Best. Yogurt. Ever.

As I mentioned in my last post, Dr. William Davis has recommended a particular strain of bacteria, Lactobacillis reuteri, as having many health benefits.

He discussed those benefits in the video I embedded in that post, and now as promised here’s a video I produced that demonstrates how to make it.

You can read Dr. Davis’ instructions for making the yogurt (and read more about its benefits) on The Undoctored Blog, but I think the video above is helpful to show you step-by-step how to make it consistently and flawlessly.

Dr. Davis suggests you can make the yogurt by putting the liquid in a pan in the oven. He says you can just turn the oven up to 350ºF for 90 seconds, and then shut it off, repeating the cycle every few hours to keep the temperature between 100-110ºF.

In my experience that’s way too much work, and is susceptible to failure. If you forget to turn off the oven, you kill the bacteria. If you fail to turn on the oven at least once in the middle of the night, the whole mix can sour. I had a couple of flops in my first five batches using that method.

That’s why I decided to get a yogurt maker, which keeps the mix at a constant temperature with no need to pay attention to it. Since then I would guess I have made 50 batches or more, and haven’t had a single failure.

After getting the BioGaia tablets, which contain the bacteria, and inulin powder as a source of prebiotic fiber on which they feed, all you need is the liquid that will be turned into yogurt.

Dr. Davis says he uses half-and-half as his base, and also has made yogurt from almond milk or coconut milk. If you use almond milk, he says you need to add some sugar to your mix, in addition to the inulin.

Whole milk is another option, but my choice is a mix of half-and-half with heavy whipping cream, as you’ll see in the video. This is definitely not low-fat yogurt.

I have gotten great results by keeping the mix at 104ºF for 36 hours, and by putting some water in the yogurt maker it keeps the temperature more even throughout the jars. After they’re done, I put them in the refrigerator.

As you can see, this is the thickest yogurt you’re likely to find. It stands up straight.

When it’s time to eat, I take one of the jars from the refrigerator and spread it out in a dish, adding three more teaspoons of the inulin both to sweeten the yogurt and to provide some prebiotic fiber to feed the bacteria in my GI tract.

I think it tastes great plain, but I typically also top it with some fresh raspberries or blackberries.

This is a delicious dessert, and I think the benefits Dr. Davis cites seem to hold true for me. He says it has a powerful appetite-suppressant effect, and while I think my low-carb diet has helped me not experience cravings during my typical 18-hour fasting window, the yogurt could definitely be a contributing factor.

Dr. Davis also touts the skin-thickening and collagen-increasing properties of L. reuteri and this yogurt, which supposedly results in a more youthful appearance and faster wound healing. I found a picture that isn’t necessarily definitive in this regard, but it might give a clue.

The picture on the left is from January 2019, when I was just starting to make and eat the yogurt. I tried to duplicate the angle in the one on the right this evening, 16 months later. The horizontal forehead creases seem less pronounced to me, but you be the judge:

I think the oxytocin-enhancement benefits are real too, as I’ve been able to put on muscle mass through weightlifting.

Since I find it so delicious, and because research suggests benefits that my own experience tends to support, I plan to keep making this for Lisa and me for the long term.

If you try it, I’d love to hear about your experience.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Of Lawn Care and Poop Transplants

One of the keys to health Dr. William Davis emphasizes in Undoctored is using probiotics and prebiotic fiber to cultivate healthy bowel flora.

He says one of the significant sources of our health problems is that the good bacteria are disrupted, sometimes by a course of antibiotics but for other reasons as well, and as a result harmful bacteria can take over.

This is not a fringe idea: I have seen related stories through my work at Mayo Clinic, as highlighted by this Q&A post on fecal transplant to fight Clostridium difficile infection.

You read that correctly: transplanting poop from someone else into a patient with C. diff can help to restore healthy bacterial balance in the large intestine!

It’s kind of like maintaining a healthy lawn. The best way to prevent weeds is to have lots of healthy grass growing, as my before and after from the last 25 days demonstrates:

One challenge we have in cultivating healthy bowel flora (as opposed to a healthy lawn) is that we don’t know exactly what an ideal mix of intestinal microorganisms is. In Undoctored, Dr. Davis discusses isolated tribes such as the Hadza in Tanzania and the Matses in Peru who have not been exposed to antibiotics and industrial chemicals. Although they’re on different continents, their bowel flora are strikingly similar.

But instead of pursuing a Hadza poop transplant, Dr. Davis recommends a six-week course of a probiotic supplement with at least a dozen different strains of bacteria and at least 50 billion colony forming units (CFUs), along with ingestion of probiotic fiber to enable their growth.

Several strains of bacteria have been shown beneficial, and by planting those seeds (just as I did with my grass seeds) and providing probiotic fiber, Dr. Davis says we can alleviate dysbiosis.

Since publishing Undoctored, Dr. Davis has become enthusiastic about significant benefits he has seen from one particular strain called Lactobacillus Reuteri. Here’s a scholarly article from another source highlighting its many benefits. In the video below, Dr. Davis describes several:

Dr. Davis has been writing about L. reuteri on his blog for a little over two years, including how he is making tasty yogurt to add it to his digestive system from the top end instead of the bottom.

I’ve been making this yogurt and Lisa and I have been eating it regularly for about 15 months. At minimum, it’s the best yogurt I’ve ever eaten. I also think it has definitely contributed to the health improvements Lisa and I have seen, including some major weight loss.

When we’re changing many variables, it’s hard to know exactly which changes are responsible for which health improvements, but I think this yogurt has played at least a supportive role.

In my next post I’ll include a video of how I make it, and some of the benefits we’ve experienced.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Going UNDOCTORED

I first heard about UNDOCTORED in early January 2019 I was out grocery shopping at our local ALDI, when I ran into a high school classmate, and my former primary care physician, Dr. David Strobel.

David is currently practicing in a clinic that serves the Pipefitters union, and he said he was seeing lots of benefits for his patients in encouraging them to follow these prevention-oriented practices.

Dr. William Davis, the book’s author, is an interventional cardiologist. After having performed more than 5,000 cath lab procedures, he was jarred by the loss of his mother to sudden cardiac death into taking a fresh look at what he believed about heart health.

The first book that came out of his investigation was the New York Times bestseller Wheat Belly, which advocated a grain-free diet and launched the grain-free movement. I hadn’t heard of that, but given my celiac disease and the need to avoid wheat, barley and rye because of gluten, I was already partway to the grain-free lifestyle.

That, along with my friend David’s vote of confidence, led me to seriously explore the recommendations in UNDOCTORED. Dr. Davis’ point is that many of our diseases of civilization have common roots and can be prevented or in many cases reversed through diet and lifestyle changes.

While he has a somewhat jaded view of the medical industry, Dr. Davis doesn’t believe prevention is the solution to everything. He just believes, and has validated to some extent through his online community, that many conditions can be significantly improved through these upstream interventions.

Highlights of his recommendations:

  • Avoid all grains, not just those that contain gluten. He argues that eating the seeds of grasses is a relatively recent innovation, and our bodies are not genetically adapted to process them.
  • “Don’t buy lean cuts of meat; buy the fatty cuts. If you eat a steak, eat the fat.”
  • Count your blessings, not your calories. Eat until you’re satisfied.
  • Don’t drink cow’s milk. No other mammal drinks the milk of another mammal.
  • Eat “wild, naked and unwashed.” Food should be as close as possible to its natural state, not excessively processed.
  • Cultivate your bowel flora through probiotics and consumption of prebiotic fibers.
  • Don’t take multivitamins. Instead, focus your supplementation on a handful of vitamins and minerals that are seriously deficient for most modern humans.

The last section of UNDOCTORED makes recommendations on those supplements Dr. Davis says are helpful:

  • Vitamin D
  • Iodine
  • Fish Oil capsules high in EPA + DHA
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

This is a 400-page book, and I’ve only touched some of the broadest points. If you want to check it out further before diving into the book, see Dr. Davis’ blog.

Lisa and I have been implementing most of the recommendations for about 18 months. She has noticed that the Magnesium seems to help her restless legs and has enabled her to sleep better, and I believe the Zinc has contributed to substantial improvement in some skin problems I had experienced.

Given the research about the role of Vitamin D in fighting COVID-19, we’re especially glad we’re doing that supplementation.

In a future post I will share more on the probiotics angle, including some homemade yogurt I have been making for more than a year at Dr. Davis’ recommendation.

Have you read either Wheat Belly or UNDOCTORED? If you have adopted these recommendations, what has your experience been?

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Can you gain muscle mass in your 50s?

That was my question for my good friend, and our medical director for social media at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Farris Timimi.

It came up in one of our informal conversations about 18 months ago, as I was getting more serious about restoring and preserving health.

I had been reading about how loss of muscle mass is one of the big problems as we age. The medical term is sarcopenia. I read really depressing studies that told how muscle mass in the legs decreases by about 1% a year, and that strength is reduced even more.

So that’s why I asked the question. It was kind of like the question I had asked myself when I was at about 260 lbs., working out 30 minutes a day on an elliptical trainer, and not making much weight loss progress.

It’s kind of cool that in my job I get to have these conversations with Mayo Clinic doctors. And so I’m glad to share the answer with you:

“Yes, you can gain muscle, but it’s not as easy as when you’re younger.”

Armed with the understanding that even though the general trends in muscle mass in a population are downhill, it’s possible to reverse the decline even after 50, I started looking for guidance in how to do it.

That’s when I stumbled across a book recommendation I’m glad to be able to pass along to you: The Barbell Prescription.

This book was tremendously helpful for me, partly because I didn’t have a lot of experience with weightlifting. In my high school basketball days, it wasn’t generally recommended as it is today. The feeling back then was that it would affect your shooting touch. I focused on cardio.

This book emphasizes use of free weights, and four main barbell exercises:

  • Bench press
  • Overhead press
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts

Jonathon Sullivan and Andy Baker do a great job providing an overview of each and an introduction to good technique, along with an explanation of what happens when you stress your muscles through weightlifting and the indispensable role of rest and recovery.

They start with everything a novice needs to know, but also provide a program for those who want to continue and push further, with separate chapters for those in their 60s, 70s and beyond, as well as for females.

I had begun to do some weight training using machines at our local YMCA and following a variation of what Tim Ferriss calls Occam’s Protocol.

But after reading The Barbell Prescription I learned how much better free weights are, especially these big exercises with a barbell, because they involve so many muscles throughout the body.

Instead of pushing a weight through a fixed path as on a machine, you have to maintain control of a loaded bar, using scores of muscles instead of an isolated few.

After I had used the free weights at the YMCA consistently for several months and Lisa knew it wasn’t a fad, I went online and found a used weight set and bench for about $250, paying for it with about 4 months of savings from cancelling my Y membership.

In our current COVID-19 confinement, that has turned out to be a savvy move. In a future post I’ll show my home gym setup and routine, and some of the benefits.

But for now, I just want to definitely answer my opening question in the affirmative: in the last year my bench press maximum has increased 40% and my maximum deadlift is up 33%.

The original values weren’t all that impressive because I had been out of shape and a weightlifting novice.

But the point is that even past 50, with perhaps 90 minutes a week of lifting, you can make a noticeable difference in your body composition over a period of months.

Have you incorporated weight training in your fitness routine?

If so, what benefits have you seen?

If not, what questions do you have?

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

20 Years at Mayo Clinic

It was 20 years ago today, on April 3, 2000, that I began a new career working in the Division of Communications at Mayo Clinic.

My 2005 Mayo Clinic staff photo

After working in politics and government for 14 years in various roles at the local, state and federal level, I was ready for a career change. I had been on a pre-med track in college, but having met my future bride (now my wife of 35 years) during the first months of my freshman year, the prospect of college, medical school and residency seemed daunting. That contributed to me taking a different direction for my first career.

Having an opportunity in 2000 to get into health care in a supportive role was therefore really exciting, and to do it at Mayo Clinic was amazing. My initial role was as part of the media relations team, and also providing support for some of Mayo Clinic’s diversification strategies, including some of the consumer books and the launch of what was then MayoClinic.com.

I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities for exciting, interesting and important work I have had at Mayo Clinic. There’s no way I could have imagined the full spectrum of what I would get a chance to do.

Until I started at Mayo Clinic, I had only been on an airplane for trips to Washington, D.C.

I didn’t have a passport.

With the evolution of media, and what became social media, my role at Mayo Clinic evolved and led to opportunities to visit places including

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • China
  • France
  • Italy
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • and something like 40 of these United States.

I often say my life has become “Norman Rockwell meets The Jetsons.” We live in my hometown of 25,000 people, and yet because of Mayo Clinic (and social media) I have gotten to make these global connections.

Teleworking on my 20th anniversary

A few months ago I wouldn’t have expected that I would spend my 20th anniversary at Mayo Clinic teleworking from my bedroom in Austin, Minn. And yet that was the case today, as it has been for the last two weeks.

I’m thankful that technology allows this, and there’s obviously a big need for health care communication right about now. I’m also proud to be able to work at Mayo Clinic, and of the contributions our staff are making to fighting this global, from development of new tests to leading this national study of convalescent plasma treatment.

More than all of that, though, I feel blessed to have made so many good friends in health care and communications, certainly within Mayo Clinic but also literally around the world.

As we work and pray toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, may that day come soon.