I’ve heard that there are many ways to skin a cat, and I believe this. I also believe that no crazy cat-skinning method should be dismissed outright. Ideas are useful even if they’re wrong.
One idea I like very much comes from a book I’m reading called The Wild Life of Our Bodies. The author introduces a concept he calls the “Pronghorn Effect.” Pronghorn are antelope-like animals that live in the central U.S. They are way faster than they “need” to be to outrun wolves and other predators in the modern environment. If evolution does not “overdesign,” then why are they so fast? Tens of thousands of years ago, American cheetahs were still around, so the speed of the pronghorn is an anachronism, a relic of selection pressures from a different era. Their speed allows pronghorn to escape wolves easily, but such speed carries with it certain other costs which, in the modern milieu, one must consider maladaptive.
The author applies this line of thinking to hookworm therapy for treating Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Apparently there is a black market for hookworm eggs in Mexico. People go there to get infected, hoping for a cure. The idea is that our inflamed guts are like the pronghorn—lacking the parasitic worms we evolved with, our immune systems are hypersensitive. (Note that people in developing countries have high rates of infection with intestinal worms and they don’t get Crohn’s.) Hookworms and other parasitic worms release hormones that “quiet” the immune system. Intestinal motility is reduced. For some, the treatment is a revelation. For others not so much.
This resonates with me because, back in the mid to late 90s, I had IBD symptoms and couldn’t get any relief. I investigated, and dismissed, celiac disease because a) the Internet was young and the celiac websites seemed full of crazy people, and b) I wasn’t ready to accept a life without bread. One of my doctors suggested, politely, that I might be a hypochondriac. And, apparently, hypochondriacs respond well to massive quantities of valium. The doctor gave me a golden ticket and I fell in love with those diazepam 10 mg blue pills. Apparently valium, and also vicodin, decreases intestinal motility (I learned about vicodin from another doctor…I acquired many doctors to feed my habit…and then discovered how to order what I needed online from India without the permission of a doctor). Rather than having 3 to 5 bowel movements before lunch, I would have 3 to 5 bowel movements per week. I found that valium and narcotics made shitting much easier. But I recall little else from this period.
No one wants an addict in the house and soon I was forced to choose between my marriage and psychoactive drugs. I came upon another solution quite by accident. When taking antibiotics for an infection, I found that I could once again shit properly. Although, the poops were tiny pellets, they were merciful and infrequent. Soon I began nuking my guts at regular intervals with Amoxicillin and Rifaximin (Xifaxan). Unfortunately the returns from this therapy diminished over time.
I hit upon the ideal solution after reading a treatise by “The Bear” (Owsley), a fervent proponent of the All Meat Diet. After 8 months of eating literally nothing but meat, I began to introduce a few plant materials, such as iceberg lettuce and canned pears, which were well tolerated. But in this period I clung to my central premise that no cure is complete without a pill. I was taking 30 or 40 supplements daily in addition to my 2-3 pounds of rare ground meat.
Today, I’m fully capable of eating several plant products, including potatoes, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. I’ve got an official celiac diagnosis, and I no longer think about bread. I got divorced. Stopped taking supplements, for the most part, except for some Vitamin D. The decades-long chapter of dealing with my ass has been closed. The end of an era that persisted because I fiercely clung to the idea that the solution to every problem is a pill.
What persistent, albeit wrong or misguided idea(s) has (have) shaped your health and nutrition worldview? What crazy thing(s) did you try before hitting upon a more elegant (and efficient) method of cat-skinning?