks, trying it as a true breakfast substitute. The results were interesting and the article is worth checking out. Or check out the video below for instructions for how to make Bulletproof Coffee yourself.
I came across a neat article at Care2 called “10 Health Tests Every Father Should Get.” (most of those tests would apply to women, too!). It’s a nice little reminder that I need to start going to a doctor more regularly for checkups! I’ve become more focused on monitoring my health with an activity tracker and wifi scale…these will be further data points to keep track of.
The 10 tests they recommend are (read the link above for details):
Which has me wondering about Apple’s forthcoming Health App. In iOS8 (due this fall), they’ll be offering a way to track all sorts of health metrics, and share that information with your doctor. It has the potential to be a great place to keep track of results from the tests mentioned above…I can’t wait to try it!
High levels of glyphosate (the weed-killing chemical in Roundup) have been found to be present in genetically engineered soy beans (all tested samples were grown in Iowa). It’s not terribly surprising, for one of the main reasons crops like soy are genetically engineered in the first place is to be resistant to Roundup, so that they may be sprayed with that to control weeds. The chemicals get on the food, the food ends up on your plate…simple as that. It’s not something you can just wash off either, as glyphosate is absorbed by the plant, it’s inside your food.
The study (here’s a link to the source) found levels of Roundup to be 9mg per kilogram, which is double what Monsanto themselves deemed ‘extreme’ way back in 1999 (link). The level deemed ‘safe’ by governments is 20mg/kg in the US…but the interesting thing is that it used to be 0.1mg/kg until it was raised in 1999. Europe did the same, raising the ‘safe’ limit from 0.1 to 20mg/kg in 199. Brazil raised their ‘safe’ level from 0.2mg/kg to 10mg/kg in 2004 (but only for soybeans!). There is justifiably concern that the ‘safe’ levels were not raised based on scientific evidence, but rather for business reasons.
The study looked at a total of 31 soy samples, some were GM (qty 10), some were conventional soybeans (qty 10), and others were organic soybeans (qty 10). Without exception, all GM samples showed high levels of glyphosate, and none was detected in the non-GM samples.
So why is this a big deal? Well it’s not a chemical that has been scientifically shown to be safe…and quite the opposite, there are concerns that there may be a link between glysphosate and digestive issues, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s, depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, and cancer. Note that none of that is proven, just that there does appear to be some biological disruption caused by glyphosate, and that sort of biological disruption may explain the above. There’s a bunch of health-related information at this link or this one.
This trend of shipping untested product like this and making us all human guinea pigs is really disturbing. The reality is that if there IS any link here ever proven, it will be impossible to hold anyone accountable. Hence no incentive for people to do real, scientific testing beforehand.
It probably goes without saying, but…I recommend buying organic food whenever you can!
BPA is one of those chemicals that has caused a lot of fear in recent years…but also some uncertainty. More and more though, it sounds like nasty stuff that’s best avoided (if possible). A new study found a direct correlation between BPA consumption and the rate of cancer in mice (read more about the study here). We’re lagging behind the rest of the world on this issue (the FDA still allows it), and unfortunately, its replacement, BPS, is pretty much an unknown, it may or may not have issues of its own. So what can you do? The same thing you do if you want to eat healthy overall. Avoid prepared and processed foods. Buy fresh ingredients and cook your own meals. At least try to minimize your exposure to BPA. You can read more about BPA over at Wikipedia.
Google is working on a contact lens with electronics embedded that can monitor your glucose level and alert you to troublesome reading via your smartphone or perhaps using LEDs in the lens itself. This isn’t the first ‘smart’ contact lens we’ve seen (see this previous AR contact lens post), but is a really cool application and a way to use what is actually very simple technology to make a significant impact on peoples’ quality of life. You can read more about it at FastCompany.
The Withings Pulse activity tracker is one of many similar products in an emerging market of lifestyle technologies, and one that I’ve been using for many months now. The Pulse can track how many steps you take, and how much sleep you get, but what I feel sets it apart from other products is its built in heart rate sensor located on the back. More on that later.
The Pulse is very well designed. Its compact size is covered in soft-touch paint, and the easy to read display blends in with the enclosure to result in no visible bezel. Charging is via the included USB cable, and I find the Pulse needs to be charged so infrequently I really don’t know how long a charge lasts (Withings claims a two week battery life, which I see no reason to doubt). I love the compact size that fits easily into my jeans pockets, though I’m less happy about the included wristband that you use at night. It closes with velcro and there are times at night when I wake up and notice it’s loose or coming detached, requiring a bit of fumbling in the dark to resecure it. I find it’s best to start out with a pretty snug closure of that wrist strap, it’s less likely to work loose that way. The Pulse syncs automatically with my iPhone, and while it occasionally prompts me to restart the iPhone app, I find the overall sync experience to be seamless and effortless. The display acts as a simple touch screen, with the sole physical button being used to cycle between display modes. For example, to activate sleep mode, you cycle to the appropriate screen, then swipe to activate. It’s all very easy to use and intuitive.
Step tracking is one of the big reasons people buy this, trying to hit a 10,000 daily step goal which is loosely based on the Surgeon General’s recommendation of 30 minutes of activity per day. It seems to work well at this, though I find the mileage calculation to be inaccurate and overly optimistic. When you use the free iPhone app, you can view your step activity on a daily or weekly basis. The weekly view just shows number of steps, while the daily view color-codes the activity to represent the level of exertion – in the screenshots below, red was a nine mile jog I enjoyed yesterday (yes, enjoyed!).
Sleep tracking is the other cool feature of the Pulse. The other activity trackers I’ve seen will tell you the amount of time you spend in bed, but to me that’s not nearly as useful as the quality of sleep you get during that time. The Pulse tracks light and deep sleep, which I assume it’s using the heart rate sensor to help detect (the wrist band has a window to provide a clear sight between the heart rate sensor and your skin). It also detects time spent awake, though I find that’s not very precise. As with activity tracking, sleep tracking data is displayed as either weekly summary, or daily view, as you can see in the screenshots below. What I find really interesting is how sometimes the amount of deep sleep I get is not very dependent on how much time I spent in bed.
The sleep tracking is really cool to review, especially when you start looking for correlations between how much deep sleep you get, and how you feel the next day. It’s probably my favorite feature of the Pulse, and what really sets it apart from the other fitness trackers I’ve seen.
The iPhone app will also show data for heart rate measurements, though that isn’t of as much interest to me. But hey, if that’s your cup of tea, this product also works great for that! You place your finger on the rear of the Pulse and select the heart rate option on the screen to perform a quick measurement.
The Pulse can be purchased for $100 from Amazon and is well worth the money, provided you pair it with the iPhone or Android App to get the most out of the data. I have concerns about the longevity of that velcro wrist strap (I worry the velcro will not hold as tightly over time), but this is such a fast-evolving technology that I expect I’ll be replacing my Pulse with a next generation product before that becomes a real issue.
This is one of those stories I find almost too scary to be true…yet I don’t see reason to doubt it. A study by the Biodiversity Research Institute (link) found that 84% of fish have levels of mercury that are unsafe, posing a health risk to humans. So on the one hand, we’re told to eat more fish, it’s good for you…yeah well except for the mercury part of it. 🙁 Relative to other countries, fish in the US tested better, with a bit more than 40% of samples above the recommend mercury levels. Most other countries ranked higher, in the 90+% range. Swordfish and tuna rank as the worst (highest mercury concentrations).
Check out the video below of a bionic arm and what a bit difference it can make in one person’s quality of life. Even with relatively simple motions (open, close, rotate), it facilitates things like tying shoes, walking the dog, etc. Cool technology.