Sunday, October 6, 2013

Heart Rate Variability, Pig Roasts, and Other Randomness

Brand new post is up at Psychology Today:

Depression and a Broken Heart

It is an introduction to the concept of healthy heart rate variability, about which Grayson Wheatley had a featured talk on the first day of AHS13, and he graciously helped me with research for the article. I'm hoping to do a little series on it with some more technical articles here if I have the time.

I just noticed the Psychology Today Evolutionary Psychiatry Blog has been viewed over a million times, which is heartening. Both Your Brain on Ketones and Magnesium: The Original Chill Pill have over 100,000 views. In fact all the older posts have several thousands of views, except A Case of Scratchy Mice, so click on that and give that post some love too.

Sleigh Bells: Bitter Rivals

What has been keeping me busy besides kids, teaching, and paying the bills? Well, I'm working on an academic chapter for an ancestral health textbook, running 5Ks in the dark (fun but very strange, like a fitness rave), and attending pig roasts (another special thanks to Diana Rogers for inviting my family to the amazing Clark Farm, and I can't wait for her next book to come out!). All usually live-tweeted for the psychoanalysts out there.

Electric Run, Gillette Stadium, Boston

The mobile chicken coop at Clark Farm.

The pig. Now in my belly.

Other stuff: The Paleo Manifesto is out, at last. I was able to read a pre-release copy in July and loved it. John Durant makes his journey personal, likable, and pertinent to any modern Western human. He shines new light on the long historical path that we took to get to the here and now, and how we can use those lessons to be healthier, saner, and live a little more naturally wild. It isn't another diet book and is definitely worth a spot on the bookshelf.

Also reading Grain Brain, which is aptly named and seems like it would be just my sort of thing, but so far, I'm not all that happy with it. I will post more if it turns around and by no means is this little blurb to be considered a full review. Dr. Pearlmutter is a neurologist with extensive training and clinical experience in nutrition, but he is militantly anti-carb and suggests everyone keep to less than 60 grams of carbohydrate a day. He states this amount is "one serving of fruit" daily though my nutrition trackers will put a banana at 30 grams and an apple at 34 grams. I'm all for the therapeutic benefit of ketogenic diets and very low carb diets for those who thrive on them, but not everyone will, particularly those who participate in certain types of athletics (like myself) that require a lot of glycolytic work (CrossFit, ahem). I don't think 100 grams of carbs a day, for example, will actively rot your brain in most circumstances. I'm crossing my fingers the book will get better and there has got to be some useful information in there.

The other books I'm looking forward to: Well Fed 2 and Chris Kresser's Personal Paleo Code.

Here come the sheep at a real farm to table experience:


  1. I don' t understand the Dark Vader breathing well. Do you have to hum? Are there any keywords I could use to search for a video? Does it has a name in yoga? Thanks.

    1. Try this video:

    2. Thanks. The "fog your glasses" example helped.

  2. Your post at Psych Today is a very good one. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Steve! I think the concept of autonomic dysfunction with regards to chronic mental and physical and medical stress is an important one to think about as a medical model.

  3. Hi Emily,
    What do you think of this article?

    1. (anecdotally) I would say most of my patients who adopted and were able to maintain a low-carb paleo style diet had improvements in cholesterol levels, body composition, and general health with a decrease in inflammation (improvement in skin, easier to maintain weight, etc.), but in the long term there tended to be some anxiety, though mood overall became more stable. I don't know if that has to do with giving up grains or processed food or what. It's real life, not anything controlled. Many of the happiest low carbers were on the older side who didn't do a lot of high intensity exercise. A few people get higher cholesterol (but not outrageous cholesterol, going from, say, total chol of 180s to low 200s or so with increases in HDL, decreased TGs, and *sometimes* LDL, but not always.) But people with metabolic syndrome to start tend to have good improvement in all cholesterol variables. Women did not tolerate the low carb as well as men, more anxiety and sluggishness. Adding "safe" starch seemed to help with energy levels and ability to relax. But, again, anecdotes. I know women who are absolutely thrilled to be on ketogenic diets, who do well, no anxiety or energy problems, and were really struggling before from various medical/GI problems.

    2. 1) What about all the animal studies and human studies brought forth?

      2) Like you say, most were getting off of the SAD, which everyone agrees a low carb diet is an improvement from it.

      3) Most people with serious problems may in general be more sensitive to the food system- gluten, casein, corn, soy, etc..A high fat diet will inevitably take them away from allergens because fat doesn't have proteins or toxins.

      Given these points, a whole food, starch based diet, with fruits veggies, some animal foods, nuts and seeds and a moderate levels of various kinds of fat and that avoids foods that people are sensitive to may be better, no? Have you ever tried such a diet?

  4. although this was done in mice... I found the effect of histamine in the brain very interesting especially the effect on behaviour..


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