Author Topic: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern  (Read 5248 times)

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Offline Josh

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Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« on: September 28, 2011, 04:16:31 pm »
http://bodyhorrors.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/this-aint-yo-mommas-muktuk-or-fermented-seal-flipper-botulism-being-cold-other-joys-of-artic-living/

This interesting article discusses botulism from incorrectly made 'high' products which has been discussed, but also mentions that botulism is a hazard of the eskimo diet due to aquatic foodstuffs e.g. raw rotted whale.

Also worth following the links at the end, they're interesting.

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2011, 07:25:23 pm »
Quote
Native methods of burying meat underground to ferment had been modified by the introduction of Western conveniences. Tupperware containers and sealable plastic bags were now being used....
Tupperware is modern.
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline Josh

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2011, 08:29:03 pm »
Phil

Quote
Modernized native life-styles and loss of indigenous knowledge have clearly affected traditional methods of preparation and preservation practices but it’s important to keep in mind that fatal botulism outbreaks aren’t a novel phenomenon strictly related to changing fermentation practices. There are several instances of Alaskan Natives contracting the illness following consumption of the raw meat of long since deceased beached whales. In fact, whalers and arctic explorers in the late 1890s and early 1900s describe entire Alaskan families dropping dead following consumption of semi-decayed whale meat

Quote
Shaffer et al described an outbreak of botulism caused by fermented salmon fish heads in 1985. The food preparer “had been taught to ferment foods by her mother, but had not prepared such foods in many years”. Instead of placing the wooden barrel in the ground, she left the barrel above ground exposed to the sun. The researchers noted that she retrospectively “recalled having been warned as a child that the sun’s rays had a “death meaning” and that fermented foods needed to be kept away from the “killing rays of the sun”
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 08:37:04 pm by Josh »

Offline PaleoPhil

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I'm only responding to your hypothesis in the thread title that botulism may be "endemic" (meaning native, characteristic of, prevalent in) to Eskimo (Inuit/Inupiat/Yupik/etc.) diets. Instances of botulism were reportedly rare before the adoption of modern ways in the Arctic lands of North American, Europe and Siberia. If all you mean is those rare instances of the past, then I request that you change the title to something like what I changed it to above, because I consider the original thread title to be a slander against the way of life of Arctic peoples as well as raw-meat-eating members here, however unintentional. Anyone who has been a member here for a while should know better about the lies and exaggerations of moderners regarding raw meats. The take home lesson of reports like the one you quoted is to not store food in containers made completely of plastic (or metal) and don't leave it sitting in the sun. They do not indicate that botulism is characteristic of true "Eskimo" (aka "real people") diets and lifestyles.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 07:14:57 am by PaleoPhil »
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline Josh

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2011, 08:56:38 pm »
I didn't post the article to prove a point, I posted it because it's interesting and the article uses the word endemic.

The article claims that eskimos  also caught botulism from raw whale, not just fermentation practices, like I said.

Sorry you consider it 'slander' but I don't see why we should have unquestioning faith in eskimo lifestyles.

Maybe it does repeat exaggerations, maybe there is something to the problems with aquatic foodstuffs. Why assume the eskimo way of life is perfect?

Anyway it has some interesting information and links for people interested in inuit and they can make of it what they will.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 09:03:42 pm by Josh »

Offline TylerDurden

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2011, 06:01:04 am »
This guff should have been put in the hot topics forum.  And I have my doubts re the word "endemic" too, obviously sensationalist. *Now moved*.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 02:54:45 pm by TylerDurden »
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Offline PaleoPhil

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I didn't post the article to prove a point, I posted it because it's interesting and the article uses the word endemic.
The article is wrong and slanderous.

Quote
The article claims that eskimos  also caught botulism from raw whale, not just fermentation practices, like I said.
It's true, but it was very rare. Even the article acknowledges that botulism became a real problem after the introduction of modern storage materials like plastics.

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Sorry you consider it 'slander' but I don't see why we should have unquestioning faith in eskimo lifestyles.

Maybe it does repeat exaggerations, maybe there is something to the problems with aquatic foodstuffs. Why assume the eskimo way of life is perfect?
There are not just two absolute, ridiculous options of botulism being "endemic" to the traditional Eskimo diet vs. adopting an idiotic unquestioning faith in Eskimo lifestyles. There's a sensible in-between of recognizing that botulism occurred prior to plastics, but also recognizing that it was rare. It should be intuitive. If botulism had not been relatively rare, the Inuit would have had difficulty surviving for thousands of years in this continent and their ancestors for millions more before that in Asia and Africa. Anyone who's been a member here for a significant time should know this.

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Anyway it has some interesting information and links for people interested in inuit and they can make of it what they will.
That's fine but that doesn't change the fact that the title of this thread is asinine.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 08:30:54 am by PaleoPhil »
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline Josh

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2011, 09:14:58 am »
Well I think this is just being over sensitive about basically reposting an article, and I also think people can make up their own minds so there you go.

The article said it is endemic, I changed it to may be endemic to add objectivity.

You may well have a load of links which say the contrary, fine that's what it's all about.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 09:21:18 am by Josh »

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Botulism, a potential risk of modern storage methods
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2011, 10:09:42 am »
Well and I think that claiming it's over sensitive is a cop out--your version of the title happens to be wrong and complaining about oversensitivity doesn't change that, and I agree that people can decide for themselves--so there you go. ;) Did I say otherwise somewhere? And thus my decision is that your title is asinine, especially the original one. Since you agree people can decide for themselves, then presumably you won't have a problem with my expressing my opinion on this public thread.

BTW, if a total newb had posted the title I wouldn't think it was as asinine.

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I changed it to may be endemic to add objectivity.
Well, at least that's a step in the right direction, an overly tentative step, but a step nonetheless. Perhaps the one potential benefit of your misleading title is that it might scare people into learning the proper traditional ways of storing foods. One potential downside is that it might give newbs and trolls something more to shriek about.

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You may well have a load of links which say the contrary, fine that's what it's all about.

I don't need any other links to the contrary, the link you provided is sufficient:
Quote
> Native methods of burying meat underground to ferment had been modified by the introduction of Western conveniences. Tupperware containers and sealable plastic bags were now being used to create a meaty, anaerobic environment that C. botulinum was happy to vacation in. Oh plastics, you synthetic polymers, what have you wrought!

> The customary preparation process has since been modified from fermenting food in a buried clay pit, enclosed in a woven basket or sewn seal skin (known as a “poke”) for weeks or months at a time. Food is now stored in airtight, Western consumer goods such as plastic or glass jars, sealable plastic bags or even plastic buckets , and eaten shortly after in a week or month. Additionally, the food many be stored indoors, above ground or in the sun at milder, less optimal temperatures. This move towards storing meat in warmer, anaerobic settings for shorter lengths of time may expedite the fermentation process and, subsequently, enhance the risk of botulinum toxin production (5).

Since epidemiological surveys started in the early 1950s, there was a clear and positive trend in the number of botulism cases coincident with the declaration of Alaska statehood in 1958 and the introduction of Western culture and consumer goods (1)(2)(5)(9).

> Instead of placing the wooden barrel in the ground, she left the barrel above ground exposed to the sun. The researchers noted that she retrospectively “recalled having been warned as a child that the sun’s rays had a “death meaning” and that fermented foods needed to be kept away from the “killing rays of the sun”(5).

> This strongly suggests that a failure to transmit traditional knowledge and customs may play an pivotal role in the use of different preservation materials and in skyrocketing incidences of botulism outbreaks in Alaska over the past 50 years (2)(5). If you’re interested, there’s a quite grisly catalog by Dolman detailing botulinum deaths as a result of these improper storage practices; most cases seem to be variations on the theme of, for instance, eating rotted seal flipper in a gasoline barrel stored behind the stove. Death meaning, indeed!

This loss of wisdom in classical cooking knowledge is compounded by the introduction of novel gastronomical delights.

http://bodyhorrors.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/this-aint-yo-mommas-muktuk-or-fermented-seal-flipper-botulism-being-cold-other-joys-of-artic-living/

"Endemic" does not mean a few anecdotes about botulism deaths from eating from old whole whale carcasses. Nor does the article even make the claim that botulism is endemic to Eskimo diets, instead it speaks of others using the term and it didn't use it in conjunction with traditional Eskimo diets and lifeways but instead referred vaguely to "the North" ("Botulism has been repeatedly referred to as an endemic “hazard of the North”") in relation to "endemic". Instead, the assertion it makes is just that botulism "typically occurs in western Eskimo coastal villages and Native Americans regions in the southwestern region of Alaska due to their proximity to aquatic foodstuffs (2)(5)(7)." It seems to be referring to some of present day modern Eskimo villages, not all traditional Eskimo communities of the past. Thus the take home message for those who find they benefit from raw Paleo diets is not to claim that botulism is endemic to Eskimo diets, but that one should take wise precautions and learn all one can about traditional preservation methods and avoid modern storage materials as much as feasible. And since I don't eat from old whole whale and seal carcasses that have been lying out in the sun on dirt, I'm not going to spend much time worrying about the potential risk from doing that.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 10:58:19 am by PaleoPhil »
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline Josh

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2011, 01:29:34 pm »
Quote
And since I don't eat from old whole whale and seal carcasses that have been lying out in the sun on dirt, I'm not going to spend much time worrying about the potential risk from doing that.

I didn't say anyone had to worry about it, and I didn't give my 'take home' message from the article. I find it interesting that the author, who is a disease and parasite expert, finds that botulism is endemic to aquatic meats. Maybe other people will. Maybe not.

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2011, 09:09:35 am »
I don't think he's referring to all aquatic meats, but rather more like whole whales and seals left out in the sun on dirt. I've read some of the referenced reports in the past and as I recall the reason Eskimos would on rare occasion get botulism was mainly because they ate from a whole, intact whale or seal that had been encountered lying out in the open under the sun, or had been left in the open instead of carefully preserved. Because the animals were whole, there were internal low-oxygen pockets within them where botulism could grow.

So it doesn't mean that botulism is endemic to aquatic meats, it means that if you encounter a whole wale or seal that has been lying out in the open, particularly in the sun, you should chop it up and thoroughly expose it all to air before eating it. Big whoop. I can't remember the last time I encountered an intact whole seal or whale carcass that had been rotting in the sun, can you? If you're really interested, then I suggest you read the referenced sources before thinking there may truly be anything here about botulism being endemic to either traditional Eskimo foods or sea foods. Question everything.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2011, 04:39:02 pm by TylerDurden »
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline miles

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2011, 10:19:59 am »
If you keep diced meat in jars won't there also be pockets unexposed to air, even if you air the jar? And many people here would've suggested that it would be fine to eat a rotting animal carcass you found lying around 'because humans are scavengers' etc... Also, though the majority of botulinum excreting bacteria may die from exposure to air, the botulinum toxin will still be on the meat, and as well as poisoning you directly will also support the growth of the botulinum producing bacteria in your gut. I am glad Josh posted this article.
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Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2011, 10:50:10 am »
I can see, Miles, one place where something I wrote might have given a different impression than what I intended. Where I wrote "The article is wrong and slanderous" I only meant in regards to the use of the term "endemic," not re: everything in the article, and I should actually have said that Josh's misinterpretation of the article's use of that term was the wrong thing, not the article itself, as the article doesn't directly make the argument anywhere that botulism is or may be endemic to the traditional Eskimo diet(s). Instead, it states: "Botulism has been repeatedly referred to as an endemic “hazard of the North” but typically occurs in western Eskimo coastal villages and Native Americans regions in the southwestern region of Alaska due to their proximity to aquatic foodstuffs (2)(5)(7)." Not "botulism IS or MAY BE endemic to Eskimo diets," but rather "has been repeatedly referred to [by someone else] as an endemic 'hazard of the North'." Thus the article takes a neutral stance on the term "endemic." I'm sorry for my sloppiness with that and hope it didn't confuse matters too badly.

If you keep diced meat in jars won't there also be pockets unexposed to air, even if you air the jar?
Doesn't Aajonus recommend shaking up or mixing around the meat a bit to give it good exposure to air? I doubt the risks are that high if the meat is kept in glass in a cool fridge and air it out now and then anyway, but Tyler and others have frequently discussed and warned about recommended precautions. Also remember, there were multiple risk factors at play in the Eskimo cases, including such as these:

whole, intact, uncut carcasses with sealed innards low in oxygen
sunlight
dirt
time
they apparently didn't bother cleaning the meat first or taking any other precautions

If anyone is worried by this and don't think taking precautions will be enough, then don't eat raw meat, or at least not "high meat" or aged meat. If you aren't worried, then you apparently agree with me that there isn't much real-world applicability to linking "endemic" botulism to traditionally-prepared and stored raw meats or raw "coastal" meats and it's therefore instead just sensationalism at best to imply a direct causal link. I don't particularly care what anyone else eats, I'm just not worried by the extreme cases that were given (I've never eaten from a whole sun-rotted animal carcass or seen anyone else do so in person in my four decades plus, though I have seen it in some videos--Bear Grylls comes to mind--and miracle of miracles, the people didn't die, though one thing they didn't do was quickly dig down to the innards, which may be one sensible precaution if for some reason someone decides to eat a rotting carcass).

Quote
And many people here would've suggested that it would be fine to eat a rotting animal carcass you found lying around 'because humans are scavengers' etc...
Did humans not scavenge for millions of years? There is of course risk with any animal carcass that has been lying in the sun and not just whales and seals, but I didn't take issue with that, I just took issue with the suggestion that botulism might be endemic to (meaning innate, "native to", "characteristic of") traditional Eskimo foods rather than the combination of those foods with modern containers (such as ones made of plastic) and loss of traditional knowledge and practices. For example, the article states that traditionally Eskimos warned their children about the “killing rays of the sun”. Botulism isn't endemic to raw meats themselves, it's much more common to them in the context of modern materials and practices.

Besides, when was the last time you ate a rotting animal carcass that had been lying in the sun? Even if for some reason you did, if you took some precautions like cleaning the meat, cutting it up, and laying it out in the air for several days in a cool, shaded place or in a fridge, and started with small amounts and didn't just start digging in right there on the ground the way the Eskimos who got sick apparently did, the risk would appear to be lessened. Has anyone here ever just started cutting off pieces of a sun-rottened animal carcass lying on the beach and dug deep into the organs and gorged on it right there, with hands and face covered in blood? If so, I'd like to read the story, which I would find fascinating. I would actually pay money to see this. If you do it, feel free to videotape it and I'll pay for the video, say ten bucks. I get a kick out of seeing blood-smeared Nenet kids, there's something about it that's both innocent and naughty at the same time. ;) Until then, it sounds like wimpy newbish fearmongering to me to talk about botulism being endemic to Eskimo (raw meat) diets instead of the modernized, plasticized versions thereof. We get that sort of stuff from newbies and trolls quite a lot, which I expect and with which we will just have to put up with if we want to allow newbs to join. It's inexcusable when relatively veteran members engage in it, especially after Tyler and others have tirelessly quashed such anti-RAF nonsense repeatedly in the past.

Quote
I am glad Josh posted this article.
The article is excellent, I agree with most of it, I quoted it extensively myself, I'm also glad it was posted, and I have posted a similar article in the past myself (I think it was at the Dirty Carnivore forum). I only disagree with the misleading thread title and certain of the mis-interpretations and assumptions and a snippet of text in the article. I'm not arguing against the article, I'm saying that it supports what I'm saying and I have posted similar stuff myself in the past. It's so strongly supports what I've been saying that I don't need any other sources, as I stated. The overall picture that the article gives is NOT that botulism is endemic to traditional Eskimo diets like the thread title suggested it might be (and if you truly think it is, are you going to avoid all aged and high raw meat and fish?) On the contrary, the impression it gives is that using MODERN food storage and processing techniques and a lack of traditional knowledge has led to a dramatic increase in botulism cases among Eskimos eating raw sea animal foods. Why would any of us bother with raw animal foods stored with reasonable precautions (such as those suggested by Aajonus and Tyler) if botulism were endemic to them? Show me the evidence. The article doesn't provide any for that--quite the contrary, it makes the case for following traditional Eskimo practices and avoiding modern practices. As usual, when you dig into the details behind the headlines, you find that the fearmongering headlines are not justified by the facts.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2011, 12:07:27 pm by PaleoPhil »
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

Offline RogueFarmer

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2011, 05:02:20 pm »
So Phil, you are saying if botulism is already growing on something, exposing it to air will kill it?

Is there still an issue with botulism poison being left behind? I have no idea, but I feel like the botulism poison might not be an issue here because we are dealing with raw food, not cooked.

Offline PaleoPhil

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Re: Botulism may be endemic to eskimo diet, not just modern
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2011, 03:04:25 am »
So Phil, you are saying if botulism is already growing on something, exposing it to air will kill it?
It will likely kill most of the botulinum bacteria, but as was pointed out, if there is already significant toxin in it, it won't wash that away. I don't think there's any way to 100% guarantee no risk from botulism poisoning regardless of what one does, including cook one's food. If you want to eat and store raw meats or fish, take the sort of precautions that Tyler and Aajonus recommend and if you think meat is infected with botulism, throw it out. We're not starving or unsure of where are next meal might come from like the Inuit who ate the rotted whale might have been, so there's no sense in taking unnecessary risks. The whale report was an extreme case that few if any of us is likely to ever face. Is there anyone here who doesn't already understand all this?

In this forum we've seen less of such incaution and more of excessive fears and scare mongering regarding raw meats. Overall, the stress caused by worrying over pathogenic infection and people convincing themselves they've been infected probably causes more damage than actual infections. Learn what you can and do what you're comfortable with so you don't stress out over it and maybe even make yourself sick with worry. Eating the right diet is important, but so is avoiding stress, relaxing and enjoying life.

Is there still an issue with botulism poison being left behind? I have no idea, but I feel like the botulism poison might not be an issue here because we are dealing with raw food, not cooked.
Now I think you're going a bit too overboard in the other direction. You do have a good point about cooked food--perhaps the modern practice of storing cooked meat does counter-intuitively increase the risks of botulism, because the good bacteria are first killed off with the cooking, making a good host for the botulinum bacteria. However, most cases of botulism have apparently involved raw meats (and even plant foods) stored improperly in modern containers, such as in sealed plastic or metal containers at warm temperatures. Even glass containers are not as ideal as traditional containers like animal hides that apparently allow a certain amount of "breathing," for lack of a better term. Given that animal hides and permafrost are not readily available these days, we take other precautions like airing our foods out, or not even putting them in containers, such as meat hung in a fridge or cool meat locker, thoroughly exposed to air on all sides.

My comfort level is such that I don't even take the level of precautions that Tyler and Aajonus do, but I don't recommend that other people do what I do. I did get ill once, so I can't guarantee zero risks, though I don't know whether the source was the raw fermented cod liver oil I take most days or the miso soup or sashimi I ate at a restaurant, and I don't believe in trying to live a zero-risk life anyway. Such a life is not worth living, in my view, and it's impossible to eliminate all risks anyway. Instead I take reasonable precautions and seek to make myself as robust and resilient to the inevitable risks of life as feasible. If I saw a rotting carcass on the beach that had been lying in the sun for days I would not take out a knife and starting gorging on its innards. ;D On the other hand, I do thinks like eat raw meat that many Americans would consider extremely dangerous and likely to kill me any instant. Yet somehow I've survived for more than a couple years doing it regularly.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2011, 04:16:48 am by PaleoPhil »
>"When some one eats an Epi paleo Rx template and follows the rules of circadian biology they get plenty of starches when they are available three out of the four seasons." -Jack Kruse, MD
>"I recommend 20 percent of calories from carbs, depending on the size of the person" -Ron Rosedale, MD (in other words, NOT zero carbs) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6ogtan
>Finding a diet you can tolerate is not the same as fixing what's wrong. -Tim Steele
Beware of problems from chronic Very Low Carb

 

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