Thursday, July 14, 2016

Measuring Rivers

I won’t deny I have problems with heights, looking down gives me nausea, but one thing I love is being in a cablecar on a cableway strung across a river, the wider the better, high above the flowing water, the faster the flow the better. I loved streamggaging for the USGS, especially the big rivers with the high cableway, to spend and hour or more going across and measuring the width, depth and velocity to compute a discharge (flow), and sometimes take a moment in the middle to just sit and feel the quiet place. 
I was only worried once during my career, when measuring Blue Creek above Hills Creek Resevoir, Oregon during a flood when I could hear boulders the size of cars (seen in followup measurements) rolling along the bed, moved by the the high velocity, realizing even with a floatation jacket (safety requirement) I wouldn’t survive if I fell in the river. The cableway and towers were well above the river, but it occurred to me when I took that moment to watch and listen to the loud sounds of those boulders I couldn’t see due to the high sediment flow but had a reality check on the power of rivers, no matter how seemingly small.
And of all the hundreds of wading measurements I, some up to the top of my chest waders, I never lost my footing or fell in the creeks or rivers. But there was a time on Gray Creek in the Middle Fork of the Willametter River basin, I had the scare every streamgager has at least once, find yourself in the middle of the creek or river realizing you can move forward across it or go back the bank you started .You were stuck there and this time the during the high flow the rocks on the bed were moving under and around me and started to move me downstream while the flow pushed against the upstream side of my body nudging me down stream too.
After a few minutes I realized I had no choice but to go forward with two possibilities, one I’d lose it and become part fhe flow to extracate myself out safely, or two, I’d be ok and get across, and then come back to make the measurement. The latter prevailed as I realized I was in the deepest and swiftest part of it and still standing, meaning I could finish it, which I did, and without getting wet except for the rain.
It’s the conundrums each of us have and live with.


I've written ad nauseam about my digestive problems and food, and while I won't go into those again, I'd like to report I have answers, from a naturopath and not gastroenterologists, about the cause of the problems.

To begin with the naturopath did a full suite of tests on stools, looking at 9 different indicators, such as yeast, bacteria, parasise, microbes, pancreatic output, etc. and did real and complete Small Intestive Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO) test.

The gastroentrologist prescribed the SIBO test in February 2015, but the clinic did the wrong test, looking at lactose and gluten, not SIBO,  which the gastroenterologist didn't see, but even that test indicated a possible problem, which was ignored.

In addition the gastroenterologist looked for three known infectious bacteria in the stools, but not non-infectious bacteria and not for the amount of normal flora, meaning in short, they didn't do enough to rule out biological causes.

The naturopath also found I have a low level of pancreatic exocrine and a far higher level of inflamation immune markers, meaning I don't produce enough pancreatic enzymes to fully digest food and the system is overreacting to inflation in the small and large intestine.

The SIBO test showed I don't have SIBO but an overgrowth of three "opportunistic" non-infectious bacteria which are always present in the digestive system but kept in check by the immune system and other bacteria.

When the body can't keep them in check, then they proliferate in the system to replace "good" bacteria and causes an array of adverse reactions in the small and large intestine, the symptoms I've been having since November 2014.

The naturopath prescribed 3 herbal drugs known to fight the three non-infectious bacteria. She didn't prescribe antibiotics (naturopaths in Washington State can prescribe "common" antibiotics) because there are none for non-infectious bacteria overgrowths, only infectious bacteria in digestive system.

That would mean prescribing a universal antibiotic, which destroys all the bacteria in the digestive tract and rebuilding the bacteria after the period of the antibiotic. She chose to focus on herbal drugs which focuses specifically on those bacteria first, and will only prescribe antibiotics if they fail to work.

Anyway, that's the status to date, a month on 4 herbal drugs to fight the bacteria and flush it out of the system, hopefully leaving opportunity for all the good bacteria to rebuild the digestive process to normal and resume a wider diet of foods.

So I'll see what happens over the next month, but the good news is that I have answers, which the gastroenterologists didn't provide, and a treatment plan with options. It's up to the body now to do the work with herbal drugs to bring the overgrowths in check and improve the pancreatic enzymes.

What this whole process has taught me is that traditional medical professionals look for the obvious first, which makes sense since many medical condition are solved and treated from obvious symptoms and tests.

If that fails they go through the list of the less obvious in some order of common sense, experience, knowledge or learning, but there often comes a point or time they run out of answers, not for the want of opportunities to search, but for lack of interest.

It's sometimes easier for some to simply rely on what they know than explore what they don't know. This is true in gastroenterology when their knowledge with the biological side of the digestive system is limited, often by choice of the professional, to refer the patient than explore options.

This is what I experienced. They knew a lot of the physical side of the digestive system and searched for answers with tests they already knew, and lacking results, simply stopped looking, or worse, resorted to the obvious, "Take probiotics."

And that in the case of bacteria overgrowths is the worst thing you can do, add more bacteria to an overloaded digestive system. That and prebiotics or digestive enzymes which can worsen the problem than help it.

It also shows me the lack of resources for traditional medical science to treat less serious, but often equally adverse, conditions which don't fit into the text books. This is why gastroenterology has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, which to me is short for "It Beats the Shit" out of me.

And there is "Leaky Gut" syndrome and other conditions gastroentrologists are only beginning to address as they discover most digestive problems are biological in origin, the physical side being symptoms than causes.

But it's also why some, maybe many, gastroenterologist don't get into the biological side. It takes more work, time and interest to explore and learn, something many don't seem to want to do when they can simply prescribe a drug or do a proceedure to "cure" the patient.

This is where it's better to find a naturopath which has the knowledge and experience with the biological side of the digestive system. Many are now covered by health insurance plans, although treatment and herbal drugs aren't usually covered.

Anyway, that's the story to date.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Update.--After some food experiments, I've updated (removed for now) some foods from my approved list, below in bold type. Those removed are struck through.

Original Post.-- I've written ad naseum about my digestive problems, as anyone with IBS knows it's boring to themselves and more so to others to hear or read, but they persist because it's what they live with. I'm no different in that regard, but I try to avoid too much. Ok, less than a lot.

That said, I decided to post what is my diet I live with for foods I know work and everything else gives me mld to severe adverse reactions. I tell people I can write it on a 4x6 postit note and have room for doodles. So here goes the expanded and postit note versions.


Natural, organic Turkey breast and thighs, which I buy locally raised sold by the local Metropolitan Market. I've found local brands of Turkey far better for everything Turkey, especially taste. All the national brands are bland.

Hormel sandwich Ham, which is nitrate/nitrite and preservative free. Other similar brands (for additives, or lack of) are acceptable, but I get a good price on Hormel at several local stores.

Occasionally I can have seafood (Lobster, Crab and Shrimp - I love Tiger Prawns) and some fish (low fat such as Halibut, Flounder, etc.). I keep the Monterey Bay Aquarim Seafood Watch app on my iPhone to know what's acceptable from the world market. This is an app everyone should and use.

All other meats (beef, lamb, pork, bacon, etc.), poultry and most fish are off-limits.


Lactose, fat-free milk. You don't need either. I occasionally buy low-fat or 2% for drinks or recipes with need fat, but still Lactose free. The only real exception is whipping cream I make for drinks. Those pressurized ones are great you can flavor it.

Hard cheese, but specifically Gouda and Edam cheeses. No soft cheeses or spreads. I've tried a range of hard cheese, eg. Cheddar, etc., but all produce reactions or I don't like the taste.

Everything else in this catagory, especially yogurt and any dairy product with pre-biotics or pro-biotics, are off-limits.

Bread, Grains, cereals, etc.:

It's simple, corn chips, but occasional recipes with cornmeal. I also restrict the corn chips to brands which use canola, peanut or coconut oil, and are local brands. All the other brands which use oleic-free oil to lower fat taste like crackers (someone said carboard).

No wheat or similar grain and others when in small amounts in products, but wheat, barley, rye or similar grains, or oats are absolute no's.


Carrots and celery and occasionally peas.

Everything else, especially green or leafy, is off-limits. No starches, meaning potatoes, roots or similar plants.


Coconut and occasionally banans, some berries, and very occasioally oranges. Everything else is off-limits.


Just one, salt, but sometimes orange peel and occasionally a dash of pepper.


All the peanut butter I want, and other nut butters except I don't like those.

All nuts only occasionally but peanuts more often.


No foods which are or have seeds.


I live on protein drinks, coffee and water.

No tea (don't like it), sports drink, fruit juices, etc., especially any with additives with end in "ol" for sugar substitutes.


This means I buy very few ready made or off the shelf products. I read the ingredients and have eliminated almost all because of ingredients common to mass produced products, such as wheat, starches, spices, chemicals, preservatives, flavorings, coloring, etc.

What I do buy are cookies, mostly coconut and/or peanut butter cookies, and a few brands of crackers.

So that's it and written on a postit note:

Lactose, fat-free milk; Gouda/Edam cheese.
Sandwich Ham (caveats); locally raised Turkey.
Seafood and some fish.
Corn Chips (oil specific); cornmeal.
Carrots, celery, peas.
Coconut, bananas, berries and oranges.
Peanut Butter and nuts.
No spices, just salt.
Protein drinks and coffee.
Coconut/Peanut Butter cookies.

With that I generally don't mind the diet. I like the foods and have been creative at times to make combinations, such as Turkey breast salad (chopped breast, sweatened coconut, chopped juilenne carrots, celery, salt and mayonaise), and the like.

I also have a food experiment once a week or where I eat or prepare a food on the three strikes list - meaning I give a food 3 times if it makes me sick, the third time it's gone - an old food I haven't tried in a long time, or a new food.

An example is potato chips. I can't eat potatoes (any type) but I love Kettle brand potato chips, but my system can't handle them very often, so I buy a small (1-2 oz) bag to prevent from overeating them and the system overracting.

Another is vegetables or fruit, but almost always ends in digestive disaster. Grains are a definite no under any circumstance after several experiments with the variety of them. In part, it's not just the gluten, it's the natural chemicals in the grain and the fiber.

Anyway, that's it. I live with it.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Food and Cooking

I've written about the foods I can eat, and all the rest I can't, or occasionally try and eliminate if I have adverse reactions with them under the 3 strikes rule. That said, what I've learned is two things about food. Nothing new, just observations living on a limited diet.

First, when it comes to any type of meat, seafood or fish, taste matters the most, especially when you can only cook with a very few spices, mostly salt and some flavor spices, like lemon or orange peel. And the taste of meat becomes important along with who produces and how it's processed.

What I've found is the most flavorful meats are locally produced, usually free range or organically raised. Comparing the different brands of Turkey and Chicken it's not hard to notice most national brands are bland, almost tasteless where spices are necessary to flavor them.

I've found locally, or in some cases regionally, grown and produced turkey and chicken are flavorful on their own and only need a minimum of spices, often just butter and salt for me. And they're often have more texture compared to national brands

I'm sure there are a lot of technical reasons for this, the type (species) of Turkey or Chicken, the chemicals adding during the growth period, and the processing, all of which I only focus on those grown and produced without the chemicals and preferably free range.

Since I don't eat beef, pork - only some types and brands of ham, lamb and other meats I don't have much to say, but I suspect it's much the same. The only ham I eat are Hormel's naturally produced and Hempler's, a northwest regional company, which are also naturally raised and produced.

As for fish, well, it's easy, I live in the Puget Sound where fresh fish is not hard to find at local markets, but even then, you have to read to know if it was previously (recently) frozen or is actually fresh caught, meaning not frozen at sea.

Having fished in the Puget Sound years ago (it's free for any fish but Salmon), I've caught, cooked and eat fish the same day, and there is a big difference with fresh fish. But with Alaskan fish it's often processed and frozen aboard ship and thawed for markets.

This doesn't mean it's old, because it's often quite fresh, and usually still full of flavor, far better than fish frozen and shipped elsewhere. For me, though, I still have to watch what fish I eat. Salmon is often too oily, but it depends on the species, which are available fresh from late summer through winter.

If you haven't eaten Salmon, you do have to distinguish the various species of Salmon as they all have their own taste, texture and oiliness. You'll be surprised by the range if you have the opportunity to buy and cook the different species of fresh Salmon, meaning caught that season and preferably not frozen at sea.

And as a fisheries biologist reminds me, they only eat Salmon caught at sea, before it returns to their origins to spawn. They said it doesn't matter if they caught in the ocean or the Puget Sound, just not once it's in fresh water.

This is because the fish change when exposed to freshwater in the process to spawn and die. This process begins immediately when leaving saltwater into river esturaries and continues through their trip upstream to their spawning grounds. The exception is Steelhead Salmon/Trout which returns to spawn but then goes back to the ocean.

Otherwise, I've found most fish don't have enough flavor by themselves to enjoy. I try them occasionally, but usually realize it's more for the texture and few spices than the fish itself, so I only try it a few times a year when it's fresh in season.

Seafood is a different kettle of fish as they say. I love seafood (lobster, crab and shrimp), but again it depends on the species and where it's caught. For buying the appropriate seafood I use the Monterey Bay Seawatch fish guide for iPhone (app), see their Website.

Great resource you should have on your smartphone to buy the right seafood and fish, and if the seller doesn't identify where it came more on the package, ask them, and if they can't or won't answer, don't buy it.

Anyway, enough about food again and onward to cooking, which is fairly straight forward for me. I have a Breville Smart Oven, which I use a few times a week for almost all my cooking. I only use the oven with the range for occasional baking big items or large amounts, like cookies.

The Breville oven will take large single items easily, such as whole chicken, turkey breasts, etc., and it has multiple settings, such as bake, broil and roast (both upper and lower heating elements). The cool part is you just set the temperature and time, and then just wait.

All my cookware and bakeware are Calphalon. I have over two dozen pieces of their professional grade cookware I bought 25 years ago. I've never regretted throwing out every piece of cookware I had then for this cookware.

It makes a average cook like me better because it can't fail unless I do something stupid. The only exception are two nearly 50 year cast iron skillets, a small 6" skillet and a 10" skillet. They're handy with frying and easy to keep clean and ready.

With that I've learned is how much you can get out of the taste of food with the least spices. Most of the time I use just butter, sometimes olive or coconut oil, and salt, with occasional lemon or orange peel and natural raw sugar, and even less often with some real spices as food experiments, most with fish since most fish don't have strong flavors.

This is where the food is important as cooking brings out the best in the best poultry and fish. This is obvious to real cooks and chefs, but more so to simple cooks like me who lives on a limited diet to know I can enjoy the foods I can eat.

With respect to vegetables, most of the time I steam them in a double boiler. and only occasionally cook them according to recipes, usually broil, saute, etc. in butter or oil. My problem is that I love vegetables but my digestive system doesn't, at least the way it works now, which isn't working right.

I've alway experimented with the foods on my diet to make combination dishes which is where the taste of the meat is most important. An example is turkey salad with coconut and with celery and/or julienne carrots (with maynaise and salt). Simple and great tasting with the right flavorful turkey breast.

Anyway, some wandering thoughts. I think I wander to the kitchen for some turkey salad in a tortilla now.